Bali : Kecak Dances

Kecak dances is the most unique Balinese dance which is not accompanied by orchestra/gambelan but by choir of seventy men it has its origin in an old ritual dances, ‘ Sanghyang or trance dance. In Sanghyang dance a person in a state of trance communicate with deities and ancestors. Using the dancers as a medium the deities and ancestors convey their wishes. In 1930’s the old Ramayana was included into the dances. Briefly the story runs as follows :

Due to wise prince of Ayodya Rama the legal heir to the throne of Ayodya was exilied from the realm of his father Dasarata, accompanied by his wife and his younger brother Laksmana they went into A forest called Dandaka .While they are in the forest the demon king Rahwana found them and lusted after the beautiful Sita, accompanied by his prime minister Marica, they made a trick to steal Sita. Using his magic power Marica transform himself into golden deer. Disguised as a golden deer they succeed in luring Rama and Lasmana away from Sita. Rahwana making use of this opportunity, kidnapped Sita and took her to his palace Alengka. Discovering the deception Rama and Laksmana set out a rescue Sita from clutches of the demon king Rahwana assisted by huge army of monkeys under command of their king Hanoman. Rama succeed in getting his wife back safely.


Komodo National Park (Comodo Island)

Komodo National Park lies in the Wallacea Region of Indonesia, identified by WWF and Conservation International as a global conservation priority area. The Park is located between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores at the border of the Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) and Nusa Tenggara Barat (NTP) provinces. It includes three major islands, Komodo, Rinca and Padar, and numerous smaller islands together totaling 603 km2 of land. The total size of Komodo National Park is presently 1,817 km2. Proposed extensions of 25 km2 of land (Banta Island) and 479 km2 of marine waters would bring the total surface area up to 2,321 km2

Komodo National Park was established in 1980 and was declared a World Heritage Site and a Man and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1986. The park was initially established to conserve the unique Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), first discovered by the scientific world in 1911 by J.K.H. Van Steyn. Since then conservation goals have expanded to protecting its entire biodiversity, both marine and terrestrial.
The majority of the people in and around the Park are fishermen originally from Bima (Sumbawa), Manggarai, South Flores, and South Sulawesi. Those from South Sulawesi are from the Suku Bajau or Bugis ethnic groups. The Suku Bajau were originally nomadic and moved from location to location in the region of Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara and Maluku, to make their livelihoods. Descendents of the original people of Komodo, the Ata Modo, still live in Komodo, but there are no pure blood people left and their culture and language is slowly being integrated with the recent migrants. 
Little is known of the early history of the Komodo islanders. They were subjects of the Sultanate of Bima, although the island’s remoteness from Bima meant its affairs were probably little troubled by the Sultanate other than by occasional demand for tribute.


Rumah Gadang Minangkabau

Traditional House
Minangkabau Traditional house is called 'Rumah Gadang' that means big house or Rumah Adat that means customary house. It is called Rumah Gadang, because of its big size, but it refers to the big function of the house it self. Rumah Gadang in Minangkabau belongs to all members of relatives along the mother's line called 'kaum'. The function is as the place for all traditional ceremonies like wedding party or inauguration of a head of clan. The original traditional house is made of wood and bamboo for the back wall. The roof is made of palm vibe. It is about 12 to 20 meters long and 6 to 8 meters wide the position of floor is two to two and half meter above the ground.

The location of a traditional house stretch from west to east, while the numbers of the rooms are 3,5,7,9 & even though 17. The construction is expended up with a horn shape roof. The roof looks like the horn of buffalo with 4 to 6 points stretch along the house and a point in addition forward for the front door and ladder. For the expanding form of the construction, there is no any right angle connection to the pillars with the horizontal bars of the house. Both, the upper and lower horizontal bars of the building.

The inside of the house is divided into 4 parts. They are living quarters along one side of that house, which consist of five or more rooms; another side in front of the rooms is a hall for meeting. In some houses, the meeting hall made with a raised floor as the place for the household in a meeting. At both ends of the house are rooms with a higher floor called 'Anjuang'. The rooms at Anjuang are used only for a special occasion, and usually used by a newly married daughter of the family.
The Traditional House is difference based on their clan:
1. Bodi Chaniago traditional houses.
2. The house has smooth floor and doesn't have anjuang.
3. Koto Piliang traditional houses
4. The house has anjuang.

The traditional house based on their shape:
1. Rumah gadang Rajo Babanding.
 Consists of 5 rooms, 30 poles, 4 slightly horn shapes

2.Rumah Gadang Rajo Maharam.
Consists of 40 poles. It is called Gajah Maharam because the whole shapes look like elephant that sitting on the floor with the legs together and bent back beside the body.

