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As the car turns left from some joint in the Tabanan Regency of Bali, we get a feeling of entering a best-kept secret land which is actually not that far away. A Balinese village atmosphere beams right in front of us. The temporary stupas in front of the temples stand tall and elongated made of thatch leaves. Entrance gates to houses have a divinity attached to them, modelled after the structure of Balinese Hindu temples. A couple of convenience stores are juxtaposed between temples and houses. The road lies ahead, so empty barring a vendor woman who carries a basketful of food on her balancing head and a tiny boy on his tricycle precariously riding on the asphalt.

 We have crossed a few kilometres and the left and the right sides open up. No more houses and no more temples. Lush paddy fields, randomly cultivated banana trees here and there and some lined up coconut trees on the alleys between the fields become our stock scenery for the next fifteen to twenty minutes. It’s around 9 am in the morning and the strengthening sunlight spreads its gleam on the green fields so fluently that we can even monitor the tiny birds looting the humans’ hard-earned crop. Not far away from the birds the ladies in the fields do not mind the looters’ daylight ravaging. We only see the ladies’ conical shaped hats clearly as they lean down, busy collecting the crops.

 Our destination is the acres-long property of Alila Villas Soori which lies on the verge of the Indian Ocean and at the end of this calm and peaceful village. But what we are passing by at the moment makes us skeptical and we feel like gullible little children. More sights of paddy fields and lonesome arecanut trees force a question out of us: are we being taken for a ride? The driver holds the steering wheel very professionally; he might have been here a hundred times. But much to our surprise, he brakes, at a Frostian diverging of two roads. Without disturbing us he takes out his mobile phone and makes a call, probably to our villa. Speaking in a very soft voice he makes sure that he got his vista right.

 We resume our journey, along the fields and the trees. The distant farmers, specks on the green fields, have probably started accumulating beads of sweat on their bodies. We had not in our mind one of those off-the-beaten-path expeditions where travellers usually hope to get lost and fumble into serendipitous moments. All we had been waiting for was to dip into the private pool, laze in the heavenly bedroom and spread our wearied bodies in the bubble-floating bath-tub of our million-dollar valued villa. Then, to realise the walking on the black sand beach which we had been savouring from the glossy pictures on the brochure.

 The car takes several turns in quick succession and every turn gives a slideshow of the same sights we have been passing by. We are tempted to ask the driver.

 “Do we need to ask some locals here?”

 “No need. It’s another few kilometres”, he assures us without turning back.

 We reach a cul-de-sac with a wall in front jutting out into the street. We see the name Alila written in the same font as on their website. Our skepticism gives way to impatience. We cannot wait to check in and be three-day residents in a regal villa.


 Once inside Alila’s courtyard, we forget the way we took. The sarong-clad ladies escort us to our beach-pool villa. On our walk, we pass by a garden, an infinity pool and a soothing view of the ocean in the background. This is the very place we wanted to be in to get cut away from files, deadlines and desks. We jump into our private pool and the touch of the water affects our feelings salubriously. The jasmine flowers from the adjacent plants keep falling on the pool intermittently. They deck the water’s edges and float in the ripples from our gliding movements.

 We feel being on a vantage point from where we could charm ourselves with the endless sight of the ocean on one side and the green fields and the mountains on the other. Each morning, we take a stroll, either among the fields or on the black sand beach which leads to a temple on a clifftop. The calmness felt is a gift that you cannot buy anywhere near you. The villa, how soothing they are! They are luxurious, yet do not try to entice people by boasting of glitters that is associated with sheer luxury.

 At the barbecues on the evenings, we savour the best of steaks, ogling the deep red horizon that is ours.

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It was a familiar sensation – the stroke of humidity, the potent smell of car engines and sights of families sitting on the floor, talking and laughing with one another. Arriving at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport always engenders two contrasting feelings – a sense of belonging to and detachment from the culture that is my roots.

My incurable case of curiosity has led me to various experiences in different corners of the world, from teaching English at schools in Poland’s busiest seaport to physically observing the “Occupy” movement in various towns across Southern California. I have experienced many moments of gratitude in these instances, but none so strong as the moments of gratitude I feel visiting the place where I spent the first few years of my childhood, Jakarta.

My parents have often told me that Jakarta is a place you love or hate – there is no middle ground.  I myself have a love/hate relationship with the place. The strict cultural expectations that I feel governs my thoughts and behaviour sometimes leaves me feeling constrained and lost in my own identity. Yet the insignificance of this confusion becomes apparent against the backdrop of raw, constant struggle that I see everyday. From the domestic worker who arises daily at the crack of dawn and attends to her boss’ morning routine, to the little boys selling bottled water in the middle of polluted highways during Jakarta’s notorious traffic jams. It’s not only seeing what they have to endure every day that puts things in perspective, it is also seeing their gratitude of receiving simple acts of kindness and their willingness to enjoy life with the circumstances that they have been presented with. I remembered an encounter with a taxi driver who has to move away from his wife and children in order to earn more money and support them. This required him to forgo paying rent, leaving him to sleep on his brother’s floor and for most days, eating nothing but rice and red kidney beans soup. To many of us, this conjures a life of discomfort. Yet to this taxi driver, the cheery laugh that accompanied his life story shows a man who feels like he wakes up every day with a stroke of good luck.

