Showing posts with label Indonesia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Indonesia. Show all posts

30 August 2018

An afternoon in Napan Yaur village in West Papua

Today, between dives, we visited the Napan Yaur village in Indonesian West Papua. As our outboard approached the beach for a wet landing, a couple of dozen children or so started to group on a wooden bench, under a tree. When we got close enough, our wet feet covered with sand, they started to sing some welcome songs for us. It was a highlight of the day, for them and for us.

Some young men were playing  volleyball a few meters away and they did not pay any attention to us.

There were many more children running around the village. Thanks to the translation help offered by Simone, our Brazilian dive guide who spoke some Indonesian, we learned from a local woman that the village's families, on average, have between eight and ten children ach.e

I roamed around a bit and ran into a school, where the blackboard indicated the pupils were learning English and French.

All around were tidy gardens full of pretty flowers. Most homes had chicken and dogs playing in the yard, though, when asked, they said they do not eat the dogs. No pigs, which I thought unusual as pork is a staple food here, but they told us they prefer to hunt wild boars in the surrounding mountains covered with thick rainforest.

31 July 2017

25 July 2017

Komodo National Park, Indonesia, dive cruise July 2017

Courtesy of Andre on Dewi Nusantara, this is me chasing fish with my camera!

Mission report from a great trip on the best liveaboard!

The video below is by my dive buddy Luca, published with his kind permission.

16 February 2016

Il giorno del fidanzamento

Fidanzamento subacqueo a Bunaken, Indonesia. Si sa che le donne amano le sorprese, e questa volta mi sono sorpreso anche io!

24 September 2015

Barong and Kris Dance in Bali

The Monster

The Barong play represents an eternal fight between good and evil. Barong (a mythological animal) represents the good spirit and Rangda (a mythological monster) represents an evil one.

It is my second time I watch this in Bali, this time with family. During the preparation time, I enjoy walking up close to the musicians who are tuning their instruments and practicing. Lots of drums and stringed instruments.

The dance starts with a musical background

Followed by his friend the monkey, the tiger comes out. Three masked dancers appear, representing men making palm wine in the forest, whose child is killed by the Barong. The three men get angry and attack the Barong which is helped by the monkey. During the fight, the nose of one of the three men is bitten off.

First act

Two girl dancers appear, representing the servants of the Rangda, looking for the servants of Dewi Kunti who are on the way to meet their Patih (Prime Minister).

Second act

The servants of Dewi Kunti come. One of the servants of the Rangda changes into a witch. The witch enters and makes both servants angry. They meet their Patih and go together to Dewi Kunti.

Third act

Dewi Kunti and her son, Sadewa come up. Dewi Kunti has promised the Rangda to sacrifice Sadewa. A witch appears and enters Dewi Kunti. She becomes angry and orders the Patih to bring Sadewa into the forest. The Patih also enters and does not have pity on Sadewa. Sadewa is then taken to into a forest and tied to a tree.

Fourth act

Unknown by Rangda, Siwa God appears and gives Sadewa immortality. The Rangda appears, ready to kill Sadewa, and eat him up but Sadewa is still alive. She then surrenders and asks him to redeem herself. Sadewa agrees and kills the Rangda. The Rangda goes into Heaven.

Fifth act

The Lion
One of the servants of the Rangda called Kalika comes up before Sadewa and asks him to redeem herself, too. Sadewa refuses. Kalika gets angry and changes herself into a boar and fights Sadewa. The boar can be defeated. She then changes herself into a bird but is defeated again. At last she changes herself into Rangda and Sadewa cannot kill her.

In such circumstances, Sadewa decides to then change himself into a Barong. Still the Rangda seems to be too powerful and the fight is ended. Followers of the Barong appear and help him fight the Rangda.

Information above from the theater in Ubud. This a video from a perfomance similar to the one we watched today.