3.Rumah Gadang Sarambi Papek
It is smaller than Rumah Gadang Rajo Babanding and consists of 3,4,5 rooms coinciding with the numbers of pole and there is no "paserek" and bedroom here.

In front of the traditional house stands rice barns used to keep food supply namely:
Sitinjau Lauik
Located on the left side with 6 poles and functioned as paddy storage to provide the common traditional need of expense.
Located on the right side with 6 poles and functioned as paddy storage for daily need.
Sitangka Lapa
Located on the left side with 4 poles and has function as paddy storage for disaster.

The traditional house wall and the rice barns are adorned with colorful carving, that very interesting and has a special meaning reflecting to Minang Philosophy "Alam Takambang jadi Guru" means the whole nature becomes the teachers.


Bandung : Mt. Tangkuban Perahu

Mt. Tangkuban Perahu is Bandung's most famous tourist volcano just 28 km north of the city. This volcano offers many places to see and explore. Whether you look into the huge crater or hike down into it, stroll through the forest on its slopes, or simply enjoy the splendid panoramic view, Mt. Tangkuban Perahu is an interesting destination that everyone in the Bandung area is fond of visiting. When seen from Bandung, Mt. Tangkuban Perahu has a distinctive shape, like an upside down boat. Tangkuban Perahu means, in fact, "up-turned boat" This peculiar shape has stimulated the fantasy of the Sundanese people from early times as expressed in the Legend of Sangkuriang.  

Geologically, Mt. Tangkuban Perahu has played a significant role in the development of the Parahyangan highlands. Eruptions have contributed immensely to the hills north of Bandung through lava flowing into the valleys and hardening into rock, thus forming big cliffs over which waterfalls leap. Likewise, mud flows have formed a semi-circular cone of gentle gradient (what geologists call "a fan"), which is now a mass that blocked the valley of the ancient Citarum River near present day in Padalarang (some 18 km west of Bandung), this caused a lake to form covering the whole Bandung plain. 

Though the mountain appears peaceful, mild eruptions occurred in 1969, when Kawah Ratu spewed ash and barrages 500 m high. As recently as September 1992 it was closed to the public for a few days because unusually high seismic activity lead volcanologists to fear a new eruption. On the mountain's northern flank is an area called Death Valley, so named for its frequent accumulation of poisonous gases. On a reasonably clear day, from Kawah Ratu, the main crater, you can see not only the mountain range to the east, with Mt. Bukittunggul as its highest peak (2,209 m), but also two other in a northeasterly direction. The lower and nearer one is Mt. Tampomas ( 1,684 m) just north of Sumedang some 40 km away. To the right and about 90 km away is Mt. Ciremai close to Cirebon on the north coast. At 3,078 m, Mt. Ciremai is West Java's tallest mountain. At the foot of Mt. Tangkuban Perahu you see the Ciater tea plantation covering the rolling hills. Farther to the left are the northern coastal plains of Java, and on an extremely clear day you may even be able to see the Java Sea beyond.  

Kawah Ratu, which means "Queen's Crater", is today just a big gray hole which sometimes has a pool of water at its center. Poisonous gases sometimes accumulate in Kawah Ratu, thus making it somewhat of a risk to descend to the crater floor. Beyond the saddled shaped depression on the far side of Kawah Ratu is the still active Kawah Upas, the oldest crater on the mountain. On the very far western cliff you see a spot where all vegetation has been destroyed by constantly rising sulphurous vapors. On the crater walls, note the various layers of material consisting of rock, sand, and pebbles. Overtime, new craters have formed again and again in a rather consistent shift from west to east. The most well known of these is the Domas crater, but also there are other smaller ones in jungle on the mountain's northeastern flank.


Randai Dance (West Sumatra)

Randai is a form of theatre of the Minangkabau in West Sumatra. It involves a kind of circular dancing, called galombang. The movements of the dance are based on those of the martial art, pencak silat. Further, Randai involves a dialogue between actors. A third element of Randai is sung poetry. The dancers may sing the texts, and there may also be a male or female vocalist accompanied by a bamboo flute (saluang or bansi) or a set of gongs (talempong). During the intervals in a Randai performance popular songs may be played, a dance like tari piring may be performed, there may be a comical sketch, or a demonstration of pencak silat.


