Pontianak, Indonesia’s City on the Equator lies on the banks of the Kapuas, the country’s longest and largest river, and one of the longest rivers in the world. The Kapuas River has its source at Gunung Lawit, deep in the Mueller mountain range in Central Borneo where it rushes down, meandering 1,143 kilometers west, passing 9 of West Kalimantan’s 14 districts, until it finally reaches the South China Sea, forming a wide delta upon which Pontianak is built.
It is no wonder, therefore, that the Kapuas River serves as the livelihood of the region, a major waterway to reach interior towns and its major water supply. Boats with a 3 meter draft can navigate upriver to the town of Sintang, some 465 km inland from the mouth Kapuas. This is the gateway to the interior home of the Dayaks, the native of Borneo. While boats with 2 meter draft can reach Putussibau, 902 km from Pontianak.
Pontianak has about 500,000 inhabitants, with one of its characteristics being the high proportion of ethnic Chinese who live in the city — and in most of the towns along the coast of West Kalimantan heading north.
Consequently, Pontianak blends the influence of three ethnic groups to give the city its cultu ral quality: the ethnic Chinese, who make up about 40 percent, together with the Dayak from the tropical hinterland, and the ethnic Malay community.
Pontianak’s most well-known claim to fame is that it is situated right smack bang on the equator, a geographic fact that was celebrated by the Dutch in 1928 in the form of a strange gyroscopic-looking monument. The khatulistiwa (equator) monument is situated across the Kapuas River from the main town, on the edge of Pontianak.
The original, rather modest Dutch monument is now enclosed in a large concrete dome, constructed in 1991, with a huge replica of the original contained inside now built on top.