Sunday, October 10, 2021

Sawahlunto Tours Destination Steeped in History

WHEN TOURISTS used to ask about places to visit in West Sumatra, one of the most common answers was the city of Bukittinggi. Today though, that answer includes Sawahlunto.
The next question would then be: “What is  there to see in Sawahlunto?” And the answer is that the city has as many – if not more – tourist objects than Bukittinggi.
Sawahlunto, like Bukittinggi, is a small city, but it has a rich historical heritage. It is home to seven museums and old buildings from the Dutch-colonial era that are quite well preserved. They all reflect that past way of life in the coal-mining town.
In 2015 Sawahlunto was shortlisted on the tentative UNESCO World Heritage list as an Old Coal Mining Town. And in 2019, the government will include Sawahlunto in its list of proposed sites to the World Heritage Committee.
The list will be expanded to include the remains of the supporting infrastructure for coal production in the 19th century. These include a 155.5-km railway crossing six regencies and towns in West Sumatra, all the way to Teluk Bayur Seaport, which used to be called Emma Haven, a docking location for coal bound for exports.
Sawahlunto is situated in a valley. It was founded by the Dutch in 1888 when a big reserve of high-quality coal was discovered in the area. Until today, the coal is still mined in small volumes; large-scale mining activities, or deep mining, were halted in the early 2000s.
Mining-related building boasting Dutch style architecture are common sight in the region, including the main office of the coal mining company founded in 1916 and now the icon of Sawahlunto. There are also three silos in the form of giant concrete cylinders 40 metes in height that were used to store coal.
Tourists can also visit the Cultural Building, which in the colonial era was dubbed the Ball House. It hosted billiard tournament s and cultural events. Another building is a cooperative building called Ons Belang. Constructed in 1920, it was used as the office of the cooperative whose members were the Dutch and the Indo-Dutch. Hotel Ombilin, meanwhile,was constructed in 1918 and used to house Dutch mining engineers, and the graceful St. Barbara Church was built in 1920.
But one of the more popular sites among tourists is the Mbah Soero mining tunnel, the area’s first coal mine that opened in 1898.
The mining tunnel’s attractions include a sad story of the “chained people”, thousands of convicts sent to West Sumatera from prisons in Java and other regions in Indonesia. They were shipped by the Dutch colonial government, their feet in chain, to work as miners. Many of these chained people lost their lives in Sawahlunto.
Tourist can enter the tunnel accompanied by a guide for only 56 US$ cents per person. Outside the tunnel is a statue of the chained people, and in the building’s Info Box, tourists can view various tools used by the miners.
Related to Mbah Soero is the Goedang RAnsoem Museum. Constructed in 1918, it was used as a soup kitchen for mine workers. Visitors can see the cooking utensils used in that era, including stoves and cauldrons.
The Train Museum, meanwhile, is located where Sawahlunto Station used to be. This is the only train museum on Sumatra and the second in Indonesia, after the first one in Ambarawa. The musem houses a collection of train equipment and devices used in Sawahlunto from 1918. In the yard, visitors can view the legendary locomotive dubbed “Mak Item”, and a wooden carriage that reminds us of the American carriages from the Wild West.
In front of the coal mining company building, PT Bukit Asam, is the Ombilin Coal Mining Museum, which is managed by Bukit Asam’s Ombilin Mining Unit. The museum also functions as the company’s documentation and archive center.
In front of the museum, viistors are greeted by the statue of Ir. J.W.Ijzermen, a Dutchman who held the Ombilin Coal mining project in Sawahlunto until it become productive in 1892. Inside are pictures of Willem Hendrik de Greve, who discovered the coal reserve in Sawahlunto in 1867.
Three other museums in the city are not directly related to the history of Sawahlunto, but they can offer visitors an enjoyable day of culture and entertainment. They are the Etno Kayu Paint Museum, which display modern paintings and wooden crafts; Museum Seni Musik, which houses a collection of musical instruments from various regions in Indonesia and abroad; and Museum Tari, displaying a trove of accessories for Minangkabau traditional dances.
 Tourists can visit all seven museums and historical buildings in one day on foot as they are located in the Old Town area.
Sawahlunto also has family entertainment facilities located some 12 kms from Old Town. One of these is Kandi Zoo, wehre visitors can not only see animals but also paly paintball and engage in other outbound activities.
Every December, to commemorate its anniversary, Sawahlunto holds a horse race at its 1,400 –m track, the second-longest in the country. The arena can accommodate 30,000 spectators.
Other family-friendly destinations are the Rantih tourism village, Fruit Garden and Waterboom Waterpark, as well as sites to enjoy the area’s beautiful scenery, such as Cemara Peak and Polan Peak.
Also in Sawahlunto is the grave of national hero Mohammad Yamin. The grave is situated in Talawi, 15 km from the center of town. Yamin was one of the early concept writes of Indonesia’s ideology and a proclaimer of the historic Youth Pledge.