I am used to being in control, of scheduling every minute of my day with to-dos and appointments in my never-ending quest for success and efficiency. Having spent the greater portion of my life at an environment where this is the norm, an unexpected delay or failure in achieving a goal can send me into momentary lapses of depression and hopelessness. I take for granted what many of these people in Jakarta – such as having constant access to clean water and being able to be on time for appointments 99% of the time – would consider luxuries. I dramatize the impact that a harsh feedback given by my boss would have on my life, all while the domestic worker at the house next door to my auntie’s is probably counting the pennies that she needs to save for her child to remain at school.

After a few days, I have found that the only way to enjoy being in this crazy city is to embrace the chaos that comes with it, and expect that nothing will go according to plan. Only then do I realize the triviality of things that I consider “problems” faced on a daily basis. At the beginning of my trip, I would curse at the amount of time we spend in traffic, and sigh when an excursion to find something prove to be unsuccessful. I would get offended when an encounter with a distant relative turns to lectures on how I should be living my life, or unwanted comments about my physical appearance. Day by day, however, all of this simply becomes part of my life here. And when good things came my way – the pleasant surprise that I felt allowed me to appreciate it just that little bit more.

I always leave Jakarta with a sense of excitement for my next undertaking, whatever that may be, and an overwhelming gratitude of what I already have in my life. The confusion regarding my identity remains, but the realization of what I can do with this unique perspective sets in, and I leave feeling grateful, strong, and eager to carry out the next steps I have set for myself.

Coming out of Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, I step into a taxi and recite the address of my parents’ Jakarta home, preparing myself to embrace the chaotic week that I know will follow. I know that at the end of it – I will leave with a fondness only reserved for this place that introduced me to the world.

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As I get to the crown, I make out the jutting headlands on either side. I feel the wind dissolve brine into my pores. I smell the air with rain approaching and listen to the waves crashing, interspersed with the click and clack of the cars rushing over the concrete slabs below. I love walking the gravel road to the headland. Even when pebbles get into my shoes and the wind stings my face, I am always thankful for the vista at the top of the path.

I am not at that headland now. That appreciation only exists in recollections. Where I am currently, is not where I want to be. I have gone from living in God’s country, to existing in a hell on earth. My days are filled dodging traffic and offensive smells, acrid smoke from burning rubbish filling the air. Teeming with people, there are no parks, very little flora and fauna and everywhere there is noise. A voluminous cacophony of shouts, motorbikes and “Hello Mister.”

On the eastern outskirts of Jakarta I bide my time. I have six months left on my contract and I dream constantly of that majestic headland back home in Sydney. Many people travel to Jakarta and thoroughly enjoy their time, but they are tourists and have the pleasure and luxury of free time. Many tourists only pass through this place. It is not a friendly city for a sightseer, unless one likes shopping malls and karaoke bars.

It is a crazy, busy place. It is the most inhospitable city that I have had the joy of living in, but it does have some of the warmest inhabitants I have encountered. Indonesians are lovely folk, but sadly their capital city is a disaster. As I have been told, Jakarta is a place to come for work. Most of the residents are not born here and when you ask where home is (meaning where in Jakarta), they will tell you about a place far removed from the hustle and bustle. No one seems to want to admit to being from here.
They are all from somewhere else.

My days are filled with the monotony of teaching English to upper middle class children with little respect for teachers, elders, or anyone else for that matter. At nights I write to a friend:


If you were here you might feel the same. Maybe you would like it and perhaps you would look at me and exclaim, “Stop your complaining.”

It is a culture that I am yet to understand. It is dichotomy of contradictions that fill me with a sense of foreboding, a sense of dread. Something is lacking in Jakarta and I can only surmise that it is a soul. On trips to Lombok, or Flores, or Bali, or even Jogjakarta I have felt a weight lift off my shoulders. I breathe calmer and I smile more. The sense of adventure returns and I run wildly to the next destination.

I am never alone in Jakarta and it is something I have a frightful time with. I miss those walks to the top of the headland that used to clear my mind. I hold on to those memories. It’s what makes me strong and hopeful.

At times it all makes sense. A child exclaims, “Mr, is this the right answer?”
It doesn’t last for long, and I go to the next class suffering from the tyranny of children raised by maids and nannies. I am grateful at the end of the day when I am home and the door closes to the world and the noise outside.

