Turtle’s Home – Sangalaki Island, East Kalimantan
A visit to Maratua Island usually includes an island-hopping tour to Kakaban and Sangalaki islands. That’s exactly what we did. You can read about the visit to Kakaban Island here, and the brief visit to Sangalaki was done shortly before that.
Sangalaki Island in the Derawan archipelago of East Kalimantan is known as the place where turtles lay eggs. It’s also where Daihatsu as a corporation donate a good amount of money as their CSR project, to help save turtles from extinction. Upon our visit, we were given thorough information by the conservation officers about the birthing process, the growth of turtles, and things we should or shouldn’t do to support the conservation.
The turtles conserved in Sangalaki are mainly the Green Sea Turtles (Penyu Hijau) or the Chelonia mydas. It’s – predictably – green, has a short and curved beak, and only eats algae and sea grasses. In average, there are 3,000 turtles lay eggs in Sangalaki Island, 800 eggs from each turtle. Statistically, only about 80% continue to live, and only 1 out of 1,000 turtles survive to be full-grown. When full-grown, the width of their shells could reach up to 75 cm or about 2.5 ft. Living creatures that might be the predators of turtles include human, crabs, sharks, eagles, and seagulfs.
“These turtles, will come back to the island to lay eggs. They always find the same island they were hatched in to lay eggs,” a conservation officer explained. That’s interesting, it’s like turtles have the sense of hometown or something. “Other turtles might also come here to lay eggs, especially if their original habitat has been damaged, too crowded with construction, badly polluted or damaged by abrasion,” he added.
Turtles always lay eggs at night and aren’t fond of lights or human presence, but if you’d like to see the process just contact the conservation center and they might arrange a sighting for you. Peak season of laying eggs is usually between July and September. There is a resort with a couple of cottages on the island, costing about IDR1,250,000/person/night, including meals.
What we human can do to help preserve turtles include: keep the beach clean, no littering in the sea, avoid eating turtle’s meat or eggs, not in any way supporting the selling or buying of turtle eggs, leave it alone and not capture it even though they might look exotic in your aquarium. Last but not least, tell your friends, family, students, co-workers, neighbors and perhaps yoga mates about turtle conservation.
Visitng Sangalaki Island doesn’t only allow you to get to know more about turtles, but it also offers beautiful beach with soft white sand that borders with light blue sea. You can snorkel and dive around the island, or just tan up on the beach and play baywatch on the tree.
(tree with prue)
When it comes to adventurous exploration in Indonesia, there’s just no end to it. This country is huge and full of things that many haven’t seen, been, touched, and heard of. I’m lucky to have experienced a few, but I still need to get to know more through a Borneo wild adventure. Of all the islands I’ve been to, Borneo – or Kalimantan – is the biggest and one of the most fascinating ones. It’s so rich in culture, history, and definitely nature.
I’ve been only to a few parts of Borneo and awed by the vast tropical forest of Betung Kerihun National Park and the underwater life of Derawan Islands. Still, there’s still so much of the island and the life in it I want to see. So when I heard about the next #Terios7Wonders is going to be exploring Borneo, my heart pumps faster and my mind travels to the things I want to see, do, and places I just want to be.
I want to see more of Palangkaraya
Palangkaraya is the capital of Central Kalimantan. Not much that I’ve heard about it but it’s interesting that Palangkaraya is the largest city in Indonesia, CMIIW, even compared to Jakarta! What’s more interesting is that most of it is forested, IN the city! Forests, instead of shopping malls, in the city. I have got to see that! And from what I’ve read, the cute fuzzy and grumpy-looking orangutans of Nyaru Menteng arboretum can be seen just from the riverside of Kahayan River, which I wouldn’t need to go so far from the city. Talking about something rare!
Dive at Maratua
Woohoo! Just a few hours off Berau by speedboat, I could be at Maratua Island, known for its paradisal resort and beautiful underwater scenery around it. I have been to Derawan Islands long time ago, but I could only enjoy the waters by snorkeling. Now that I’m a licensed diver, I would like to see the marine life upclose in the deeper water. Swaying mantas, schooling barracuda, fabulous lionfish, oh and adorable turtles! Just one of the many reasons why loving Indonesia is so easy to do.
I know, I need to watch my body weight, but when I’m traveling I like to have a taste on the local delicacies. They say you are what you eat, so getting to know the staple food could perhaps tell me at least a little bit about the culture or about the natural resources at the area. Alright, alright, this might just be the rasionalization of my real reason: I love durian and I heard that Kruing-Banjarmasin is known for the durians, though not much information I could gather about it. Is it as sweet as other durians I’ve tasted? Is it the one with orange-colored meat instead of the usual yellow? Well, there’s only one way to find out: try it where it’s from, Borneo.
I like big trunks and I cannot lie!
One of the things that awed me about Borneo is the big trees in the jungle. I’m a city girl and the biggest vertical and round things I see mostly are building pilars, but they don’t have leaves or orangutans swinging between them. Ironwood or ulin trees are among the biggest trees in Indonesia with so many parts of it that can be utilized for human’s good, aside to being home for many orangutans. And another coolness about it is its Latin name: Eusideroxylon zwageri, just as hard to pronounce as that volcano in Iceland. So where can I be among these big ironwood trees? Tanjung Kutai in East Kalimantan!
