Nusa Tenggara:: Sawu, a remote island

Pulau Sawu, East Nusa Tenggara. A village with traditional houses built by timber and leafs from palm trees. A group of curiously waving people can be seen in the lower center of the image. This is from southern Sawu (from helicopter) (Bjorn Grotting)

Pulau Sawu, East Nusa Tenggara. A village with traditional houses built by timber and leafs from palm trees. A group of curiously waving people can be seen in the lower center of the image. This is from southern Sawu (from helicopter, photo Bjorn Grotting)

When I worked in Indonesia some years ago some of my time was spent operating survey instruments onboard a helicopter. My best memories from that time are from flights we did in the more remote areas. We saw some fascinating scenery and flew by these small remote villages where people always came out waving to us. Well, not everyone was waving, we also saw people taking cover, not knowing what to expect. Luckily for them we were quite harmless, just surveying their land.

One of these remote places was the island of Sawu west of Timor in the province of East Nusa Tenggara. Flying by these, for us, primitive buildings or huts with apparently happy people cheering at us makes me wonder how diverse human life still is on this small planet, even in the 21st century.

Well, enough of that, the rest is some facts about Sawu;
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Sumatra:: The Siberut experience

A river on Siberut island in Indonesia.

A river on Siberut island in Indonesia.

The first thing I saw was green. Green grass, green leaves, green trees, there was earth everywhere. Between short scraggly grasses and luxuriant ferns, palm trees rose from the ground, uniformly arched; their leaves languidly reaching to the sky in perfect circles. Enhanced by the pale steamy sky, the smell of rain and grass emanated from the air, tingling my taste buds, filling my lungs and sending cool, flowing shivers down my spine.

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Sulawesi:: Gorontalo

Bone River near the National Park

Bone River near the National Park

Gorontalo is the newest province on Sulawesi. Recently separated from North Sulawesi, it covers a mere 12,000 sq. km. with a population of 840,000. The area is composed of extensive coastlines, rugged mountains, and a large central valley almost entirely surrounded by steep slopes. At its center is beautiful Lake Limboto. Because of its narrowness, those flying into the new Jalaluddin Airport can view both northern and southern coastlines simultaneously.

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Nusa Tenggara:: Central Lombok

Nusa Tenggara, Lombok, Mataram. The Pura Lingsar temple with the entrance to the Wektu Telu temple. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Nusa Tenggara, Lombok, Mataram. The Pura Lingsar temple with the entrance to the Wektu Telu temple. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

The fertile area south of the mighty Rinjani mountain has several interesting villages, beautiful landscapes and green rice fields. Most of the villages here are populated by Sasak, one often visited village is Tetebatu at the foot of Gunung Rinjani, from here the view to this mountain and the southern part of the island is great.

A few km from Tetebatu you will find the Taman Wisata Tetebatu monkey forest with it’s black monkeys and waterfalls, among them the popular Air Terjun Jukut waterfall. According to the locals the water from Air Terjun Jukut will give increased hair growth.

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Sulawesi:: Sangihe and Talaud islands

A unique bamboo brass band from Sangihe

A unique bamboo brass band from Sangihe

Sangihe and Talaud are a chain of islands stretching north from Sulawesi in the direction of the Philippines. There are many active volcanoes here and a very fertile soil. Much of the products are sent by boat to Manado, like coconuts, rattan, nutmeg and ebony. The total land area is 813 sq. km, population about 240.000. The largest islands are Sangihe, Siau, Biaro and Tahulandang.

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Java:: The Shipwreck Of Panaitan

Map of the Sunda Strait

Map of the Sunda Strait with the Panaitan Island at the lower left, just outside the Ujung Kulon National Park.

It is Friday at noon; the team has already arrived in Sumur, a sleepy fishermen town on the West coast of Banten. KM Samudra and her crew are ready to receive the group on board. A small motorized skiff shuttles between the shore and the boat loaded with logistics, equipments, and people. A team consisting of marine biologists, cameramen, and photographers is set up for this particular survey.

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Bali:: Tirta Empul temple

Bali, Gianyar, Tirtha Empul. Pura Tirtha Empul temple close to Tampaksiring. The holy water pours into a pool. The water is said to have magical powers, and all the water for cremations on Bali is taken from this spring. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Bali, Gianyar, Tirtha Empul. Pura Tirtha Empul temple close to Tampaksiring. The holy water pours into a pool. The water is said to have magical powers, and all the water for cremations on Bali is taken from this spring. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

This important temple one km north of the Tampaksiring village was founded as early as 962 AD. It is not as spectacular as Gunung Kawi a few km’s away, but absolutely worth a visit. Even if this is one of the oldest sites on Bali much of the structures are relatively new, it was completely restored in 1969. People from all over Bali come here to take a bath in the holy water for good health and good luck. The crystal clear water surfaces in a pool which, according to old traditions, is the Balinese Fountain of Eternal Youth. The pool is therefore protected by a wall. The surfacing water origins from the Batur lake via underground rivers.

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Sumatra:: The North Sumatra Triangle

Indonesia, Sumatra. Samosir. A Batak house is built on stilts, made of wood (without nails) and roofed with sugar palm fibre, or unfortunately today more often rusting corrugated iron. The style vary from region to region, but the basics are the same. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Indonesia, Sumatra. Samosir. A Batak house is built on stilts, made of wood (without nails) and roofed with sugar palm fibre, or unfortunately today more often rusting corrugated iron. The style vary from region to region, but the basics are the same. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

The North Sumatra Triangle — a paradise for budget tourists. “Unity in Diversity” is the national motto of Indonesia. There are over 300 tribal-ethnic groups living on 6,000 islands. The remaining 11,000 islands are uninhabited. The larger islands are Java, Sumatra, Irian Jaya and Kalimantan. Kalimantan comprises two-thirds of the island of Borneo, the other one-third being East Malaysia (Sarawak and Sabah) and the Sultanate of Brunei.

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Java:: Bogor, city of rain

Indonesia, Java, Bogor. Istana Bogor is one of 6 Presidential Palaces in Indonesia. A herd of spotted deer can be seen inside the walls. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Indonesia, Java, Bogor. Istana Bogor is one of 6 Presidential Palaces in Indonesia. A herd of spotted deer can be seen inside the walls. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Bogor was by the Dutch during the colonial era called Buitenzorg (means “without a care”). Governor General van Imhoff built his country estate by the same name here as early as 1745, and it became a favorite place of retreat for later governors as well. Sir Stamford Raffles made Bogor his country home during the short British rule of Indonesia from 1811 to 1816.

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Java:: Javanese identity

Indonesia, Java, Jakarta. View from MONAS, a lift runs to te top of the monument. Jakarta skyline, looking south. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Indonesia, Java, Jakarta. View from MONAS, a lift runs to te top of the monument. Jakarta skyline, looking south. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

There were approximately 70 million Javanese in the early 1990s, the majority of whom lived in East Java and Central Java and the rest of whom lived on Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and other islands. Altogether, some 100 million people lived on Java. Although many Javanese expressed pride at the grand achievements of the illustrious courts of Surakarta and Yogyakarta and admired the traditional arts, most Javanese tended to identify not with that elite tradition, or even with a lineage or a clan, but with their own villages (see Early History and The Coming of Islam).

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