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Introducing Samarinda

Samarinda! The very name oozes exoticism, like some princely capital in the Arabian Nights. And happily, you will find some of that here in this sprawling riverfront city. The enormous mosque of the new Islamic Centre stands like a sentinel at the gates of the mighty Mahakam River, a most impressive sight, giving the city a welcome dash of Istanbul. But like many fairy-tale settings, there is also a jarring profusion of highs and lows, from a few quality hotels to the thousands of rusting tin-roofed shacks spread over the surrounding hills. Unlike Balikpapan, anything goes here, for better or worse, so take a taxi after 9pm.