GAIL’S INDONESIA TRIP – May 2012
After arriving in Jakarta, and overnighting at the Mandarin Oriental Jakarta, which is right in the heart of the city we explored the Old Harbour of Sunda Kepapa. You can see traditional Bugis schooners and pass the Pasar Ikan (fish market). Then we were off to Yogyakarta for our stay at the Amanjiwo, and to visit one of Southeast Asia’s most admired Buddhist relics, Borobudur. For centuries it lay forgotten and has only recently been restored, with its million and more cut-stone blocks, 1,460 stone relief panels and 504 life-size Buddha statues, it is a real treasure and something which should not be missed. If you can, rise early and view the sunrise at Borobudur, it’s spectacular, or you can purchase special passes and see the sunset when all the crowds have left. We spent about four hours there and really enjoyed the beauty of this remarkable and spiritual place.
The other highlight of our trip was our excursion to see the funeral processions of Tana Toraja. We departed from Ujung Pandang in the early morning for our eight hour journey to Rantepao, the largest town in Toraja, and our base for the next two nights. The ride is beautiful with spectacular views of the coastline, verdant rice fields, and the traditional houses of the Bugis people. The Torajans are known to keep the deceased, which are wrapped in several layers of cloths, in their homes for up to two years until they have collected enough money to provide a proper burial procession/celebration.
An elaborate funeral procession is a sign of status and wealth. This procession usually lasts up to four days, with the last including an animal sacrifice, which is done to appease the deceased, and based on our itinerary we got to see this part of the procession. Another fascinating part of this ritual is the elaborate caskets which they build and then use to carry the deceased through the village. We also visited the graves which are usually carved out of solid rock or set in caves and have statues standing guard.
We then flew to Denpasar and transferred for our stay in Ubud. In Ubud we experienced the terraced rice fields, which this area is known for. It was fascinating to see them plant and harvest the fields, along with the pure beauty of them.
We also went to the Ubud market, which is lively and filled with activity and the largest in Bali and allows you to get a sense of the Balinese people’s rituals. And then it was time to return home, but wonderful memories of an extraordinary country will remain for a lifetime.