About the Author:

Mark is an English teacher from Sydney currently living in Jakarta. He likes to read and write in his spare time. One day he will get to go surfing again.

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It was a very tired office week. I felt that I have no energy left to face another day. Out of the sudden, a friend from my college called and asked me to go to Mt. Bromo with him and another friend. I instantly agreed because of one reason.  I’d never been to Bromo, period. In addition to make a perfect excuse, It was just the right time to escape for a while from work activity. “It’s now or never, let’s do it!” I said to myself to overcome my doubt, since I learned from several reviews that the track is difficult. We decided to go there the next week after.

The journey was never been easy. We had a lot of disagreement almost in everything, like who will be the driver for the night shift, where to stop to buy meal, which way was the shortest way, and some other ridiculous things. Despite of that, I felt that the different characters among us complete each others along the journey. One thing that still unites us until now is the passion to share the experience and togetherness. After 12 hours overland trip from Jakarta, we finally arrived at Ngadisari village, the nearest village to Mt. Bromo. We got a best deal to book nice and cozy backpacker hostel at the slope of the mountain, which was only Rp 75.000 per room for one night (USD 7 per night). We also had an arrangement for the jeep tour at reasonable price. The local villagers were very friendly and communicative. Nice cold weather combined with the villagers’ friendliness made us very enthusiast with our journey.

On the next day, we woke at 3 AM and rode a 6 passenger four-wheel drive jeep to catch the sunrise. It was about 45 minutes to reach Mount Penanjakan, the first stop that was the perfect spot to see the sunrise. It was very bumpy and winding track, but it worth every inch as we reached the destination.  It was magnificence and breathtaking. At that time, a lot of food stalls was already in service. They offered boiled noodle, steamed corn, fried banana and hot drinks. Local people also make money from selling or renting jacket since it was very cold and the wind was so breezy. In about 5 degrees Celsius, we all drowned in silence while watching the first ray of light appeared from behind of the mountain. Camera was the most wanted gadget and nobody wanted to miss their pose in that dramatic moment.

As the day turned into a bright morning, our tour guide who also our jeep driver once again told us to ride the jeep heading to Mt. Bromo’s crater. However, the jeep only brought us to a spacious parking area right below the crater. From there, we still have to walk about 30 minutes to reach the first step of the crater’s stair. We saw a lot of horses with passenger on its back; it had been a favorite choice for tourists who don’t want to get tired of walking. Still, everyone had to walk along a hundred of stairs with 60 degrees angle to reach the top of the crater. As we got there, we never stop gasped and amazed by the scenery. The layer of clear blue sky, white cotton mist and grey gigantic volcano rock was spread perfectly in front of us. God made this beautiful view as a reminder for human being to appreciate His creation, to keep grateful with His gifts; the soul we live and the air we breathe. It made me realize that lately I never thank enough to God, I always complaint in most of my time. The source of the negative attitude was because I have married for 4 years but have no children yet. The moment after, I called my wife on the phone and said that she is the most precious gift that God had sent to me and told her that everything will be alright as long as we have each other. My wife, clueless, only answered:”I love you too”. My friends told me I was so sentimental, but aren’t we all?

It was a journey that we would never forget.  It might not be served with luxury facility, but we got all we need, we got the views and a reminder to keep positive in live, so it’s priceless. I wish I could visit Mt. Bromo again with my wife so we can share and embrace that amazing moment together.

About the author: Albert Budi is a financial advisor who loves to travel and explore new culture. He and his beloved wife travel actively to new destination in Indonesia or other country. They pursue their passion to have their own travel blog and agency.

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So we as a family want to set apart one holiday exclusively for beaches, calm beaches. We even gave it a title – ‘Beach Tour’. There we head to the shores of Lombok archipelago. The Gilis had always been in our list. The only child in our 4-member group, 5 year-old Evy, my niece, is so jubilant that she wouldn’t mind jumping down the landing plane right into the blue ocean!

 We stay at the Senggigi area with plenty of restaurants and hotels and a lovely beach where taking a morning stroll is a great experience. It’s calm, it’s only for us, and for Evy. We have the whole beach to ourselves on our first morning. There is a feeling of desertedness as we scan the wide arch that is Senggigi beach. But soon it is happiness and Evy’s ululations of excitement which dominate our moods. She needs to be given the best of times this holiday. And we need Lombok’s great beaches to realise that.

 On our way to Gili Trawangan on the second day, our guide takes us to a nearby beach called Nipah from where we would be ferried across. There is no plan to linger around at this ‘transit beach’. However, the blue water and a desolate state charm our exploring minds. We delay our ferry ride. An abandoned wooden log on the beach and the only waiting ferry on the water with the background of hills in the distance is quite a stately setting for some DSLR moments. Signs of sought-after loneliness.  Evy wants to sit on the wooden log. We say yes.

