Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
I admit that I can be very picky when it comes to choosing travel mates. I’m not so adventurous that way, sue me. But as I was surfing the net and found this weekend trip to Baduy Village, West Java, organized by strangers, I thought, “What the hell, I’m in!” How else could I have access to this secluded village, especially Baduy Dalam, the part with limited interaction to the modern world? So I went with my friend Diyan and 11 strangers who turned out to be a fun bunch, up and down the hill, sweating the most sweat in my whole life, conquering my wish to just quit and roll back down the hill. Ooh yeah!
Baduy Luar (‘luar’ means outside) is the part of Baduy that’s more open to the modern world compared to Baduy Dalam (‘dalam’ means inside). Some of their people came from Baduy Dalam, like Pak Erwin. He moved out to Baduy Luar when he married a Baduy Luar woman, but these two sides of Baduy live harmoniously with each other.
We only spent a brief night and morning in Kanekes, a Baduy Luar village. While waiting for breakfast, Diyan and I went around the village and saw some craftswomen weaving on the veranda of their houses. Other than the colorful woven cloths, they also sold print batiks with Baduy Luar’s unique motif and colors: black and blue floral (whoaaa..who just beat up the flowers?).
The batik cloths are printed in Pekalongan,” says Pak Erwin. He, too, was wearing a shirt of the same colors. “But the patterns are unique to Baduy Luar and no other area may claim the patterns as theirs.” Other than the batik motif, a lot of the people were wearing dark-colored shirts, especially the ladies, matched with lighter-colored batik sarongs.
Diyan bought a scarf, that could come in handy when riding motorcycles in the highly-polluted streets, or maybe to cover your bad-hair day, for IDR 20,000. Two girls in our group bought really wide traditional hats for, I think, IDR 40,000 each. They then wore the hats hiking and they did a great job protecting them from the blinding sun and quite balanced well although there was not big enough hole to insert your head in. Some laws of physics apply here, perhaps?
No school, is it cool?
Pak Erwin’s houses are only a backroll away from an elementary school near the border between Kanekes and Cibeo village. It was Saturday and children were studying at the school, but not Haswan. Hm, is dad letting him skip school? Nope. Turns out, Baduy people don’t go to school. It’s forbidden. Wow, that must’ve been our wishes when we were little! Well, at least mine. Seeing other kids in uniform, having to obey the rules and trapped in classrooms for hours and hours, while we’re out running around barefoot out in the streets, wouldn’t we be the coolest kids? Mhuahahaa..
However, that’s not how reality goes. These Baduy children must help out at home and in the fields before they can go off playing. And as grass is greener on the other side, these kids actually want to go to school and get some education. But going to school is considered taboo. The community leaders believe that it’s the clever people – and by clever they meant those who are educated in schools – who fool others, hence education at schools is a no no. They believe that the skills they learn from parents at home and out in the fields are enough to survive life. Hm, interesting… I can see some virtues in that.
The lifestyle, black & white clothes, one ‘puun’ above the rest
Baduy Dalam is even more secluded than the Baduy Luar. Baduy Dalam people wear the same colors of clothing and so many things that we consider normal and necessary are taboo to them. Not going to school and be clever, as I stated above, is only one example. They also don’t wear any kind of footgear, not allowed to use soaps or other chemical products, and no electronic gadgets are allowed to be used there. So yup, I have no picture of this village at all, but I swear to God this trip is not hoax!
We weren’t allowed to wander around after dark. And when it’s dark, it’s dark, because there was no electricity. There were some sacred areas even forbidden for most of the locals, like the area of Puun, their leader. Even so, some rules can be bent only for visitors. I don’t know why, but though Pak Erwin took off his sandals when entering the village to respect the locals, I was glad that we were allowed to wear ours. I personally had no problem only soaking up in the river and not using soap at all, but boy was I relieved when Pak Erwin ensured us that we could use toothpaste for brushing our teeth! Phew!
Bathroom is open for public 24 hours a day. It’s called the river. Yup, they bathe, poo and pee, wash their clothes and food ingredients in the river running through villages. It felt so awkward peeing with the local women’s eyes staring at me. What, did I have a booger on my nose? Or did I just look uncomfortable pulling down my pants out in the open? I even tried to do number 2 but failed big time. The stares were too much, women!
