Monday, 6 May 2013

Watching Travel & Holiday Tips on Coffe Break TV ONE.

Coffe Break TV ONE Travel Tips, Barry Kusuma as Speaker.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Bring your camera to capture the Cap Go Meh festival

Festivals are always a good excuse to spend your hard-earned cash for a trip to a city, especially for travel photographers, and Cap Go Meh festival in Singkawang, West Kalimantan, is definitely a must-see event.
Singkawang  Rituals begin before the Festival.
Held on the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar, Cap Go Meh is the closing of the celebration that begins with Chinese New Year or Imlek. In Singkawang, the celebration involves tatung, who perform acts that some people consider horrifying, such as piercing their nose or cheeks with sharp objects. These acts are surprisingly performed without injury as their souls are believed to be possessed by a god's or ancestor's spirits. Over 600 tatung groups from all over Indonesia and from neighboring countries joined the celebration in 2012.

Horrible or not, the Cap Go Meh festival is always packed with domestic and overseas tourists and photographers. It is so crowded that it can be inconvenient to take pictures though there are many things you may want to capture on camera.

Potrait Dayak Shaman Tribe who join the Festival.
There are ways and tricks to make sure you won't go home without memorable moments to set as the digital wallpaper on your laptop. Read on, learn and put these tips into practice:

1. If your time is flexible, arrive in Singkawang two or three days before the peak of the event so you can chat with local people and find out more about their culture. The city is around three hours by car from Pontianak, the provincial capital of West Kalimantan. Flights from Jakarta to Pontianak cost between Rp 500,000 ($52) and Rp 600,000, while the car journey costs between Rp 60,000 and Rp 70,000 per person if you use a travel service, or Rp 350,000 to Rp 400,000 (including driver and fuel) if you rent the whole car. It's also wise to prepare your accommodation in advance, up to two or three months, to make sure you can secure a good night’s sleep. The finest establishment in Singkawang is the three-star Hotel Mahkota on Jl. Diponegoro 1.

Dayak Tribe Tattoos and accesories.
2. Don't fuss too much when you're capturing a cultural festival. Just follow your instincts. Don't just focus on the main attractions and parades. The preparation, for example, is also interesting since subjects look really natural. 

chinese people prayed in the temple
3. Don't get lost in the crowd. The festival is celebrated along all city roads, while the parade, which begins in the morning, will circle the city until the afternoon. Our advice: pick a spot near where the festival will kick off at the sport arena near the city center.

4. Try using just one camera lens. Changing lenses too many times can cause you to miss many memorable moments. We recommend using lenses in the 17-55mm and 24-70mm range, either for capturing human subjects or the surroundings.

5. Prepare two DSLR camera bodies. Fit one with an all-range lens, such as a 24-70mm of 17-55mm; and the other with a telephoto lens, such as an 80-400mm or 70-200mm lens, which is perfect for capturing moments and portraits. This way you don't have to change lenses during the event and you will always have a camera you can use as a backup. So if, God forbid, an accident happens, such as an error with the camera or you drop it, you still have another one to shoot on.

Chinese Shaman trance in Capgomeh Festival.
6. A flash is a good tool to capture human subjects. It helps a lot, especially if you're shooting on a hot, sunshiny day. Use the flash on manual mode and add a diffuser to make it look natural.

7. To capture human interest pictures with a good background, an external flash can be very useful as a fill light. You can use it by measuring the sky on program mode and then switching to manual.

one of the Chinese Shaman when Capgomeh Borneo Festival held.

Photography and Text by Barry Kusuma

Friday, 2 November 2012

Book Review

The "15 DESTINASI WISATA TERBAIK DI INDONESIA" is a book that captured the natural beauty and culture of Indonesia from my own experience. The book will inspire all Travelers and Photographers to travel to Indonesia, as well describing detailed destination guides and the cultural events that few people know about. For those, especially Photographers, who want to Travel to Indonesia this book is a must-have. 

What's covered in this book:
  1. The "How To Get There" guides
  2. Full color photos for each destination
  3. Information and facts of rarely visited Tourist destinations in Indonesia
  4. Travel Photo tips for each destination
You can order the "15 DESTINASI WISATA TERBAIK DI INDONESIA" book at the book store in Jakarta, or buy it online at (Please go to this link to view/buy it online from the Gramedia website).

Testimonial from Readers who has read this book 

click to enlarge
Book Review from The Journey Magazine.

Book Review and launching Book report from Mytrip Magazine

Book Review from Panorama Magazine.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Unique Traditional Market in Indonesia

Floating Market Muara Kuin

Floating Market is where you will see directly in the market or move the river by boat. Floating market is located in Banjarmasin precisely at the intersection of River Kuin and Barito River. Floating market in Banjarmasin is a reflection of the culture of the Banjar which has lasted since the first.

In South Kalimantan, there are hundreds of rivers became an important transportation route until now. The tourist attractions were resting on the river, such as the floating market Estuary Kuin at this Banjarmasin. At sunrise visit this market that reflects light in the morning between transactions vegetables and garden produce from the villages along the Barito river and its tributaries.

