Indonesia is a country with a lot of unique traditions. When you go to a city in the southern region of Kalimantan Island named Banjarmasin, you will get to see something unique that you may not have seen in any other part of the world. It’s the Lok Baintan Floating Market. Unless you live in, or have been to Vietnam or Thailand, this will be something new and exciting for you.
The local style of floating market
Welcome to the Lok Baintan Floating Market, where people buy and sell local fresh produce like fruits, vegetables, and meat, as well as local food from boats! This is somewhat different from the one in Thailand, where you buy things displayed at the river banks from boat, and rather similar to the floating market in Vietnam. However, you’ll find it’s less noisy as most traders in Lok Baintan row their non-motorized wooden boat with their oar to the market.
Open only for 3 hours
Lok Baintan is a village where its inhabitants still do their 500-year-old tradition of trading from boats on the nearby river, and the village’s floating market is located about 15 km (9 miles) from downtown Banjarmasin. You can reach the area by land travel, but you, like most other tourists, may prefer to go there via Martapura River as there are things you can see from your motorized boat that you can’t see from the land.
The floating market is only open in the morning. Fleets of trader’s boats start arriving and selling in the area around 5am and leave the market at about 8am.
Witness river houses from boat
If you stay in a hotel, ask the hotel’s driver to drive you to a small dock located on Benua Anyar street, which takes about 10-15 minutes from downtown Banjarmasin. From there, you can rent a motorboat for 300,000 IDR (22 USD) for the round-trip journey to the floating market. The boat is quite small, but it should be enough to load up to 10 adults. It’s a bumpy boat ride, so make sure you sit inside the cabin during the ride.
The boat trip takes about 45 minutes, and during the trip, you will get to see the villagers doing their day-to-day activities like washing clothes and bathing children from their river house; the wooden house built right by the river! It’s best to start the boat trip before dawn, as you can enjoy the beautiful sunrise from your boat.
Buy the sweet pancakes, rambutan, and persimmon
The market is only open till 8am, so make the best use of it. You may be asking yourself how does this work? Well, when you arrive, there will be many boats around you, and if you want to buy something from a trader, simply tell the boatman to stop your boat near the trader’s boat. The trader (all females) will then row to your boat where you can do the transactions from the deck.
Like any other Indonesian traditional market, sellers mostly sell fresh fruits and vegetables that have been recently harvested from the field. But they also sell chicken, beef, fish, seafood, cakes, and breakfast (eaten from the boat). Buy the local produce of persimmons (they call it ‘buah mentega’ or 'butter fruit’) and sweet rambutans (rambutan taste like lychees, but sweeter) for only 15,000 IDR (1.20 USD) per kilogram (which is 2 pounds), or the local cake named 'Kue Bingka’ (a sweet pancake) for only 2,000 IDR (0.15 USD) each. They may charge you a bit more if you are an international visitor, but no big deal as you may only want to buy a kilo of persimmon and 5 pieces of Kue Bingka. Haha!
Go to Soto Bang Amat for breakfast
After the adventure, you can choose to continue your adventure to the nearby Monkey Island (lots of monkeys there!), and come back to the dock where you have departed from, where you will find the most famous restaurant in Banjarmasin named Soto Bang Amat.
Stop by here to eat Soto Banjar before going back to your hotel (or you can come back here for lunch if you stay in a hotel and the hotel provides breakfast). Soto is known as a savory chicken soup. However, Soto Banjar is different from any soto you can find in Java. Not only do they add a steamed rice cake called ‘ketupat’ instead of regular white rice, but the soup has a lovely fragrance as they add herbs like chives, nutmeg, and cinnamon, whereas these herbs aren’t normally used in Java for making soto.
Besides soto, they also sell good chicken satay too (skewered and barbecued chicken with sweet peanut sauce). Order some satay to be eaten with the soto, as eating soto is perfect when accompanied with a satay side dish!
A must-go place in Banjarmasin
If you don’t like riding on a boat, you can go to this floating market by taking the land route, which will take you about 25 minutes from downtown Banjarmasin. From here, you can transact with the on-boat traders from the Lok Baintan dock. If you don’t want to go too far from the downtown area, go to Siring Piere Tendean Floating Market for on-boat transactions made from the dock. This particular market is located in the center of the city, and only opens on Sunday morning. A floating market is definitely a must-go spot when in Banjarmasin.
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