Sawahlunto is only 95 kilometers from Padang and 88 kilometers from Bukittinggi. If visitors don’t have time to stay the night, they can still enjoy what the town has to offer by making a one-day trip from either of these cities in a rental car.
Backpackers can easily visit Sawahlunto on a budget. From Minangkabau Ekspres airport train to Simpang Haru Station (the last station). Currently tickets for the Minangkabau Ekspres cost only $0.8.
From the station, visitors can walk 350 meters or take an ojek (motorcycle taxi) t oa minibus shelter. From there, they take a minibus to Sawahlunto in Tugu Api. The bus fare is 1.3$ and the minibus is available every hour from morning until late afternoon. The minibus stops at a terminal in the center of Sawahlunto, and visitors can stay at one of the budget homestays that are abundant in the area.

 [Sources : by The Jakarta Post |Words: Syofiardi Bachyul Jb]

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Nuart Sculpture Park | Where art is for everyone

IF YOU LIVE in Jakarta, Bandung or Bali, most likey you would have come across an artwork created by Nyoman Nuarta. Among his pieces are the Garuda statue at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, the Arjuna statue just outside Monas and the hand sculpture in Setraduta housing complex in Bandung, to name a few.
Born on Nov. 14, 1951, this Balinese artist does not look like he is slowing down, escpecially with his latest work, the Garud Wisnu Kencana, which will stand up to153 meters tall in Ungasan, Bali, and is due to be completed in August 2018 as a gift to the nation. It is so tall, especially compared to the surrounding resorts and residential area, you could see it from a landing plane.
Nyoman Nuarta’s Balines roots might explain his talent, with Bali culturally known to be home to stone and wood scultors, however Nuarta decided to choose a different media: copper, brass and steel. Being a big fan of his publicly displayed art, it was only a matter of time before I visited Nuart Sculpture Park located within the Setraduta complex in Bandung.
Living up to my expectation, the gallerycum-park was beautiful. Entering its gates, we were welcomed by a few works in his signature style. Nyoman Nuarta, in my opinion, has this gothic eerie feel to his work whether the piece is made of metal or other material. His art contains a lot of emotion and movement, not to mention detail that could lead one to marvel for hours. He alwasys has a concept behind his work, which in the art world, to my understanding, is not a necessity. There’s a story behind every piece of art.
Roaming around the gallery shows the wide skill range and creativity of Nyoman Nuarta. Many of the pieces are inspired by his family, especially the strong women around him, the environment and important events. The faces of his children and grandchildren are muses, which clearly pop up in his work. A mother orangutan holding her baby amongst tree stumps tells the story of the dying species along with its environment. One of the most prominent pieces is “Nightmare”, located in the middle of the plastered indoor gallery, which reminds us of the women mutilated not long after the 1998 incident in Jakarta.
“Moral of the story: We should cherish the women in our lives that have given us life,” says one the interns on duty that day.
Listening to the stories behind some of the pieces I realize that despite the work being made of strong elements, there is a deeply sensitive man caring and observing the world that we live in today. Well, there is also a cute seemingly-fluffy sheep made of metal, inspired during a trip to New Zealand, which doesn’t necessarily need any explation.
The gallery itself is a piece of art.
Covered top to bottom in plaster and wood, as is the current trend for houses, cafes and restaurants. It balances out the details of Nuarta’s work and creates the perfect canvas for its shadows. It is also a well-designed place as a the spaces are not just room after room, but more of an open space where you can see most of the artwork. The exterior façade is far from plain, decorated with blue glass combined with detailed walls. In addition, there is an amphitheater for art performances, surrounded by a lush green environment overlooking a gushing river. Amongst the greenery is some of Nuarta’s larger works, including my favorite, a blue whale with its disconnected tail not too far from its head. The sporadic artwork becomes a kind of hunt, as you don’t know where you’ll find the next piece. Not to forget the restaurant, where visitors can take a break, because surely the park will take a lot of time. Whether you enjoy art and Nuarta’s work, or not, the park has a way to entertain anyone who visits.
And of course, Nuart Sculpture Par has a souvenir shop, probably unlike any other. Aside from books and park memorabilia, the shop also offers various and interesting artworks and wearable items such as clothes, watches, notebooks and wallets from local artist. So there’s a little bit for everyone, leaving us to believe that art is for everyone. [Sources : by The Jakarta Post |Words: Murni A Ridha]