Floating Market Kuin Estuary is a traditional floating market is located on the river at the mouth of the Barito river Kuin, Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan. The merchants and buyers to use boats, boats in a language called Banjar. This market started after Fajr prayer until after 9 am. The specialty in this market is still in frequent barter transactions between traders boating in the language called Banjar bapanduk. Women traders (hamlet) to boaters sell their own production, while the second hand purchase from the hamlet to resell called panyambangan.

Banjarmasin as the capital of the province is the center of commerce and tourism. JulukanKota Banjarmasin city gets water because the location of land a few inches feet below sea level. Banjarmasin, has an area of ​​about 72 km per side or about 0.22 percent of total area of ​​South Kalimantan. The city is split by the river Martapura provide distinctive characteristics of the life of its people, especially the use of the river as a means of water transportation, trade and tourism. In addition to the floating market in Muara Kuin Banjarmasin, other floating market that you can come across is in Lok Baintan which is above the river Martapura.

In 1526 Sultan Suriansyah establish a kingdom on the banks of the river Barito Kuin and who later became the forerunner of the city of Banjarmasin. On the banks of the river is a traditional trading center was originally going to grow. Merchant in a small boat made of wood. These traders are mostly women dressed in hat and wide Tanggui typical Banjar made from sago palm leaves.

Makale Market in Toraja Sulawesi

If in the market is the main commodity Bolu buffalo, then the market is the main commodity Makale pigs. This market is often referred to as Swine Market. The market is housed in a block of approximately 50 × 20 meters, which is divided into three sections: a section for piglets, adult swine and pork. If you are familiar with the term cat in a sack, then you will see the Toraja pig in the sack. Pigs were put in sacks of rice were piglets are usually purchased to be maintained. When there are buyers who are interested, the bag will be opened slightly to show to prospective buyers. As for adult pigs, usually tied to bamboo and placed on the ground or bamboo hall.

The pork price range, namely: 500-750 thousand for a baby pig. While adult pigs can reach 3-9 million range. However, there had also reportedly valued pork tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars because the weight of his body weight to rival a buffalo. Unlike the buffalo, black pig even more expensive than the pig an albino or spotted. Pork market is also only once in six days. If a normal day, no pigs were sold.

Buffalo and pigs are a symbol of status for the Toraja people and animals are important to the culture of people who still adhered to the teachings of this animism. The buffalo is a requirement that must be met in a traditional ceremony, especially the funeral; believed that the buffalo were slaughtered would be a vehicle for the spirit of the deceased was about to be buried in order to quickly get to nirvana. The more buffalo are slaughtered in a traditional ceremony, the higher the position of the family organizing the ceremony. For the nobility, it takes as many as 24-100 buffalo buffalo. As for the middle class, eight buffaloes and 50 pigs is a mandatory requirement that must be met in performing traditional funeral (Signs Solo).

Therefore, the existence of this market can not be separated from the culture and civilization of the Toraja people. The system was a market day heritage system Toraja society since hundreds of years ago.

Bolu market

Located in the tourist center of Toraja, Rantepao Town, Market Bolu is famous as a tourist attraction interesting and unique place to visit. Cattle market, so the market is also known, is a sales center buffalo and open once in 6 days (as scheduled market day). In addition to buffalo, pigs are also sold in this market, only fewer in number. Vegetables, fruits, coffee, and other commodity crops can also be found in this market.

On the day of the market, the number of traded buffalo can reach 500 head, especially when going to the holding of traditional ceremonies. In addition to the many buffalo were traded, the market will be full of visitors, both local and foreign and local tourists who want to watch closely the life of a cattle market that only exists in Toraja. The price of buffalo were sold ranging from 5 million to hundreds of millions of dollars. Color and body size buffalo is a benchmark pricing. Small black buffalo would be appreciated approximately 5 million, the black buffalo with a rather large size range from 10-15 million. Meanwhile, buffalo colored stripes (Tedong Bonga), which is one of the superior commodity, it can be appreciated tens of millions of dollars. While somewhat rare albino buffalo can be appreciated even more expensive to reach hundreds of millions of dollars.

Tomohon market Manado Sulawesi

Tomohon market, you will see many other traders as traders rat meat, snake meat, dogs, pigs, up to bat. It's a unique thing for the visit, and terrible. Come to the traditional market Tomohon before the end of the year. Here you will experience culinary tourism extreme by trying Paniki (bats), woku, RW (dogs), wild boar, and a fried rat.

You certainly never imagined to eat rats. But not for the Tomohon. Rat meat is one of the fine dining preferred. Do not worry, neither cooked rats mice often roam in the house. However, this type of field mouse or rat is bigger forest. Mice that expensive little fried 60,000, 00 per share, presumably because a little hard to get.

The food here is all interesting to try. Try to eat soup brenebon. Containing red bean soup is indeed very suitable eaten while warm in the cold air Tomohon.

Photography and Text by Barry Kusuma

Monday, 21 January 2008

Makepung Balinese Grand Prix, Bali Indonesia.

Makepung, The Balinese Grand Prix
Photo and Text by Barry Kusuma

If the Maduraneese have Kerapan Sapi, then Makepung, is what people call it here in Bali. These two similar yet different tradition makes it unique and entertaining to see.

Makepung, literally means ‘chasing around’ in Bahasa. It’s a tradition of bull racing which has been passed through generations in Bali’s society, specifically in Jembrana. It started of as race between farmers during their spare time when they were plowing the field in the harvest season. At that time, they compete to race for goals using a cart tied up to the bull which controlled by a jockey. It then begun to evolved and draws more attention to the people.

