By S. Kramer
The geographical position of Indonesia on the equator gives the country a favorable climate for many varieties of plants to grow including flowers and fruits. The rainy season that starts around October and lasts till April are the harvest seasons for fruits. Some exotic fruits known to be native of Indonesia among others are:
Durian (genus Durio) comprises of about 30 species including the cultivated ones. Known for century, durian was introduced the western world only about 600 years ago. Also known as the King of Fruit, durian is really controversial because of its distinct strong smell coming from the sulfur content. Some people describe the distinctive odor as sewage smells, rotten onion and turpentine. It grows all over Indonesia including Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, and Maluku islands. Naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, who did extensive research on Indonesian flora and fauna during the 19th century, described the fruit as having a rich almond like custards.
- Manggis or purple Mangosteen (Garcinia Mangostana) originated from west Java and Maluku. It is known also the queen of fruits. It was introduced to England in 1855 and spread further to western hemisphere. It has a purple skin and white flesh with sweet and sour tastes.
C. Salak (Salacca Zalacca) is also known as snake fruit due to the scaly brown outer skin. It was native to Sumatra and Java before it was brought further to other islands including Bali, Lombok, and Maluku. Salak has yellowish crunchy crumbly moist flesh like apple with sweet and sour taste with the hard seed inside.
D. Jambu air (Syzyggium samarangense) is also known as the Java apple. The varieties come in different colors from crimson red and deep purple to black and green. It has a high water content, almost like watermelon, and a refreshing taste like pear.
E. Kepel (Stelechocarpus burahol) is from central Java. The fruit is a symbol of Jogyakarta. Kepel also symbolizes unity as well as mental and spiritual integrity. It is highly valued by the Javanese Sultanate due to its health benefits as anti-contraceptive, oral deodorant, prevention of kidney inflammation and its ability to activate helpful bacterium in the digestion.
By S. Kramer
KOTA GEDE is small regency on the outskirt of Yogyakarta Central Java Indonesia. The name means the big city. The area was chosen by Sunan Kalijaga (an Islamic leader) as the site for Mataram, the first Javanese Islamic kingdom in the 16th century. It was a transition time from previously Hindu Buddhist kingdoms of Demak and Pajang to the Islamic era in Java. Historical remnant of Mataram can be seen in the old Javanese style houses and part of the city thick walls and motts around the city. The flourishing trades from the old settlement in the past that are still carried on by the present generations like silver craft, leather carving and weaving can still be found in many parts of Kotagedhe.
PAnembahan Senapati the first king of Mataram, coronated 1579 AD died 1601 AD
Mataram Kingdom Royal Cemetery entrance gate
One interesting object to visit in Kotagedhe is the Royal Cemetery. The Hindu influence can still be seen on the architectural design of the Royal cemetery. It is the burial site for the royal family members of Mataram, including the first king Panembahan Senapati, who died in 1601 AD. The most unique part of this cemetery is the graveyard of Senapati’s son in-law, Ki Ageng Mangir. He was an opposition leader fighting against the king’s power but conquered and killed at the site when he came to pay respect to the king after being persuaded to marry the king’s daughter. His graveyard was half inside and half outside the wall. Senapati’s descendant, Sultan Agung, ascended to the throne and brought Java to its golden Era. To visit the Royal cemetery, visitors have to dress in Javanese traditional clothes and are not allowed to wear gold jewelries.
By S. Kramer
The Flying Squad experience is only one of the many things that attract visitors to Tesso Nilo National Park. Other attractions in the nearby area include the 11th century Muara Takus Buddhist temple and the unique Bono tidal bore surfing at nearby Kampar River. Bono is the high wave formed when the ocean tide meets the river stream flowing to the sea. The waves can reach up to 10 meters high. The local legend told that the seven consecutive waves of the Bono were the ghosts of seven male dragons. Similar waves are also found in Rokan Hilir which according to the local legend is the female dragon. Unfortunately, since the Bono comes only during certain times of the year (mostly around November and December) we did not get to witness this rare type of tidal bore.
The road to Tesso Nilo
After a days activity with the flying squad, we got invited by the local community to a performance of silat Pangean at the village courtyard in the evening. This is a kind of martial arts with some sacred rituals performed as a welcome ceremony to honor visitors. The performance was started with Maracik Limau ceremony. This was followed by a smooth gentle performance of martial arts. It is almost like dancing; nevertheless it can have a serious impact to the opponent.
