Category Archives: Indonesia Blog

Tongkonan: Tana Toraja House, Sulawesi

Tongkonan is traditional house of Tana Toraja, South Sulawesi. The architecture is very unique with the shape of the roof is like a boat.  It is said that the boat-shaped is inspired by Chinese empire ship in the past. And Tongkonan still occupied by the Torajan.
Tongkonan derived from tongkon which means sit. Tongkonan was the center of government in the past and also to see how the Torajan life changes. The house is not owned by individual, yet it is owned collectively in a family tree.
Toraja has a strong traditional culture and those must be obeyed in the daily life within the community.
Tongkonan upper part, usually used the keep weapons and other valuable belongings. While the middle is residential area.
Tongkonan has 3 rooms: North, South and Midle. Usually, the north or called as Tengalok is for children bedroom, living room and for ritual. South room is functioned for the head of the family. And the middle room or Sali used as dinig room, kitchen and to put dead body if any member of the family die.  The lower part is used for chickens and livestock and to keep farming tools.
There are 3 types of Tongkonan: Tongkonan Layuk, Tongkonan Pekaindoran and Tongkonan Batu Ariri. The first mentioned, Tongkonan Layuk is where religious is manadeg. Tongkonan Pekaindoran is used for custom and tradition function. And Tongkonan Batu Ariri is a supporting tongkonan.
In Torajan believe that god things arrive from the North and their ancestors came from the north.  No wonder that Tongkonan faces north. And the barn faces the south.
In Torajan culture, Tongkonan is symbol of mother and barn (alang sura) is symbol of father, that both built face to face.
Tongkonan is decorated with bull head, which shows the social and economic status of the family. The bull head is attached at the pilar at the front area. The more bull horns in front of the house , means the family has higher social class. Bull usually is sacrificed whenever family member dies.
Tongkonan of royalties are different from common Tongkonan. That of royalties has different decorative motives and more refined.

Kenjeran: Chips Home Industry

Kenjeran is located in Bulak district of Surabaya. Different than the central of Surabaya which are mainly business, in Kenjeran area you can still see fishermen village with their various activities, such as drying fish or fixing fishing net.

Local people also has process their fishing into chips. There are many kinds of chips you can buy and try here, such chips of fish skin, fish stomach, and various fish chips.

Since 2016, Kenjeran has its new building for fishermen to sell chips, smoked fish and souvenirs and stalls selling seafood menus.

Some villages are painted in colorful color to make the village more interesting for visitors.

Pulau Samosir (Samosir Island)

Samosir Island lies in the gigantic volcanic Lake Toba. Samosir Island is administratively a regency. It is 245,714 Ha, consists of  an island and lake.

Samosir Island can be reached from Medan by 4-5 hours driving to Parapat and then cross to Tuktuk wehere there are  most of hotels and homestays can be found.

Samosir temperature ranges from 17-29 Ded Centigrade, and humiditi rate: 85,04%. The indigenous people of Samosir Island is Batak tribe consists of Batak Toba, Batak Karo, Batak Simalungun.  Samosir is considered as the origin of all Batak ethnics. There are numerous of historical sites in Samosir Island.

  • King Sidabutar Grave, known as the first person living in the island. To enter the grave area , one must wear ulos, weaving from Samosir. 
  • Ambarita Village, where there are old  traditional Batak houses can still be seen. And there is a megalithic remains, a big court table made of rock which is locally known as Batu Persidangan.

Samosir has abundant of interesting places such as:

  • Pusuk Buhit Mountain, the highest peak in Samosir Island
  • Sampuran Efrata Waterfall
  • Lumban Suhi Suhi Village, the village of Ulon weaving maker
  • Aek Rangat Hotspring
  • Sigale Gale effigies
  • Parbaba Beach
  • Museum Hutabolon Simanindo
  • Museum Batak Tomok
  • Tele Tower View Point
  • Aek Natonang Lake
  • Aek Sipitu Dai Spring
  • Batu Hobon Site
  • Sidihoni Lake



Tanjung Puting National Park, Borneo: Home of Orang Utan

Tanjung Puting National Park and Biosphere Reserve is located  in Central Kalimantan, in Kalimantan Island or also known as Borneo Island. The indigenous population is Dayak tribe which is still faithful with animist belief. 

Tanjung means a peninsula, administratively is part of Kotawaringin Timur with its office in Sampit and Kotawaringin Barat with its office in Pangkalan Bun.

The Park covers swampy alluvial peninsular between Kumai and Serunyan River and Sekonyer River in the north . And since 1978 the southern boundary has been extended until Serimbang River to Segintung Luar River.