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Haven of Exotic Beaches

Gunung Kidul, located in the southeastern part of Yogyakarta, has long been known as a haven for tourists in search of beaches, which span over 70 kms, from the west to the east, along its southern coastline.
Beaches in Gunung Kidul offer more than just breathtaking views. Visitors can also relax by snorkeling, checking out coral reef and decorative fish under clear waters or just playing on the white sand.
“It’s really fun, watching fish swimming here and there under the water. I couldn’t help but try to touch them,” visitor Dian Retnanindyah of Sleman regency said after enjoying snorkeling in Sadranan Beach waters, recently.
Sadranan is among beaches in Gunung Kidul that continue to lure travelers. Along with Ngandong and Slili beaches, Sadranan is suitable for snorkeling and rowing.
Other beaches in the area have their own charms and appeal, serving as a magnet for travelers from far and wide.
Baron is also popular among fishermen. As the “entrance gate” to other beaches in the area, visitors can see fishermen returning to shore with their catch, apart from the beautiful scenery of the hills that surround the area.
Visitors can also find and underground spring that directly goes into the sea. People are also welcome to buy fresh fish that can be cooked on site to enjoy right away or to takeaway.
Next to Baron is Kukup, which offers an overlay of white sands and scenery of colorful decorative fish and other sea biota. What makes this beach special is the coral hill with an observation post on top of it where visitors can observe the beauty of the surrounding panorama as well as of offshore activities in the distance.
Long coasaatline
Sepanjang is one of just a few beaches in Gunung Kidul that  has a long coastline. With an overlay of white sand, sports overs will see it as the perfect place to play beach volleyball. Facilities to play so are available on the site.
Drini, which is located next to Sepanjang, is named after the numerous drini trees that grow on the beach. The trees are believed to have to have the capability to get rid of snakes. Fish auctions are also held and an array of culinary treats are available from vendors. Krakal Beach, next to Drini
Also offers an overlay of white sands, where visitors can enjoy sunrise and the scenery of fish and other sea biota during high tide. Sunrise can also be enjoyed from Pok Tunggal Beach.
Other beaches offering beautiful white sands as well as calm and clear waters are connecting Ngrenehan. Nobaran and Nguyahan in Saptosari district. Although one is located next to the other, these three beaches offer different charms.
If in Ngobaran visitors can visit a Hindu temple built on the beach, in Ngrenehan and Nguyahan, visitors can enjoy beautiful panorama, buy fresh fish from vendors, or enjoy various seafood items on offer at food stalls.
Those with a desire to take part in outbound activities can pay a visit to Sundak, where local instructors are on standby. Visitors can also take a dip in the water and choose to just relax on the beach.
Gunung Kidul tourism Agency’s planning subdivision head, Supriyanta, said Gunung Kidul regency was home to beaches, but only 40 had been developed for tourism purposes.

