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Batak House at Samosir Island

There are still some traditional house of Batak exist until today. Not so many left anymore in some areas in North Sumatera. The house has two kinds: Ruma and Sopo. Ruma is a dwelling while Sopo is an establishment without wall which is used as barn or as living room.

The house has 3 major section, the lower, middle and upper. The lower section is the foundation and pillar which support the house and used for livestock. The middle is used as dwelling and the upper to keep weapons.

Ruma and Sopo have steep roof made of grass. The house usually decorated with carving, known as gorga. Gorga is usually made of soft wood which is sunlight and water resistant, such as Ungil wood. The Gorga has three colors: white, red and black. White color is made out of lime stone, red color made out of a red stone and black color is made of plants.

In front of the house there is a stair as entrance. It is a pride for Batak people when the stair is worn out as it is an indication that the house has welcomed many guests and that the owner is friendly.

The door if the house is low, that when one is entering the house must bow which has meaning guest must respect the house owner.

River Cruising at Tanjung Puting National Park

I always love seeing the lush green forest, and river. And i think Tanjung Puting National Park is a very lovely place to visit. Not just to getaway from my mundane environment but also to understand more of the flora, fauna, wildlife and environment.

It is thrilling to enter this park, as it is one of the so called lung of the earth. Cruising through the Sikonyer river, passing nipah trees, pandan trees and some vegetation can be seen from the river. In the afternoon, those proboscis monkey or locally known as bekantan can be seen enjoying afternoon from tree branches. Not only that, macaque sometimes busy eating nipah’s fruit and birds roaming.

Orangutan which attract mainly visitors to come can be seen at feeding area. Usually the tour will include visiting the 3 feeding area, at Tanjung Harapan, Pondok Tangguy and Camp Leaky. Those orangutan can be seen there are semi wild, which once was rehabilitated and then released to the jungle. As the orang utan from rehabilitation is different and automatically could not compete with wild orangutan, feeding is still ongoing.  Beside this will make any disease that maybe will be spreaded through contact from semi-wild to the wild ones. 

The feeding station just located about 1 KM from the camp located at the river bank, which can be reached by about 30-45 minutes walk.  It is such a privilege watching this big apes in their habitat  from close distance. They swing from branch to another and especially when seeing how attached the young orangutan is very clingy to their mother.

The very informative station of Camp Leaky is very interesting. That it can take a while for me to read carefully to learn and understand more about orangutan,  other wildlife, the forest, the research. Camp Leaky was established in 1971 by Dr Birute Galdikas and her former spouse Rod Brindamour and it was named after legendary paleo-anthropologist, Louis Leaky, the mentor and inspiration for Dr. Galdikas.

Other memorable experience at Tanjung Puting National Park was the night we dock the boat nearby nipah tree was were full of fireflies. The whole night was magical with the twinkling bugs. I could not remember when was the last time i saw fireflies, maybe twenty years ago.  According to the guide, few years back, the fireflies was along the river every night. And now, only they are only in some Nipah trees, due to firest and the carbon of the fire affect the fireflies.

Sekonyer River was clear black in color all along. Now the down stream is brown, and it is said to be the effect of mining activities. But upstream is still well preserved. I love the color of the river, so clear and black. The black color was due to the acid from the leaves of the jungle.

 

 

Aek Natonang Lake: A Lake on A Lake

This 100 hectares lake is located in Samosir Island, this can be called as lake on a lake. Located about 1 hours drive from Tuk Tuk or Tomok, this lake has small number of visitors.

The road is winding and can be foggy, in the morning or noon or afternoon, especially in rainy season. You can rent scooter to get here. For your information, there is no public toilet in the location.

Aek Natonang Lake  is surrounded by forest, and on the edge is grass where bulls grassing. Along the ride to the lake, you will pass scarcely inhabited area, and also  pond to wash bull.

 

Mount Sinabung, the active volcano erupts for long term since 2013 until now (2017)

Mount Sinabung has been long active and endanger people living in the vicinity. Due to its activity, inhabitants of the village must leave their house to evacuation area.

