Quintessential Mahakam River village, with board walks and houses on stilts
There are no streets in Muara Muntai. The village is built over frequently inundating flats bordering the river, all the houses are on stilts, and in between the houses a network of board walks has been constructed. Over which one can walk, but which are equally suitable for mountain bikes, and the ever-present motorbikes. Especially the sound of passing motorbikes is noticeable, as if a tank comes along.
In the centre of the village, which is surprisingly big, the board walk is even double carriage way, although the concept, of separate directions of traffic, proves totally alien. Shops border the ‘street’, bicycle-based stalls are placed in the middle. Individual entrepreneurs sell a fabulous form of cup cakes, others provide grilled fish, and the market has a wide variety of ingredients. Well supplied, for a rather remote settlement.
Of some concern to us – but obviously not to the villagers – is the habit of throwing all the rubbish off the board walk, into the water. I suspect that the sewerage system of individual houses works similarly simple, based on the assumption that the river will take care of it. Which is doesn’t, or at least not now, with a fairly high water level. Everything is floating around, yet nobody seems to be worried; children happily play in the shallow water.
Muara Muntai is the perfect introduction to Mahakam River villages, and a great base for exploring the surrounding lake district, starting with Danau Jempang, the next stop on the Virtual Tour. (Great place to arrange local transport, too, by the way, much better than in the villages away from the main river, like Tanjung Issuy or Mancong.)