Then the Yamaha sputters smoke briefly and the boatman sounds the siren. We cruise along on the calm waters of early morning.

A mile or two away the pictures of a typical tropical island gain clarity. A lanky, white man is holding his huge surfboard and walking along the beach. Evy points towards snorkellers popping out of water now and then – “See, like dolphins, hahahah”.My wife Lina and her sister Rita get busy preparing our things before we disembark on the beautiful Gili Trawangan.

The guide helps us put on our snorkelling gear. The fish are a bit shy at first, it seems, but then they swim in, in their dozens, in many hues. After spending a full hour under and above the water we take shelter in a beachside restaurant for brunch. The beach activities, the sunbathers, children designing sand castles are our entertainment while savouring salad and macaroni.

Itching to get more of the island, we move to bicycling. We hire 3 cycles, with me carrying Evy on mine. This is probably the best part of the island trip as we stop by nearly 10 spots on our way. Each spot gives a different view of the beach, the mountains and the coral waters. We pass by outdoor lounges of star hotels, posh al-frescos and souvenir and tattoo shops. After about 5 kilometres the path gets isolated. This is when we start stopping here and there randomly. Horse carriages keep overtaking us, some pass by us.  I don’t like the idea of using motor cycles here as noise doesn’t go well with the purity of idyllic silence.

We park our bicycles under some palm trees and check out the shallow coral waters. At a distance is a mountain spread. It is sizzling hot, but that doesn’t dampen our spirits to bicycle further and stop at another spot where we come across an empty traveller’s rest area. From here the view reveals the end of the mountains. Beyond that point it is only the Indian Ocean, all the way. A full two hours before getting back to the crowded beach area where the boatman is ready again, for the return journey. Evy hasn’t had enough.

We comfort her with the promise of hitting yet another beach the next day. We are back at Senggigi  in an hour and fifteen minutes. Tomorrow is Kuta beach, Lombok’s Kuta, not Bali’s.

Bali’s cousin here displays coral waters and a very calm scene where sunbathing and relaxation are the most ideal things to do; without the crowds. But we do sea walking! The shallow waters during low tide here stretch to nearly a kilometre into the ocean. As you walk along the sea you are connected to a cove with boulders and big coral rocks which make up a spectacular scene. It is totally calm now. There is no one here barring us.

Our love affair with beaches can’t get any better, especially when we have beaches to ourselves, with only the waves and the wind being accompaniments.  The best part of it all was, Lombok makes Evy happy.  That makes us happier in turn.

About the author: Pramod Kanakath, a teacher and a travel writer, and a photographer. Currently based in Indonesia.

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At this very moment, I work the ‘front office’ at a hotel made solely with old authentic teak, a destination you may not be aware on a crater-like mountain range in Indonesia. In other words, I am a receptionist at a hotel but I always like to say “going to the office now” to my girlfriend and friends to hide the truth of my wasted potential. “Stop hiding the fact that you’re a receptionist at a hotel Jem” is the final conversation after my look of evil eyes as she said the comment and some laughs, followed by me driving 90 km/hour on my bike getting to work early rather than late thinking about how free I am flying and enjoying the ride of my life.

I do love life; I live it driven primarily by curiosity with a pinch of clumsiness. Thankfully I have had my fair share of experiences getting involved in the best and worst of situations, living through all that I stumble upon – one of them being; dropping my GoPro camera in a den of wild dogs! “Oh James! Not again” was my family’s reaction on the occasion when we were enjoying the African Safari as I almost got everyone in the jeep mauled to death.

There is no such thing as coincidence in my belief, everything has its reason, wild dogs are a very hard find during Safari gaming; the family was lucky enough to get an up close and personal upside down ‘selfie’ of one in particular during my exploits! The ranger called ‘Promise’ got my camera back and he will forever be my GoPro hero.

I motivate all travelers to experience the safari games in South Africa at least once in their lifetime; I must also say the ‘amarula’ is the choice of beverage there. In Safari Gaming you can sit on a jeep for hours staring at an animal and feel at peace. I am a traveler myself; starting this year I can honestly say that I have been to 6 continents of the globe. I just need to witness the Aurora in both Arctic and Atlantic and then I may be called a world traveler.

Currently I rest my head on a rock called ‘Batu’, which metaphorically does mean a rock in my language. I found this now recent Tourist city of Batu, 4 years ago after travelling 4 years in both New Zealand and Australia, then finally United Kingdom. I was in search of farming which is my dream. ‘Money can’t buy life’; so from a young age I dreamt to have my own farm and live on it. When I found Batu, I was on the way to Mt Bromo to visit the ‘Tengger’ farmers who live there. The Tengger people have a radical way of farming and way of life. As you enter the Bromo area you can see all around you the vertical farming that goes on, all over sides of mountains and even on cliffs! I found the place I was looking for at last in East Java.

