Located in the bustling eastern part of Bandung, Udjo's House of Angklung attempts to manifest beautiful harmony of vibrating bamboos that echo from this simple amphitheatre all the way to the other side of the world. It spreads the values of simplicity, co-operation, unity and togetherness, as well as maintaining mutual relationship between human and the environment.

Established in 1966 by the late Udjo Nalagena (1929-2001) and his beloved wife, Uum Sumiyati, Saung Angklung Udjo was built with purpose and dedication to conserve West Java’s Sundanese traditional art and culture. It was Udjo Nalagena who brought the passion and principles which made Udjo's House of Angklung a place where Sundanese art and culture thrive and gained proper respect worldwide. His efforts to introduce and promote angklung finally paid off when UNESCO inscribed Angklung in the Intangible Cultural Heritage List in November 2010.

Udjo's House of Angklung also dedicates itself to the conservation and preservation of the natural environment. As a form of environmental responsibility, Udjo's House of Angklung cooperates with the Ministry of Forestry, getting involved in the ‘Indonesia Planting’ Campaign, known as Kampanye Indonesia Menanam, and created the Forestry Counseling Centre.

Udjo's House of Angklung adopts the philosophy of easy, affordable, educative, attractive, massive, and cheerful performances that are essence of their ultimate show called “Kaulinan Urang Lembur” or villagers’ playtime. The show is packed with spectacular short performances, commencing with wayang golek (wooden puppet) show, helaran (agricultural harvesting celebration) rites, traditional dances, kids games, introduction to angklung, angklung orchestral performance, interactive angklung performance that involves visitors playing angklung, and arumba performance.

 

Get There

If you prefer to use bus from Jakarta, you can use bus providers that cooperate with Saung Angklung Udjo. You can also use shuttle bus or travel agents that have worked with Saung Angklung Udjo. After arriving in Bandung, taxi is the best mean of transportation to get to Saung Angklung Udjo, since it provides comfort and speed to reach the destination. If you wish to be a bit adventurous and try to experience the local way of getting around, you can try angkot. These colorful public transportation came in various route and destination, and most likely to be found in every major street. You might have to change course two or three times before you get to Saung Angklung Udjo, depending on where you are. If you choose angkot, you will take the one heading to Padasuka or Cicaheum Terminal.

Although the audience watches the story unfold in shadows of figures thrown from behind the screen, the characters of the play are not mere puppets, but are in fact crafted of very finely cut and carved untanned leather which are then beautifully painted over. For this reason, in Indonesia, the performance is called Wayang Kulit, or the Wayang Leather puppet performance, to distinguish it from other forms of wayang puppets that may be made of wood, for example.

Wayang stories are usually taken from episodes of the Hindu classic sagas of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. These stories are not only entertaining but, moreover, teach lofty values and contain deep philosophical thoughts. Accompanied by the remarkable live music of the Javanese gamelan percussion orchestra, Wayang Kulit performances are always present during folk festivities and significant events such at births, weddings, or other celebrations, and lasts the whole night. The particular story presented and messages conveyed are usually relevant to the event.

Wayang stories involve moral and ethical dilemmas faced by the characters in their journey through life, love, and war. The stories are about good versus evil, but more than that, they contemplate the existential struggle between right and wrong. They are about the pursuit of living a virtuous, noble life and the search for meaning in life.

The Wayang-themed activities encourage further exploration of moral life goals, integrity, sense of responsibility, perseverance and care for others. For example, making wayang puppets (menatah) would require patience and motivation to do better, and improve oneself.  Playing the puppets (mendalang) also tells a moral story that intends to enlighten as well as entertain.

Get There

Located in Kepuhsari, in the Wonogiri Regency, Central Java Province, the Wayang Village is only a two hours bus ride away from Solo and Yogyakarta. From Yogyakarta, Take the bus from Giwangan Terminal to Semin. From Solo Balapan Train Station, you can take the bus (towards Praci) and stop at Cengkal.

Indonesia’s art of Wayang Kulit, more popularly known as the Wayang Shadow Play, is among the world’s greatest story-telling tradition and is recognized by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Embedded in the ancient Javanese culture since the 8th century, the art has been performed in villages to cities and royal courts for hundreds of years, and remains very much alive until today.

The two famous traditional cloths produced in Solo are batik and lurik. Batik is an important icon of Indonesian culture. The batik which comes from the areas around Solo and Yogya is known as court batik. Traditionally the colors used in this batik are blue to symbolize earth, brown to symbolize fire and white to symbolize air and water. Batik Solo uses sogan (chocolate brown) on a pale yellow background.

If you’re shopping for batik in Solo try Pasar Klewer, a textile market with a bewildering array of batik. Prices here can be almost half what you would pay in a store. The selection of prints on sale can be overwhelming so remember to keep focused on exactly what you want. It is best to go shopping here as early as you can as it gets hot and crowded quickly.

