Indonesia, an Asian islandic nation has always fascinated tourists, who have left the land with golden memories for a lifetime. I recently visited the ‘wonderful Indonesia’ as part of the Bahraini Media Delegation for the Familiarization trip organized by the Indonesian Embassy in Bahrain, Department of Tourism and Culture of Jakarta Capital Governorate and Ministry of Tourism in Indonesia.
True to their tourism tagline, the wonderful land enchants visitors with its unique charm. Our team were introduced to the two distinctive faces of Indonesia- the megapolitan city of Jakarta and the natural paradise of Bali.
Jakarta is an interesting combination of modern attraction and traditional culture for tourists in this metropolitan city. Situated in the island Java, Jakarta- the capital of Indonesia- is the fourth largest city in the world. Being home to people from diverse parts of the world, the capital city is a business and financial centre while turning on its charm with a great nightlife, world-class restaurants and shopping malls for the visitors.
The indigenous residents named as ‘ Betawi’ community lives in harmony with people from all over Indonesia and abroad adding the native charm to the diversely colorful urban community. Jakarta has a very colorful cultural heritage representing the heterogeneous nature of the city as represented in the museums, historical sights, cultural and artistic centers, each offering a different shade in the dynamic life of Jakarta.
“Janangan Sekali – Sekali meninggalkan sejarah” (Never forget the course of History), Indonesian people diligently follow the advice of Ir. Sokerno, the First Indonesian president during independence proclamation and preserve the historical value of the country. I was at awe while visiting many of their wonderful historic conservancies.
Jakarta National Monument: The main Sudirman-Thamrin avenues in Jakarta lead to the Merdeka Square, where the most central government buildings are located.
The National Monument (also known as Monas or Monumen Nasional) in its center is located at the center of Merdeka Square. The 137 meter tall National Monument is obelisk shaped, and is topped with a 14.5 meter bronze flame coated with 32 kilograms gold leaf. This is where the first red-and-white flag hoisted at the Proclamation of Independence on 17 August 1945.
Within the pedestal is a museum depicting in diorama Indonesia’s fight for Independence as well as the original text of the Proclamation of Independence. A lift took us up to the look-out platform at the base of the flame for a grand view of Jakarta. Surrounding the Monument is a park with a musical fountain, where Jakarta public gather around on Sundays for sports and recreation.
The Grand Istiqlal Mosque: First opened to the public by Indonesia’s first President, Soekarno, on 22 February 1978, the grand Istiqlal Mosque of Jakarta is the largest mosque in South East Asia both in structure and capacity, as it can accommodate congregations of up to 120,000 people. Experience Indonesia in 360Located at Jalan Taman Wijaya Kusuma in Central Jakarta, the Istiqlal Mosque stands out with its 45m diameter dome and tall minarets. The Istiqlal mosque was designed in 1954 by Frederich Silaban, a Christian architect from North Sumatra. Istiqlal meaning ‘Independence’, is a reminder of Indonesia’s struggle for national Independence. Its 17 years construction was personally supervised by President Soekarno. The mosque has a large rectangular prayer hall with a 45 meter diameter dome supported by 12 round columns, and has 4 levels of balconies.
Jakarta History Museum: The Jakarta History Museum (also known as Fatahillah Museum) is housed in the former City Hall located in the old part of the city now known as Jakarta Kota near the port and warehouses of Sunda Kelapa. Originally called the Stadhuis, this building was the administrative headquarters of the Dutch East India Company, and later of the Dutch Government.
Built in 1710 by Governor General van Riebeeck, this solid building has notorious dungeons and filthy water prisons hidden underneath. The museum displays the history of Jakarta from prehistoric days to the founding.
The collection in the museum includes a replica of the Tugu Inscription that dates back to the 5th century under the reign of the great King Purnawarman, evidence that the center of the Tarumanegara kingdom was located around the present day seaport of Tanjung Priok. The collection reflects the influences of various cultural elements on the City of Batavia, from Europe, especially from the Netherlands, China and India as well as from other parts of Indonesia.
To bring more life and activities to the Old Batavia square, Jakarta Government has organized regular attractions involving local communities and their cultures. Some of the popular shows include Zapin dance, a combination of Betawi and Middle Eastern influences; the Barongsai Chinese lion dance; the Portuguese influenced keroncong music; the traditional Betawi Tanjidor music; batik fashion shows;vintage cars parades, food and souvenirs stalls and fireworks on Sundays.
Dunia Fantasy DUFAN in Ancol: While you are in Jakarta and need something fun to refresh your mind, Ancol Dreamland is the right place to go. I am now going to list the most fun and exciting things to do at Ancol Dreamland.
Fantasy World, popularly known as Dufan, Jakarta’s own theme park is considered as Jakarta’s largest and most interesting recreation park. It comprises over 40 rides and attractions and located on a reclaimed land at the Bay of Jakarta. Its most popular attractions include Halilintar (roller coaster), Niagara flume ride, Istana Boneka, and Balada Kera Theater Show. It is a common getaway for tourist and locals alike, away from the hustle and bustle of the City.