Visiting Berastagi, you can see this volcano erupts ash, almost everyday. This becomes very popular view among travelers. I went closer to the slope of Mt Sinabung, Berastepu village, where the ash can be seen destroyed the plants on the slope and many houses were abandoned because of the volcano. I find it very sad, seeing houses, churches and schools left and damaged.

Until today, villagers are not allowed to return to their house, as Mount Sinabung activity has not back down. Even this August, the activity raised, the volcano erupts 4.5 km ash.

Mt Sinabung had slept for 1,200 years, and then in 2013 it starts active. According to Matteo Lupi and Stephen Miller, the volcano activity might have been triggered by quake in Nias in 2005 and Mentawai Enggano quake in 12 September 2007.

For me it was kind of a bit nervous visiting the Red Zone (Zona Merah) where people may not live. However farmers work  in the red zone in the day time. They plants cabbage and potatoes on the fertile soil.

Mount Sibayak, Berastagi, Karo Regency, North Sumatera

Located in Berastagi, this active volcano is now still safe to climb, unlike its sister, Mt Sinabung, who has been erupting for almost 4 years. Located not very far from Brastagi city, climbing Mt Sibayak can be an option for visitors to see a beautiful view from Mt Sibayak Peak.
Mt Sibayak is 2,094 m, and to reach the peak only take s about 1 hour walk. I think this is very convenient for beginners. I heard there are other climbing trails to the peak which take longer.
As other mountain which is most convenient hiked in the morning before sunrise, i climbed early morning about 04.30 depart from hotel in Brastagi and then drive to foot of Mt Sibayak.
I was not prepared with warm clothing, so i just had two layers top and trousers. After walking about 10 minutes i felt it was not cold anymore. The climb was a little steep in the beginning and then passing tall pandanus plants, afterwards no more steep path.
At the peak, you can hear the loud hiss of from the crater and if you go down to the crater, you can see bubbling hot water. And the view from the ultimate peak is very beautiful. The ridges of nearby peaks, and Mt Sinabung which still active and smolders ash can be seen from here. On the other side the view of Berastagi and nearby village twinkling down there.
Even though the trail is not long, still recommended to have local guide to go with. Do not forget to bring small backpack with water and maybe bread or snack or banana. Comfy shoes will be helpful for the trail.
About 07.00, you will finish climbing and then drive to Sedebuk debuk hot spring located not far from the base camp. I find it perfect to relax after the hike. You can also choose the various temperature of the sulfurous water.

Bukit Lawang: Jungle Trail to visit Orangutan, North Sumatera, Indonesia


Bukit Lawang is located on the other side of Gunung Leuser National Park, about 4-5 hours drive from Medan. However if you are already in Tangkahan, there is a a shortcut , about 2 hours drive from Tangkahan to Bukit Lawang.
Bukit Lawang is famous for its Sumateran Orangutan ( Pongo abelii), one of the endanger mammals living in Gunung Leuser National Park. There was a rehabilitation center for orangutan here which was built for orangutan conservation, where young orangutans were taken care off and trained before released into the wild.
Now visitors can see orangutans in the wild, and must do trekking to the jungle for some hours to few days. I joined 3 hours jungle trail to see orangutan, started nearby Bukit Lawang Ecolodge and then walk uphill passing rubber plantation owned by private , and then proceed to the national park jungle. We met mother orangutan and the baby. They were so graceful climbing trees, and swing from one tree peak to another and hanging on lianas. Their balance and flexibility amazes me.
Before doing the jungle trek, be sure you wear long trousers and sleeves. And recommended to put mosquito repellent. It will be safer if you put the trousers end to the socks. Long sleeves are good to prevent leeches. And do not forget to bring water.
I do not think that feeding the orangutan is necessary, but usually local guides will use fruit to attract orangutan to come closer. Do not play or touch the orangutan.
Seeing orangutan in the jungle is not guaranteed. When there are abundant of food/ fruits in the jungle, usually not easy to find orangutan.
Other animals that visitors can see in the trail are: gibbons, kasuari bird, thomas leaf monkey.
If you love water activity, you can do rafting or river tubing in Bukit Lawang.
Most of the lodges are located nearby the river, my favorite place to eat in the area is Bukit Lawang Ecolodge Restaurant. It is tranquil and overlooking Bohorok River which is used by locals and even tourist to bath and enjoy.