Women and men share the same river to do their watery business, but they have different spots, each on a different side of the bamboo bridge. Although probably separated by 20 meters, you can still see naked figures up ahead, but can’t really see the details, let alone tell who that naked one is.
These people really don’t wanna be ‘contaminated’ by outside influences. Pak Erwin said that they only welcome Indonesians or foreigners that have been in Indonesia very long and have adapted the culture very well. However, there have been lots and lots of people visiting Baduy Dalam. So it kinda riddled to me as why they didn’t seem so friendly to us. Besides the stares, not everyone even smiled back at us. Were they annoyed by us? But if so, why did they still let outsiders visit their village? Or were they just not very fond of smiling like the Hungarians? Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to ask Pak Erwin about this cold response…
Anyhoo, you’re not allowed to go in Baduy Dalam without a local escort or guide. If you went in and found the way on your own, they would not hesitate to send you back out.
Read under the ‘How to get there’ tab where I’m telling you more about the hiking. And why do I put it here under ‘Activities’? Honestly, to me, a weekend trip from Jakarta to Baduy is more about the hiking than about observing the culture. I swear to God that was my longest hike, most tiring, and sweatiest activity ever! Are you a hiking addict? If yes, then I’d definitely recommend you to take this trip. And I think you can also go for more trekking other than the routes only to get in and out of the villages.
My 2 cents:
To me personally, seeing others’ way of life, and a very different kind at it, is always interesting. I may not truly enjoy living it, but I’m always fond of something worth a story 😀
I remember this show I saw on National Geographic about the Amish people and I can’t help thinking that these Baduy people are the Amish version of Indonesia. Pure, conservative, very close to nature, yet holding on to some beliefs that we ‘modern’ people can still relate to and learn from. Staying more than just one night in the village would give you more chance to get to know these people better, a luxury that I couldn’t have just yet.
The cost that was charged by the trip organizer included food. And the food was cooked by Pak Erwin’s wife when we stayed at his house, and by his mother when we were in Baduy Dalam.
Pak Erwin had to teach his mother how to cook eggs before she could serve us the food. That was strange ‘cos eggs are pretty basic, don’t you think? Turns out, according to Pak Erwin, these people aren’t used to eat eggs. They like to have rice with salty fish. Hm. Was that it? Well, that’s what he told us. There might have been some miscommunication though.
There’s no hotel, motel, whatsoever. The only place to crash is at local people’s houses. The stilt houses are built from woods, bamboo, sago palm roof, and it’s quite cold at night. They don’t use beds or mattresses, so you better prepare your own sleeping bag and blankets. It was my first time being zipped up in a (borrowed) sleeping bag and I slept like a happy baby!
In Baduy Luar, they have bathrooms outside of their houses. There are even public bathrooms where you’d have to pay a small fee (IDR 1,000 or 2,000 per usage, I think) in Ciboleger village, a walking distance from Kanekes village.
Getting to Baduy villages from where I live in Jakarta was a… well, not a disaster, just a test. A test of my patience, endurance, and stamina. I got you wondering what I really went through, didn’t I?
FROM JAKARTA TO BADUY LUAR
– 1st lag: by ojeg
I decided to take an ojeg to the train station. It was a Friday night, all the vehicles in the world jammed in the streets of Jakarta. In less than 30 minutes I arrived at the Tanah Abang train station, and the ojeg driver reminded me to watch out for pickpockets. So nice and attentive, he is.
Some of the trip participants were standing by at the station when I got there, including Diyan, Lusia the trip organizer, and Pak (Mr.) Erwin, our guide who is a Baduy native. We all introduced ourselves to one another and finally hopped on the last “Ekonomi” train to Rangkasbitung at 8 pm.
– 2nd lag: by train
We couldn’t see much outside because most of it were trees under the pitch black sky. But inside, it was interesting to see the kinds of people in the train. Tired faces after a long day (or week)’s work, some killed time by striking up a conversation, some munched on the snacks sold in the train, and some just sat, stared, and fell asleep. These people most probably work in Jakarta but reside in the outskirts, 1 – 3 hours train ride away with no air conditioner and limited seats. Salute to their fighting spirit!