SeaWorld Ancol opens up glimpses of the unseen underwater world. It consists of several sections, including Mystery of Deep Sea Living – a room filled with preserved deep sea fish as well as the giant Pacific octopus Gudel; Touch Pool and a large Main Aquarium, which is connected to a tunnel surrounded by different types of fish; and feeding shows where visitors can watch SeaWorld staff feeding the fish including the sharks.
Taman Mini Indonesia Indah: Popularly known as Taman Mini is located in East Jakarta, and consist of 26 exclusive replicas of traditional houses of chieftains found throughout the Indonesian archipelago from Aceh to Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Java and Papua. These are pavilions displaying the history, arts and crafts and traditions of each of the provinces. Built for education and family fun, Taman Mini has large areas for family recreation, a number of flora and fauna parks, various museums, performing theatres, an Imax theatre and accommodation facilities.
Here visitors can, at a glance view the exceptional breadth and full range of regional architecture in the Indonesian archipelago. A row the diverse houses of worship that are still actively used announcing Indonesia’s tolerance and peaceful coexistence among the different religions in the archipelago.
Taman Mini is the brainchild of the late Ibu Tien Soeharto, former Indonesian First Lady. Construction of Taman Mini began in 1971 and it was officially inaugurated on April 20, 1975. The Park has a chief mission as the preservation and development of various Indonesian cultures; to strengthen the nation’s unity and integrity; and to instill these values especially in the young generation. Taman Mini is a good introduction to what Indonesia has to offer in diversity and culture.
Pulau Ayer Resort and cottages:
Pulau Ayer Resort is located on Ayer Island in Kepulauan Seribu, which itself is an island cluster in Jakarta waters. Pulau Ayer Resort with its beautiful water villas standing above the sea, full-service adventure facilities-such as swimming pool, banana boat, fishing, and canoeing and a clean, white sand beach is an ideal location to unwind yourself.
Jakarta International Handicraft Trade Fair INACRAFT: I also got the opportunity to attend The Biggest and the most Complete Exhibition of Gift and Housewares -Jakarta International Handicraft Trade Fair INACRAFT. It is one among the largest platform for arts and handicrafts industry offering types of courses and training in various creative arts to the visitors. The event also displays a marketplace where visitors can find different types of arts, crafts, and accessories, from all across the world. The visitors can also attend a designer show and learn different fashion tactics for newly established designers. The event also enables various designers, retailers, and industrialists to grab tremendous amounts of best quality fabrics and handicrafts for their business at an economic rate.
Food: You don’t have to look far to find good food here. There’s an endless array of temptingly spiced street food. Keep your eyes open for satay, bakso (meatballs), gudeg (fragrant jackfruit with hard- boiled eggs), soto betawi (a beef soup that originates in the city) and nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice). If you are in lookout for restuarants, Bunga Rampai Jalan Tjik Ditiro, serve traditional Indonesian dishes among which you can order up the perfectly seasoned bihun goreng jawa (rice noodles with shredded chicken, egg and shallots).
Known as the ‘Land of Gods’, Bali is the true paradise on earth, captivating its visitors with the natural beauty of imminent volcanoes and lush terraced rice fields. It is an ideal destination for a dreamer like me where peace and serenity emanate from sweeping silver beaches, song of birds dancing through banyan trees, empty shorelines, and spiritual enlightenment that is just a chant away.
Penglipuran Village in Bali: Our first visit was to the Penglipuran village, a beautiful highland village in the regency of Bangli in East Bali, best known for its well-preserved culture and village layout. While most of its residents have embraced modernity, its individual compounds are well-kept to look traditional with visitors in mind, with manicured gardens lining its single linear stone-paved street that runs through the centre of the village toward the village temple, and age-old arched entrance gates and walls that conceal their houses within.
Throughout the years, Penglipuran village has evolved into a community-based tourism site in Indonesia. Some villagers even run shops inside, and ‘donations’ are customary but not in any way mandatory. The village is a highlight on tours to the island’s eastern region. The village offers a cool mountain atmosphere at around 700m above sea level, and spans over a hundred hectares, comprising bamboo forests (with trails that are popular among trekking and mountain biking tours), farming land and the main village neighborhood site.
The majestic Pura Desa or village temple that overlooks the village at the end of the stone road is worth a visit, where you can admire its striking elemental architecture.
Tanah Lot Temple: Tanah Lot is one of Bali’s directional temples, and situated on a rock in the ocean, just offshore. From all the beautiful temples on Bali, Tanah Lot is quite special and one of the “must-things-to-do”.
It is said that Pura Tanah Lot was built on the recommendation of an important Hindu priest Danghyang Nirartha in the 16th century, who had shaped Bali’s Hinduism and religious architecture for the centuries to come.
Tanah Lot is a very important site for pilgrimages and plays an important role in Balinese spiritualism and mythology. The rock that the temple sits on has been eroded by
the ocean over the centuries and is
now undergoing a process of restoration. The temple is located just offshore in the south west of Bali on a rock which gets surrounded by the sea during high tide.