Have fun with road trip mates
In my experience, being on the road lets you get to know your travel mates and yourself. The longer you are with them through thick and thin, the more you can legitimately judge them, or to put it positively, have better understanding about each other. Cooperation and communication are definitely two things that can make or break a road trip. Since I’m not driving, I’d be glad to help navigate or arrange the drinks neatly at the glass holders. And it’s important that the driver lets the others know when he’s tired so backup drivers could step up on the pedals. It’s no less than a team work, with a far nicer scenery and stories to tell later when the trip ends. While road-tripping can be done in many other destinations, it makes the most sense to do it on an island as vast as 743,330 km2 such is Borneo!
I imagine the best way to go around Borneo would be on a road trip with New Daihatsu Terios 2015. Sure the island comprises of many rivers, but there are bridges here and there, even ferries, so road tripping most of the island with this car wouldn’t be a problem. It’s also spacious, so I can share the happiness – as Alexander McCandles said – with up to six other people in this mini SUV! I wouldn’t need to worry when we’re going through some rough part of the land because it’s a tough vehicle with 1500 cc machine capacity. And because I don’t know how to drive – hey, that’s usually Mumun’s job – I would be happy to sit as a passenger, checking out the scenery and watching video or bobbing to the music from the well-designed stereo system, all within the vehicle. This sounds like an awesome road trip I would never forget!
This blog was participated in the #Terios7Wonders blog competition.
It’s all fun and games until someone rode the thunder!
It’s Middle School all over again. I doubted my guts to get on that ride, where I’d be spinned upside down at god knows how high, but my travel mates convinced me to go. Torn between fear and curiosity (in middle school it was between fear and wanting to look cool), I decided to go on the ride. Result? I quite enjoyed the adrenaline rush, but afterwards I almost puked!
The ride that I was talking about is called Petir, translates to thunder. It’s one of the rides in Jungle Land, an amusement park located in Sentul, West Java. I probably wouldn’t have felt that awful after the ride if we didn’t get on another spinning and swinging ride called Disk’O. Some of us made a smart decision by sitting with our bags and laughing at our scared faces from below, but to me being stupid is sometimes more fun!
Jungle Land consisted of five zones: Carnivalia, Tropicalia, Mysteria, Eksplora and Science Centre. Each zone has something for grown-ups and children and some rides are still being built. Having only about five hours at the park, we only got to try a few rides. First was the Ferris Wheel for warming up, then Disk’O and Petir, and then the wet rides, Boat Blaster and Water Flume.
If Boat Blaster were a movie, it would attract a lot of viewers from the premise: a ride where you get to be pirates on a ship and shoot water to enemies and other ships. At least it got us queueing for the ride. I was excited because I like games with shooting involved! But, oh boy, were we disappointed with the guns having the ability only to pan a few degrees left and right, and the shooting range was too close. Surprisingly, there were other visitors shooting at us from the fence, and their guns were much better! If we were real pirates, we’d be pirated before we knew it.
Since we were wet already, might as well try another ride with water involved. The Water Flume seemed to be a favorite, judging from the long queue. It’s where you get on small boats with 3 seats sliding on track in the water, and you’re supposed to be splashed on the slopes downhill. It’s fun, but I guess it was meant more for the kiddies.
Jungle Land definitely suits best for family’s day out, especially families with young children. However, just like in any amusement park, there are groups of teenagers eager to get their adrenaline going, with at least one trying so hard to brave up out of peer pressure. It’s so fun to watch!
The sun was almost setting, it was time for us to go. We stopped by for a cup of Starbucks on the way out, passing by the restaurants, food and souvenir stalls. Some restaurants were also still being prepared. Some food stalls are located in the food court, which is divided into Indonesian and Western sections.
I had been curious about Jungle Land since it first opened, in 2012 or so, but never really came around to go there. When Didut, a fellow blogger, contacted us to go on a free ride, of course we accepted it. Though it wasn’t as spectacular as I thought it would be, I had fun anyway, going on rides with fellow bloggers, most of whom I just met that very day.
In light traffic, Jungle Land can be reached in about an hour from Jakarta by car. We got there and back by Nissan New Serena, who made my Jungle Land adventure finally happen. The ride was smooth, aside from stabile suspension also thanks to Popokman the relaxed driver. There were 10 of us divided in 2 cars, one was the Nissan X and one was Nissan Autech. Both are spacious and very convenient for road trips, however the latter easily became my favorite. It’s got a sunroof where I could get lost in the night sky view and saw moving tree branches from unusual point of view.
The ride ended the day of many things new. New friends, new “jungle” experience, in a new car.
I remember starting to have an obsession for traveling around the world when I was in high school. Stories upon stories from schoolmates originated from diverse countries made me wonder what’s really out there?
A decade later, that dream hadn’t come true, but I was taking baby steps. I traveled abroad within Asia. Amazed with what Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Hong Kong had to offer. At the same time, annoyed with the fact that I knew Indonesia had so much more, yet very little known to the world, even to me. So I decided to explore much more of Indonesia, because only then I could let the world know what wonder this sunny archipelago actually has to offer.
