Friday, March 16, 2012

Visiting South Kalimantan Indonesia

I will be travelling to South Kalimantan (or KalSel as they are known by most people). I have never been there and i am scheduled to be visiting estates and Palm Oil Mills within the area. Little is known about what to expect even with the Joint Venture (JV) partners. We will be there to conduct a feasibility study to built a plant that will process and produce renewable energy bio-oil.
Taken from here
I have not written about my current vocation. I will save that for another blog entry. It has been a very rewarding three months working here and going up a very really steep learning curve. Suffice to say, I am trained as an Engineer and now, practising as one. So, "Yay!" to that ;-)
Kalimantan Selatan
Here is a little bit about KalSel and the places that i will be visiting. To get to KalSel, one has a choice of flying in via two points which is the Banjarmasin (the KalSel capital) or from Balikpapan (which is at Kalimantan Timur). Due to the proximity of where I will be going, flying in via Balikpapan would be the best choice.
Balikpapan Almost 400km away from where i need to go. Pic from here
My working trip will bring me to two of the largest Regency which are Tanah Bumbu and Kotabaru. Each of these district has approximately 300,000 people and is at least three times the size of Singapore, as a comparison.
Kotabaru Regency. Image from Wikipedia
Tanah Bumbu Regency. Image from Wikipedia
The distance of the Palm Oil estates and Mills I will be going from Balikpapan is approximately 400km or about 300km from Banjarmasin. There is one direct flight from Kuala Lumpur via Airasia to Balikpapan (as the town is an Oil & Gas hub in Kalimantan) and it will take approximately 3hours non-stop. Flying via Banjarmasin potentially takes longer as one would need to get to Jakarta as transit point and will stretch the travelling to close to 7hours total.
Either way it is chosen, it will take between 7hours to 9hours of travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Batulicin.
Thats an approximate 6hours on GoogleMap, and we know that is, really, the best approximate not taking into consideration of other factors. Image using GoogleMap
Travelling (on the road) time will be a pain in the butt, literally. I was told that from Sepinggan (International Airport of Balikpapan) to the Balikpapan jetty will take an hour. It will then take two hours to cross the Balikpapan Bay. From there, it will be another solid 6hours on the road to our destination. That is an approximate of 8hours in the van/car according to local knowledge. I am not really looking forward to the road trip.
There will be another two colleagues from my office coming along for this Feasibility Study. The JV partner will be attended by five personnel, which will also act as our host while we are there. Preparation for this trip started from Day 2 i joined this new office. It has been 3months since with postponement of the trip from February to March due to a few unavoidable factors.
Visa and Travel Permit Application
One of the major roadblock is to obtain a Multiple Entry Business Visa. Many friends are wondering why i need to have a working visa to Indonesia. I guess because most of the time, when Indonesia is mentioned, we often refer to the City Jakarta, the holiday Island Bali, the Shopping Paradise Bandung or the more predictable tourists cities in Indonesia. To simply put it, no one goes to KalSel unless you know what you want to do there.
Application with specific Red background photo. Pic from my Instagram
The process of obtaining the Visa starts with obtaining the permission and letter from the sponsor company (typically an Indonesia entity) which will then be used by us to apply for the Visa at the embassy. I give credit to the Embassy of Indonesia in Malaysia over a very through instruction to obtain a Visa. Basically, if you read and follow them, you will get your Visa with not much issue. Just be reminded that the application starts at 8am and they will accept daily, up to 120 application or until 1pm, whichever comes first. Missing either one of the timeline will cause you to return the next day for the application. Go early and get the paperwork done -typically within 2hours. Payment is RM375 for one year and must be paid on the spot during application. You get the visa the next day and it is stuck onto your passport page.
The next step is to submit the Visa back to the Immigration in KalSel to obtain a travel permit. It is needed and just lets say that the Kalimantan, very much like in Irian Jaya and Sulawesi, has its own set of law and regulation. Best to just ensure all documentation is complete.
Now i am Valid. Picture from my Instagram
Foreign Currency
Indonesia Rupiah is greatly inflated. The exchange rate today (March 15) for MYR1.00 to IDR stands at IDR3,000. No guess that i became instant Millionaire with just one currency exchange.
Why would someone wants the currency to be so inflated? Photo from my Instagram
Have to reserve IDR150,000 per person for immigration/airport tax upon exiting Sepinggan International Airport at Balikpapan. The rest are very much for the team (me and colleague) usage as we will not know how things will be like until we are there.
Creature Comfort
Nothing much is known except that we will be staying in the Mess within the estate and mills. I will go prepared with some insect repellent and also basic toiletries, expecting the worse. As the Sponsor company is a big corporation in Indonesia, i am not expecting shack-like lodging and at the same time, i am not expecting anything close to 2-star accommodation. Perhaps, it will be good to be back to basic again, very much like how i stayed for 3 nights during Sabah Adventure Challenge in Tambunan.
Good enough. No complains.
I am also not sure if there will be any Internet connection. If there are, expect some updates on this blog on the adventure there. Else, next week will be with minimal updates. I will be in meetings and visitation most of the time and will grasp any opportunity to update as i go along. Do drop by this blog from time to time to check the blog out.
Until then, wish me best of luck. This trip should be interesting and it is a mixed feeling kind-of-thing not knowing what to expect. Packing starts, tonight.

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