Melak, the last settlement of any size before you hit the upper Mahakam, is surprisingly modern and developed – at least once you leave the harbour area. Sendawar, the regency seat next door, is trying to out-develop itself, with each new government building more massive than the last. It is all very disorienting, and somewhat alarming considering this is likely a preview of what's to come upriver.
Centuries of culture, however, can't be erased with a few years of coal money. Spend any time here and you are as likely to find yourself invited to a Dayak funeral as to stumble across a cock fight. Start your wandering with the still-occupied longhouse at Eheng or the orchid preserve of Kersik Luway.