As a beach lover, I had to start my exploration from the beaches, of course. Karimunjawa, Ujung Genting and Derawan were among my early destinations before then I had them written on this blog to share with everyone. Mumun, also a beach creature, started her explorations more on beaches, such as Gili Trawangan, Alor and Pangandaran. Later on we added our blog entries with city and mountain destinations, such as Yogyakarta, West Sumatera and Bromo.
No matter where we go, the sun followed us. Well, d’oh, it is a tropical country. The equator even hovers over some parts of Indonesia, like Pontianak. Hence we came to the point where our mothers’ welcome home greeting was no longer “You’re back, my dear child. So glad to see you,” but “Oh my, how tanned your skin is. Please don’t go to beaches anymore!”
It is very much expected because Indonesians are generally obsessed with white (or very light-colored) skin, especially for women. Tanned skin is bad, and ugly. We think that’s funny. We seriously prefer being tanned and called ugly than having to restrain ourselves at home, not experiencing the fun we could have out under the sun! To us, darker skin is not a problem, as long as we keep it healthy. Choosing the right body lotion would be one of our ways to deal with it. Keeping our skin moisture and still having a blast exploring Indonesia, is definitely a dream come true.
On my last trip to Tanjung Lesung, I tried the Vitalis body lotion, aside from applying sun lotion. It’s also great to smell good after all the dynamic activities under the sun, so I had the Vitalis eau de cologne and body scent with me. These babies were nice to my skin and I liked how they smelled. Not too strong, just fresh and sweet.
I think a girl could use these products to keep confident and smelling fine, which makes traveling all the more fun. And I want you to try them too!
Stand a chance to win a set of body treatment by entering the competition.
Don’t worry, this is not just a one time thing. If you didn’t win it in the first month, you can try again next month. There will be still interesting prizes for the winners.
All you have to do is:
Now, girls. What are you waiting for? Don’t you want to explore Indonesia while still looking pretty and smelling good? Share your stories and pictures!
“Visit the Equator Monument,” was the advice I got from most people whom I told I was going to Pontianak. It’s the most obvious “things to do” for anyone who visits Pontianak, much more popular than the Museum Negeri Pontianak. So I had the cab drop me off at the entrance of the monument. It’s located alongside the Kapuas River, on the North part of Pontianak.
Tugu Khatulistiwa, as it is called in Indonesian, is the monument that marks the location of the invisible equator line that goes through Pontianak city. The equator line divides the northern and southern hemisphere of Earth. And on two certain times of every year called the equinox, which are sometime in March and September, it’s said that you won’t see your shadow when standing at the monument area.
What you’d see the moment you entered the monument area is the replica of the equator monument with black pillars, erected on top of a white-tiled dome-like hexagonal building. The original equator monument is standing 4.4 meters tall, right in the middle of the building, much smaller than the replica outside. The four pillars are made of ironwood or ulin, which is a kind of tropical trees that grows naturally in the forests of Sumatera and Kalimantan.
The original equator monument was first built in 1928 by a Dutch geographer, then got added a few more elements and was even rebuilt over the years. The dome-like building was built in 1990 to protect the monument and the much bigger replica was built so perhaps people can have a sense of the monument without having to enter the building.
I personally didn’t feel any amazement looking at the monument. I don’t get why it’s considered to be so important, but I’m no scientist. The shape of the monument is interesting and I love how they use local material for the pillars. Too bad the added building wasn’t designed to match it at all, at least in my opinion. Or maybe, let’s just say that I have a different taste with whoever designed and approved it.
The local government decided to give out a certificate with visitor’s name on it, to prove that the person has been at the monument. Because, you know, no certificate means hoax. And I didn’t want my effort to visit the monument considered as hoax, so I asked for a certificate.
Too bad they ran out certificate, and it was Saturday so they couldn’t go to the office to get new copies because the office was closed. But they promised me to send it to me later, like in the next week. I wrote down my name and address and left IDR 20,000 for mailing. That was actually a lot more than what he’d need to mail me the certificate.
My visit to the monument was in November 2012 and I never got the certificate until now.
The equator line has actually moved about 117 meters southward, closer to the Kapuas River. But it would be a hassle to move the monument, so they were building a new monument around the point, upon my visit. I’m not sure if it’s done by now or not.
I was looking around the new equator point where they were also building a dock by the river. One of the working men said hello and asked, “Hey Miss, do you want to make an egg stand up?”
“Huh? How do you mean, Sir?” I totally didn’t get what the man meant.
“Make an egg stand up around this point,” he said, assured.
Then he told me I could buy an egg or two at the nearby warung if I wanted to see what he meant. So I bought 2 eggs and came back to that point.
The man took an egg and put it on a random point on the tiles he and his colleagues had built. He pulled off his hands gently and…THE EGG STOOD! Borrowing Ellen Degeneres’ famous expression, I was like, “Whaaaaaaa…??” He couldn’t explain how it was possible. One of his colleagues that was watching even murmured something about it being mystical.
