A royal audience in Kalimantan
ALBANY, WA IN the provincial city of Sanggau, on the banks of the Kapuas River in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, we’d just attended a church service.
We were about to climb into a little bus to return to where we were staying when our host, Suyono, asked if we wanted to have a look around.
We agreed, all nine of us, and so off we went and ended up down by the river, where we took photos and enjoyed the sights.
I’d visited this area two years earlier and asked if we could visit the sultan’s palace further down the Kapuas. We piled into the bus again and in no time at all were walking up the steps of the palace. The building isn’t large, but nonetheless impressive and restored in the past few years. It has a wide veranda and we walked along it, peeking through the windows. On my previous visit, I was told you could arrange to see inside.
Thinking it must therefore be a tourist destination, I shared this knowledge with Suyono and, ever the resourceful guide, he soon spotted someone crossing the yard (probably checking to see what we were doing) and asked if we could enter the palace.
To our amazement, the door opened and we were invited in. We slipped off our shoes and walked into a large sitting room, which boasted very old furniture and assorted artefacts.
We took photos and looked about before moving into the richly decorated throne room, which was adorned with beautiful carpets and two ornate thrones on a platform.
Our host from the yard directed our attention to various photos hanging on the wall. Then a man in a singlet came into the room and we discovered he was the sultan, and lived in the palace.
Not missing a beat, Suyono asked if we could have our photo taken with him. The sultan said yes, but went off and put on a shirt on before returning with his wife for our cameras. He showed us about and explained some of the rich history of his family and the area before inviting us to join him for coffee in the sitting room.
Then we intruders were presented with a gift and we chatted happily during this unexpected royal audience.
I was so embarrassed by my mistake, but equally humbled by the graciousness of the Sultan of Sanggau. Send your 400-word contribution to Follow the Reader: travel@ theaustralian.com.au. Columnists receive a kit (total value, $107.85) of OSABrands Universal Travel Adaptor with two USB ports ($44.95), OSABrands Digital Luggage Scales ($32.95) and Tatonka RFID Protected Passport Pouch ($29.95). More: osabrands.com.