I spent 3 years as a farmer and I can honestly say it is the calmest, relaxing and peaceful experience I have lived through, just to be one with nature and to be able to see all the beautiful nature which grows step by step around you. I hate vegetables; unless I was the one growing them from the start then I love them! A lot of people in my country take organic farming for granted and the dream I have now is to successfully influence growing organic in my country, better economy for the farmers and a lifestyle that does not need to be expensive. I am starting from home this revolution, I have a green house outback and I created a farming ‘co operative’ promoting organic farming through tourism and selling produce which is affordable and chemical free.

My heart is where I call home, I am where I belong; my heart is the country which is my own, called Indonesia. There are around about 17,000 islands to visit; some parts are not even explored yet! Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world and my dream is to sail the islands, taking all travelers from around the world as guests on my future Phinisi schooner. In hopes to help travel seekers worldwide to find the beauty within, encounter the enchanted Indonesia. From snow capped mountains to the depths of sea floors, this will not be my last log in our book of travels. No longer shall I feel like wasted potential, all thanks to the future I have here, time is ticking and I want to travel in time.

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Prambanan temple compounds came in as one of the first world heritage sites of Indonesia in 1991. This site was inscribed under two criteria: as a masterpiece of human creative genius, and as an outstanding example of an architectural ensemble that represents a significant stage in human history (i.e., spread of Hinduism in the East). It happens to be the biggest and most extensive Hindu religious site in the predominantly Islamic country.

The first glimpse of Prambanan. I enjoyed the fact that it has a wide open yard.

The first glimpse of Prambanan. I enjoyed the fact that it has a wide open yard.

How is Prambanan assessed?

On one hand, Prambanan may look quite similar to Angkor Wat. True enough, they are both intended as Hindu temples, and that both follow the pointed South Indian Dravidian styles. In closer inspection, however, Prambanan reveals itself as a totally different architectural masterpiece that is unique in its own way. In fact, Prambanan was built over 300 years earlier (9th century vs. 12th century).  On the other hand, Prambanan still faces yet another challenge as it is often overshadowed by its more famous neighbor Borobudur. Nevertheless, in ancient times, the former might have looked far more impressive in terms of lay-out, scale of construction, and even its setting as the construction of Prambanan is to be seen as a response of the Hindu Sanjaya Dynasty to the Buddhist Sailendra Dynasty‘s Borobudur.

Often really crowded throughout the day, I visited Prambanan late in the afternoon when most of the tourists have already left  (it turned out later on to be an uncalculated risk as it rained some few minutes after!). One thing that I noticed immediately upon entering the gate is its vast, well-manicured yard. Not far from there, and I started seeing the magnitude of the damages this site had to endure: endless — and now meaningless — piles of rubble scattered everywhere.

View of the smaller temples housing the vessels of the Trimurti. Shot taken just before it started raining.

View of the smaller temples housing the vessels of the Trimurti. Shot taken just before it started raining.

The Prambanan temple complex — or what remains of it — is pretty small and easy explore. It has to be understood that temples currently standing in the compound hardly make up 15% of what used to be there. Originally, more than 240 temples comprise the compound  yet only a handful remains today. Below is a photo showing the model of the compound’s original composition – thanks to Wiki! Several centuries of earthquakes (the last strong one being the May 2006 shake) and bouts of volcanic eruptions by Merapi further added damages to the already abandoned and neglected royal religious site since the early 10th century – yes, the temple was relatively short lived as an active place of worship.

A model of the Prambanan Temple Compounds (photo courtesy: Wikipedia)

A model of the Prambanan Temple Compounds (photo courtesy: Wikipedia)

Its central main towers are almost total reconstructions via anastylosis. Nevertheless, strict measures are still being observed such as prohibiting public access to the towers’ interiors. The management body no longer plans to reconstruct all of the temples – the tons of rubble are there to act as a reminder of the site’s painful history in confronting the destructive forces of nature. Moreover, some stones are already missing as locals used them in building their houses nearby, rendering massive rehabilitation a definite impossibility.

Ruins of the peripheral temples. There were about 220 of these minor shrines before.

Ruins of the peripheral temples. There were about 220 of these minor shrines before.

It being a Trimurti site, Prambanan is dedicated to the highest three Hindu gods: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. The commanding 47-metre high Shiva temple (or Loro Jonggrang), the largest in the area, lies at the center. Here, a local myth is also highly intertwined with Prambanan: Loro Jonggrang is a legendary Javanese princess, and it is believed that she is depicted in a statue inside the Shiva temple; hence, the Shiva temple is often referred to by locals as Loro Jonggrang temple as well. This legend is worth knowing when visiting this temple.