Bargaining skills are essential and all part of the fun. The price will vary depending on the quality of the cloth, the process, the amount of detail, the quality of the dye and the presence of any defects.

The province of Banten which was once part of the vast West Java province, was formed in the year 2000, and is today the youngest province on the island of Java. However, its people are long known in history to have their own distinct culture. One of its cultural traits that is definitely most spectacular and breathtaking is the ancient art of Debus. Debus is the traditional martial art unique to Banten that is imbued with supernatural powers.

Debus is a fusion of skills that require super-human inner strength, martial art but also music and dnce. It is a competition of prowess in invulnerability of performers (known as jawara) that is both scary and mesmerizing to watch. Through the art of Debus, the jawara can pierce sharp nails through his tongue, cheeks or other parts of the body.

This extraordinary art is said to have been developed in the 16th century during the reign of the first sultan of Banten, Sultan Maulana Hasanudin (1532-1570). During the reign of Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa in the 17th century, Debus was used as a method to galvanize the spirit of resistance against Dutch colonial powers. The term Debus is said to be derived from the Arab word ‘dablus’ which is a sharp iron lance that has a round handle at its base. This is believed to be the object used in the art of Debus. Although other such feats are also found in a number of other Indonesian provinces, including in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, North Sumatra, West Sumatra and Singkawang in West Kalimantan, yet most respected and feared is the Debus of Banten.

Every November, the Manggarai ethnic group in East Nusa Tenggara Province will conduct the sacred rituals of Penti which takes place at the Wae Rebo Traditional Village on Flores Island. As this is a unique occasion, make sure to witness the event.

Penti is a ritual of thanksgiving to celebrate the past year’s harvest and prayers for a prosperous, new agricultural year. The event is filled with a series of ancient rituals that usually last for one full day and night. The celebration is of such huge communal importance that all village members -even those living outside the village-will join the rituals.

Penti is an annual ritual closely related to the agricultural cycle. The tradition has been passed down through generations from the ancestors of the village, that identifies different months according to variations of location of surrounding natural environments. Penti also marks the turn of the year for the Wae Rebo villagers which occurs in November following the modern calendar. Although nowadays many villages on the island celebrate Penti based on a five-year cycle due to the intensive preparations and high costs involved, in the village of Wae Rebo, however,  Penti is still conducted on a yearly basis.

Penti begins with the Barong Wae and Barong Oka rituals in which the people carrying offerings proceed to the courtyard of the Rumah Gendang or the Main House in the village, accompanied by the sounds of gongs and gendang traditional percussions. They gather at the natural spring and invite the spirit of the spring’s keeper to attend the Penti celebration.

The processions will then move to the watu pantas to symbolize the purification of sins, which is followed by a visit to the stone altar or compang, which concludes the Barong Wae, Barong Oka, and Roi Boa rituals.

Penti will also be highlighted with the fascinating display of Caci, which is the traditional martial art specific to the Manggarai region, in which two men will be involved in a one-on- one combat using whips and simple shields.

During the series of the Penti Ritual, a group of men and women will chant traditional songs with no musical accompaniment which is called Sanda. The Sanda commences in the middle of the night and continues nonstop until morning. The Sanda must be chanted uninterruptedly during the entire rituals to honor the spirits of the ancestors.

Wae Rebo can be reached from Labuan Bajo on Flores. Garuda Indonesia has started operating direct flights to Labuan Bajo’s Komodo Airport on Flores island from Soekarno-Hatta international airport six times weekly.

The traditional village of Wae Rebo in the district of Manggarai on the island of Flores, East Nusatenggara, has received the Top Award of Excellence from UNESCO in the 2012 UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Awards, announced in Bangkok on 27 August 2012.

This small and isolated village was recognized for its rebuilding of the traditional Mbaru Niang traditional house based on the spirit of community cooperation towards a sustainable tradition, while at the same time improving its village welfare.

The Traditional Village of Wae Rebo on the Island of Flores

Wae Rebo is a small, very out of the way village. Situated on around 1,100 meters above sea level and approximately 3 - 4 hour travel by foot from Denge Village. Wae Rebo is completely surrounded by panoramic mountains and the dense Todo forest. This tropical forest is rich in vegetation, where you will find orchids, different types of ferns and hear the chirping of many songbirds. There is also no mobile coverage in this village, and the electricity is only available from 6 to 10 pm. The air is relatively cold, especially in the dry season, so don’t forget to bring your jacket if you’re planning to visit the village.

Founder of the village and, therefore, their main ancestor who built the village some 100 years ago, was a man called Empu Maro. Today, the inhabitants are his 18th generation descendants.