“Of these 40 beaches, 28 have been fully developed, meaning that they already have the required facilities as tourist destinations,” said Supriyanta, adding have among the must-have facilities included parking areas, restrooms, food outlets and souvenir stalls.
Thanks to the development of access roads heading to these beaches, Gunung Kidul has for the last few years been enjoying a steady increase in tourist visits to the regency by up to 400,000 tourists a year.
If in2015 it saw only some 2.2 million tourists, in 2016 it saw 2.6 million of them. It saw a further increase to 3.2 million in 2017, of which some 21,600 were foreign tourists, thus exceeding the target of receiving 2.69 million of tourists the same year.
Supriyanta said the majority tourists visiting Gunung Kidul had chosen beaches as their main destinations, especially those on the central part of the regency’s coastline.
How to go there
To get the beaches, visitors can take different routes from Yogyakarta (Yogyakarta-Pathuk-Wonosari-Baron); from Bantul (Parangtritis-Trowono-Kemadang-Kukup); from Wonogiri (Pracimantoro-Baran Rongkop-Jerukwudel-Jepitu-Wediombo) or (Pracimantoro-Girisubo-Sadeng-Wediombo); and from Kalten (Ngawen-Semin-Karangmojo-Semanu-Panggul-Jepitu-Wediombo).

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: ]

Sunday, April 4, 2021

A Family Outing To Bromo

 “YOU MUST SEE MOUNT BROMO”. It was 16 years ago and I was traveling around Indonesia for the first time, and there was always some “must-see” destination in each place, whether it was a royal palace, a temple or verdant rice paddies. Well, back then I was single and (relatively) young, so getting up atg stupid 0’clock in the morning, to drive upa sheer mountainside in a jeep and then ride on a horse to see a volcano was something I thought was doable. I booked a tour and arranged to be picked up from my hotel at 3 a.m. the following morning.
Alas, being single and (relatively) young, other thing interposed. I went out for dinner with the intention of getting an early night but met up with some friendly local people, who persuaded me to go for a drink, just one mind, at a nearby nightclub. One thing kind of led to another and by the time reception called me at 3 a.m., I really wasn’t in the mood to go volcano-spotting. Full disclosure, there were quite a few other “must-see” destinations, royal places, temples and verdant rice paddies, that I also missed for similar reasons 16 years ago.

I often regretted that decision, not a lot I admit, but enough to make me think I really should make the trip at a latter date. So here I was all of 16 years later in the pleasantly compact East Java town of Malang, oldern and wiser and with four kids ranging from 7 to 12 years in age, looking forward to our trip to Mt. Bromo.
For someone used to my comfort zone of Jakarta, rarely venturing to anywhere else in Indonesia, other thn driving to Bogor for the afternoon or a long weekend in the expat havens of Bali, I was looking forward to seeing again some of the other bits of Indonesia on a family tour of East Java. The short flight to Malang certainly provides a magnificent view of the Java that for too many of us is simply “fly-over country”. To see the line of dark brooding volcanoes, some extinct, some just waiting the right moment, emerging through the clouds below you is to be reminded of the powerful and ancient forces that have crafted this beautiful land. And to arrive in Malang’s sleepy little airport and wait the best part of 40 minutes to collect you bags from the only plane parked not 100 meters from the baggage carousel is to be reminded why you don’t make the trip so often.
On this trip to Bromo we were being picked up at midnight to drive trhough the ngiht up the mountain to catch the beautiful sunrise fro ma neighboring peak. We calmbered into a Toyota Land Cruiser that had seen better days and began a spine-shaltering ride along rutted tracks and around hairpin bends in the pitch dark in what seemed like some Mad Max-style race with hundreds of other jeeps and  insane motorcyclists to get the peak first.
Dropped off just below Sunrise Point we climbed to the viewing platform, two hours before dawn, and having got our spot, there was little to do other than lie down on the concrete floor and try to get some rest, while latecomers stumbled over us in the dark as the jostled for their spots.
It is cold. Not cool, as in a nice evening in Puncak, it’s an Irish night in February cold.

You need to wear warm gear, a sweater, thick coat, hat, gloves, a scarf too. There are blankets to rent but you don’t want to wrap yourself in one of those for a couple of hours, trust me on this. The cold was made worse by a biting wind that rolled big, marrow-chilling we clouds of fog over and around us. Fog that meant that when the sun did rise there was not much to see. So, after trying to look cheerful for family pictures consisting of shivering children against a pallid background of murky gray mist, we finally gave up and made our way back down.
Then into the Toyoto again to go hurting down the mountain, with the added delight of now being able to see over the sheer sides of the road into the dedly precipes below. We arrived at a dustbowl that appeared to contain the entire production line of Toyota Land Cruisers circa 1996 and in the middle of which was the steaming caldera of Bromo. The caldera is reached on the back of tiny little ponies. The ponies can carry adults but in the interests of animal welfare I skipped the ride and crossed the sand-blown moonscape on foot. I may have looked a little mad, because a vendor offered to sell me a paper surgical mask. For Rp 100.000. I am not that mad.