05 March 2015

Recensione: I Due Viaggiatori (2010) di Paolo Ciampi, *****

Odoardo Beccari


C'è Odoardo, l'uomo che abbraccia il mondo con la sua irrequietezza, con la sua voglia di conoscere popoli e continenti, di toccare con mano. Il battito di ali di una farfalla sconosciuta vale più di una cattedra universitaria. Dategli una foresta vergine e si sentirà al settimo cielo. La sua giovinezza è tutta qui. E c'è Emilio, l'uomo che se ne rimane a casa, però è attratto da tutto quanto è remoto, sconosciuto, diverso. Un nome che profuma di esotico è quanto basta per giocare con i sogni. E lui no, ma i suoi personaggi attraversano tutti i continenti, si muovono per spirito di avventura, di scommessa, di sfida. Odoardo Beccari ed Emilio Salgari. L'esploratore e lo scrittore. Lo scienziato e l'inventore di storie. L'uomo che ha toccato il mondo con mano e l'ufficiale di marina mancato. Così diversi, ma anche così simili. Il viaggiatore in carne e ossa, che calpesta il mondo con i suoi piedi. Il viaggiatore della fantasia, per cui l'avventura non presuppone uno spazio fisico, ma solo gli orizzonti che la mente può scorgere. I due modi di viaggiare. E chissà chi è andato più lontano.


Emilio Salgari
Originalissimo il viaggio di Paolo Ciampi tra Malesia e Indonesia. In compagnia di due grandi scrittori di avventure italiani: uno, Emilio Salgari, arcinoto anche se non era un viaggiatore; e l'altro, Odoardo Beccari, Viaggiatore con la V maiuscola, sconosciuto ai più.

Ciampi più che un viaggio percorre un quello che definirei un metaitinerario: parte vero viaggio (ha visitato alcuni dei posti ove si svolgono le narrazioni di "Emilio e Odoardo", come li chiama lui dopo che, avendone letti e riletti gli scritti, ne diventa amico.

E parte ricostruzione delle peripezie che hanno costellato le vite mirabolanti dei due scrittori. Alla fine della lettura si ha quasi l'impressione di aver letto due biografie in parallelo. Così tra cacciatori di teste e foreste (anche adesso) impenetrabili, Ciampi ci accompagna a scoprire il Borneo (oggi Kalimantan) e Celebes (oggi Sulawesi). Terre che si fa una certa fatica a definire ospitali ma che forse proprio per questo conservano, anche a distanza di molti decenni dal tempo di Emilio e Odoardo, un fascino inalterato. Posso confermarlo anche personalmente sulla base di un mio viaggio al nord di Sulawesi, destinazione che mi sento di consigliare a quei viaggiatori che ancora sentono il bisogno di uscire dal sentiero battuto.

Compra il libro qui:

Dello stesso autore anche questo libro sulle scoperte di Odoardo Beccari.

Questo è un ebook sull'archivio di Beccari.

20 September 2013

Book review: Diving Indonesia's Bird's Head Seascape (2011), by Burt Jones and Maurine Shimlock, *****


Home to more than 1600 fish species and three-fourths of the world's known corals, the Bird's Head Seascape, the global epicenter of marine biodiversity, is one of the world's premier dive destinations. This book is a comprehensive guide to 200+ sites where divers can observe this wondrous gathering of whale sharks, manta rays, secretive octopus and never before-seen fish. Detailed information on endemic marine life, the regions cultures, suggestions for land adventures and travel tips make this an indispensable guide for anyone traveling to this enchanted destination.


This is essentially a comprehensive review of the region's dive sites, with lots of detailed data for each, such as depth, coordinates and suggested lenses for photographers. There is also a variety of info sheets on what to do and not to to, conservation, responsible tourism and life on land. Several of the many photograph are outstanding.

This is more a book to prepare a trip (there are many dive areas dovered and one has to choose) or to bring back memories afterwards. I would not necessarily recommend taking it along as it is rather heavy and, once a choice of boat is made, it is rather difficult to have any say in where the cruise leader will go anyway. Unless you have your own boat, GPS coordinates will be of little use.

25 August 2012

Breakfast and identity in Bali, Indonesia

I am about to have a delightful breakfast in the terrace of my hotel in Bali, which is adjacent to some fastidiously manicured rice terraces. The early morning sun shines on the water that fills the paddies. I have just taken a short walk around the terraces to photograph the reflections of the seedlings on the muddy water, and have returned to the table for a hearty Indonesian breakfast.

A waiter comes to my table, he has obviously been trained to have a personal approach to each guest, as he greets me warmly.

Waiter: Hello Mister Marco, so you are from Belgium?

Me: Hi, good morning, yes, well I live there but I am Italian.

W: Oh I see, so Belgium is near Italy?

M: Well kind of, it's a two-hour flight, Belgium is on the Atlantic coast in the North of Europe.

W: Oh I see, on the Atlantic, so is it near Canada?