The carvings and reliefs in the temples are quite different from those that I have seen in Angkor, though both depict Hindu characters,icons, and stories. I can say that the images and artworks there are more “pure” in the Hindu sense of the word; in contrast, Angkorian art is made in the image of the Khmers.

Carvings depicting Hindu celestial nymphs in the exteriors of Loro Jonggrang, the central temple in Prambanan.

Carvings depicting Hindu celestial nymphs in the exteriors of Loro Jonggrang, the central temple in Prambanan.

Prambanan never failed to enchant me. Despite only having a little less than an hour in seeing this site (thanks to the rain!), it definitely left a lasting impression on me: the temple compound is really simple  and it may not even boast much given the state it is in right now  but it never fails to assert its right as a ‘classic’ monument the world will forever be proud of.

Last man out. Guards patiently waited for us before they called it a day. I think they understood I was on a mission.

Last man out. Guards patiently waited for us before they called it a day. I think they understood I was on a mission.

On a separate day, I also went to  the nearby ruins of the 8th-century Ratu Boko palace. Actually, it happens to be on the tentative list of Indonesia for a possible inclusion to the WHS list, too! Ratu Boko palace — oh, I’ll be writing a separate note for this site as it deserves one of its own — is nestled in the Boko Hills, some 3km from Prambanan temple compounds. Given its altitude of 196 metres, the site offers a commanding view of the Prambanan plains and townscape with the Merapi as the background. In the evening, the beautifully glittering Prambanan temple dominates the skyline, subtly suggesting that it is there to stay and that it will never be forgotten again.

Prambanan fields as seen from Ratu Boko Palace ruins. Prambanan temple compounds shine like gold, dominating the view.

Prambanan fields as seen from Ratu Boko Palace ruins. Prambanan temple compounds shine like gold, dominating the view.

Baduy, A World Within The WorldGrowing up in one of the biggest cities in Eastern Indonesia left many questions in my mind. Well, I spoke the same language as many citizens nearby, I shared the same cultural stories every time I met, and experienced a city life like other teenagers in my age every day. There are questions to answer in mind, I have to find differences and I have to experience the other cultures. Then, I decided to wander and left my home 7 years ago to the Western Indonesia in Java island.

During my seven years staying in Java, I can finally realize that I was drawn by curiosities not by books, I always had time to make new friends that speak different languages, I can learn the other cultures, and I’ve finally been in a place where I can’t find traffics, internet connection, no incoming call or even SMS, and no place such a home to stay except a tent while climbing a mountain. But, another curiosities came up in mind, I still can use transportation to visit places, using electricity to turn all my electronic devices on, working with technologies, and still have the same experiences in a city where I grow up and live in as most of my friends had. We were connecting the dots to create almost the same life line.

Early March last year, I packed my backpack, left university, prepared all my stuffs, and traveled alone to find what the answer of curiosities that have been drawn my mind since years ago. Then, I decide to travel but didn’t set up the fixed time when I will end my journey. I was going where the direction guides me. I traveled thousand miles to the North Sumatera, spent more than a month there, moved to East Borneo and spent also more than month. I visited lake, hiking the mountains, jungle forests trekking, sunbathing in the beach, snorkeling to see the coral reefs and marine lifes, city touring to find the histories, and having local interaction in all the places I have visited. Still within a same chapter in the different pages, I need to find a different chapter. I was lucky; while browsing on the internet, I finally found a place called “Baduy, A World within The World.”

Baduy, who call themselves Kanekes, are a community living in the western part of the Indonesian province of Banten, near Rangkas Bitung. It is more than 100 km from the capital city of Indonesia, Jakarta. I was on a train and spent 2 hours to reach the nearest train station from the Village. Then I went to a bus station nearby and go staright to the Village. After1.5 hours on a mini bus, finally a view more steps to go and . . . Welcome To Baduy!

I arrived mid-afternoon inside the village and meet Kang Lambry, a householder who has a wife and one beautiful daughter. I have manythings to know and to find out, and I will figure it out in a long night with Kang Lambry. Well, this house has no electricity just like other houses, its traditionally prohibited to use.

Generally, th Baduy/Kanekes are devided into two groups: The Baduy Luar (Outer Baduy) and The Baduy Dalam (Inner Baduy). They speak Sundanese and become one of the sub-ethinic of Sunda Tribe. Their racial, physical and linguistic traits bear much resemblance to the rest of the Sundanese people; however, the difference is in their way of life and their beliefs.

The people from Baduy Luar (Outer Baduy) are familiar with technology, their housing process is assisted with modern tools, they wear traditional clothes (Black Color) and sometimes they wear T-Shirt, they use modern house furnishing, and some of them have been affected and convert to Islam.

