Wednesday, July 7, 2021


Karapan Sapi is a traditional annual event that happens only in Madura
ON A RECENT visit to Bali, I was lucky to see a one-of-a kind event called Karapan Sapi, a bull race that happens in Madura, a small island located across the Madura Strait to the northeast of Java Island, know for this scenic beauty. This traditional sport has been around for several centuries and happens at the district level, regency level and finally to the residence level, with the finals, wehre the competitors vie for the President Cup in the city of Pamekasan. The race typically happens  during the months of July to October.
History calling
The origins of this race are traced to Sapudi Island in Madura, and there are two interesting stories behind its history. One school of thought believes that the race was used by ulema, while another says this race was created by an important man from Sapudi Island to make the soil fertile by plowing.
Prince Kantadur from the local kingdom of Sumenep in the 13th century also helped popularize the race, and in the 1930s. Dutch rulers did their bit to organize and promote the sport across the East Java province. Interestingly, not all bulls make the cut to quality to be race ready.
It is said that the race bulls are the ones whose chest shape narrows from the upper area t othe lower area, have humped necks, short horns and a big strong body with long back, tight nails and along tail. Their daily diet includes, a mix of herbs, honey and eggs, which increases by several portions before a race. And yes, bulls ar also fiven a relaxing massage as well so that they can perform at top speed.
Sporty vibes
When I arrived at the venue, which happens to be a large open field fenced all around, there was a palpable undercurrent of exicitement. Row of chairs had been arranged at one end with a lot of local food – boiled peanuts, sweet potatoes and more. The racing event is evidently popular with locals and is quite a unique experience for tourists, making this a win-win for all sides.
For local especially, this event has prestige value because the winning bull owner stands to gain much socially and financially. Before the race begins, each team parades their bulls to the liting tunes of Madura’s traditional instrument, saronen, and local school children performing the traditional percot (whip) dance.
The participating bulls themselves are also given a makeover with rich clothing, flowery ribbons and other decorations as part of the parade. Just before the race begins, these are exchanged for more practical gear.
The race
Each team comprises a tukang ambeng (a person who releases the harness), a tukang gubra (a person to shout from the side of the race track), a tukang nyandak (a person to stop the ubll at the finish line) and a tukang tanja (a person to lead the bull after the race).
The race involves a pair of bulls attached to a standing wooden cart, on which a jockey stands to steer the bulls through the race. The jockeys are usually young boys who control the speed of the bull, locally called tukang tongko. The 100-meter-long race track usually takes 10 to 15 second to complete amidst the onlocker’s wild cheers.
One the flag drops, the jockey starts poking the bulls with a sharpened bamboo and tries to simultaneously keep his balance. The bull whose forelegs cross the finish line first wins the race, which has a series of elimination heats. So the next time you are in Madura, be sure to check out Karapan Sapi.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Escape to Idylic Belitung Island