I tried to make the egg stand. After a lot of tries, I finally did it! I tried it on the smoother surfaced tiles and then also on the more rough surfaced cement. At first, I thought it succeeded because of the rough surface, but the old man did it on the tile. So.. was it really the surface that did it?
Later I found out that this standing egg around the equator is a common knowledge. It’s me who wasn’t knowledgeable enough! Where had I been?? Anyway, I also read that eggs could only stand on the equinox. But.. I was there on November, so how could it happen? Um.. I give up. It was an awesome experience to make an egg stand, that’s all I know 🙂
Have you tried making an egg stand?
On a sunny morning on my brief stay in Pontianak, the capital city of West Kalimantan province, I decided to visit the public museum before heading to Singkawang. The museum is called Museum Negeri Pontianak, which translates to Pontianak’s Public Museum, located on Jalan Ahmad Yani.
The museum building is a big and modern one but influenced by Kalimantan’s traditional stilt betang house. A real betang house is made of wood and got its name from the main structure, which is a big and long tree trunk stretch. Or so the museum guide said. Betang house is also called ‘rumah panjang’, which literally means ‘long house’, and is originally the traditional house of Dayak people, the native tribe of Kalimantan.
I was, I think, the only visitor that Saturday morning. The entrance fee was only IDR 1,000 per person (in November, 2012). That’s only about a dime in US money! A friendly lady staff in a civil servant grayish brown uniform (yes, even civil servants have uniforms in Indonesia) welcomed and guided me for free through the collections of the museum. I’m not sure if the service comes in other languages than Indonesian, though.
Honestly, I couldn’t memorize everything that she explained. It’s either she told me too much information or I have a brain as small as Homer Simpson’s now dangling from a string in my skull. But there are some stories I can remember and jotted down in my little notebook.
A sketch that depicts an Arabic man shooing a woman with long hair is displayed in the museum. It is said to be the early emblem of Pontianak. The woman was a ghost, and haunted the area around the delta of Kapuas River and Landak River. Syarif Abdurrahman, the son of an Arabic man who spread the teaching of Islam, and his people were haunted by this woman ghost when they were trying to build a town around the area. To exorcise the ghost, he had a cannon shot to the area where the ghost used to appear and there he built a town now called Pontianak. The word ‘Pontianak’ also means ‘kuntilanak’ in Indonesian, which refers to that woman ghost who died when giving birth.
That was the story the museum guide told me as it is also the story I’ve read in a number of articles. But now the city’s emblem has changed to something else that doesn’t have an epic story like the old one.
A cannon festival called Festival Meriam Karbit (meriam = cannon) is held every year, a day before the Lebaran. Some say it started when cannons were used to expel evil spirits like what Syarif Abdurrahman did, some say it was a way to banish enemies.
Ghost-related story in the museum is also portrayed in a Dayak’s baby carrier with scary creatures carved on the back. The carrier is to be carried on the mother’s back, so the carving faces back, meant to protect the baby from evil spirits.
Dayak is a native tribe of Kalimantan, and I’m not sure where they actually originated. I’m sure there are a lot of books or articles that could tell you more about it though. They lived – and now a lot of them still do – by the rivers in the deep forests of Kalimantan. They have the image of being mystical and practices black magic.
The museum guide told me that any non-Moslem people in Kalimantan was considered as Dayak by the Dutch in the colonial era, while the Dayak people actually called themselves with different names for each sub-tribe. There were Iban, Taman, and many more, and now they’re called Dayak Iban, Dayak Taman, etc. The Dutch also thought that all the Malays were Moslems, and all Moslems were Malays, so all the non-Moslems were Dayak. Um.. say whaaa…?? The Dutch were pretty confused and now they’re confusing me.
Nowadays, the whole West Kalimantan is consisted of Melayu (Malays), Dayak and Chinese people. While Pontianak is mostly inhabited by Chinese, though now more and more newcomers move in to the city.
Of course, the museum displays a lot more than just ghost stories. There are potteries as well as jewelries that the natives made. There are also the traditional bride and groom clothes of the Dayak Taman with the signature style of colorful beads sewn to the cloth. Also the Malayan bride and groom clothes, as well as replica of things Chinese, among other stuff. But the mannequins don’t represent the local people at all. I wish they’d replace them with the shorter ones, rounder faces, smaller noses and black hair. You know, more like the real local people, and I’ve suggested that to the nice lady guide.
In the back yard of the museum, there were boats displayed. One of them is the Perahu Tambe, which is a decorated boat that the Dayak Taman people used to cruise with around the Kapuas Hulu (upstream Kapuas river). They used it for wedding ceremonies, welcoming VIP guests, etc. And I think they still use these boats for ceremonies up until now. The decoration is usually made of beads, mandau (sort of like a saber but not a ‘lighted’ one) and colorful cloths.
The Museum Negeri Pontianak is not the best museum I’ve seen, but I think it’s worth visited while you’re in the city. It’s informative, the displayed items are well-maintained and it’s pretty thorough in telling about the history and culture of West Kalimantan. I wonder why there was no other visitor other than me in a Saturday, though.