While, the Inner Baduy (Baduy Dalam) hardly prohibit for all those things. Beside that, The Baduy Dalam are also prohibited to use any transportations, footwears, electronic, technology, and even formal Education for the children. They rejected some proposals from government to build facilities in Baduy Dalam, the Baduy still strongly opposed the government. As a result, they still live in their life line and prohibit all things that againts their traditional costums.

By following my curiosity and to wish and turn out priceless later. This place offer me many things I really want to figure it out. I spent 3 days in this village. To visit Baduy Dalam, I hiked 3 hours, passing rivers, lakes, traditional houses of Baduy Luar, forests, bamboo trees, hills, steep tracks, and bridges before finally arrive in the last bridge underneath it a fresh water. This become the last bridge that separate the Baduy Dalam with the outside world. Welcome to a world within the world, Kanekes Dalam.

I finally met the people who don’t know technology, don’t use a lamp to light up their nights, and live in peace in their simpilicty, culture, and costums. It was a long night with thousand stars and a moonlight to a never ending experiences. Lovely place 

If I never left home, I will never find new experiences. If I never traveled, I will never find places that I really love to see. I always trust that somehow the dots connecting my future and I always trust that there are somethings that will connect the dots and give confidence to follow my heart.

About the Author:  Hamka Rasufit lives in Malang and study informatics engineering. He likes to kill the time by staying in his room with comics and internet. A mountain climber who fall in love with sea. Has mission to climb and make his step on seven summits in ten years. “I was born and set to be an adventurer and I can find everything in here, Indonesia.”

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PhotoMy travel book to Indonesia described the Gilis as a trio of beautiful islands so bare of resources that they were almost unlivable. Yet long before I got on the ferry I was warned by other ex-pats that at least one of the islands, Gili Trawangan, was packed with tourists, while another, Gili Air, was overwhelmed with luxury villas. And so I made plans to visit the third island, Gili Meno, the smallest, most uninhabited of the three.

The islands were no more than a kilometer apart from each other, but for some reason pertaining to the tides the ferry would only stop at Trawangan. It was my good luck to be aboard a boat whose captain was gladly bribed, however, and for an extra ten rupiah I was taken as close to Meno as the vessel could go and told to walk the rest of the way, the water being only neck-deep.

Holding my pack above my head, I waded through the shallows and met the shore of an island whose indigenes had never bathed in anything but saltwater. My senses were instantly alive. Everywhere around me were the same enrapturing screensaver images that had mocked and dejected me during all those soul-stomping office gigs back in the States. “Keep dreaming”, those images had said in Boston. “Not in this lifetime”, they’d told me in LA. Now here I was.

I trekked along the water through a boneyard of washed-up coral fragments, the ocean so flat and smooth it might’ve been shaved with a razor. The swoop and call of opulent jungle fowl, the skull-faced woman draping laundry across the crab legs of a jukung canoe, the snorkeling tourist submarining across the fiercely-clear shallows—never had a place so definitively announced peace and simplicity.

With no trees on this stretch of the island, I crawled into the shade of some shrubby vegetation and opened my notebook, determined to articulate with poetic sensibility every exotic nuance around me. I sketched one elaborate ode after another, but when I read the words back to myself nothing felt “right”. The pretty jungle birds weren’t as lively or flamboyant; the old washwoman lost all her humble poignancy; the snorkeling tourist was drowned in extraneous description.

My enthusiasm fell off a cliff. What good was all this beauty if I couldn’t subjugate it? What good were pure blue waters, heaps of sumptuous white clouds, delicate breezes and tropical aromas if I couldn’t extract from them some inspiring perspective that would rouse the weary 9-to-5 world and send it sprinting toward the travel life?

I wandered down the beach until the heat beat me into the shrubs again. Fifty yards from shore a young native couple, no older than a pair of high-school kids, was teaching their baby daughter how to swim. The water was serene and they were barely waist-deep, but that didn’t matter to the child. The situation was a nightmare, and she clung for dear life to her mother’s waist, sobbing hysterically.

The boy-father took his time. Immersed to his shoulders, he bobbed around his daughter like a jellyfish, gingerly calling her name. With soft cajoles and gentle tones he would drift incrementally closer, then quickly drift back when her panicky sobs burst into wild distrustful shrieks. At last he waded over and unpeeled the girl from her mother’s body.

Gripping her by the armpits, he hoisted her above his head and smiled into her shrieking face, still saying her name as she kicked violently at his chest, still saying her name as he lowered her into the water and laid her on her back as though the sea were an operating table. With his arms scooped beneath her shoulders and thighs, he began to move her across the shallows, the child’s fearful moans rising to a horrible pitch, then dwindling with each second she didn’t sink.

