Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by indohoyindohoy on 2 November 2009 • Itinerary
Attending someone’s big day is always a privilege, especially if that person is someone you know well. This time it was my friends, Teti and Aswin’s big day in Teti’s hometown of Indramayu. After attending just about 2 hours of the traditional wedding, me and my friend Epan, decided to continue to a neighboring city, Kuningan. It was a trip just for the fun of it. No plans of what we were to do in the city, just get there first! And it took us only 24 hours to enjoy some of the city’s great ventures. A trip that anyone can do!
INDRAMAYU, THE WEDDING
Not many foreigners, especially tourists get to see a wedding party in Indonesia. Not to mention the traditional ceremony. So I thought of just mentioning briefly about this wedding. Weddings in Indonesia are usually traditional ones. The ethnic theme usually refers to the bride’s ethnicity rather than the groom’s. For Teti and Aswin’s case, it refers to the bride ethnicity which is Sundanese. But since Indonesia has been religious for some time and some prefer to skip the whole traditional fiasco, many of the Indonesians these days get married using JUST the religious and civil procedures. And because this is still Indonesia, this actually means many traditional attributes depending on the ethnicity.
My friends chose to do the wedding in a religious and civil ceremony which also means no egg stomping, horse riding, pre traditional ceremonies and a long list worth of shindigs, but with the bowing to both parents for blessing, showers for both bride and groom… and come to think of it, many more, but way less than the usual ceremony. Their wedding outfit is Moslem (as their religion) modified to traditional. The jasmine flower (on Aswins neck and Teti’s head veil) is the flower of traditional ceremony. But none is actually wearing THE traditional outfit other than the Batik the bride wore as the skirt.
In Indramayu, as a tradition, a party has to be held a whole day, inviting guests to come at whatever time they want. There is no limit. Now that’s what I call people that party hard! When we got there at 5 pm, the second round party was just going to start. Guests were to register their names at the door and they will be provided with rice (uncooked) at the gate and food within the party area. This is especially for the neighbors, not necessarily the guest of other cities. And as a total, the happy couple changed outfit and retouch their make up 4 times during the whole day just to look fresh! It’s still a huge party even though they eliminated the traditional ceremony… wew!
SATURDAY NIGHT CHILLS AND FEVER
It is known as the city located on the foot of Ciremai mountain, the highest mountain in West Java reaching 3078 m above sea level. For locals, it’s a sacred mountain, and it has claimed lives before. Yet, it’s still one of the most popular climbs around. An alternative purpose to visit the area.
But these were not our destinations this trip. We merely want to experience the city ambience.
It took us about 2 hours to get to Kuningan because there were lots of stop especially for an economy bus. Since Kuningan is located on the foot of West Java’s highest mountain, it’s a bit chilly (for an Indonesian that never experienced snow). The night we got to the city, it was a Saturday night and 24 hours is a lot of time if you just wonder around the city in the cool breeze which was great to feel the night. All of the youth were still on the streets that 10 pm.
We wondered around and chose a no particular small street café which was situated in front of a closed shop of some sort. Here you can get all the standard snacks such as grilled bread, milk coffee, tea, instant noodles, fried snacks, and more. Saturday night is a great time to hang out anywhere. You get the ambience of the local youth and you could actually eavesdrop on what’s in and what’s not, and who’s with who, hehehehe… And of course, you can hear motorcycle drag races in the distance.
Strolling down the main street is quite nice. Kuningan is a small town which has a small main road. Heading back to the city we passed the Bupati (Mayor) mansion. It is a great building with small details if you look close enough. And it had a classical palace like design back in the old days. In front of it there is a tiny park to just laze around.
CENTER OF THE CITY
Entering the city you come to meet the traditional layout called alun-alun. In most of the cities in Java, the center of the city will be marked by a field or a common park. It’s usually shaped as a square with each side having the setting of a mosque, government office, a market, and jail house. Through time, many of the cities have changed this arrangement, but you can see the traces of this plan.
