The capital of West Kalimantan, or Kalbar (short for “Kalimantan Barat”), Pontianak is a sprawling, grey industrial city of more than half a million people. Lying right on the equator on the confluence of the Landak and Kapuas Kecil rivers, it is a hot and noisy place, often smoky from the vast forest fires that recurrently rage inland. The most interesting thing about the city is its name, which translates roughly as “the vampire ghost of a woman who dies in childbirth” Most travellers stay just long enough to stock up on supplies before heading for a trip up the Sungai Kapuas, flying on to Balikpapan or moving straight on to Kuching.
To get your bearings, take a boat up the river from behind the Kapuas Indah building. Along the river, there are still several old buildings of interest: the eye-catching Istana Kadriyah, built in 1771, and the traditional Javanese four-tiered roof of Mesjid Jami stand near each other on the eastern side of the Kapuas Kecil, just over the Kapuas bridge from the main part of town.
On Jalan Jend A Yani, 1.5km south of the town centre is the worthwhile Museum Negeri which contains a comprehensive collection of Dayak tribal masks, tattoo blocks, weapons and musical instruments. Just round the corner from the museum, on Jalan Sutoyo, is an impressive replica of a Dayak longhouse.