A royal au­di­ence in Kal­i­man­tan

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - GE­OFF MET­CALF

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.

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