Coming in to the center of the city, you come in to the market area and then see the space with the monument, I’m certain, that used to be the center of the city. On side you could see the huge mosque. You can tell that this is the center of the city because the public transportation seems to gather and pass this point. Here is a friendly tip for you, if you ever get lost in a city in Java, you could always come back to the center by asking where the alun-alun is.
Well it’s translated as Ancient park, or Taman Purbakala. This is actually a small area where archeologists found ancient burials that dated before the first man was found in Indonesia. Yet they have no exact information on it yet. After these findings, the area is then transformed in to a small park where common people can see these findings. Also in this area is a mini museum of what they found around the area, the history of discovering the graveyard and other information about the location. You will probably find Pak Yayat which is the developer of the site. He was the developer of Linggarjati museum to what we know now. Important and dedicated man, I say!
A village well known in this area is Cigugur. We actually asked around to what we should see around Kuningan and people always refer to Cigugur. So we had to see. Cigugur village happens to be on the path to the Ancient Park. The center is at a roundabout that is very detailed. Cigugur happens to be a village with its own line of tradition. It has its own batik production, meaning it is quite distinct than other areas. When we got there, we found Teh Euis in the middle of making a traditional wax batik. I haven’t seen much batik in my life time, but seeing the half finished one, I can see that it was fabulous. Beautiful in sense the colors are subtle (as inland batiks are), but not dull as Surakarta Batik. Usually the youth of the family and surrounding villagers do produce this batik as a community product. How I heart the youth still bound (whether they like it or not) to their traditions.
Unfortunately, when we got there, there were some major renovating and preparations for the big harvest party. Turns out every year, this small village holds a huge party to celebrate harvest in the end of the year. It’s so huge that they invite all ethnicities from Indonesia and also international guests. That year it was held at the 21st December 2008. This is not a fixed date every year because it really depends of their rice harvest. We didn’t know if we could make it, but it was so interesting to do so. Because considering the details in the batik, the wall carvings, and the roundabout, we’re talking about serious people in culture that still deals with details in this modern society.
We didn’t do much of the tour side, we just chatted with The Euis and who ever we met that day about what is going on and their anticipation towards everything. Just enough to understand a little about the atmosphere of what Kuningan offers.
So we got to the bus station and waited for the economic bus to arrive. Ah.. thus Kuningan was visited… where to next?
KUNINGAN, THE HISTORICAL CITY
For us Indonesians, Kuningan is well known as an important city. Written in every student’s history book, it is the place where they stated the Linggarjati declaration which was one of the declaration of Indonesia sovereignty. Very important people!! Within the city, the actual venue of this declaration has been turned in to a museum where school kids come for field trips. I went there once, but I don’t remember much of it, and didn’t revisit it. I should visit again I guess.
Looking at the street at day time, especially at the market, you can see that you have tons of choice when it comes to eating. There are also some more established places to eat such as the food court just behind the market and main road, in front of the Terbit Toserba entrance. As an intermezzo toserba is sort of a supermarket. It is an abbreviation of Toko Serba Ada or a store that has everything, … but of course we know they don’t have everything hehehehe …
I ate something traditional as gado-gado which is mixed vegetables poured with peanut sause. Epan on the other hand had a ‘daring main course’ which was the cow feet soup or Sop Kaki Sapi. Unlike me, some people consider this tasty because all of the cartilage which brings out the rich stock taste in the soup. Top it of with chili paste and soy sauce would be yummo… as they say?
The snack that is the special treat to this area to this area is their fermented tape or pronounced ta-pe and not as in the cassette tape player. This snack is wrapped in banana leaf and tastes like fermented rice. I know it sounds weird but seriously people, it’s good. A great taste bud experience and of course a great treat after a main course. Has a sake taste to it a bit I guess. They sell these in huge buckets that can feed a whole family. Usually the sellers will let you try their product just in case you don’t believe it’s good or if edible hehehe…
One of my favorite activities actually! The ‘adventure’ with no plans is that you don’t know where to sleep or if you even would get any! By 11 pm, we were looking for a place to snooze. A mailing list we checked out at the café suggested Verkama hotel. It did not, however, warn us that by 11 pm, everyone would be asleep including service! So, I’m recommending you to be there before 9 pm to be safe.