Today, the Makepung has become one of the most interesting and viewed attraction for local tourist as well as foreign. It also become an annual agenda in Bali, thus professionally managed.
Makepung participants weren’t limited to farmers only. Employees and businessman are welcomed to participate or merely being the spectatres. In big races such as the Governor’s Cup, the amount of participants could extend up to 300 pairs of bull and even more. The atmosphere gets to be livelier with the jegog player (a Balinese musical instrument made from bamboo) doing what they do best.

Since its first official race in the 70s, the rules and equipment for the Makepung were having several adjustments. For example, in the past, the bull used was only one. Today, they use a pair of bulls. The Cikar or carriage for the rider were previously big, now they use smaller ones. All bulls which are being used today are “modiste” compared to the old time. They were given accessories such as crowns and flags. The track they used to perform Makepung race has a ‘U’ shape which extends along 1-2 kilometer.

Quite different from Maduraneese’s Kerapan Sapi Madura or other race events, Makepung has a unique set of rules. The race’s winner doesn’t determined by who finishes first only. Each participant must maintain a distance of 10 meter from his contender before crossing the line. On the contrary, if the contender were able to lessen the distance to be less than 10 meter, it makes him the winner. Each race took about 8-10 minutes length of time.

Fans and participants of the Makepung in Jembrana were divided into two groups known as Eatern Block and Western Block. These blocks were made based on the flow of Ijo Gading river which devided the capital city of Jembrana. Each block would meet in an official race every twice a week. And each block has their own ciruit used for training or unofficial race.

What makes Makepung unique and entertaining is the expression when the rider quickens their bulls by shouting in their block’s slogans. Riders would whip their bulls with a stick during the race in a 2 meter wide track to achieve maximum speed. Some of them even use stick with nails attached to it. It’s not a surprise to see those bulls were bleeding ofter a race.

Makepung has always been adrenaline rushed due to seceral riders sometime fail to properly control their bulls. It often happens when they try to overtake the other rider. When the bulls were out of control, they would slip out the track and went straight to the mud, or even get flipped. That what makes the crowd cheered even more…

Photo & Text by Barry Kusuma

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Penglipuran Village, Bali Indonesia.

Penglipuran Village, a Unique and Exotic of traditional baliness culture village.

Penglipuran culture village is located in Bangli province which is 45 km from Denpasar. This village is one of the tourist spot that easy to visit, because of its location is in the main street of Kintamani - Bangli.

This village still upholds their traditional culture. Its nature culture can be notice when we enter the area. On Catus Pata area which is a border to enter this village. Over here, there is a village meeting community facilities and arrangement and an open outdoor yard as a welcoming symbol for the visitors.

This village is one of the villages in Bali which has an order arrangement system from the traditional village structure. It is a combination of open space yard outdoor which still natural, so it will remain us the Balinese environment in the past. The village physical structure order basely on their traditional culture that they uphold up until present time and their community culture already exist for generation.

One of the best thing about this village compare with the other village in Bali is that the front houses shape are look alike from the edge of the main village until downstream of village. The houses are order properly that the main area is located in a higher place and keep on decreasing until the downstream area. Despite of their same shape of physical look they also use the same materials in making the houses. For example they use the soil to color the wall and for the roof made from “Penyengker”and bamboo for all houses in the village.

Because of its location is in the high land, the atmosphere here is very fresh. In spite of its natural park, the local people are very friendly and welcome to the visitors. A lot of tourist who dropped by can enter their houses and enjoy the scenery when the local people make handy craft, so it will be a wonderful time to spend here.

This traditional culture village belongs to one of the village in Bali which held a lot of ritual activities. So there will be many activities that this village have, such as Ogalan raising ceremony and Ogalan lowering ceremony, Galungan etc. The right moment to visit this place is when the ritual activities held, so we can see directly its unique and it’s exclusive. Even though you can’t attend these ritual activities, you can enjoy the scenery of this village especially during the sun down, because at this time the local people usually go out from their houses after they had finished doing their routine activity which is from morning until the sun down. They will go out and gathered with the others, set their favorite rooster free and sometimes they do “Tajen” (a chicken match), but without putting a knife on the chicken’s leg. Meanwhile waiting for the sun down you can enjoy chicken porridge in Mr. Made retail shop which is very clean, cheap and mixed with the local people, it was an amazing experienced I will never forget for the rest of my life.

Photo & Text by Barry Kusuma

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Makassar, Sulawesi Indonesia.

Makassar The Sailor City
Photo and Text by: Barry Kusuma

Makassar City was one of the most influenced city in Indonesia until this very day. Makassar has been the most dominant center of trading activity in Indoesia since the 16th century. The town grew into one of the biggest city in all South East Asia. The reason for its fast development was due to policies which announced by Makassar’s Kings where trader were free to do their activities. VOC (Holland) didn’t have the right to conduct monopoly which gives opportunity to trader in Makassar to be independent. The trading system were very well-managed, thus supports from the Islam government and the people of Makassar who has a very high tolerancy for other religion (Islam was dominant at the time). Although Islam acted as the dominant religion, others such as Chistian were welcomed to trade. Not only that, they were also well treated and protected. This was the reason why Makassar became a very important trading center for most Malayan people and trader from Arab and Europe.