The climb to the caldera is a steep one, and very crowded. But at the top the sight is ever ybit as stunning as you are led to expect, well it is if you can get through the forest of selfie-sticks to take a look. Don’t seek a moment of intense self enlightment at the wonders of nature and our puny place in the great universe, though, get the pictures you need for social media and move on for the next person to take your place at the railing. You also might want to leave young kids below in safe hands before you begin your ascent, trying to get that perfect instagram picture while keeping an eye on a 7-year-old girl in a san-kicking competition with her brother on the edge of a volcanic crater can be distracting.
Time for a few more photos before we got emphysema from the dust swirling around everywhere and then it was back into the Toyota to contemplate the great wisdom of modern car designers who had the clever idea of making vehicle interiors of soft molded plastic and foam, as we bumped hedas against the roof or backs against angular steel door fittings, before retuning to the hotel for long hot baths in the late afternoon, a mere 18 or so sleepless, bedraggled hours since leaving.
Whisper it, I really should have done this 16 years ago.
[From : The Jakarta Post Travel Edition, August 2018  | Words: Arif Suryobuwono]

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Five things to see in Labuan Bajo

Aerial viePadar Island in between Komodo and Rinca Islands near Labuan Bajo in West Manggarai, East Nusat Tenggara (NTT).

The Komodo Dragon is not the only interesting thing to see when you travel to Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT).
The picturesque town on the island of Flores offers the following atttractions worth exploring, as compliey by

Gili Laba
Situated in Komodo National Park, Gili Laba boasts enchanting panoramic, views, as well as breathtaking beaches and underwater scenes.
Do make the effort and time to reach the top of the hill ofr a breathtaking view of the surrounding azure–blue ocean and NTT’s signature hills. Arrive at 3 p.m. and you’ll get the bonus of catching a beautiful sunset.

Batu Cermin Cave
Though some parts of Batu Cermin Cave are man-made, it is still a fascinating place to visit for nature lovers, featuring fossils of sea creatures its walls the prove it once rested at the bottom of the ocean.
The name of the cave itself means “mirror stone,” because its walls reflect sunlight streaming through an opening in the ceiling, creating a mirror-like effect.

Cunca Wulang Waterfall
Take a cooling dip in the fresh-water pool of Cunca Wulang Waterfall, located some 30 kms from Labuan Bajo, and enjoy its lush surroundings.

Cancar Village
Expect to marvel at paddy fields uniquely formed like a giant spiderweb in Cancar village. Travelers usually climb a  hill named Puncak Weol to take a fantastic view.

Kampung Melo
Labuan Bajo also has a tourist destination for culture enthusiasts named Kampung Melo, wehre visitors are welcomed with a traditional Manggarai caci dance.
Kampung Melo also offers a gorgeous view that is perfect for photos.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

A Seaside indulgence

The island’s beach clubs give vationers another good reason to bask under the sun – in style and with a lot of fun
EVEN THE MOST enthusiastic vactioners will experience this inevitable feeling at a certain point in theier adventure-filled, adrenaline-soaked holiday: a feeling of unbearable longing.
No, I don’t mean a longing for home. After all, who needs to return to home when they are already in such a homey place, such as in a huxurious resort nestled inside a lush forest in Payangan?
It is a longing for doing nothing.