After a while the father turned her over and showed her how to kick. Then he flipped her upright and taught her how to move her arms underwater, and how to stay calm when the ocean got near her mouth. In less than 20 minutes a flower of confidence had bloomed, and the girl was treading water without help, all her wailing terror replaced by a silent fascination with being afloat.

It’s possible to experience something so complete in beauty that you also see, at the same moment, something of beauty’s incommunicable nature. An hour earlier I would’ve crushed my mind around that scene like a fist and crammed it into my notebook. Now that instinct faded and my notebook stayed shut.

There was no one else on the island to bear witness to that event, no one who would’ve thought to look at it twice, anyway. Only me in the shadow of some nameless vegetation, watching with a kind of fixation that had nothing to do with forming a perspective or grasping for a message, but the perfect joy of being there when a bare island child, for the first time ever, drifted off from her parents and floated on her own.

About the Author: Timothy L. Marsh is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University, Wales. He has lived in several countries in the last several years, including France, Indonesia, Ireland and South Korea.

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Watu OndoTwin bridges to twin waterfalls. A waterfall I encountered by luck makes the title of this piece I want to share with all travelers. My name is James HS Cameron, but like all people I know, you may call me Jem (gem stone). Growing up as a child I already figured out to have a desk job in an office is not a life I would live. Personally, there is something about cities which makes me feel claustrophobic and paranoid, the buildings and roads close in and seems too narrow for me to see freedom on earth.

I found the “Watu Ondo” waterfalls by coincidence; a beautiful gem not many people are aware of, including locals. Located near a public hot spring in a town named “Batu” (rock) I found the waterfalls when one of my good friends from United Kingdom, came to visit me in Indonesia. His name is Gordon also known as “Gee” and works in the UK as a tree surgeon/tree doctor. I became his local guide here to show him the country, took him to the area to show him the rain forest for wildlife and tree spotting. The area is under protection of the national department of forestry and wildlife.

The hot spring area is famous for fermented forbidden rice (black/purple rice), so we had a swim and decided to find something to warm our bellies. Travelers will be able to find the fermented rice in the hot spring area but usually already in a liquid form and not fermented long enough to make our bellies feel warmer. I decided to take Gee to one of our spots, further up the main road passing the hot springs through the rain forest, travelers will find twin bridges, the first bridge passing over a canyon. We parked up my vespa in between the two bridges to purchase from a rice seller; the exotic snack and also a liter of the liquid form. Whilst sitting on the bridge overlooking the river flowing through the canyon, we had our snack and drank, taking pictures. When we were sitting peacefully, the both of us heard the sound of nature; of water dropping in our ears, at first we thought it was the river underneath us but soon realized it would only be the twin waterfalls nearby, unseen from the bridges but not unheard. We left the area because we needed to water the plants in the backyard of the house, but I had a gut feeling to go back. We already visited all the main waterfalls in Batu, but we almost missed out on my favorite. The feeling never left me and on instinct we went back to the area with the mission to find the sound, passing the bridges about 50 meters further ahead there is a clearing on the right, we almost missed it!

After parking the bike there are steps made out of stones leading down, these stone steps are named after the waterfall. As travelers go down the steps you will see immaculate views of nature between rest points, only 5-10 minutes to get to the waterfall the final resting point is the best. Gee and myself spent some time awestruck at the view, turned out to be two twin waterfalls in perfect view of each other! Each with a shallow pool under each waterfall. As we enjoyed the view, we noticed there was a romantic local couple and we did not want to intrude their peace. We waited whilst having our fermented forbidden rice and went down when they left. We were literally the only ones there and spent almost a day there enjoying the nature. The beauty you will get is indescribable. A place a traveler must witness themselves, because no words can explain it.

Watu Ondo is now one of my favorite spots on earth and yes, I see freedom there. You might be lucky to find a Javanese hawk flying around or the friendly, peaceful Macaque monkeys enjoying their habitat.

My entry goes out to all travelers and those who daydream about leading a life of adventure but is working in an office in the city. There are certain moments in life where your instincts tell you something, but is put to one side and then forgotten. The feeling you get is nature calling and talking from personal experience, this is where you will find magic in life, not through coincidence or luck but through this calling which might take you to unexpected moments of beauty and adventure where you may encounter romance, friendship and experience. In my own words; age and time is just a bunch of numbers, you are as old as you feel and you have all the time in the world. So go travel and enjoy your life.

About the Author: James HS Cameron is co-founder and CEO of Archipelago Encounter. Born in Indonesia on 14.11.1989 from an Indonesian mother and British father. His final dream in life is to be one of the best tour guides for Indonesia and to save up for a Phinisi schooner that will take him and travelers to sail all 17,000 islands of Indonesia.

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