Makassar also has one famous harbor known as Paotere. It was a place where traders from all around the world came to meet. This place has been known since the 16th century. The harbor showed a significant development after Makassar became an Islamic kingdom which later on will make the harbor known through-out East and Asian Continent.

Paotere was located in north of Makassar. It was history’s mark of the kingdom of Gowa. We could reach it in Ujung Tanah, 20 minutes from Makassar. As written in history, 200 armada of Phinisian boat sailing for Malaka were deployed here in the 14th century. Nowadays, Paotere are still used as a trading center as well as civillian’s boat (Phinisian and Lambo) to rest a shore. There are also various booths offering fishing equipment, seafood restaurants and fishes to eat, just around the coner.

Makassar city—previously known as Ujung Pandang—was part of Tallo and Gowa kingdom which were located in the western beach of South Borneo cape. The city started as a small town. Its the home of Bugis and Makassar tribe which were famous for their way of controlling Phinisian boat and maritime skill.

As Makassar City grew to be the center of trading in East Indonesia, VOC (Holland) became more determined to undertake the harbor city and made it one of their own. The right to monopoly will make VOC bathe in fortune. It was only a matter of time before they finally have what they’ve always wanted. In 1667, Holland, supported by a Bugis Prince, Arung Palaka, attacked and occupied Makassar. Makassar then loost their privillage as an Independent cityan became VOC’s (Holland) sub-ordinate.

After Hooland occupied Makassar, they built a fortress as a memento of peace along with spices storage and an administration center which controlled all things related to the city. This fortress were also known as Fortress of Ujung Pandang or Fort Rotterdam. It is located in Ujung Pandang. The name Fort Rotterdam was taken after the hometown of Admiral Speelman, the man who succesfully undertook Makassar. In 1673 the fort was rebuilt into a defense fortress. For 300 years, the fortress had always been Holland’s main governing facility for South of Borneo. Trade Storage were built, along with armory and soldiers’ baracks.It was after 1937 the fort was given for civil use of art and culture center. We can visit the fort which now has become one of the most interesting site for domestic as well as foreign tourists.

Photo & Text by Barry Kusuma

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Kasada Bromo Ceremony, East Java Indonesia.

Kasada Bromo ceremony
Photo and Text by: Barry Kusuma

Bromo has very exotic and beautiful view that will never bored us even after coming for several times. The word “Bromo“ orginated from Sansekertaneese of “Brahma”, which has the meaning of “God among God”. Mount Bromo is currently active and is one of the most famous tourism site in East Java. Mount Bromo has 2.400 meter in height above the sea level.

We can enjoy the vast savanna in a natural mountain environment along with a mountain of sand and bushes. The most interesting view is when the sunrises between the fog in the mountain’s peak, Pananjakan, creates a beautiful and mystical atmosphere. To be able to reach it, we could rent a Hardtop vehicle which we can find near the motel. Or, if you want to enjoy the view, you can take a walk through a narrow road to Pananjakan. An experienced guide are highly recommended before you decide to go.

Beside the view, they are native tribe; the Tengger tribe. They are currently hold on to their ancient believe as they way of life. In the year of 1990 the Tengger have a population of 50,000 people. They live at the peak of Mount Semeru and near Kaldera. They were very honored by local villagers because of their way of life. They live their life in honesty and modesty. Legends said the Tengger tribe is the descendant of Roro Anteng (princess of Majapahit King) and Joko Seger (son of Brahmana, the Indian God). Their daily conversation uses an ancient Java dialect which has no stratum unlike common Java languages where every stratum has a slightly different usage of words.

Since the Majapahit Kingdom era, their living ground was held sacret because they were considered as devoted people from the palace.

The Tengger tribe held a ceremony known as Yadnya Kasada annually. This ceremony located at a temple right in the dip of mount Bromo, as they continue to the peak. The ceremony took place in the middle of the night, exactly when the full moon is at peak, on the month of Kasodo according to Javanese calendar.

The temple where they held the Kasada ceremony is called Pura Luhur Poten. Unlike other common Hindu believers who has a Candi—a very big temple—as their praying ground, the Poten temple is more like a block of sandy space. The origin of Kasada ceremony started out centuries in the past.

“In the times of Brawijaya dynasty from the Kingdom of Majapahit, the Queen was giving birth to a beautiful girl named Roro Anteng. After entering her maturity, the princess fell in love with a man from Brahmana Caste named Joko Seger. When the kingdom entered its declining period due to the growth of Islam religion in Java island, some of the loyal and royal families decided to move to the eastern side. Most of them entered Tengger mountain area, including Roro Anteng dan Joko Seger. After a period of time ruling the area, they still didn’t have any successor. All efforts had been made, but still none of them succeeded. They finally decided to go to the peak of Mount Bromo to meditate. At the time they heard a magical voice telling them to sacrifice their last born son in to the crater of Mount Bromo if they wanted to have children. And then they were given 25 kids. By the time to sacrifice the youngest son, they felt unease and compassion. And so they didn’t do the sacrifice. Their decision has made the God angry and literally licked their youngest son in to the crater. The youngest son told his parents and siblings to live their life to the fullest. And so every year, a sacrifice was thrown in to the crater”. The tradition continues until this very day.