Vacationing is a fast-paced affair nowadays.
Travelers ma yspend their morning jogging along Sanur’s shoreline and having a fullfilling breakfast at the famou Men Weti food stall before hopping into an awaiting car to Ubud.
There they enjoy a sumptuous lunch of the world-famous sucking pig at Ibu Oka, sampling the same dishes that awed the late Antohny Bourdain. Cultural endeavours , ranging fro mbatk class and offering making course to traditional dance lessons and museum tours, will keep them busy throughout the afternoon.
They hen navigate the island’s infamous traffic jams to reqch Canggu or Seminyak, the nexus of the island’s upscale gastronomy and nightlife establishments. They have a fancy dinner, si pa few glasses of wine and either dance the night away or stroll along the deserted beach of Petitenget.
It is an intellectually enriching and physically exhausting day. The following morning, thye awaken and feel that yearning for doing nothing.
They need no worry. The island’s tourist industry has a potent cure for that longing. That cure is the beach club. A rather recent addition to the island’s landscape, beach clubs have grown in number and popularity in the last few years.Combining gorgeous pools, well-stocked bars, charming restaurants with easy access to a long stretch of sandy beach,

these beach clubs are the perfect place for vacationers who wants to linger for hours without doing anything of importance.

Potato Head in Seminyak is one of the clubs that has played a strong role in the rising popularity of beach clubs in the island.
Itw word-class restaurant, infinity pools and series of captivating night events, including the annual Sunny Side Up Electronic Dance Music (EDM) festival, have drawn thousands of vacationers, foreign and domestic alike, into the establishment.
The wall of the gigantic structure that houses the restaurant is lined with hundreds of used wooden windows collected from across the archipelago. It is a visual feast that lures a constant stream of visitors searching for a unique, instagrammable spot.
Potato Head is till one of the best beach clubs on the island. But competition is tight in this business as new players show up and old players elevate their games.
For instance, its next door neighbor, the W Bali-Seminyak, has continuously polished the operation of its beach club. A posh resort famous for its ultra-luxurious rooms and over-the-top Starfish Bloo beachside seafood restaurant, the W-Bali-Seminyak employs a full-time music curator to ensure that quality music is the signature ambience of its Woobar beach club.
SPF, an annual summer party with a mesmerizing fireworks and light show, is Woobar’s answer to Potato Head’s Sunny Side Up. The SPF in late Jully featured Derrick Carter, one of key players of Chichago’s 1990’s house music wave, and Tensnake, a German Dj and producer praised by the The New York Times of having delievered “highly precises modern disco”.
Throughout this August, Woobar has lined up scores of well-know foreign artist, including Livia Dawn and Sebastian Leger, to light up its night.

As the beach clubs in Seminyak and Canggu are locked in the competition to come up with the best pary might ever, a beach club in Ungasan is quietly rising to be one of the must-visit beach clubs on the island.
Karma Kandara, a compound of gorgeous villas and a stunning infinity pool, perches atop a hill overlooking the Indian Ocean. The view is simply breathtaking. Its beach club lies 100 meters below the cliff and can only accessed by a private cable car, giving it an aura of exclusiveness no other beach club on the island offer.
Karma beach club sits literary on a stretch of “private” beach with a magnificent sunset. One can spend the whole day there, sipping cocktails while reading a book under the grass-roofed bamboo pavilion or having a picnic by the beach.

The rising popularity of beach clubs has spurred old players to elevate their games. Conrad Bali, which lies in the island’s water sports capital of Tanjung Benoa, has carried out a complete renovation of its beach club. Its Azure beach club is expected to open its gates in late August.
The rising popularity has also enticed the entrance of new players. One of them is Artotel Beach Club (ABC) in Sanur. Unlike it sisters in Seminyak and Canggu, which put a premium value on large-scale night events. ABC apparently chose a quieter path. After all, Sanur has always been known as the quieter among Bali’s top tourist destinations.
Yet, Sanur offers something that Seminyak, Canggu, and Ungasan cannot match: an active fishermen community. Visitors to ABC, therefore, have an ample opportunity to not only sip cocktails and dip in the pools, but also to converse leisurely with the local fishermen.
For those travelers whose energy has been drained by the prepackaged, fast-paced and commodified tourist attractions, a genuine conversation with the locals might be precisely the thing that can refresh their day. {Words by : I Wayan Juniarta}