The Park has various vegetation types, such as dry land where species like Shorea spp, Mysristica, iron wood can be found and the swamp forest, mangrove and coastal forest.  And the most famous fauna live here are Orang Utan (Pongo pygmaeus) and probiscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus). Both primates were discovered during Dutch colonial era in the 1930s.  Both live in the swampy and dry land.  Other primates live here are: agile gibbon (Hylobates agilis), long tailes macaque (Macaca fascicularis) , ppig tailes macaque (Macaca nemestrina), red leaf eating monkey (Presbytis rubicunda) , silver leaf eating monkey (Presbytis cristata). Deers, civet, leopard, squirrel can also be found here. The most significant bird here is storm’s stork (Ciconia stormii), and there are other bird species that are most of them are endangered.

Visitors usually visit to see Orang Utan in its habitat and centered around orang utan rehabilitation center by cruising through Sekonyer river.  Below are the interesting spot in Tanjung Puting National Park:

  1. Tanjung Harapan which has information center, orang utan feeding, Orchid,  Herb, and trekking route to from Tanjung Harapan-Pesalat-Pondik Tangguy.
  2. Pesalat, reforestation area
    Pesalat is the second camp which can be visited by visitors or researchers. Activities can be done here : camping, trekking, herb garden and planting trees. 
  3. Pondok Tangguy
    This third camp visitors can see orang utan feeding, short trekking trail and long trekking from Pondok Tangguy-Pesalat-Tanjung Harapan.
  4. Pondok Ambung
    This third camp usually visited to observe wildlife, night trekking and tower.
  5. Camp Leakey is the last station for visitors in Sikonyer river route, This is a must-visit camp in Tanjung Puting National Park. Visitors can see orang utan feeding, trekking and information center is available here.
  6. Camp Leakey
  7. This is a must-visit camp in Tanjung Puting National Park. Visitors can see orang utan feeding, trekking and information center is available here. 
Now Buluh Besar river is also developed for tourism, is part of Tanjung Puting National Park located at Teluk Pulai Resort, here visitors wil sail the natural forest along the river, deer sanctuary, wildlife observation along the river.
Arut Tebal is another river in the national park located in Sungai Cabang Resort, which has white sandy beach, turtle conservation and release baby turtle.

Japanese Graveyard in Surabaya

Working in tourism industry, i have encounter various tourist with special interests. Sometimes their motivation of travel is more serious, like pilgrimage.

As an old city, Surabaya has witnessed historical events, struggle, change and development. The evidence of the historical event can still be seen today, such a graveyard of the Dutch and Japanese.

Last week, i favor Japanese groups to visit the Japanese Graveyard.
Below are the pictures.

PICTURES: Lemo, stone grave, Toraja, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Lemo is located not far from Ketekesu Village. You can walk along the big limestone located nearby the village. The grave is made by making hole on the side of the rock. The bigger and the higher the hole is depends on the social status of the dead. Usually one family has one hole for every member of the family. The tao-tao, an effigy of the dead which is places in front of the grave.
Tao tao is made on wood, and the hair off is made on pineapple fiber.

PICTURES : Mentawai Tribe , West Sumatera, Indonesia

Mentawai Tribe Sikerei are enjoying pork for ritual.

Making poison to hunt monkey, deer and pig. The poison is made of plants in the forest, such as chilly, tuba and tree skin. This knowledge has been handed t=down through generations.

Making kabid, bark cloth made of baiko tree. The inside tree bark is pounded until the bark is soft to be worn

Uma, the house of Mentawai Tribe made of wood and the roof is made of weaved sago tree.

Mentawai women usually is very skillful to make weaving from rattan they found in the jungle.

Wrapping sago into sago leaves to be cooked on fire. Or sago can be put inside bamboo, which usually tastes better.

The trekking path in jungle to Mentawai Tribe

Mentawai Tribe Experience: Where human unites with the nature, West Sumatera, Indonesia

Mentawai Tribe has been known for its tribe members who are tattooed with some distinctive tattoos, live in the jungle of Mentawai and very little touched by modern way of life. Their unique authentic culture has drawn attention for foreign visitors to experience, see, and witness the live of the tribe that lives from the nature, take a little from the nature and preserves their tradition and belief.
Many Mentawaian has embraced modern life, and only about 1000 Mentawai tribe still live in the Jungle, in Siberut Island. The ecotourism activity has been conducted to contribute to the sustainability of indigenous culture, belief, and life of Mentawai tribe. The experience involves staying overnight at traditional house, and seeing how the tribe use the resource in the forest for their life.
To access Siberut, it takes fast boat ride from Muaro Harbor of Padang to Siberut Island, which takes about 4 hours ride. And then arrival at Siberut Island take motorcycle ride to Muntei Village, the road is narrow that motorcyce is the best option to commute. There is only in few places signal of phone and internet can be found. Due to the high rate of rain in Mentawai, in case of rain, usually visitors must stay overnight at Muntei, at local house, as it is not possible to jungle trek and ride on long small motor boat which is called as pompong along Silaoinan River.
There are some different areas where the tribe settle, some located from 1.5 hours motorboat ride to 5 hours. And it takes about 1 hour to 1.5 hours trek from from the river to the tribe house. The trek is muddy especially after rains. The locals walk barefoot, but for visitors who are not used to walk barefoot in jungle with muddy track, boots are provided. In my experience, it is easier to walk barefoot only we must be careful as there are thorns on the track. Wearing good size booth is very important as perfect size will make the trek easier. To keep balance wooden sticks will be given to clients, and even Mentawai tribe they walk with stick as well. The access has been a little easy as the tribe has laid trees along the trek to help them walking without getting trapped in the mud. And it is very normal if visitors fall and trapped in the mud while trekking for the first time.
It is recommended to apply bugs repellent during the tour, not only mosquito but there are very small bugs will love to bite you in the jungle. I have red itchy big bumps on my legs because i did not apply repellent. And i met many millipede along the walk.