We went walking around the city searching each and every hotel we can find. Out of luck, there was a wedding of an important person in town, so ALL the hotels were booked. But you’re lucky, because we know so many blurry information of hotels for you to choose from:
1. Cijoho Hotel. We eventually stayed here, and there was 1 room left. Man we’ll take anything by 1 pm. This hotel is located a bit to the outskirt of the city. It is located on the main road from Kuningan. Quite pleasant and has this humble atmosphere. It has an internal bathroom and choices of single or queen size beds. A room cost about Rp 100,000/ night. Mind you it’s squat manual flush toilet. You do know how to use these right? 😉
2. In the middle of the city there is the Verkama Hotel, Budhi Jasa, and another hotel next to Verkama. The Verkama, I think, has hot water and AC so it’s worth the try. It looks pretty decent from the outside. You can ask around to get there, local people basically know where everything is in the center of the city.
3. One hotel is located just down the street from the Bupati mansion. From the mansion, it’s located on the right. Just spot a big sign saying the hotels name. (ooh… this information is really blurry)
4. A fancy place to stay is the Grage Sangka Hotel Spa. Vira has mentioned it in her Cirebon article, yet it’s located closer to Kuningan than Cirebon. To be exact, it’s located outside of Kuningan, at Sangkanhurip-Cilimus. From Cirebon you will meet the board telling you to turn left to it. The horse monument is quiet distinctive. So, if you intend to go this spa, don’t forget to drop by Kuningan.
5. Another hotel for the higher end of travels is the Prima Sangkanhurip Resort. From Cirebon, this is the resort that you will find beforehand. You will find a huge billboard showing you the turn that you should take. It’s located at Jl. Panawuan no 121-Cilimus And seems like there is a village that is set for tourist visit around it. For further information you could also call them at +62-232-613700 or 613426.
TO INDRAMAYU AND BEYOND
First stop: Indramayu
Getting to Indramayu is actually quite easy. From Jakarta, we can hop on a train heading to Cirebon. There are a few choices of class. We took the Business class which cost about Rp 35,000 / pax.
There are trains almost every hour to Cirebon. To get to Indramayu, you just stop at the Jatibarang Station, a station before Cirebon. Take a becak ride to the nearest Angkot stop, which will cost you about RP 5,000-10,000 rupiahs. The becak driver will help you. Then take the angkot (which usually starts its journey when full) to the city. Since Teti’s house didn’t really reach the city, we can only escort you up to here.
Next stop: Kuningan
There are so many intercity busses passing through Indramayu. Since it’s located on the north coast of Java, it is located on the main artery for heavy vehicle transportation, called Pantura. You could actually get to almost anywhere from this road. Epan and I took a becak ride from Teti’s home to this main road. Man, was it far. We didn’t think it would take us about half an hour more to get there. Good thing we chose a young -looks strong- becak driver.
Reaching to one of the common stops for busses on the Pantura, we hopped on a bus to Indramayu. By that time, it was already 8pm. We paid Rp 15,000/person for a Non-AC bus from this point to Kuningan.
Final destination: dreaded Jakarta
It’s awful but still home to us. So we hopped on a delman, which is a ricksaw pulled by horses. We paid about Rp 20,000 – 30,000 to get to the bus terminal. Once reaching the terminal, we waited for a bus. By then it was about 4 pm. We hopped on the first Non-AC economy bus considering it was starting to get late and it’s night anyways so the cool breeze can help.
If this is your choice of transportation, and you happen to travel on a Sunday back to Jakarta, please sit near the window or near the door. You would eventually have to breath! Coming in to Cirebon and Jakarta eventually, the bus can be extremely full. People would be standing up packed in the aisle, not to mention their luggage. So be prepared! Like always.
It was getting late and we did need to head back. So we decided to head back to Jakarta, but first… to find the bus station. For the fun of it, we rented a delman, a rickshaw pulled by a horse, to the bus station. You can also use this transportation to get around the city since the city is not so big at all and has a pleasant air to inhale to. We paid a mere Rp 30,000 to get there and it was semi pleasant ride since the traffic was so dense. But the cool air and the hilly terrain made the traffic bearable 🙂
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