FIRST gaining popularity after hitting the big screen in 2008’s award-winning ‘The Rainbow Troop’, Belitung island in Bangka-Belitung province is recognized for tis white sandy beaches, Stonehenge-like granite rocks formations and lush environs.
In the past five years, the island’s popularity has increased, as it became known as the birthplace of former Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama.
I had high expectation of Belitung after seeing thousands of pictures on my Instagram feed. I foolishly assumed that the island would be similar to Bali or Lombok. Imagine my surprise when I was greeted by empty asphalt roads and a quiet ambience.
Evry, my local guide-slash-driver, told me that there was only one department store on the island, illustrating how different the island was from my imagination.
During my visit, I discovered that many tourists come to Belitung to see Laskar Pelangi’s shooting locations, Ahok’s childhood home and for island hoping. After spending three days on the island, I had to admit that Belitung’s different envirionment was perfect for the much-needed break I was longing for.
The peaceful morning
 I spent the first day exploring East Belitung regency, which is where Laskar Pelangi was filmed and the Andrea Hirata Literary Museum and Ahok’s childhood home are located.
The next day, I woke up at 7 a.m. As I opened the curtain, I was greeted by sunshine and fresh sea breeze coming through my window. Although, I was staying ner the town center, the BW Suite Belitung hotel in Tanjung pandan had the luxury of ocean view rooms.
I quickly got myself ready and headed down to the loby to fin Evry. He suggested we make a quick stop at Kong Jie Coffee for breakfast.
The coffee shop was packe with people eating traditional breakfast meals, such as nasi gemok (rice and fried fish wrapped in simpur leaves) and banana fritters while enoying a cup of java. Despite being crowded, time seemed to move slower. The cutomers were not in a hurry. They slowly sipped their coffee while chating with friends or playing with their mobile phones.
The atmosphere was so laid-back and it was relaxing to experience it, especially for someone who lives in th city like my self.
I wished I could have spent longer time enjoying the coffee shop. But I had to move on to Tanjung kelayang Beach to rent a boat to island hopping.
Away from reality
I spent almost two hours inside the car. The jorney was smooth, as the asphalt road was empty. Prior to arriving at our destination, I saw housed that had similar architecture and were surrounded by huge yards. I rarely sawa people in front of the houses. Some houses had their doors left wide open ,showing how safe the area was.
Travel tips
1.       Paying by credit or debit card could be considered safer and more convenient than carrying cash.
2.       Save time and money; when traveling out of country, paying by card in local currency can offer a competitive exchange rate.
3.       Make two copiex of important travel documents, including your passport, in case of emergency.
4.       Notify your band card issuer about your travel plans to help monitor for fraud.
5.       Set alerts so you can keep track of spending on your phone.
6.       Data roaming charges can skyrocket while abroad so set up your cellphone to avoid international dat roaming or ensure you have an international plan.
7.       Keep a list of important contacts in case your phone is lost or stolen.
8.       Check out fun local events such as festivals and concerts in the city you’re visiting.
As I arrived at Tanjung Kelayang Beach, I could again smell the fresh air. After paying Rp 400.000 to rent a boat, I changed my clothes and climbed into the speedboat.
The first five minutes were heavenly. The warm sea breeze touched my face and the wind blew through my hair. I could hear the sound of crashing waves while enjoying the sight of the celar blue sky and crystal-clear water.
“This is Batu Garuda,” said Evy, waking me from my daydream. He pointed to a giant rock formation and said, “You can see the shape resembles the Garuda bird.”
“You cannot go on the rocks,” said Evry, asking me to take a picture from the boat.
I started to recognize the shape and took some pictures.
We then move to Batu Berlayar Island. The small island is filled with Stonehenge like rock formations that are icons of Belitung. Here, I finally saw how popular Belitung has become as a tourist destination. The ilse was filled with visitors trying to take nice pictures. It took me a while to find a quiet spot. I got carried away and began posing like an Instagram influencer.
 After feeling satisfied, we went to our next destination, Lengkuas Island. The island is known for its lighthouse, which was built in 1882. Visitors can climbup to third level to take in the view of the turquoise below.
I felt disappointed because I could not go to the top to see a bird’s eye view of the island. But the good news was, Evry said, I could go snorkeling off the eastern and western shores of Lengkuas Island.
“We should buy biscuits,” Evry said, explaining that we could feed the fish while snorkeling.
Although the corals were not as colorful as the ones in Komodo Island or Raja Ampat, snorkeling in Belitung was not a disappointment. Once I entered the water, holding the biscuits, I was instantly surrounded by fish.
I spent around 20 minutes feeding the fish and enjoying the underwater scenery. Then I decided it was time to move on to the next stop.
The boat brought me to Pasir Island. Although it is called an island, Pasir Island is actually a sandbar that is onely visible during low tide. If you lucky, you might see large pnkish starfish. I felt like I was staying in the middle of the ocean.
As I climbed back on the boat, Every said that our next stop would be special, as it was quieter than Lengkuas and Batu Layar Islands.
He was not llying. There were only a few people on Kelayang Island. It was clearly the perfect beach for sunbathing.

It was so peaceful and I felt like I was on a private beach. However, the weather started getting warmer, so it was time for Gede Kepayang Island comes with changing rooms, a restaurant and power stations. However, visitors need to pay Rp 20.000 per person to enjoy the facililities.
The restaurant serves freshly caught fish grilled with local spices along with free-flow of coffee and tea. As I enjoyed the udang saus Padang (prawns in spicy sauce), I grabbed my mobile phone and discovered that I had been busy exploring the islands for around for hours.
It was the first time I had checked WhatsApp that day. I felt so happy to be able to escape from my normal routine for a while [Source : The Jakarta Post magazine |Edittion Jul 2017 | by : Jessica Valentina]

Wednesday, May 5, 2021


TANJUNG LESUNG, hailed by the government as one of the country’s new, Bali-like international destinations, centers on Cikarang-based Jababeka & Co’s exclusive enclave of pricey beachfront resorts and the special economic zone currently being developed at Ladda Beach. The absence of any equal competitor and the inconvenience of low-end options outside the enclabe means there are no alternatives to choose from.
While Bali has its recently-erupting Mt.Agung and the West Bali National Park, the Tanjung Lesung enclave is located in close proximity to Krakatoa, a volcanic island formed after a colossal eruption in 1883, and to the pristine Ujung Kulon National Park. Unlike Bali, however, it doesn’t have any strong, distinct cultural or religious heritage of tis won. Although it is situated in Banten, it’s not the home of the Badui, the traditional Bantenese community, whose hilly homeland is, in fact, closer to Jakarta (120 km) than to Tanjung Lesung (194 km). This may explain why it built a Mongolian food and culture center to entertain tourists. This, and some decorative attempts to imitate Bali, indicate the lack of a strong vision for its development.

Located a 3-t0-4-hour’s drive from Jakarta (and a shorter ride by helicopter from Cikarang  if you’re a potential investor), the giant enclave’s top hotels are the Kalicaa Villa Resort and the neighboring, almost two decade-old Tanjugn Lesung Beach Hotel. The later boasts a great family villa, a beautiful beach, a very enjoyable swimming pool, but institutionalized, uninspiring food. Currently, the resorts are awash with visitors when there are sport events or company gatherings. Lower-priced promotional packages also attract guests during the low season. A stay there comes wit hfree access to the Beach Club, where different water sports (such as jet ski and snorkeling) are offered.
Despite the club’s dilapidated look, new structures were being built when I went
[From : The Jakarta Post Travel Edition, August 2018  | Words: ]