Tangkahan: Elephant Conservation at Gunung Leuser National Park.


Tangkahan is very enticing. It is a village located in Gunung Leuser National Park. Administratively located in Namo Sialang village, Batang Serangan District, Langkat Regency, North Sumatera Province.

It takes about 5-6 hours drive from Medan to Tangkahan. Along the drive, we passed farms, villages, and also large area of Palm Oil Plantation, which has been infamous for its conflict with nature sustainable of Gunung Leuser National Park. I went passing Stabat area, which sometimes i saw some Rumah Panggung (wooden-stilthouses). I find them beautiful and just the right size for a house, not to big, not too small. And often with a vast garden in front of it.

There are two major rivers in Tangkahan, Buluh River and Batang Serangan River. Both are very clean and blueish and source of local community life. They also enjoy relaxing at the river banks which local call as pantai (beach).

The most popular attraction in Tangkahan is Elephant bathing. The elephants are already tame, they were caught after several times raiding farms. And it is said that now the elephants favor illegal logging patrol. And locals who were previously illegal loggers shift their occupations to tourism. Some visitors consider the Elephant activity is an animal exploitation.

Everyday there is two schedule of Elephant bathing, morning at 10.00 at afternoon at 16.00. There are about 9 elephants in this group in this elephant bathing. They walk from the other side of Batang Serangan river and crossing beautifully to towards visitors. Before bathing started, the elephants must defecate first so that when bathing they will not poo in the river that will not cause river dirty. That was what the guide said. Elephants then bathed and visitors can also involve brushing and bathing them. When i said brushing, it means really brushing using brush, which i thought was too too rough for the elephants. But the guide told me that it was okay, as usually elephants swiped their body to a tree which is more rough than the brush. After bathing then visitors can feed elephants, make sure one washes their hands first, in case of lotion of mosquito repellent still applied on hand can make this susceptible animals suffer an illness.

Other activities can be done in Tangkahan is Jungle Trail, where visitors will be taken to see the jungle and if lucky, will be meeting gibbons, siamang, or other wildlife.For this one will need to prepare with mosquito repellent, comfy footwear, clothes which blends to nature, camera, some snack and water, hat, sunscreen and recommended to wear long sleeves and trousers.

And visitors can also explore the rivers, by river tubing. I myself enjoyed the river-tubing. As i went alone, the local guide, Nopa, tied the tubes therefore we could enjoy the tandem river-tubing and have small talk along the tubing while enjoying the view, sometimes we saw grey monkeys and snake on trees on the river bank.

We stopped by at Buluh River and walk to some beaches there. And pay a visit to a waterfall at the bank of river. Not far from the waterfall, located a hot spring. The hot spring is located in the crack of rocks that only 3-4 adults can fit at the same time. This river, hot spring and waterfall locations have visitors on Saturday and Sunday but on weekdays, very quiet.

The big waterfall located in Buluh river were damaged totally by landslide. So i went to two small waterfalls.

All in all, Tangkahan has potentials for tourism and it gives enriching and experience to visitors, whether they look for nature, knowledge, tranquility.

Kota Gede Mosque and Mataram Kings Graveyard Complex

This mosque is very interesting as unlike some mosque that i know, it is more convenient for someone who maybe are more “liberal” moslem. You can just walk to the mosque comfortably, joining prayer without strict rule especially if you do not wear hijab.

This mosque is the oldest mosque in Yogyakarta, which was built in the  midst of 17th Century. Because of this period of erection, the mosque is more Javanese ambience, even it is Javanese culture-friendly.

The mosque was built by Sultan Agung, the King of Mataram who was a Hindu-Buddhist king. It shows that the king was very tolerant to another religion. Before entering the mosque you will meet a paduraksan gate.