Kalimantan Island is what you’ve probably known as Borneo and thought was all part of Malaysia. In fact, only the north coast belongs to Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam, and the rest belongs to Indonesia.Museum Negeri Pontianak Jl. Ahmad Yani, Pontianak Phone: +62 561 34600
After 8 hours of sleeping and waking up several times on the Taksaka Malam train, Norman and I finally arrived in Yogyakarta at 5 a.m. We were excited ‘cos we were about to start our furniture hunt for each of our homes! We walked to find a taxi at the station’s main entrance but found none. Instead, I noticed a few people putting medical masks on their faces.
“Could this be related to the Mount Kelud’s eruption?” I murmured, half asking to Norman, who was clearly in the same oblivion. We had checked our social media before hopping off the train, and read that Mount Kelud in East Java had erupted before midnight. But Yogyakarta is, according to Google Maps, 282 km away from Kelud!
“It’s a big eruption and the wind had blown the ash westward. It’s all over Yogyakarta,” said the woman at taxi stand, after telling us that the official station’s taxis are all out. We then walked further toward the gate in the midst of ash shower. It was like snowing, but the weather was in normal temperature. Norman and I laughed at each other when we saw our heads were all covered in gray flakes, making us look like old people with gray hair.
We found a taxi all covered in ash. The driver agreed to take us to Via Via Guesthouse in Prawirotaman area. Little did he know, it was a very difficult drive to get there, though it was only about 4 km away. Only a few minutes on the road, the windshield was perfectly covered by ash. We couldn’t see anything! The driver didn’t want to turn on the wiper because it would scratch the window glass. He poured water to the window from outside and wiped the spot in front of the driving seat with a piece of cloth. He did that several times before finally dropped us at Via Via Café.
We thought the guesthouse was located behind the cafe. Turns out, it’s 200 meters walk from there. The staff at the café, who just came to clean up, kindly gave us medical masks. It was necessary to wear them while walking through the ash shower. It was still dark and I wore my sunglasses to prevent ash getting in my eyes. Still, we had to take a few stops and hide under the shades to clear our eyes and make phone calls.
Volcanic ash isn’t like the usual dust, let alone snow. It’s said to be sharper and when you breathe the air with volcanic ash too much, there’s a fat chance your lungs might be scratched. Or something like that. As the driver said, it could scratch the windshield let alone my fragile lungs. So the streets were gray but it was no ground to make dust angel!
The city had been covered in ash when Mount Merapi erupted in 2010. But the volcanic ash in Yogyakarta that time stopped showering the city in only 2 hours. So the Via Via Guesthouse staff was sure that this time would be the same. Turned out, ash kept on falling almost all day long!
It crossed my mind to go back to Jakarta and postpone our furniture hunt. But seeing the locals kept doing what they do, though some businesses had to be closed for a while, I thought that we could actually still go hunting. After all, later we found that the ash shower only happened for a single day.
We went by a hired motorbike with masks and helmets on, and I put on my raincoat since I didn’t bring my jacket along. Anything to cover up. The roads were all dusty. We avoided main roads where big cars were, and cursed at vehicles that went too fast, leaving too much dust flying behind them and made the roads with very low visibility! There were times when we could only see 5 meters or less in front of us. Smaller roads were less dusty because there were fewer vehicles, and residents watered the streets around their houses with buckets of water and various sizes of hose.
Watering the streets and houses and letting the ash down the drains is an easy way to get rid of the dust, but later I found out that it’s not really a smart thing to do. The ashes would settle in the drainages and perhaps block the water way, whereas volcanic ash actually makes good compost. So it’s wiser to gather the dust in sacks or buckets and store them as composts later, though it does take more effort and time to do it.
Javanese people in general is known to be nrimo, or what is known as a character that accepts things, don’t complain much, make the best out of what they’ve got, sometimes seeming to be defenseless. They’re also known to look at the bright side of things, which is a character I admire.
When talking about this volcanic ash ‘tragedy’, Wawan, one of the Via Via guesthouse staff said to me, “This is good, mbak. Just like after the Merapi eruption, we will have good harvest.”
“How long did it take, after the eruption?” I asked.
“Well, just the following harvest season. Of course, at first the crops died, but then about a year or less, they had really good harvest,” he said behind his mask while sweeping the terrace. It’s sweet to know that the ‘victims’ could have such a positive outlook at the incident. I’ve read about volcanic ash being a good compost from my elementary school textbook, but this time I heard it directly from the people near Ground Zero.
“Some people canceled last minute,” said Dani, another staff of Via Via Guesthouse, on people that had booked rooms but failed to show up. “But what can I do, it’s a bad time for everyone, so we understand,” she continued with a giggle that almost always follows her sentences.
Airports of Yogyakarta, Solo and Surabaya were closed. The only way people could come in and out of Yogyakarta was by train or bus, and that depends where they were going. Nearby towns were also covered by ash, like Solo and Magelang.
Guests in our guesthouse that came all the way from Germany, Switzerland and Singapore were stuck and couldn’t see Prambanan or Borobudur temples. But they made the best out of their time in Yogyakarta. Some went to museums and learned to make batik, some went to the Keraton (palace) for a tour. I guess in a way, these guests have learned the art of ‘nrimo’, too.