The train was full, some of us had to stand in the aisle before some passengers hopped off at the next station. I didn’t take out my camera (actually I borrowed it from Mumun) just to be safe. Scroll down and you can see a picture from our trip going back home on Sunday, and that’s how the train looks like.
– 3rd lag: by a minibus and a short walk
Lusia had arranged a minibus to take us from the train station to Ciboleger village, Banten. The minibus carried all 13 of us and the driver was kind enough to wait for us having late dinner at a diner around the corner, literally. The ride only took about 1 hour to the village, and it was a nice sleep for most of us in the car.
Ciboleger is a usual village with schools, a mini market, and modern activities. It borders with Kanekes village, which is a Baduy Luar village where we were spending the night at Pak Erwin’s two small houses. We walked about 10 minutes from the last point where cars can go (read: the end of asphalted and wide-enough road) to the houses, through narrow village streets with sets of steps.
FROM BADUY LUAR TO BADUY DALAM
– 4th lag: hiking up a mountain
Destination: Cibeo, a Baduy Dalam village. This is when the real trip began. We hiked up and down the mountain with only 3,5 porters (4 actually, but one of them is Pak Erwin’s 10 year old son, less than 5 feet tall). Pak Erwin said the hike was supposed to be 4 hours only (only???). I’m not sure how long the distance was, but in reality we covered it in 6 hours!! Not to say that we were weak or anything, I mean, we made quite a lot of stops to take pictures, shelter under random huts waiting for the rain to stop, and..well, panting and catching our breath 😛 I guess trekking at shopping malls isn’t a good-enough warm up for hiking mountains.
My thumbs up for the Baduy people for they are so strong! I bet they make the world’s strongest men! Pak Erwin, serving as our guide and porter, held up 2 fully-loaded backpacks, one of them was mine, and both totaled to probably 15 kg. I tried to carry mine myself but gave it up after about 2 hours hiking. I probably would’ve died tired if I was too stubborn to give it up. Pak Erwin’s son, Haswan, was a direct proof that the Baduy people are used to carrying shitloads of things since such a young age. And going barefoot throughout the hills is perfectly normal. That probably explains their wide feet.
Along the hike, there were shades of green to the right and left. Too bad I was too busy catching my breath and watching my steps carefully to enjoy the scenery. But I managed to take some pictures, including a cluster of traditional houses from across the hill.
FROM BADUY DALAM BACK TO JAKARTA
We were lead through a different route hiking back from Baduy Dalam. We went through another village called Cikertawarna, and then down to a Baduy Luar village called Cijahe. The whole walk only took about 2 hours. You can also take this shorter route getting in to Baduy Dalam, but the trip organizer just wanted to test us!… nah just kidding. They wanted us to see and experience as many things we could.
From Cijahe, we took a booked minibus again to the train station at Rangkasbitung. It was about 2 hours ride and we napped like we never napped before… Zzzzz….
We took the 1pm train back to Jakarta. Here everybody has gotten to know each other better, so the hot air (and some didn’t get seats) didn’t really feel so bad cos we had more fun conversations 🙂
Reccommended tour guide
If you’re interested to go (if not eligible to get in the Baduy Dalam, you can still visit the Baduy Luar), I recommend our guide, Pak Erwin. Well, he’s the only local Baduy guide I know, and we were pleased with the service of this kind man.
Pak Erwin can be contacted at +62 858 9021 5827.
The whole trip only cost me IDR 285,000. Lusia and her friend Nita arranged everything with much help from Pak Erwin. There were another option that I was gonna take, costing IDR 390,000 for a similar itinerary, except using a minibus straight from Jakarta and not having to cram up in an Ekonomi train.
If you followed us on Twitter, you might know that we just had a #giveaway, and some of the gifts were these souvenirs from Baduy Luar and Baduy Dalam. Scarfs, woven cloths, etc. The print-batik scarf that I got in Baduy Dalam was cheaper than the one Diyan got in Baduy Luar (mine was IDR 15,000 and bigger than Diyan’s scarf that was IDR 20,000, with the same pattern and quality). And honestly I forgot the other items’ prices are, but if you can afford a backpack and a pair of trekking shoes, most likely you’d consider these items cheap 😛