Do you know that you can take a direct flight from Tawau to Tarakan? That is how accessible this largest city of the Indonesian province of North Kalimantan for Malaysians.
It is also reachable by flight from Balikpapan, Jakarta, Surabaya, Denpasar and Makassar.
Located in northern Borneo, the island is just across the border from the Malaysian state of Sabah.
Historians or World War II buffs would know about Tarakan. It was among the first Japanese targets early in the war.
Realising they were short of oil supply, Japan declared war on the Dutch East Indies (also known as Netherlands East Indies) on Jan 10, 1942 and their troops landed on Tarakan the very next day.
This was because it was one of the five largest petroleum processing centers in the East Indies way back in the 1940s.
The name Tarakan is believed to come from the Tidung language. “Tarak” means meeting place while “ngakan” is to eat.
Long time ago, Tarakan was a meeting place for sailors and traders to eat, rest and trade their catch.
Making a pit stop at Tarakan’s Pantai Amal (or Amal Beach)
If you find yourself in Tarakan someday, follow in the footsteps of the olden day sailors and have a munch and rest at Pantai Amal.
Popular among the locals, the beach is located on the eastern side of the city.
Visitors love to sit along the coastline and simply enjoy the view of Pantai Amal.
Instead of looking forward to the sunset view, the beach is a famous place to have a glance of the sunrise.
But it doesn’t mean you should not visit it during the evening. The place is the perfect hangout site to relax and eat.
There are huts built along Pantai Amal managed by different stall operators.
Just have a seat in one of the huts and someone will come and take your order.
What’s to eat at Pantai Amal?
There are two dishes you need to have at Pantai Amal; its fried shrimps and stir-fried kerang kapah (hard clams).
The fried shrimps are crunchy and tasty while the clams are chewy and juicy. Both are Pantai Amal’s specialties and both are equally addictive.
You can skip the carbs if you want to but if you want to order rice, you have to order buras.
For Sabahans who live in Sandakan, Tawau, Kunak and Lahad Datu, they might be familiar with this. It is a traditional Bugis rice dish cooked in coconut milk and wrapped in banana leaves.
This sticky rice somehow complements the taste of seafood in your mouth. To take your gastronomic adventure even further, dip the fried shrimps and clams into the sambal (chilli paste) before digging them in.
Those who can’t stand the heat, you might want to skip the sambal. Unlike most Indonesian sambal which is sweet, the ones served at Pantai Amal is more on the sour side, making it perfect pairing with the seafood.
For desserts, order a plate of banana fritters. Don’t forget to order coconut too because a trip to a tropical beach like Pantai Amal would not be complete without sipping on a coconut drink.