If we wanted to see the ceremony, we would have to come eary before midnight. At that time, all the shaman will be busy preparing the ceremony. The day of the ceremony is a very crowded day. People from many places gathered here to see it for themselves. They do whatever it takes to be able to make it there. The road to the temple usually overload with cars and motor cycles, making it quite hard before reaching final destination. There is an alternative way to get there. It’s by foot, thus you can’t go alone due to the thickness of the fog. You have to join the native villagers so you can reach the temple safely.

The Kasada Bromo ceremony was also used for coronating the village’s shaman or medicineman from all nearby villages. Those whom are to be coronate must first memorise certain enchanting. Couple of days before the ceremony took place, they must prepare their offerings. In the 14th night of Kasada month, the people of Tengger brings their offerings in an ongkek (somekind of container) consists of various farm and cattle harvest. And then they wait at the temple for the elder shaman to come and start the enchanting. When the time comes, approximately at midnight, the shaman coronation in the middle of Bromo’s sea of sand begins. For the people of Tengger, the role of the shaman is very important. Their job is to lead ceremonial activities as well as weddings. Before they “graduated” they must truly memorise the enchanting and can perform them well enough.

After the ritual finished, all of the ongkek is brought to the edge of the crater, and then thrown inside as a symbol of sacrificedone by their elder. They threw some of their harvest as an appreciation and expression of gratitude to God. Inside the crater, there are a lot of beggars and tengger people who lived in the deeper area of Tengger. They come from far away places and built a place to stay many days before the ritual. They hoped to be able to acquire leftover from the offerings thrown inside the crater. Activities from Tengger villagers who lived in the deeper area can be seen during the ceremonial day of Kasada Bromo.

Photo & Text by Barry Kusuma

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The Beauty Aceh and Sabang, Sumatera Indonesia.

The Beauty Aceh and Sabang travel journey
Photo and Text by: Barry Kusuma

The people are very faithful to their religion. The location is near the shore. The views are exotic and have a long history intached. This has made Aceh as a special region with its own unique and characteristics.

The characters of Acehneese people are tend to be brave and stubborn, just like all people living at shores. That is the first impression I got when I stepped my foot on Aceh. Nevertheless that impression faded after I picked up my bag in the waiting room when they offered me some help sincerely and friendly. The journey from Jakarta to Aceh was quite tiring, although we travel using an aeroplane. There weren’t much flight directly to Aceh. We usually have to transit at Medan before continuing our trip to Aceh. That makes it 4-5 hours journey from Jakarta.

As we know, Islam entered Indonesia for the first time from the coasts of Aceh. Traders travel across Arab and Persia to Malaka Straits in the eastern islands. Aceh act as a repairshop for trader’s boats and ships. Sometimes they also do transactions with local people. But not until the end of the second century, Islam’s teaching spread unconsealed by Ulama—a person with vast knowledge on Islam—which most of them came from Persia and India. And so in the 225 AC, the Islamic Kingdom of Perlak was proclaimed. It was the first and biggest Islamic Kingdom in South East Asia. Its first King was the Great Sultan of Alaidin Saiyid Maulana Abdul Aziz Syah. Aceh was then known as trading harbour city.

Actually, I have a lot of tourism and historical sites in mind to visit, but I can’t asked much for I arrived at 4 PM. Along the way, I can still saw so many pieces which the recent Tsunami hit Aceh left, leaving the ground messed up and kill many lives.

Generally, the people of Aceh are farmers and fishermen. There are a lot of houses built near the shore and now they are nearly leveled with the ground. As for accommodation and hotel’s, Aceh has many Melati grade motels. The fee are various from 100,000 to 200,000 rupiahs. But after the Tsunami, there weren’t much left and wasn’t properly taken care of. Most of tourist planned on staying more than a day, rented local people’s houses. The fee was even cheaper, only 35,000 to 50,000 rupiahs.

The most cherished architecture in Aceh was the Great Masjid Baiturrahman. It’s located in the center of Banda Aceh right next to Aceh Market, the capital city of Aceh. The masjid was still standing tall and well maintained despite the Tsunami which had the building drowned in a 3 meters of water. It has became an icon for the people for it has saved so many lives in the natural disaster. This Great Masjid has a long historical journey. In 1873, the masjid had been buned by the Holland during the invasion. But the rage of Aceh people has made the Holland rebuilt it in 1875. The Masjid has 5 domes. The main dome is the tallest of them all. Inside of the masjid, you can see unique and interesting carvings. The beauty of its architecture as well as its toughness was worth the people’s proudness. In front of it, is a small pond covered with lotus, just 20 meters to the main gate. Eventhough the weather wasn’t perfect for taking photos I did it anyway and planned to come back when the time’s right to “capture” this beautiful masjid.

Banda Aceh also have a museum known as Musium Negeri which was located not far from the Great Masjid, only 3 Km and you can reach it in a matter of minutes. Inside the museum, there were parchments about culture, traditional dances, craftsmanship, carving, and local customs. There was one building that stood out among others in these block. You can see it even from across the street. It’s Rumoh Aceh, a traditional shelter house shaped like a stage with a very narrow door. It has a very beautiful and unique wood carving of Acehneese motif.