Bukit Tinggi : Sianok Canyon

Just a few blocks from our hotel in Bukittinggi, the beautiful Sianok Canyon is a favorite spot for tourists. From a scenic overlook, one can see down the canyon for several miles in both directions. Deciding to strike out on my own for the afternoon, I hired a guide (a friend of Arman's named Ujang) to lead me on a hike through the canyon. To get down to the river from the scenic overlook, we passed through a series of tunnels (the Japanese Tunnel is a massive excavation used by the Japanese to hide troops and munitions during WW II), roads, and paths. 
After the first mile or so, there was no longer any semblance of a trail, so we waded back and forth across the river to whichever side had the best river bank. Eventually there was no river bank (just a narrow gorge) and we travelled down the center of the river, which was generally about one to three feet deep, feeling for rocks and dropoffs with our feet and bracing ourselves against the current. 
When we reached the point where there's normally a path out of the gorge to the plateau and rice paddies above, we discovered that the route was impassable because of the water depth and strength of the current. So, we backtracked to a point about a mile down the river, and scrambled up the steep canyon wall (thick bamboo, slippery mud, wet leaves). Ujang removed his sandals and had better traction barefoot than I did with my hiking boots. 
Then we had to walk back to a highway which we followed for a few miles to the rim of the canyon, with the town (and hotel) on the far side. Here there was a decent path back down to the river, with a precarious suspension footbridge to cross, and then a short walk back to the hotel. It was a fun and spectacular afternoon.


Central Java : Borobudur Temple

The earliest mention of Borobudur in Java's recorded history came not a monk. Nor was it from a scholar. No, the first person to stumbled on Borobudur was Ki Mas Dana, a rebel, who rose against the ruler of central Java but was defeated. So he fled to the mystical mountain called Bara-Budur, where the king's troops surrounded him and had him executed. Fifty years later, the monument was again mentioned, when another visitor, this time a crown prince, paid a visit in defiance to a prophecy that royalty who visited the "mountains of a thousand statues" would surely die. The rebellious young prince wanted to see the image of a "warrior in a cage". The king sent men to bring him back, but when they found him, he vomitted blood and died.

And so was the curse of Borobudur ingrained into Javanese belief. It was a stone mountain which the Javanese know about, but avoided like a plague. And it would have remained so, to the loss of the whole world, if not for an insightful British lieutenant governor. 

The year was 1814. Sitting in a mansion in Semarang, on Java's north coast, Stamford Raffles listened with rapt curiosity of this great temple ruin deep in the jungle of Central Java. Fascinated, Raffles sent H.C. Cornelius, his Dutch military engineer, to investigate. The Javanese brought Cornelius to a huge ruin that was so big that it took 200 men a whole month and a half to cut and burn the vegetation around it, and to remove the dirt cloaking the stones. Cornelius made many drawings, 39 of which still surviving, and dispatched these to Raffles. 

The discovery of Borobudur took place 47 years before Henri Mouhot called the world's attention to another remarkable Asian ruin, Angkor of Cambodia. It was for European colonist their first glimpse of a high level of civilization flourishing in ancient Southeast Asia.

Construction of Borobudur probably took place around 760 AD, and completed around 830, making it older than the major monuments of Angkor but younger than those of Anuradhapura. Work on it probably did not progress at the same rate over that 70-year period. The construction proceeded in spurts, with many intervals when work stopped all together. Study showed that among the setbacks included a part that collapsed during construction. The plan probably changed several times, and these modifications resulted in even more work. 

Restoration work for Borobudur started quite early. A committee was formed back in 1900 to consider measures for preserving it. The government selected a 28-year-old second lieutenant called Theodore van Erp to head the project, and he proved to be an excellent choice.

The committee's initial plan was intended simply to protect Borobudur from further damage. It called for the erection of a pyramidal roof of galvanised iron over the whole structure - an idea which was fortunately rejected. Instead, the decision was taken to fix the stones that are in danger of collapse, repair the balustrades and restore the gates and stupas. Van Erp started work in 1907. Although his initial order was simply to preserve the extant monument, he found so many missing pieces that he proposed an extensive restoration of all the balustrades, niches, stairs, gates and stupas. 

Although this initial restoration did much good to Borobudur, it did not solve the problem of water percolating through the cracks between the stones down into the ground, and into the foundation. This causes the walls to sag and tilt until the whole structure threatened to collapse. So another committee was formed in 1929 to monitor Borobudur, but the onset of the Great Depression, followed by World War II prevented the colonial government from taking any further measures to deal with the problem.

It was only after Indonesia gained its independence that the new Indonesian government had a chance to take steps to preserve Borobudur. In 1955, with help from Unesco, the site was examined by a Belgian expert. Although the government earmarked funds for Borobudur restoration in 1964, work had to be suspended following a coup attempt. 

Only in 1971 efforts recommenced to preserve the monument, and restoration official began in 1973. The project required the dismantling of the whole monument so that a new, complex drainage system can be put in place. This process is called anastylosis, and was successfully carried out in the 1930's on another Southeast Asian ruins, the temple of Banteay Srei at Angkor. It was the world's biggest jigsaw puzzle, with a million or so stones that had to be removed. The outer ones were carefully numbered, cleaned, treated and replaced. All told, the project cost $25 million, and took over ten years to complete, during which time Borobudur had to be closed to the public. It was only reopened to the public by former President Suharto on 23 February, 1983. 

