Welcome to Samarinda
With its position at the end of the mighty Sungai Mahakam, Samarinda feels like it should be exotic. But other than the spectacular new Islamic Center, Kalimantan's most impressive mosque, the city lacks much in the way of genuine charm. Sprawling on both sides of the river – though the city centre is a relatively compact area of the north bank – Samarinda's land has been opened for coal mining, resulting in numerous health and environmental effects, and causing hotels to advertise their 'flood-free event halls'. Meanwhile, a proliferation of monster malls has been gutting the city centre, leaving some streets eerily vacant; take a taxi after dark.
Samarinda has a decent range of accommodation and services, so most travellers spend a day or two here preparing for their river adventure or jungle treks to the north.