It's true that element of surprise, the unexpected, is one of the things that makes traveling exciting. But knowing these five tips will not take the joy out of exploring this side of the Bornean Island. A 'taxi' is not actually a taxi I learned about this some years ago, when my family had been relocated to Samarinda. The common from public transportation usually known as an angkot in East Kalimantan is called a "taxi" by the locals. A real taxi, however, although available in big cities such as Samarinda and Balikpapan, is quite rare and it may take a while for one to arrive after you book it. Even if you happen to encounter one and decide hop on, don't be surprised if the driver does not use a meter as it is the common practice here. Getting around is expensive In Samarinda and Balikpapan, there are so many companies that offer rental services for seven-seater cars, which are famously called carter in the local lingo. These are the best options for getting around as motorcycle taxis are very rare and sometimes nonexistent. It is also quite difficult to rent a motorcycle. The cost? Renting a carter will start at Rp 600,000 (US$47.6). The price is usually inclusive of gas and a driver but you will still need to give your driver his lunch money or pay for his meal. According to my driver when I was in town, Puji, the expensive transportation cost to get around the city was caused by the fact that those who typically needed transportation services were part of the private mining, oil and natural gas companies, or were government officials. Only a small number of those who need private transportation are tourists or travelers. "For them [private companies], the cost is nothing. And since coal mining is booming here, renting cars to these people is good business," he explained. Although renting a car to get around town during the day is expensive, if you wish to traverse from Samarinda to Balikpapan or vise versa, it will cost you a lot less at Rp 350,000 per car per trip. One can even bargain the price down to Rp 250,000 per trip if you happen to have a contact. Who needs a bridge? Traveling within the region, which is often divided by the Mahakam River or its smaller tributaries, is not necessarily limited by a lack of bridges over the bodies of water. In fact, for example, ever since the bridge that connects Samarinda to Tenggarong collapsed, the locals just returned to their former ways of crossing the river by boat. This experience is quite unique. Instead of the usual ferry, which transports vehicles from one side to the other, here you will hop on a small wooden boat, enough to carry 3-4 cars per trip, to cross the river. The 20-minute trip is amazing, especially during sunset. You get to see the daily life of the locals who live by the rivers. There are some boats filtering and taking up the river's sands and other boats transporting coal. It will only cost around Rp 15,000 to Rp 25,000 per car to cross, depending on which "port" you are crossing from. The port is actually the spot where the boats for crossing the river are located, which are owned and run by the locals. Visit Tenggarong The true gems of East Kalimantan are usually located rather far from big cities. Most people go further into the heart of the province to visit Dayak villages, the national park or go north to the Derawan Islands. However, if you have a limited amount of time, visiting Tenggarong, the capital of Kutai Kartanegara, which is only one-hour drive from Samarinda, would be a great choice. The historical museum of Mulawarman, the first and oldest kingdom in Indonesia, among others, offers an interesting insight into the region's history and culture. Tenggarong has some nearby attractions to visit as well. Another plus is that traveling to Tenggarong means that you will experience quite a marvelous journey of crossing the river in a small boat. You'll be back... someday There's a famous local song that goes, "once you drink from the Mahakam River, one day you shall come back again". Of course it's said figuratively. But if you spend several days in the region and have eaten in its restaurants, chances are you technically have drank water from the Mahakam River, since the cities' water supply comes from the river. Believe it or not, this happened to me and to many other people who had lived in the region and came back for a visit, driven by nostalgia and the feeling of missing it so much. So when you're departing from the province, it might be a good time to say, in a tone similar to the famous Arnold Schwarzenegger line in The Terminator, "I'll be back!"