Borobudur was built by the Sailendra Dynasty. It is amazing to note that this dynasty appeared for only for a short period in Java history, from 778 - 856 AD. After 856 AD, the primarily Hindu dynasty was overcome by another, the Sanjaya Dynasty which is Buddhist. Some scholars believed that the Sanjaya Dynasty, which is credited with building the Prambanan temple, had appeared long before the shortlived Sailendra Dynasty, and continued after the demise of Sailendra Dynasty.

Borobudur is designed as a mandala - a geometric aid for meditation. It is in fact a model of the Buddhist cosmos. Borobudur has 10 levels, and these 10 levels are categorized into three distinct parts which correspond to the three divisions of the Mahayana Buddhist universe: khamadhatu, the low-life, so to speak; rupadhatu, the realm of "form"; and arupadhatu, or the state of detachment from worldly being. A pilgrim would circumambulate the monument in clockwise fashion, starting with the reliefs on the eastern staircase, and going around the monument before ascending to the next level, and so on, until he reaches the top. That's a journey of ten circles around Borobudur, covering a distance totalling five kilometres. As the founder of AsiaExplorers, I have fond memories of my first encounter with Borobudur. It was on a night bus. An Indonesian movie was playing, a sort of epic drama. It was shot in Borobudur, and I watched transfixed at the massive stone monument, unable to believe that such a structure do exist in real life. 

It must be close to thirty years later that the dream of visiting Borobudur come reality. Between then, the realisation that Borobudur is indeed real was reenforced by visits by relatives and friends, and my own mother, who brought back photographs she shot there. 

It was a dream come true for me to finally stand on the terraces of Borobudur and view the lush Kedu Plain, with the horizon guarded by the active volcanoes. In order to fully appreciate the monument, I visited it twice on June 21 and 22, 2004. But even then, it was impossible for me to fully appreciate all the bas-reliefs. Many appeared eroded beyond recognition, having weathered the elements for so many centuries. 

Through AsiaExplorers Borobudur page, I hope to give you a glimpse of this marvellous monument. I hope you will enjoy this online exploration and perhaps one day, have the chance to view it in person.


Jakarta : MONAS (Monumen Nasional)

The Monumen Nasional (or Tugu Monas, the National Monument tower) is a 450 ft (137 m) tall tower in Central Jakarta, symbolizing the fight for Indonesia's independence. Construction began in 1961 under Sukarno and was not finished until 1975 under Suharto. It is topped by a 14.5 ton bronze flame, which is plated in 35 kg (1,125 troy ounces) of gold.

Visitors can take an elevator up to a platform with a view of Medan Merdeka Park, Istiqlal Mosque, and the city. Inside the base of the monument is an exhibition on the country's Declaration of Independence and several dioramas showing the history of Indonesia.

Monument design
The design of the monument is meant to combine elements of masculine and feminine. The design based on Lingga-Yoni, the symbol of fertility in ancient Hindu-Javanese belief. The phallic shaft comes toward the ground and is engulfed by square base meant to symbolize fertility. The monument body was made of steel and concrete covered with italian white marble. On the top of the tower there's a square terrace that can be reach by visitors by elevator. From here visitors can see an aerial view of Jakarta. The monument is crowned by gold-coated flame, right on the top of the peak terrace. This golden flame is intended to symbolize the spirit of freedom and the struggle for independence of Indonesian people.


Bukittinggi : Jam Gadang (Clock Tower)

Jam Gadang (literally "Massive Clock") is a clocktower and major landmark of the city of Bukittinggi, West Sumatra, Indonesia. It is located in the centre of the city, near the the main market, Pasar Atas, and is a tourist attraction.

The structure was build in 1926 during the Dutch colonial era, as a gift from the Queen to city's controleur. It was designed by architects Yazin and Sutan Gigi Ameh. Originally a rooster figure was placed on the apex, but it was changed into a Jinja-like ornament during the Japanese occupation of Indonesia. Following Indonesian independence, it was reshaped to its present form resembling traditional Minangkabaun roofs (see Rumah gadang). It is said to have cost 3,000 Guilder.

Clock structure
The clock's diameter is 80 centimeters, the base's dimension is 13 metres in length and 4 metres wide, and it stands 26 metres tall.

One unique feature of the clock is that it uses the IIII for the number 4 instead of its traditional Roman Number IV.

Given its iconic appearance, the structure is a frequent object of local souvenirs. It is imprinted on apparels, painted, used as a sculpting model, and so forth. As of January 2008 it cost 50000 rupiahs (around US$ 5) to enter the tower.

Its plaza usually serves as the centre of New Year celebration in Bukittinggi for thousands of visitors to the city.