M: No no, it's in Europe, between France and Germany.

W: Ah ok. I thought it was landlocked. I once flew over the Atlantic, I remember it's extremely deep. And the waves are huge! But France and Italy are the same right?

M: Not really, different countries, though we are all in Europe now: no borders, same money, most laws are the same.

W: So it is the same.

M: Ah well yes I suppose in a way it is.

W: And Belgium too?

M: Yes of course, Belgium too.

He may not know Belgium's exact position on the map, but he clearly knows about the Atlantic. How could he guess the depth of the ocean and size up the waves from an airliner is anyone's guess. But he understands Europe as well as any of us who live there.

The conversation is very useful for me: it drives the point home that I, really, have no homeland. My roots are weaker than those of the rice seedlings that bend in the light morning wind. Do I have an identity? Do I really need one? Do I care? Not really. I suppose I just have multiple identities, and it's too complicated to explain over breakfast.

Lesson learned: keep it simple when trying to explain where you come from.

23 August 2012

Tour and cooking course in Bali

We start for a walk to the village of Celuk Village for Fine silver making and studio. Obviously a touristy moment but interesting nonetheless.

We then proceed to the Batuan Village temple, a beautiful temple with amazing curving detail.

This is followed by a visit to one of many wood carving villages, where I spot a beautiful mask that is now guarding against evil spirits by the door of my bedroom.

Finally, a short walk around the monkey forest of Ubud completes the tour. Actually, the best part is yet to come, as in the late afternoon and evening I have booked a cooking class. As I always do when the opportunity presents itself when I travel, here too I take another cooking class of Balinese cuisine. I decide, among many options, for the half-day Lobong cooking course.

There are four ladies (from Australia, India and Lebanon) joining me for this class. We start with some explanations of the traditional Bali house structure and an introduction of real Balinese Daily Life. The Lobong are a well to do family and their house compound is impressive.

We then go for a walk in the surrounding forest to study and pick several herbs and spices that will be used in the cooking class. It's a pleasant descent into the valley and then a climb up to the house again. Along the way we stop at an ample courtyard where several ladies are busy preparing food: chopping, slicing, mixing. Very friendly and photogenic!

We then plunge in the lush forest and meet several farmers who are also there to gather precious ingredients for their kitchens. In about one hour we are back to the Lobong house and it's time to get to work!

We spend the next couple of hours cooking Balinese food under the careful supervision of the chef.

Then it's time to eat the product of our hard labor! Before that, however, we had to make the traditional offering to the ancestors. So the mother of the chef comes along, takes a sample of the food we had prepared and walks to the family altar to make an offering. Only then we are allowed to the table. It was all quite good.

20 August 2012

The Terunyan (or Trunyan) of Bali, Indonesia

The Terunyan cemetery

A day trip from Ubud to a rather atypical destination: the village of the Terunyan (or Trunyan) a "Balai Aga" (aborigenal people of Bali). Their name comes from Taru (tree) and menyan (fragrance) and I will return to the importance of this fragrance in a moment. These people date way back to before Hindus came to Bali, where they now constitute over 90% of the population, an anomaly in Indonesia which is mostly muslim.

As I read from a local information board (I slightly adapted the English):

The Terunyan village is situated at the foot of Mount Abang, in remote and isolated locations on the eastern coast of the Batur lake. The Terunyan society calls the community of Bali "Aga" (native). In Terunyan there is a temple called Pura Pancering Jagat. In addition, in the village, the houses still reflect a traditional home. Near this villave there ia a cemetery that can only be reached by boat via the lake.

Unlike other Balinese cultures, these people do not cremate their dead. The bodies of the deceased are just laid on the ground within fenced "ancak saji" (woven bamboo). Women are generally not allowed to attend the ceremonial processions that accompany the dead to their final resting place. (Actually it is not quite "final" as I will elaborate below.) This is because of a belief that if women were allowed to partake of funeral processions this would produce a curse for the whole village.

Interestingly, these bodies do not smell after decomposition begins. This is believed to be the consequence of the Menyan Taru trees (taru = trees, menyan = fragrant) that grow just next to the graves.

A unique experience, if a quiet and sober one. Not rally an "attraction of Bali", which is how Tripadvisor classifies it. Some contributors to this most useful website compared how much time was needed to visit Tetunyan and trip prices to rafting or market browsing.