Disasters may happen, but many times you could turn them into gifts by making the best out of what you’ve got!
Harau Valley is a gem surrounded by amazing natural scenery as well as forgotten history of Indonesia. We hired a motorcycle and rode westward from Harau Valley and uphill almost to Kototinggi, a town that once was the capital city of the former Indonesia. We visited the unattended Tan Malaka museum, then u-turned after stopping by at Ikan Banyak, and passed by pick-ups and motorbikes with passengers not only humans but also dogs, a sight I thought I’d never see in a majority Moslem province. Additional activity: rock climbing!
It’s a house turned museum of a man named Ibrahim upon his birth in 1897, but more known as Tan Malaka. To a lot of Indonesians, he’s a hero, who fought for the independence of Indonesia, spawned the idea that Indonesia deserved to be an independent nation even before the founding fathers actually declared the country’s independence in 1945. But he was a threat to the Dutch because of his political maneuvers, as he was a ‘troubled past’ uto the New Order regime for being a communist and is still condemned by some people until now.
Honestly, I still need a lot more reading on the man. But the mystery of him is in fact what intrigued me to visit the Tan Malaka Museum. I wished to know more about him. Unfortunately, the museum was unattended. But it was unlocked, so we entered the house anyway. It wasn’t locked, so supposedly people are allowed to enter. Right?
The house is a typical traditional wooden stilt house of Minangkabau with pointy roofs. As we entered, we saw a number of black and white pictures of Tan Malaka on the walls. I’ve seen most of the exact pictures elsewhere because apparently there aren’t too many documentations of the man. It’s expected from a man who was on exile on much part of his life.
Glass boxes displayed books about Tan Malaka and books that he wrote. An old L-shaped sofa, coffee table, a bed and a set of talempong occupied the house, and they weren’t well-organized. I can only guess that these are things from Tan Malaka’s time, since there was no one to guide us in the museum. It was quite dark inside, the whole house was only lit by the sunshine that came through the open windows. The furniture seemed dusty but I didn’t really touch them because I don’t think you’re supposed to touch any display in a museum.
Later I found out that a relative of Tan Malaka lives nearby and takes care of the museum. I wish he were there to fill us with more information from the family’s perspective, which would be a precious knowledge on the man with such big name. But it was nice to be inside the house where Tan Malaka grew up anyway 🙂
On our way out, we signed the guest book and left an IDR 20,000 donation. And we made sure we didn’t do any damage to the furniture and stuff.
Getting to Tan Malaka museum is pretty easy. Once you’re in Payakumbuh (the biggest town near Harau Vallay), follow the road that leads to Kototinggi. About 50 km later, on Tan Malaka Road, look for a house on the left with a big green “Rumah Tan Malaka” sign on its wall and just follow the yellow arrow about 100 meters down from the main road.
Going a few kilometers to the west from Tan Malaka Museum, we arrived at Ikan Banyak. It’s a spot at a river where there’s always a lot of fish seen in such shallow water under the bridge. This Ikan Banyak spot, which literally means ‘many fishes’, is an entertainment for people around Payakumbuh. It’s one of the places where parents take their kids on weekends and where couples and friends go out and chill. We were there on a weekend, and the visiting locals helped Diyan to spot the place with no sign board.
The warungs near the habitually-made parking space sell crackers and breads for people to throw to the fishes. These mostly black fishes, of I don’t know what kind, would agressively swim for the crumbs like hungry wolves upon seeing a fat sheep.
There might be a scientific reason behind the gathering fish, which I’m not sure whether they’re always the same fish or new fishes that migrate there replacing the old ones – they’re all black and look the same. But there’s also a mystical rumor about it. They say, there was once a respected man in the neighborhood, who put a spell on the fishes so they wouldn’t swim too far. But then the old man passed away in his pilgrimage in Mecca, and the spell stays because nobody else could undo it other than him.
For me, Ikan Banyak is an alright place to chill. It wasn’t crowded, and it’s always nice to dip your feet in cool water. The surrounding is still pretty natural with trees, river stones and all, and the air is cool as it’s located pretty high up the hill. I’m just not sure whether it’s wise to feed the fishes in their natural habitat just to entertain yourself. To be honest, I fed them, too. Though I did it with doubt, I really don’t have any justification 🙁
No, we did not go boar hunting, sorry to disappoint you. But on our way to and from Harau Valley, we passed by so many men riding on motorbikes and pick-up trucks with dogs. Riding around with dogs may not sound strange to you, but it did to me because we were in West Sumatra where most of the people are relatively strict, and dogs aren’t considered kosher in Islam, so I wouldn’t think the people keep dogs as their pets.
Diyan told me that these men were going hunting for boars. At first, they hunted boars that were considered pests to their farm. Later on, they hunt to keep their farms safe and as some kind of sports. And this practice is actually common throughout West Sumatra and I just found out about it then! Forgive me, oh ancestors..
Additionally, men are also known to buy dogs in other parts of Indonesia and bring them back for the sake of this hunt. For some, this hunt is for the thrill of it. I didn’t participate in any of them, nor did I want to, ‘cos I might be too faint-hearted to see boars being hunted.