Mount Batur Volcano in Kintamani: A Bali volcano became a sightseeing highlight on our trip to Bali’s highland region. The Kintamani volcano or Mount Batur, in particular, is a very popular trekking area with the captivating Mount Batur surrounds of 13-square kilometer Batur Caldera Lake. Those with a penchant for adventure can take a winding road down to the lake shore.
The Kintamani area consists of three main villages, namely Penelokan, Batur, and Kintamani. There are also some old Balinese villages around Batur Lake, often referred to as Bali Aga villages. Penelokan is a popular stopover. It serves as a vantage point at the southernmost part of the crater rim. From here, you can enjoy the sweeping views over the magnificent Bali volcano.
Pura Tirta Empul: Bali’s Sacred Pool of Purification, for over a thousand years, Balinese Hindu worshipers have been drawn to Pura Tirta Empul (Holy Water Temple), whose sacred springs are said to have been created by Indra and possess curative properties. The tradition still continues and aside from worshipers, tourists from all over the world come to this place to marvel at its beauty, and bathe in its refreshing blessed water.
The Tirta Empul Holy Water Temple is located in the village of Manukaya, near the town of Tampaksiring, not far from Ubud, in the Gianyar Regency, the cultural heart of Bali. The temple is situated just below the Presidential Palace of Tampaksiring, built in 1957 by Indonesia’s first president, Soekarno, and an important landmark of the island and the country.
Sacred Monkey Forest: With around 10,000 monthly visitors, the Monkey Forest is definitely one of Ubud’s hot spots.
The Monkey Forest is a free area and the monkeys live a very happy life since they are free to wander wherever they want. There are no fences or restrictions for them. Of course, it would be hard to leave a place with plenty of trees, food at discretion and isolated from the Ubud chaos and traffic. Having an area of 12.5 hectares, the forest is a popular attraction for people who want to get closer to nature.
The Tegallalang rice terraces: The rice fields originally named “Ceking rice terraces” are a stunning setting of rice paddies that entrance the visitors with the swinging rice terraces. A UNESCO world heritage site, they should be on your list of things to do as it’s one of the most famous places to visit in Bali. The location of the rice terraces is just north of Ubud in the quirky little Tegalalang village. The terraces stand 600 meters above sea level with epic views to offer.
Kopi Luwak Farm Tour: We visited the Kopi Luwak Farm in Bali where we had a chance to taste the world’s most expensive coffee, Kopi Luwak, and get an up close and personal look at the coffee beans which had been through one of the most exotic forms of coffee processing!
Known to sell at exorbitant prices of up to $1/gm in the overseas market, Kopi Luwak is a coffee made using coffee beans that have been naturally fermented/cured by a Luwak’s digestive enzymes, this is a must stop attraction for a coffee lover. While you are at the farm you have the opportunity to see arabica and robusta coffee being grown, eaten by The ‘Luwak’ – an Asian Palm Civet native to Indonesia and few neighboring Asian countries. It generally feeds on small pulpy fruits and takes a particular fascination towards the sweet coffee berries of the Arabica (more commonly cultivated in Indonesia) and Robusta species. The whole coffee cherries consumed by the civet undergoes fermentation in its digestive tract and the coffee beans gets excreted.
I was reminded of the hilarious scene from the movie ‘Bucket List’ where Jack Nicholson details the process to Morgan Freeman. While you are at the plantation you will be given the opportunity to try different locally grown and flavored coffees for FREE.
Diving in Tulamben Bali: This is the memorable experience that I have carried away from Bali- Diving at Tulamben Liberty Shipwreck, one of the best Bali east coast dive spots. An ideal place for travelers who love outdoor adventure activities, Tulamben Bali is one of a small village located on the east side of Bali. The place is famous as one of Bali underwater world paradise for the scuba divers.
The underwater world hosts scenes from a shipwreck of the Liberty – US Army transport ship, well known as Tulamben Liberty Shipwreck. This ship was hit by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine in 1942, during World War II, the USAT Liberty ship was towed to Tulamben Beach, Bali.
In 1963, the biggest active volcano in Bali, which is Mount Agung, erupted. The eruption caused devastating damage to the East side of Bali. Due to the eruption of Mount Agung, the USAT Liberty ship slid off the beach to the sea.
Now the Liberty ship lies about 30 meters deep and became a place for coral life and other sea creatures.
This was my first experience, scuba diving and as a beginner with a scuba diving license, I visited the underwater marvel at the wreck. The Tulamben Wall started at a depth of 1 m and then dropped straight to 40 m. Besides amazing coral growth, this reef also featured an incredible landscape sculpted by many overhanging rocks. Schools of reef fish is abundantly floated around me, and angel fish mesmerized me the most among them. Quite often, huge schools of jack fish passed the wall, darkening the sun.
As the familiarization trip was over, we came out of the magic land as if woken up from a dream. Indonesia will totally surrender you to total relaxation and rejuvenation with multi-faceted attractions in natural dramatic hues.
- Sumesh John Joy