There are actually three cemeteries. The first is for children. It is called the Semà (cemetery) Muda (youth). The second one is the Semà Bantasi and it is for those who die in accidents or because of illness.

The third one, which we visited, is called the Semà Wayah (old people) and it  is for people who were married and die of natural old age. Only eleven people are buried there at any one time. When additional elderly people die, the ones who were placed there first are moved to an adjacent site and their skulls and bones are lined up.

As for the trees, I could indeed small a fragrance, but won't attempt to analyze what effect this can have on the preservation of the cadavers. The legend has it that in the old days the elderly were asked what to do with these trees, whose smell was so strong that it made people sneeze all the time. They advised villagers to plant the trees next to the dead so that the stench from decomposition would be balanced with the fragrance.

Our local guide Agung also relates another legend according to which the stench of the dead is sucked in by a network of natural tunnels under the cemetery.

Great book about Bali:

19 August 2012

Tour of Bali, Indonesia

Fighting cocks in their cages
At 9 am we drove by a school of judo for small children. Along the road I saw people holding roosters in cages. They are fighting roosters, and although the practice is banned it remains very popular.

Lots of young people in the streets were drinking Arak (a liquor based on distilled coconut).

All over Bali, following an ancient tradition, each family house has a small temple to the gods and another to the ancestors. I will be lucky to witness an offering in a real Balinese family on another day of this trip. Each village has three temples: one to Brahma, one to Shiva and one to Vishnu.

Bali is an anomaly in Indonesia as the great majority of its population is Hindu, with only a few Muslims and Christians. This morning we set off to visit Besakih temple complex, perhaps the most important in the island. It is a huge structure on the slopes of the Gunung Agung mountain. It is a grand mixture of 20+ temples, masses of pilgrims, scores of tourists and rows of merchants who peddle anything either group would buy. A few ladies sit on the sidewalks and sell fresh and dried fruits.

As we drive around the island I note that there seems to be a lot of economic activity going on, the vibrant tourist industry of course but also construction and trade. My guide Mully tells me that the average wage for a local worker is about 80.000 Rupies (about 6 Euro at today's rate) but Javanese workers will do the job for 70.000, hence the immigration of low skilled labor from Java. This is useful of course but it also creates problems. For one thing Javanese are Muslim, so there is a huge contrast with the local Hindus. Also, they are disproportionately responsible for crimes such as theft, especially when they lose their jobs. Lots of riots as young Balinese don't want to work in the rice fields or construction but at the same time resent the influx of Javanese workers who take up these jobs. Same story as we are used to experience in Europe...

In the afternoon Luca and I do a couple of hours of white water rafting. Too bad there is no time to do more, it would be definitely worthwhile!

Later in the afternoon we visited the Royal Court house.

In the evening I ate at a local night market in Gianyar. Suckling pig is the paramount specialty of Bali, and it is not be missed for any reason!

Night market satay

08 August 2012

Arrival in Bali, Indonesia

Uneventful flight to Bali over a necklace of Indonesian islands.

The car that is supposed to be waiting for us is not there and after a few sms Luca and I decide to rent a taxi to go to our hotel in Sanur. We'll have to overnight here before catching our domestic flight to Komodo tomorrow.

Traffic out of the airport in Denpasar is horrific. We drive bumper to bumper for almost two hours amidst unbearable pollution. A little man pulling a huge cart easily overtakes us. He is carrying I don't know how many hundreds of kilos of everything. Reminds me of rickshaw pullers of another time.

Before dinner we take a walk along the beach. Because of the tides, swimming depth can be very very far from the shore. I can't really see why one would come to Bali for its beaches, though there are plenty other reasons to. In fact, I was initially concerned this would be a much too commercialized destination. However, as I will see in the course of my visit after our diving cruise, it is not necessarily so as long as one is ready to move out of the beaten path.

The main street of Sanur is rather uninteresting: shops overflowing with junk for tourists and restaurants. We decide to dine at the Savana, attracted by the lobster on display. There are very few patrons. Too few perhaps. After they take our orders the staff, slowly, starts the charcoals to cook the lobster. It takes more than two hours before the food is on our plates! Eventually they apologize and offer a 20% discount on the bill. Oh well! Lobster was very good though.

23 June 2011

Itinerary of North Sulawesi cruise on Dewi Nusantara

Itinerary of my diving trip in Indonesia, June 2011
You can see some pictures I took during this cruise here on Flickr.

My boat was the Dewi Nusantara.