Diyan and his brother Ugit went rock climbing on their mudik trip the previous year. Rock climbing is a pretty common thing that tourists and locals do around Harau Valley. Well, I didn’t see any signage of it, but Diyan only needed to ask for information at the Echo Valley lodge’s front desk. They referred them to Alvin, a local who’s very outdoorsy, and later guided Diyan on a hiking and camping trip to Ngalau Seribu.
They climbed at two of the many climbing spots; near the echo spot and at Aka Berayun, both of which I told you about here. Ugit got pretty high up and did it like a pro, while Diyan struggled to reach 3 meters up. “But, hey, I’m a newbie,” as he would claim.
Because Diyan and Ugit’s family is rooted in Ampang Gadang, a neighboring village of Harau, Alvin couldn’t think it’d be proper to state a price for his service. He probably thought it would be unethical to put a price to your fellow villagers. That’s typical of Indonesians in many cases. So Diyan and Ugit decided to pay him IDR 600,000 for 2 climbs, including the equipment fee and each for a day long. And this was in 2011.
For more information on rock climbing in Harau Valley, you might want to check out Lonely Planet’s page here.
The smell of incense filled the damp narrow alleys. It kept me up that morning as I had failed to sip a cup of caffeine. The burned incense always makes me happy as it reminds me of Bali and indicates that I’m traveling. On the contrary, I was roaming the town I’ve called my second home for 6 years. Jakarta. I was in the narrow streets of North Jakarta on a Chinese New Year’s day, and even though I was partially awake, I really loved the feel of venturing new faces of this city.
Gong Xi! “Congratulations!” as the Chinese would say. I’ve heard that it’s pronounced kinda like a ‘Khong Xi’ but I’m not sure how exactly. The short man in the black and red attire complete with a hat that had a fake braid on it, told me how to say it, but I could hear that my accent was still missing a few half notes. Songs in Chinese language came from within the main hall as I exchanged ‘Gong Xi!’ with the old man in the yard. We were standing in the court of St. Maria De Fatima Catholic Church, our first stop of many others on our trip with Gelar Nusantara.
This church was once home of a wealthy Tionghoa (Indonesian ethnicity for Chinese descendants) family, which was then turned into a church. What I’ve just learned is that the Chinese New Year can be irrelevant to religion; it’s about tradition, no matter how much incense and candles are burned. The old man’s eyes turned into frowns and his mouth gave me a big smile after I congratulated him and bid farewell. Good to exchange smiles so early in the morning.
Not far from the church was a temple. Toasebio Temple is one of the oldest temples in Jakarta. The temple court was filled with less prosperous people, waiting for that moment where the temple (‘s administrators) will give out money and goods after the celebration. As we entered the great doors, we were welcomed by burning red candles with notes attached to them, indicating they were dedicated to a certain person or cause. Aaahhh, more smell of incense!
Toasebio Temple was built in 1509, and rebuilt in 1750-1752 after a huge fire had burned it down. There were a few remains of the original church but not much. However, what is fairly new is still about 261 years old. This temple is dedicated for the ‘Dog of the sky’. I don’t know what that means, but it sure sounds like a super K9 worth worshiping.
That morning, we were guided and accompanied by prominent legislative member, Ernawati Sugondo. To be honest, I googled her after the trip. Turns out, she is a really respected lady amongst the local Chinese community to fight for Indonesian citizenship. That’s one tough lady! But she wasn’t the only source we had that morning. Upon our visit to the Vihara Dharma Bakti temple, the oldest temple in Jakarta, we were educated by the security guys. They had been working for the past few days and were able to fill us in with the actual information.
Although we kept the conversation light, surprisingly Pak Saripuddin was pretty sharp when it came to the history of the Tionghoa people. He had been visiting the Museum Sejarah Jakarta (Jakarta History Museum) and read a thing or two. All of his stories were concurred by Pak Casmo, an elderly security guard out of uniform. He’s done his homework more than I can say for myself.
Another source that Gelar Nusantara proudly had on their trip was JJ Rizal, a prominent, and commonly controversial, historian. He was kinda like a walking history library, as he knew a lot of the past and its connection to each other. It was easy listening to him even after lunch with the gentle breeze of the Sin Ming Hue house, owned by the famous and wealthy Khouw. He explained about the house and being a student in house turned into a school. He explained about much of the family, who were one of the most wealthiest and influential families around. He then continued more on the city’s history and the influence of the Chinese people, who were pretty much the founders of this city, too. Information kept rolling out of his mouth and I eventually gave up taking down notes ‘cause it was … a lot!
Interestingly, when discussing about history, it wont be too far off environmental issues. I think my eyes turned super bright every time JJ Rizal mentioned something related to nature. Amongst the thing he talked about, he mentioned a few spots that was known to be flooding areas, the correlation of alligators to the Betawi people, and how Jakarta is a sediment plain with changing river structures. Me likey!
Other stops we made on this trip were, seeing what remains or what things used to exist. The rivers of the area used to be able to let 10 meters wide boats pass and sail all the way to Bogor, before sedimentations and settlement started happening. Because business was booming through this river, it was the taxes from boats passing that made VOC rich. Aaarrhgg! Learned so much!! Cant. Write. Them. All.