The house is made on wood, and sago leaves which can be found in the jungle. The house is built on stilts and under the house is where they raise pigs. Normally they have dogs and chicken. Which they build small house at the back of the house. The house consists of one indoor room and one semi outdoor room ,which is similar to veranda. The veranda is where they do most activities, like making poison, weaving rattan and welcome with guests and chit chat.
The ceiling is where they place baskets and other tools which they use daily.
The indoor room is where they sleep, and cook and keep personal and valuable goods.
The house has no windows but it has two doors.
The roof is made of sago leaves folded over a slightly thin bamboo and then weaved with thin rattan to keep the leaves in place. Each one weaved roof is one meter and then the it will be tied by strong bigger rattan to the bamboo, as the roof frame. It is really amazing that there is no leak at all. And the leaf roof can last for 16 years, even though, there is almost raining everyday there.
A big party and ritual must be held to erect new uma, involves dancing and having pigs for party.
Mentawai tribe hunts for monkeys, and they hang the skull of monkeys or wild pigs above the door facing outside. While they hang the domesticated animals/cattle, usually pigs, above the veranda entrance facing inside the house. This is for the hope of Mentawaian, that the monkeys or hunted pigs skull soul will invite their friends when they hunt and while the cattle or domesticated animals facing the house means to keep them in the house.
In Muntei the closest village to the jungle still have few traditional houses, but many new modern house as well with metal roof, not sago leaves roof anymore.

Mentawai Tribe does hunt.They hunt for pig, deer, and monkey. They must hunt when they have new born baby and when there is a bid event like building uma and wedding. They hunt with their weapon, arrow. Before hunting there will be ritual by sikerey, the shaman. They make poison and rub it on the arrow. The poison ingredients can be found in the forest such as Derris elliptica (tuba),  root of Alpina galanga (galangal), very small wild red chilly, lapak tree bark and ragi stem. 
First step is to grate the un-skinned ragi stem and galangal. Put the shaved lapak tree bark which is usually directly from the tree by shaving the bark.  Grate the chilly and hammer the tuba root by wooden hammer that the milky white liquid can be seen. Mic the ingredient and then put it in a rattan ring and then squeeze it by wooden clamp that the fluid yielded. 
The fluid then applied on arrows by brush and the arrow is dried about 50 cm high above fire for 1 minute.And then applied again another layer and dry again until all the poison is gone.
There are 2 types of arrows, the one with arrow sign end is aimed for pig and deer, while the one spiky and pointed is to hunt monkey. Once an arrow hit animals, usually they must follow the animals for 10 to 15 minutes until the poison got them.
There are some rules may not be broken by Mentawai Tribe if they are hunting : they must not have coitus, they must not eat sour and must not shower.

Sikerei or Mentawai tribe shaman wears kabid around the waist. The tree for kabid material can be found in the jungle of Mentawai. To make kabid, the tree must be cut. And then using machete, the bark can be taken. One tree can make 3-4 kabid pieces. The bark used for kabid is the inside skin only. The inside skin then beaten using somekind of wooden hammer, on a tree. The bark must be beaten strongly many times to soften the material and when it is all beaten the bark is washed and dried. It can dry within half day. Kabid can last for about 6 months if worn daily and can last for 1.5 years if not worn daily. The tree to make kabid is locally known as baiko. Once cut, Baiko new bud can grow again after 8 months.

Sago is the staple food of Mentawai tribe. It grows well in the island. Sago can be cooked by wrapped in sago leaves or in a bamboo. Sago just cooked above fire for about 15 minutes and ready to serve. It tastes better in bamboo. They eat sago with fish or pork or chicken. Mentawai Tribe does not recognize spices, they only use salt for cooking. They grow sago in their land and once the sago tree does not produce good sago, it will be cut and let it for 3 months until sago worm grow in the tree.


Sago worms are cooked like other foods, but in the sago leaves or bamboo and then heat it above fire. They take the larva, pupa and the adult. Once they take the larva, they press the head of the larva to die and put in a leaf that it will not move anywhere. Sago worm is rich of protein.


Pork usually slaughtered when they have ceremony. And for ritual it is males who cook. And cooking only by boiled with salt. Mentawai have pig under their house and sometimes they attract males pig who would like to mate them. The tribe does not want their pig to be impregnated by wild pigs, as usually after 5 months or so the young pigs will be wild and leave the house.