The traditional house looked very well maintained and the museum was also well taken care of. There are many ancient collections displayed in this museum. One of them was the bell of Cakra Donya, this bell was a gift from Admiral Ceng Ho in the year of 1414. This was a prove of Aceh as a harbour city for a very long time and as a very crowded harbour city visited from people around the globe.

Suddenly my mind remembered the name Naggroe Aceh Darrusalam. In native Acehneese language, it means “a peace and flourished Aceh”. Aceh’s flooded with their natural resources. This has made Holland interested to do business with Aceh. As time passes, Holland became more and more strengthening their grasp over Aceh. They monopolize and acquaire all of Aceh’s natural resources. It was said that Aceh is one of most difficult area ever to be occupied by the Holland among other area in Indonesia.

After I satisfied myself looking around Aceh’s culture and history, I went to other historical site. The only place in Aceh where it didn’t get wiped by the Tsunami was Gunongan. This place located in the middle of a city on a higher ground. Gunongan was a historical site from 1600. This building left by Sultan Iskandar Muda. In the past, the Kingdom of Aceh and the Kingdom of Malaya—as we know now as Malaysia—were very well acquainted. Gunongan was surrounded with a beautiful park. The structure has a hill and strong fort shape. At the first, I didn’t realize what does this building meant for due to the strange form it has. It’s unlike any other buildings. Right next to it, there was a museum containing the structure’s history.

In the year of 1608, Sultan Iskandar Muda had a wife whom he very much loved. His princess named Princess Phang misses her hometown where she can see hills in the surroundings. While in th palace, there weren’t much hills around. And so the Sultan built a fake mountain to match the princess’ hometown so that the princess would be happy again and forgets her hometown. The princess did forget her sadness and spent most of her time on the fake Gunongan hill during the whole afternoon.

It was noon already, how time flies… After exploring the city, we were very tired and hungry. We were craving for traditional Acehneese cooking. When we were in Jakarta, we’ve had tasted Aceh noodle. Now it’s time to taste the real thing! In addition, we will eat a crab. Hmmmh… just the image of the food has made us very hungry. The center for Acehneese food and beverages located in uptown area. During the day, this place was a crowded trading center. After night fall, it became a food court. One of Acehneese cooking’s characteristic was its spices with a hot taste on your tongue.

We’ve tried Aceh Noodle, Martabak (egg-based food mixed with meat and vegetables), Goat Kare and Pliu Soup. All of them were Acehneese specialty food. We ordered it all so that we can have a taste of them one by one. Aceh Noodle taste not so different than the one we’ve had in Jakarta. What tasted different was martabak. Here, Martabak has the form of mixed eggs with an addition of flour. The goat kare tasted great! The aroma of spices, the spicy kare and the strong taste of goat felt so delicious. For goat lovers, make sure not to miss them. The last food we tasted was Pliu Soup. This soup has a very intense coconut milk with one of a kind taste of Acehneese spices and spicy liquor. It made us more eager to eat more, accompanied by other food. It’s not just the place, but also the food that we were after. We would like to try the whole package everytime we visit a place, even if we missed only one specialty, our journey would feel incomplete.

The beach where visited that day was the Lhok Ngaa beach. It ‘s located in west side of Aceh. It took 40 minutes using a vehicle and the distance was 17 kilometers from the city. This beach was well known as a favourite place for Acehneese people to go. Unfortunately there were many buildings destroyed by the Tsunami. But it didn’t lessen my passion to admire the beauty of this beach. It’s so natural, untouched and smoth. The sandy beach and the thick trees as the background, covered by high hills.

In the beach, we can do a lot of activities such as fishing, sailing, diving, or even sunbathing. Not far from there, lies a cement factory, Andalas. By the time I was there, the factory was no longer in operation and currently being rebuilt. It was badly damaged due to the Tsunami. Lhook Ngaa beach was a gulf with small lake on the sides. Local villagers took advantage of them as their source of living. Those lakes completed the beauty of the beach. It was truly a whole package of beauty. The beach also had an international driving range, the Seulawah Internasional. It’s a shame that the driving range were an abandoned place. Possibly due to the conflict between the government and GAM (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka) has made this place a dangerous place. The surrounding area was also damaged by the Tsunami. Many hotels, restaurants, and houses were leveled to the ground.

In the area, I noticed several unusual event happened. Many houses was broke in to pieces, but many masjid and other religious places stand sturdy like nothing ever happened. At the Lampuuk beach I saw a masjid stood while other buildings beside it were torn apart. I thought that this must be the sign of God’s grace.

Now, many houses and buildings were reestablished. Many NGO’s (Non Governmental Organization) offered help for public facilities reestablishment. After we finished our touring, we planned to go to Weh Island. But before that, we must take a brake. We were headed for the house we rented and prepared ourself for the next day’s long journey.

It was still 07.00 AM and we were ready to go for Ulee Lhue dock. A boat was needed to reach the island. To beable to get to the island, we can do it from two docks. If we want to use a car, we should go from Malahayati dock, where there will be a ferry boat. The fee was 300.000 rupiahs and it took more than 4 hours of trip.On the other hand, at Ulee Lhuee, we could use a speed boat, the Pulo Rondo. But it was meant for passengers only. The ticket costed 50.000 rupiahs each and it took no more than an hour to reach Weh Island. And so we decided to take the Pulo Rondo because they were scheduled to leave at 09.00 AM. We’ve booked a car at Weh Island for 400.000 rupiahs a day.