If you go further you will meet another big wall, with similar paduraksan gate made of a brick.  That is the graveyard of mataram kings and royals. To enter the complex , visitors must wear Javanese traditional fabric which is available there. I was so intrigued to see the tomb of the kings which i know from story in my childhood. And so i was asked to wear Javanese batik fabric, there are three sheets, 1 jarik, 1 kemben, and 1 selendang. As it was late afternoon,  no woman in the changing room, so i wore them on my own by seeing a picture hung on the wall of the room.

Abdi dalem, the royal servants who guard the complex accompanied us to the complex. There are many of tombs. There is a building a the corner. He showed half tomb which located outside building, and half of it in the building while he opened the door, he explained that that was the tomb of Ki Ageng Mangir. His tomb is that position because he was an enemy and also a son in law of Panembahan Senopati, the first king of Mataram Islam. To check the take of Ki Ageng Mangir, you can klik this link : http://javaisbeautiful.com/2012/04/16/tale-of-ki-ageng-mangir-and-pembayun/

Inside the building, there are many tombs, but what i remember are: Panembahan Senopati and Jaka Tingkir or known as Karebet. Inside i can smell incense sent all over the room.

Not far from the graveyard located a well, which is believed to have virtue. And there are bathing place for woman and man. There is also a pond full of fish. In the past it was used by Panembahan Senopati as ritual ablution facility before praying.

 

Kalibiru: Rural Tourism , Kulon Progo, Yogyakarta, Idonesia

Well, some people mention Kalibiru as  a National Park, while it is not. Kalibiru is a rural tourism destination managed by local people. Kalibiru  indeed has a potential.  It is located at the lines of lush green Menoreh Hills.

Kalibiru is located 450 m asl, about 40 km from Yogyakarta city which can be reached by about 60 minutes drive. The road to Kalibiru is narrow due to its location in rural area. But along the drive you will pass interesting view, of farms, village, and mountains. Kalibiru is designed for small scale tourism that some bigger group on coach will not be possible, except if they use local 4WD.

From the peak you can see Menoreh hills with water reservoir. There are 3 view points where visitors can be photoed with the beautiful dramatic (some say instagramable) panorama.  And as Kalibiru is getting more popular, now, weekend is usually crowded. That climbing to the view point has long queue. It is better to visit on weekdays. Visitors will be tied using rope for safety and local photographer will take some pictures and visitors can have copy by paying some amount of money. If you plan to climb to the view point, do not forget to wear pants or trousers.

There are some food stalls located near the parking area. They have local menus, from gudeg, chicken, and rice.

 

Sunset at Embung Nglanggeran (Retention Basin), Gunungkidul, Yogyakarta

Late afternoon in Yogyakarta usually is popular with seeing sunset at Prambanan Temple or Ratu Boko Temple or Parangtritis area. But actually there are other places we can see to enjoy sunset. As a sunset lover, and yes i do love seeing sunset more than sunrise, this time i went to Nglanggeran with a friend.

Nglanggeran is located in Gunungkidul Regency and it take s about 1 hour drive from  Yogyakarta City. It was actually a sudden plan, as i remember i met the amazing local young man , Mas Sugeng, who pioneered to develop the area of Nglanggeran for its potentials for tourism.

If you love trekking, you can do the trekking option to the peak of Gunung Api Purba (ancient volcano), passing some nice vista of mountain through big ancient lava rocks, which reminds me of The Flintstones.  If you are willing to reach the peak please be prepared with stamina, i find it a difficult for someone who rarely work out. If you do not want to reach the peak which takes about 1.5 to 2 hours, you can only reach the first view point which taes baout 30 minutes walk.  The hike will be much more informative and enriching if you have local guide with you.  I myself do not climb to the peak, as i was not ready for the hike. But the view from the peak must be  mesmerizing as we can see the water retention as well.

We then visit chocolate home industry end enjoy a cup of hot chocolate at Griya Coklat, located just about 2 km  from Nglanggeran ticket box.

About 3 km from  Griya Coklat, located the retention basin, which i like very much.  It is recommended to visit on weekdays as it is quiet and serene.  I love the view of the water with green mountains in a far. And on the west, yessss, a sun which set slowly.