Friday, January 1, 2021

Soothing forest ambiance in Mount Halimun Salak

A number of habitats of endangered species can still be found in indonesia thanks partly to the large tropical forests the country possesses, which local and international eco-conscious travelers can enjoy.
Currently, Indonesia has 110 million hectares of protected tropical forests of the second largest area in the world after Brazil.
Of the 110 million ha, 18.7 million are conservation areas.
“These include the mount Halimun Salak National Park (TNGHS) in Bogor, West Java,” said David Makes, head of the Ecotourism Development Acceleration Team (TPPE).
David said the TNGHS, managed by the Balai Taman nasional Gunung Halimun Salak (BTNGHS) under the supervision of Environment and Forestry Ministry, is home to habitats for several endangered species, such as the Java hawk-eagle, Javan Owa and Kukang,” he said.
“Developing the TNGHS into a nature-based ecotourism destination is an important step to enrich ecotourism products on offer in Indonesia, which at the end of the day can boost domestic and foreign tourist arrivals,” he said.
The TNGHS has incredible ecotourism potential, providing a rare opportunity for visitors or travelers to savor the soothing forest ambiance, with green trees, cool and clean air, not far from the hustle bustle of Jakarta.
It’s a three-to five-hour drive to reach the Mount Halimun National Park from the capital. Compared to other national parks, the TNGHS is relatively easily accessible by four-wheeled vehicles, said Head of the BTNGHS.
According to Awen, the park, which covers an area of 87,000 ha, was not recognized until 2003 when the areas that were developed into an ecotourism destination were expanded to Mount Salak, Bogor regency, West Java.
Initially, in 1997 when the TNGHS opened its door to the public as an ecotourism destination, tourism activities were centralized in the Cikaniki area and Malasari village, he said.
With the expanded tourism areas, the TNGHS offers more tourist destination, some of which were managed directly by the park and some others by engaging local communities, according to Awen.
Things to do, which are somewhat adventurous in nature, include camping or glamping, trekking, or experiencing the authentic kampong life and culture in the area.
Gunung Bunder is an ideal site for camping or glamping.
“There are number of waterfalls, locally known as curug, spread across the area,” he said.
In Curug Nangka, visitors can be treated to the sight of clear water flowing along the river while savoring the cool, clean and fresh air.
For those curious about endangered species in the TNGHS, there is the Javan Hawk-Eagle Sanctuary Center, where you can spot javan eagles.
In cikanki, there is a canopy bridge, popularity known as a canopy trail or a hanging bridge, which is also another attraction, Awen said.
The 125-m-long and 25-m-high canopy is located about 200m from Cikanki Research Station. On the canopy, visitors can be treated to awesome sights of the forest from above.
Head of Tourism of ministry regional promotion, said that more attractions needed to be developed in TNGHS to lure visitors, One example he cited was holding Hindu-related ceremonies, given that there are many pura (Hindu’s temples) in the area around the foot of Mount Salak.
According to Awen, a national park can be defined as nature conservation area that has its original ecosystem, managed by a zoning system and can be utilized fort the interest of education, sciencee, supporting culture, culture, recreation adn ecotourism”.
Three principle are used to manage the TNGHS, namely protecting the intactness of the area, preserving the ecosystem of the flora and fauna and utilizing natural resources in a sustainable manner in parallel with the government’s policy for national parks, he said.
Efforts are now under way to drive local communities to be more actively involved in developing and operating the TNGHS areas in a sustainable manner under a partnership scheme.

Apart from the importance of the strengthened legality of the TNGHS to allow for professional management of the park, efforts should also be made to continue to promote biodiversity for research and science development, carbon absorption potential in relation with global climate change and eco and cultural tourism potentials at an international level, according to Awen.
“We’ll continue to develop ecotourism activities and use the most recent means to promote the TNGHS without ignoring the required attention to conservation aspects of the TNGHS as a national park areas,” he said.
Wawan emphasized the importance of good coordination among the relevant stakeholders, such as the central government, the local administration, academics, local communities and NGOs to develop ecotourism in TNGHS.
“Good coordination will create joint commitment, which will help to achieve the goal,” he said.
 Try and go 15 minutes without using, interacting with or even touching a gadget. Chances are your texting fingers will be itching before the dawn of the third minute. Is this a good thing? It’s debatable. But, with so many shiny new devices aiming to make our lives easier, more efficient and a hell of a lot more entertaining, even the most curmudgeonly Luddite would have trouble denying a serious case of tech lust.