An absolute ‘must see’ when in Banjarmasin is the Lok Baintan floating market on the Martapura River. Held daily for over 500 years, this vibrant, colourful market is widely regarded as the most authentic of its kind in SE Asia and few who have seen it would argue.
At sunrise all year round, the mostly female traders gather in their canoes (junking) to barter and trade an astonishing variety of home grown produce such as bananas, guavas, oranges, rambutan, water spinach and other vegetables. There’s fish, coconuts, palm leaves, baskets and woven mats; an almost endless list that changes with the season.
Before the morning heat sweeps across the river the traders begin to drift away, either returning home or heading into the labyrinth of waterways hawking their goods from door to door, so by 9am it’s over for another day. For tourists, there’s still the 45min journey back down the river to enjoy and if you’ve already done a canal tour, this is great opportunity to see another side of Banjarmasin river life.
The Lok Baintan market is a 45min boat ride from downtown Banjarmasin and to get the most out of the experience you should aim to be there for sunrise around 5am. Don’t let the early start put you off as travelling along the river at dawn is sublime. And don’t worry about having breakfast before you go – tea, coffee, donuts, pisang goreng and other treats are being hawked from canoes on the river too so you won’t go hungry and it’s a fun way to participate in the market.
You’ll need to organise your boat charter the day before due to the early start and if you’re staying at a riverside hotel, ask the boatman to collect you from there. Expect to pay around Rp. 150.000-200.000. Note that Banjarmasin also has the Muara Kuin Floating Market so when you’re arranging a boat, be specific about which floating market you want to see. If you’re only going to visit one, Lok Baintan gets our pick.
Muara Kuin Floating Market
The Muara Kuin floating market takes place between 5-9am every morning on a wide part of the Barito River by the Kuin Estuary, only 10-15min by boat from downtown Banjarmasin.
Unlike its counterpart Lok Baintan, which is an informal gathering of villagers trading and bartering their own products to the Banjar community, the Muara Kuin market is commercially focused. The boats are bigger, the volumes are bigger and the pace faster. At one time it was the biggest floating market in Indonesia but unfortunately in recent years the market has declined as many merchants have moved across to the adjacent land based market. Despite this, the Muara Kuin floating markets is still well worth a look.