Aside to feeling enlightened by JJ Rizal, I also felt major bummed to know that our history has lost a lot of its documentation and how countless historical evidence are either missing or in heartbreaking conditions. I wish I could say that it was the government’s fault, but just catching up with history now probably means my ignorance isn’t helping either.
By the end of the trip, I was sleeping in the bus with my mouth open. I usually do that when I’m exhausted. Good thing Vira was in slumber land too, so she didn’t take a picture of me in action. It had been a tiring day, but the kind that I enjoy the most; traveling and learning new things. I have a different respect for the Tionghoa people now. I’ve always known that they deserved to be treated as the same first class citizen, but I’ve come to realize that their lineage has also built this nation more than I had ever known. I also have more respect for Jakarta, it’s a lot larger that I thought it was. I know that I’m way behind my history lesson, but now I’m inspired to learn more!
It was a good Chinese New Year. Gong xi to all that is celebrating.
We traveled with Gelar Nusantara who we’ve written about before here and here. Briefly, we love this organization for what they are doing. We’ve recently learned that they are concerned about Indonesian culture and preservation. Because it takes a lot of effort to bring the authentic cultures to the people, they decided to change their ways and bring the people to the culture by making tours with important people that know their stuff, and not just mere tour guides, for deeper insights. They may cost more than your average tours but if you’re really interested in culture, the money is totally worth it. We toadilly recommend them, guys!
For their website you can click here or Click here for more information on Gelar’s trips in 2014.
I opened my eyes, startled.
“Oo..oo..oo..oo..” I heard the sound again and it was followed by the swoosh of wind. I wanted to close my eyes as it was midnight, but there were too much unfamiliar sounds around my wooden cottage. I’m not the bravest person in the world, but I’m used to sleeping alone, I’d even lived alone for years. But I have to admit that I wasn’t all comfy with these nocturnal sounds. Let alone, there was a loft above my bed, which I had no idea what was in it, since the stairs were too steep and I didn’t want the hassle to climb it in the dark though I was curious what was there.
I was staying at Abdi Homestay, and the cottage actually sleeps 4 people. I was traveling with Diyan, then my boyfriend. The homestay owner, Ikbal, wouldn’t allow unmarried couple to stay in the same bedroom. We had expected that, since West Sumatra (and many other places in Indonesia) is quite strict on applying Islamic rules. So Diyan was sleeping in a cottage 10 meters from mine. And no, nobody snuck in to nobody’s room at night!
After a while, I got used to the “oo..oo..” sound, which later I found out came from gibbons, and slept soundly until morning. Then I woke up to the sound of rooster and the sunlight that peeped through my window. Birds were chirping cheerfully and the first thing I saw upon opening the door was a wide spread of green paddies. It was like the perfect picture of a “vacation at granny’s” minus the granny. Huge granite wall backdropped the cottages. A waterfall was supposed to gush down, but I guess January (2013) wasn’t the right season.
Breakfast was served on the porch of each cottage. Well, I joined Diyan on his porch. The menu was either fried rice with egg or ketupat sayur. We had each for the two mornings we were there. Both were actually too heavy for my breakfast, but I needed to make sure I had enough energy for roaming about town. The food tasted so-so, but I enjoyed eating while watching an old lady in her colorful outfits, shooing pest birds off of her rice fields. She had a stick that she poked to strings to which cans were attached to, making noise that made the birds go away.
Ikbal and his wife Noni started this accommodation a few years ago when he decided to quit working at a bigger lodging nearby called Lembah Echo (or Echo Valley). They had 4-5 cottages built to accommodate travelers from around the world. There was a Caucasian couple, a small group of Jakarta girls checked in at Abdi Homestay other than us. We had a little chat with them on an afternoon, when we passed by their cottages after a walk, and they were enjoying hot tea that’s served every afternoon by the staff.
Abdi Homestay didn’t have motorbikes to rent. But Ikbal kindly lent us his, and we decided to pay anyway, IDR 50,000 per day, as the common motorbike rent rate. There was no gas station in the village. Gasoline was sold in a kiosk, poured to the tank from jugs by the seller. This kind of “gas station” is a common practice throughout Indonesia, especially in rural areas where normal gas stations are hard to find, and they charge slightly more than the normal gas stations.
Electricity was non-existent in the cottages – I’m not sure if it is now. We knew about it when we booked the rooms via phone. And we were so ready to be detached from the “modern” world. Turns out, we had our gadgets charged in Ikbal’s house, which was behind one of the cottages, only 2 minutes walk from my cottage. So, yeah, we couldn’t resist the temptation of bragging about such sweet homestay online!
Abdi Homestay is located in Kabupaten 50 Kota. I have no specific address of it, but can contact them through email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: + 62 852 6378 1842.
Usually Ikbal would arrange a pick up by motorbikes. It helps if you have a mobile handy, so you could let him know when exactly you could be collected in Payakumbuh, the closest town, should there be any delay.
We paid for IDR 100,000 / person / night, and that was in January 2013. Prices might have changed now.
Abdi Homestay’s blog: click here.
To see our favorite activities in Harau Valley, click this link.