Bali:: Gianyar, the richest district on Bali

Bali, Gianyar. Some of the many large statues in this area. Close to the center of Gianyar city. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Bali, Gianyar. Some of the many large statues in this area. Close to the center of Gianyar city. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Traditionally Gianyar has been the richest district on Bali, today about half the population here works in the tourist industry. Gianyar city is the administrative center of the district, while Ubud is the cultural capital and has the largest population. Gianyar city is located about 23 km from Denpasar, and is a junction for north and east bound traffic. Around Bedulu, between the Petanu and Pakrisan rivers, is a 10 km long belt of land known as “the land between the rivers”.

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Java:: Madura

Java, East Java, Madura. Small village in the Sampang regency on south Madura with traditional vessels (from helicopter) (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Java, East Java, Madura. Small village in the Sampang regency on south Madura with traditional vessels (from helicopter) (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Madura is a large island outside East Java, 5.290 square kilometers, about 160 km long and 35 km wide. It is separated from Surabaya by the narrow Madura strait, and is administered as a part of the East Java district. Main income is fishing, salt, cattle and agriculture. The local capital is Pamekasan. Number of inhabitants is about 3-4 million, and the population is considered to be an unique ethnic group like Javanese and Sundanese. Madurese is also a separate language.

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Bali:: Goa Gajah – The Elephant Cave

Bali, Gianyar, Goa Gajah. The elephant cave. The cave entrance area. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Bali, Gianyar, Goa Gajah. The elephant cave. The cave entrance area. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

The mysterious Goa Gajah (elephant cave) is one of the oldest relics on Bali. The exact time of origin is uncertain, but archeologists estimate the cave to have been built around year 1022 AD. This was long before Majapahit entered the island, and also hundreds of years before the first Europeans set foot here.

The site is a mix of Hindu- and Buddhist symbols, among them the cave with the entrance in an artistically carved cliff, a bathing pool with fountains, a statue of the Buddhist goddess Hariti, as well as several other Buddha figures.

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Java:: Surabaya, city of heroes

Java, East Java, Surabaya. These ships, called Pinisi, are unique to Indonesia. This is still a common way of transport. Kalimas harbor. (Bjorn Grotting)

Surabaya. These ships, called Pinisi, are unique to Indonesia. This is still a common way of transport. Kalimas harbor. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Surabaya is East Java’s largest and Indonesia’s second largest city with a population somewhere between 2 and 3 million. Traditionally the city is one of the most important commercial port and trading centers in South East Asia. The harbor is Indonesia’s second largest after Tanjung Priok in Jakarta, protected by the Madura island just east of Surabaya.

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Maluku:: Wetar and Liran

Maluku, South East Maluku, Pulau Liran. Liran is located just north of East Timor. The larger island Wetar in the background, looking east (from helicopter). (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Maluku, South East Maluku, Pulau Liran. Liran is located just north of East Timor. The larger island Wetar in the background, looking east (from helicopter). (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Wetar is located just 56 km north of Timor’s northeastern coast. The island is 80 km long in east-west direction and 45 km wide in north-south direction, area about 3.600 sq. km. The interior of the island is mountainous and covered by rain forest, highest mountain is 1.412 m. The climate is in the wet season humid with lots of rain, while the rest of the year there can be long periods of drought.

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Nusa Tenggara:: Sumba island

East Nusa Tenggara, Sumba, Pulau Mangudu. Pulau Mangudu island south of Sumba (from helicopter). (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

East Nusa Tenggara, Sumba, Pulau Mangudu. Pulau Mangudu island south of Sumba (from helicopter). (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

South of Flores, between Sumbawa and Timor there is an island where the traditional customs are among the best preserved in Nusa Tenggara. This is Sumba, a relatively large island, 11.153 sq. km. with a population that reaches about 600.000, the name of the capital is Waingapu. Much of the island consists of a flat, elevated plateau about 600m above sea level, where the coast is mostly steep and rocky. The island is divided in two regions, west and east, along ethnical and cultural borders.

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Sumatra:: The high hills of Bukittinggi

West Sumatra, Bukittinggi. Sianok canyon (Ngarai Sianok) is a steep valley (ravine) located in Bukittinggi, about 15 km long. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

West Sumatra, Bukittinggi. Sianok canyon (Ngarai Sianok) is a steep valley (ravine) located in Bukittinggi, about 15 km long. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Bukittinggi, north of Padang in the Minangkabau highlands, sits at an altitude of approx. 920 m. The name Bukittinggi means high hill or top. This is a charming city with a cooler climate than Padang, and is one of the most important cities of the Minang people, greatly influenced by their traditional culture. The name “Minangkabau” is put together by “menang” (victory) and “kerbau” (ox or water buffalo).

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Wildlife:: The Tapir

Tapir

Tapir

Tapirs inhabit jungle and forest regions of South America, Central America, and Southeast Asia. There are four species of Tapirs: the Brazilian tapir, the Malayan tapir (which we find in Indonesia), Baird’s tapir and the Mountain tapir. All four species of tapir are classified as endangered or vulnerable. Their closest relatives are the other odd-toed ungulates, including horses and rhinoceroses.

Size varies between types, but most tapirs are about 2 metres long, stand about a metre high at the shoulder, and weigh between 150 and 300 kg. Coats are short and range in color from reddish-brown to grey to nearly black, with the notable exceptions of the Malayan Tapir, which has a white saddle-shaped marking on its back, and the Mountain Tapir, which has longer, woolly fur. All tapirs have oval, white-tipped ears, rounded, protruding rumps with stubby tails, and splayed, hoofed toes, with four toes on the front feet and three on the hind feet, which help them walk on muddy and soft ground. Baby tapirs of all types have striped-and-spotted coats for camouflage. Females have a single pair of mammary glands.

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Kalimantan:: Slash-and-Burn and Budidaya Rotan in East Kalimantan

Karim and his wife, splitting rattan on his porch in the village Rantau Layung, Pasir

Karim and his wife, splitting rattan on his porch in the village Rantau Layung, Pasir

Forests in Asia and throughout the tropical world are being rapidly transformed through slash-and-burn. Increasing population pressure has made this ancient system unsustainable in many areas. In lesser populated areas slash-and-burn, or shifting agriculture, is less problematic and perhaps even the only viable form of utilisation of indigenous peoples natural resources.

Shifting cultivation is a form of “sequential agroforestry”, where crops and trees take turns in occupying the same land. Two essential aspects necessitate this sequential system from the farmer’s viewpoint; nutrient recycling and weed management. Probably the most widely known system of this type is traditional swidden cultivation, or slash-and-burn agriculture, which is the most extensive farming system in the humid tropics.

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Bali:: Balinese Dance and Drama

Arja drama actor in a Balinese blessing ceremony

Arja drama actor in a Balinese blessing ceremony

Arts on Bali flourished already centuries ago, even before the warring but artistic Balinese kingdoms of the 16th century. Inscriptions say that already around 1000 AD Bali had puppet masters, poetic singers and musicians. These artistic activities and endeavors were further patronized by the feudal lords and sustained by their religious rituals. Economic stability of the people thanks largely to the success of agriculture gave the Balinese plenty of spare time to practice and develop the arts.

Bali is a relatively small island and was an isolated place for centuries, yet it created delicate, advanced and many varieties of dance and drama forms. There are magical dance-dramas where we can feel the magic as well as the atmosphere of the island, holy dances and dramas which can only be performed in the most sacred part of the temple, dances which display ultimate beauty and charm, grand dance-dramas that is performed by more than one hundred dancers as well as dynamic and powerful dances.

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