Along side to the Ulee Lhuee dock, we also saw the remains of Tsunami. This territory was one of the most badly damaged area among other places closest to uptown. There were quite a lot of buildings which were rebuilt by foreign NGO’s, but there weren’t many people yet in the area. They were still felt certain trauma caused by the Tsunami attack. After we reached Ulee Lhuee dock, we paid the tickets for four people. As they were scheduled to leave in half an hour, we decided to look around a little bit. When the water becomes droughted, you can see bedrocks in several places of the dock. Beautiful scenery of greenish hills can be seen from a far along with a lighthouse leaving only it’s main construction soaring to the sky reaching 100 meters in height. There was also a mesjid stood out undamaged, unlike other buildings surrounding it which was shattered to pieces. The views never stop to astound me.

Soon, we were told to enter the boat because we were finally leaving the dock. I was chatting with the boat keeper, Mr. Dato. He told me that one of his neighbours who was lucky enough to survived the Tsunami attack told him about when it happened. During the Tsunami, there was a tidal wave with twice the height of the light house which I saw previously. The wave literally smashed the land and wiped it out clean. My spine trembles when I try to imagined how was it to be in that kind of situation.

The weather that day was clear, unlike the day before. It’s time for us to step our foot in Weh Island, one place which was the zero point kilometer of Indonesia. A monument was established as a mark for measuring Indonesia from Sabang to Merauke in Irian, by the government. We were eager to place our feet at the zero point kilometer and so we rushed there first. It took us one and a half hour to reach it. The road was a bit steep and wide, so the trip was convenient enough for us. During the trip, we can enjoy a beautiful panorama of hills and blue sea as well as groups of islands. We finally reached the monument which they were a guarding post next to it.
There were only one way up, and it’s only adequate for one car. It’s a different road to come back down. We paid 2000 rupiahs per person for the ticket and continue to the top. The road was very narrow with bushes on the sides. The car couldn’t go any faster. It was lucky for us there were no fallen trees blocking the way. Suddenly we were “hijacked” by a group of monkeys. Apparantely they were used to humans. They were asking for food, fortunately we didn’t have anything.

At the peak where the mark stood out, I can see the Sabang Island along with the blueish sea. We took some pictures before leaving for the most beautiful beach in all Sabang, the Iboih and Gapang beach. When we got there, we were blinded by the beauty of the white sandy beach. These sands were so smooth, the water were filled with beautiful and colorful searocks. There were also pretty fishes swimming around. A lot of foreign tourists come to visit this place particularly to dive and surf. I felt like touring around the island. There were boats for rent. We can even enjoy underwater view! We rented a boat with a clear glass at the center so we can see to through the water. We were charged 80.000 rupiahs per hour. Along the way, we watched so many fishes and searocks. The colorful searocks covered almost all of seabed accompanied by other sea creatures. The water were very clear. You can sea the greenery of seaweeds under the shallow water. Sabang Island was the main destination for many foreign tourists. They came just to enjoy the natural scenery and underwater view. It was said to be one of the most beautiful underwater view out of all Indonesia. Unfortunately, many tourists no longer interested to come due to military emergency status.

The facility offered in Iboih beach was very comprehensive. You can find expensive Hotels as well as economical ones, clean and hygene restaurants, praying facilities, and many more. This has made tourism potential of the beach grew. We rested and ate for a while before continuing our trip. We don’t have much time on this island because we didn’t plan to spend the night.

The Pulo Rondo would returned to Banda Aceh by 05.00 PM. It was already 02.00 PM and the trip back at the dock would take an hour. Next, we went to Sabang City. We saw many luxurious cars on our way to used cars trading place. Luxurious cars were sold at cheap price due to the fact that this area was free of tax. Cars like BMW, Mercedes Benz, and other European cars were sold at half price compared to Jakarta. But, don’t even think about leaving the island using this car, because you would be charged 100% out of the car’s price as tax.

Eventhough Sabang Island didn’t get to escaped the Tsunami, this is the only place with less damage. It was caused by two steep ocean floors near Weh Island which hold most of the Tsunami’s pressure. Only 11 lives were swiped and some buildings were leveled.

We finally back at Balohan harbour. We wished we could stay here longer to enjoy the view. Someday we’ll definitely come back to this beautiful and exotic place. We hoped peace and secure would cover Aceh soon so that we could enjoyed the beauty of this island together.

Photo & Text by Barry Kusuma

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Tabot Ceremony, Padang West Sumatera Indonesia.

The Tabot Ceremony
Photo and Text by: Barry Kusuma

When Hussein, grandchild of Prophet Muhammad, slained at Karbala Field by the army of Yazid bin Muawiyah from Ummayah dynasty, it has left a deep scar in history for the world’s Moslem people. In Pariaman, West Sumatera, the event was annually remembered by conducting a ceremony called Tabuik.

It’s originated from the word ‘tabut’. It was an Arabic language which means “to carry”. The ceremony was a tradition of certain people in the west coastal area of West Sumatra which has been passed on generations. The ceremony was held on the day of the Asura which dated on 10th Muharram in the Islamic calendar.

