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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Bali:: Batubulan

Bali, Gianyar, Batubulan. Batubulan is a Balinese center for stonecarving. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Bali, Gianyar, Batubulan. Batubulan is a Balinese center for stonecarving. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Batubulan means “moonstone”, and if you like to see or buy any works of stone while you’re on Bali, then Batubulan in the Gianyar region is the place. You will pass this village if you drive from Denpasar to Ubud, it is hard not to notice the kilometers of displayed statues, Buddha figures, demons and other mythical figures, all carved in stone.

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Bali:: Tirta Gangga

Bali, Karangasem. The Tirta Gangga water palace. Inside the palace there are two bathing pools open for the public. This one is for the locals, to the left of this there is a pool open for tourists. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Bali, Karangasem. The Tirta Gangga water palace. Inside the palace there are two bathing pools open for the public. This one is for the locals, to the left of this there is a pool open for tourists. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Tirta Gangga is a small village built on an altitude of about 500 meters, seven km northwest of Amlapura. Tirta Gangga means “water from the Ganges”, and the place is known for it’s “water palace” and beautiful surroundings.

In many people’s opinion this is among the most beautiful areas on Bali.

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Bali:: Tenganan village

Bali, Karangasem, Tenganan.  A traditional Bali Aga village. Tenganan is located on the fertile hills stretching up to Gunung Agung. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Bali, Karangasem, Tenganan. A traditional Bali Aga village. Tenganan is located on the fertile hills stretching up to Gunung Agung. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

When Majapahit conquered Bali in 1343 there were some Balinese who did not accept this change of rule, and therefore built their own villages in remote areas. The descendants of these people are today known as Bali Aga or Bali Mula, meaning “the original Balinese”. They still live in villages like Tenganan in East Bali or Trunyan at the shores of the Batur lake.

Many of the old traditions are still maintained, and it is still possible to see their unique ceremonies and dance performances. The Tenganan people are convinced they are descendants of the gods. Even if the Bali Aga people today are Hindus they still practice a religion which is partly a heritage from pre-Hindu times, with obvious Polynesian characteristics.

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