On the third day of our visit, we did jungle trekking. We walked into the jungle for about 2.5 hrs and were introduced to the various types of vascular plant species that can be found in the forest. A vascular plant species is a land plant that has xylem and phloem tissues. Vascular plants include flowers, conifers, and ferns. Tesso Nilo has the highest diversity of these plants in the world. The guide also showed us the claw marks of a sun bear on a tree. At some point during our jungle walk we heard the noise of the bear quite close by. This stopped us for a while. Other animals living in the park are Sumatran tiger, Malayan tapir, midsize primates, deer, monitor lizard, snakes and butterflies. We found also a big type of snail on the forest floor. In the afternoon we went to see the traditional method of harvesting wild honey from the Sialang forest. The harvesting process was started with a ceremony of chanting from the man who will climb the tree where the beehive is located. The ceremony is to ask permission from the guardian spirits of the tree and forest. After the ceremony, the man climbed a few branches on the tree, then swung a long rope made of rattan root around the tree to climb further. On the way back we stopped by at the WWF nursery where they cultivate new saplings to be replanted in the forest.
Installing ladder for harvesting honey
The monsoon tropical rains and thunder came to the area that evening, keeping us indoors for the rest of the evening. I spent the evening writing in my journal, enjoying a hot ginger drink with fried banana and a dinner of typical Riau dish of nasi lemak, patin asam pedas and vegetables. Nasi lemak is rice with coconut milk and patin asam pedas sour and spicy fish. No hope of stargazing for the night.
We left the lodge early in the morning soon after breakfast, bringing with us a souvenir of local sustainably harvested wild honey from Sialang purchased from Lubuk Kembang Bunga Village.
By S. Kramer
Located 15 km north of Solo in central Java, Indonesia, Sangiran archaeological excavation site covers an area of 5600 hectares. It was declared as the Unesco World Heritage: Sangiran Early Man site in 1996. It is a key site for hominid studies where more than 100 hominid fossils from around 1.5 million years ago had been unearthed. This totals about half of all known hominid fossils in the world. The importance of this site is that it provides an archaeological record of physical and cultural hominid evolution in its environment.
In search for the missing link of human evolution, Eugene Dubois discovered the remains of a hominid called Pithecanthropus erectus in 1891. This species is also called the Java man. The excavation was continued by G.H.R Von Koenigswald, a German paleo-anthropologist, in 1930 assisted by the locals. Following the discovery of animal fossils in 1930, a jawbone of Meganthropus Paleojavanicus was discovered in 1936 followed by the discovery of the Pithecanthropus Erectus skull in 1960. The species collection from the site include Meganthropus paleojavanicus (Von Koenigswald 1936), Pithecanthropus Mojokertensis (1936), Pithecanthropus Erectus, and Pithecanthropus Soloensis (1969). The skull of Pithecanthropus indicated a brain size about two times bigger than a chimpanzee’s and two third the size of modern human brain.
Referred as the bones of the giants by the locals, the legend of the village told a story of a young man with supernatural power named Bandung of Sangiran defended the village from the attacks of a group of giants.
Management of the area is divided into 4 sites. Krikilan is the visitor center, Ngebung was the site of the original discovery, Bukuran is the site of the hominid evolution, and Dayu as the site of current research. At least two days are needed to visit all the four areas.
Photo by Kenneth F.
By W. Wang
Galungan is a unique 10 day Hindu celebration commemorating the victory of Dharma (good things) over Adharma (bad things).
Galungan is a very important event for Balinese people, who are predominantly Hindus. It is celebrated every 210 days and this year falls on May 21, 2014.
Galungan is not only the time for a full day of prayer but is also time for families. Most of the Balinese will travel home to their ancestral village and spend time with their families and tight village community. In preparation for Galungan, people sacrifice pigs at the temple a day before. The event itself is called ‘Nampah Celeng’. ‘Nampah’ means preparation to accept blessing from the gods and ‘Celeng’ means pig which represents laziness (thus it has to be destroyed). They will later use the meat for a family feast on the Galungan day.
During Galungan, every corner of Bali is decorated with many penjor (a pole made from a high, curving bamboo stick) adorned with fruit, flowers, and coconut leaves, which symbolizes prosperity. On Galungan day, Balinese people place as many penjor as possible to show gratitude and respect to God for his blessing.
The 10 day celebration will end with ‘Kuningan’ on May 31, 2014. Balinese people believe that on Kuningan day, all the gods, as well as the supreme deity Sanghyang Widi (God), will come down to earth and join the festivities for half a day. They also believe that the spirit of ancestors and deceased relatives return to visit their homes during Galungan will return to heaven on Kuningan day.