Symbol of Grief
It was said that Tabuik brought by a Syiah believer from the Middle East to Pariaman. It was a token of Karbala war. Tabuik was also a symbol and expression of grief as well as honoring the Great Prophet Muhammad’s grandchild, Hussein. Due to its uniqueness and merryness each time the event took place, local government has included the ceremony in local annual tourism agenda.

Two weeks before Tabuik, citizen of Pariaman are busy with preparation. They made several foods, cookies of various kind, and a Tabuik. Some even go on a feast to complete the ritual.
The name Tabuik was also used by one of the most important component in this event. Tabuik is made of bamboo and has a horse with human head shaped with wings on the back. Moslems called it Buraq, considered as a holy animal. At the back of Tabuik, a 15 meter pole was put. Tabuik then given colors before the people get to carry through out the city.

On the destined day, Pariaman city would be crowded by participants and spectators from 06.00 AM. Everyone gathered at the city’s center. While others gathered at the side of the road to see how the ceremony turned out. Local government officials also come to see this most colossal ceremony in West Sumatra.

When the time comes, Tabuik started to be lifted and the carnival started. One Tabuik was lifted by 40 people! Behind them, were a group of people with traditional clothing carrying percussion such as drums. They were properly walking in line. All participants would shout “Hayya Hussain! Hayya Hussain!”, along the way to show their respect for the Great Prohet’s grandchild. Once in a while, the carnival stoped and several men were performing traditional Minang’s martial art moves accompanied by the sound of percussions.

When the sun sets, the carnival ends. Both Tabuik were brought to the sea shore and released to the open sea. Many people believed by doing so would also “throw away” their bad luck. It was also a moment where most people believed as the timefor the Buraq to come home along with all the offerings.

Compared to the previous Tabuik which was held every decade, the Tabuik as we know was very much different. In the past, Tabuik were made by two different groups. And then they would fight. What usually happens is the fight grew into fight between the two groups, not only their Tabuik.

Unique Cultural Attraction
Nowadays, the violent element has been dismantled. The attraction was directed to be more of a cultural attraction for tourists. Aside the attraction, tourists can also make their way through multiple stands along side the carnival. You should get yourself some salaluk and rakik maco, Pariaman’s specialty foods you can find easily near the beach.Unfortunately, the Tabuik ceremony hasn’t been directed properly, especially in terms of funding.

This year’s Tabuik celebration would be held on February. The event was almost canceled. The local government had already announced it in the mass media. Luckilly the people of Pariaman were very determined and so the Tabuik could continue its annual tradition for us to see.

Photo & Text by Barry Kusuma

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Sunday, 20 January 2008

Tenganan Village, Bali Indonesia.


Photo and Text by Barry Kusuma

Tenganan is a small village in Bali which has its own unique. It is located in a remote area in Karang Asem Province. To be able to reach this place, you must take ground way which is around 60 km from the center of town Denpasar, Bali. This village remains traditional because it can survive from the globalization era caused by advanced technology. Even thought the media and the electricity facilities already exist in this area but they still uphold their nature culture so it remains the way it used to be, which is exotic. It is unchangeable because the local people have a traditional custom regulation which is called “Awig-awig”. This custom had been written down since 11 century and already renew in 1842.

This village spread around 1500.000 ha width. When the tourist spot expanded rapidly in Bali such as Kuta beach, Amed beach this place becoming more prestige by the present of hotels, beautiful beaches, cafes and the night life. Tenganan village still remain unchangeable, even though the era keep on changing it still held its 3 old meeting houses which are worn out and the grid traditional houses which has the same feature physically one to another. The heritance of the villagers in this place are being well taking care of by marriage among them. Therefore this village remain traditional and exotic even though the community of Tenganan excepted outside culture, but it still unchangeable because Awig-awig culture regulation that play as an important part to the Tenganan villagers community.

This village has a unique entrance gate. To be able to enter this village, the visitors have to pass a ticket-counter; it’s not a must that we pay, because the amount of the money that you give as a voluntary donation to the ticket officer who guard the ticket-counter. It was built Semi permanently. Before entering this village, the visitors have to pass a narrow gate which is enough to be passed by one person. The income of the villagers can’t be measure because they still use the barter system among them. Over here there are plenty of trees, rice field; buffalos which are set loose in front of their yard.

To increase the potential of tourism object of this place, the villagers sell their handy craft to the tourist. As we step our food to this place we can see the artificial shops. They sell a lot of the villager’s handy craft for souvenirs, which are bamboo plaited, wood carving, mini painting which made on lontar leaves that had been burn and the famous cotton from this place that called Gerinsing cotton. This cotton is very unique because with only in a glance look we can tell directly that this cotton is a hand-made. It is very expensive and only produces by the local people. It takes time to make this kind of cotton, because the colors on it came from a special tree that needs a special treatment. Even though there are a lot of visitors come to this place but they have less interest in buying the souvenirs, stated by I Made, a mini lontar leaves painter.

Staying in this village make us feel secure and peaceful. The villagers are very friendly and welcome. We can go round this place and see the local people daily routine activities. The best time for us to visit this place is during the afternoon because at this time the local people had finished doing their routine activities and they usually gathered in front of their houses and sometimes they go out together and hang out with other villagers. At that time we can see and notice their behavior, how they still uphold their tradition culture. So they deserve to be called Balinga (original Balinese people).

Photo & Text by Barry Kusuma

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