The Traditional Village of Wae Rebo on the Island of Flores

Wae Rebo’s main characteristics are their unique houses, which they call Mbaru Niang that are tall and conical in shape and are completely covered in lontar thatch from its rooftop down to the ground.  It appears that at one time such kind of houses were quite common to the region. But today, it is only this village that continues to maintain the typical Manggarai traditional house, without which these unique houses would have been completely fazed out.

The house has five levels, each level designated for a specific purpose. The first level , called lutur or tent, are the living quarters of the extended family. The second level, called lobo, or attic, is set aside to store food and goods, the third level called lentar is to store seeds for the next harvest, the fourth level called lempa rae is reserved for food stocks in case of draught, and the fifth and top level, called hekang kode, which is held most sacred, is to place offerings for the ancestors.

One special ceremonial house is the community building where members of the entire clan gather for ceremonies and rituals. They are predominantly Catholic but still adhere to old beliefs. In this house are stored the sacred heirloom of drums and gongs.

The Traditional Village of Wae Rebo on the Island of Flores

With a small population of around 1,200 inhabitants only, the village comprises 7 houses. The staple diet of villagers is cassava and maize, but around the village they plant coffee, vanilla, and cinnamon which they sell in the market, located some 15 km. away from the village. Lately, however, Wae Rebo has grown in popularity as a tourist destination for international ecotourism enthusiasts, and this has added to the economic welfare of the village. The people of Wae Rebo warmly welcome visitors who wish to see their village and experience their simple traditional life.

The wondrous island of Bali is not only blessed with fascinating beaches and outstanding landscapes, but it also has an amazing traditional culture that remains well preserved, highlighting the daily life of its people.

The Barong Dance is among the many art forms closely associated with spirituality, it is often performed in ritual ceremonies. Portraying the classic battle of “Good vs. Evil”, the dance is one of the most well-known and loved on the island.

barong dance

In Balinese mythology, Barong is a prominent character taken the form of a lion, regarded as the King of the Spirits who represents Virtue. Barong is seen as ‘a guardian angel’. Opposing Good is represented by another mythical creature called Rangda (‘widow’ in Javanese), the Queen of Demons. Rangda leads an army of evil witches against the leader of the forces of Good. As a mirror of life, the Barong Dance portrays the two characters involved in a never-ending battle.

Similar to Sanghyang Dance, the Barong Dance is native to the Balinese culture that predates back to Hinduism. Barong is covered in white thick fur, adorned with gold jewelry and pieces of mirrors. Just like the Chinese Lion Dance, Barong involves two people dancing in synchronized movements to portray the lion in action.

barong dance

In the dance drama called Calon Arang, Barong emerges to counteract Rangda's use of magic to control the world. The men will fight each other with kris daggers, but upon the appearance of Barong, they turn their kris and stab themselves. The performers get into a trance state. Barong then defeats Rangda, thus restoring balance in nature. Meanwhile, the tranced men are reincarnated by the sprinkle of holy water.

Balinese people believe each region has its own protective spirit for its forests and lands. For each region, Barong is modeled after a different animal. Barong Ket (Lion Barong) is the most common type found in almost every part of the Island. While Barong Buntut is a type of Barong which only features its front, usually performed by a single dancer. Other types of Barong includes Barong Landung (Giant Barong), Barong Celeng (Boar Barong), Barong Macan (Tiger Barong), Barong Naga (Dragon/Serpent Barong).

barong dance

Regular Barong dance performances can be found in many places in Bali, however, the most popular are performed by the Batu Bulan villagers in the district of Gianyar, or at Kesiman, Denpasar.

Visit Bali, travel to its highlands, and you can not but be amazed by the beauty of the thousands of hectares of lush green paddy fields that cascade in terraces from the upper reaches of volcanoes down to the deep valleys below as if sculpted from the mountainside.

Indeed, Bali is blessed with 150 rivers and streams that provide water year-round to irrigate this most important staple. Nonetheless, irrigation of the ricefields would not be successful unless man also has a hand in it.  Ancient inscriptions recorded the digging of an irrigation tunnel back in the year 944 AD. The complex irrigation system is complemented by a network of irrigation channels that distribute the waters to each and every paddy field.

Travel to Tegallalang some 15 km north of Ubud, or wander to the eastern slopes of imposing Mt. Agung at Amlapura by the village of Abang, and stand in awe at the wonderful spectacle of rich green ricefields undulating over valleys and across mountains.

subak

Uniquely, Bali’s complex irrigation system has its roots not by order of kings, but its management is very much in the hands of the villagers through village cooperatives, called “Subak”. Since farmers depend on the successful irrigation of the fields, the different Subaks form an inseparable bond that unites into a single system. This unique system has been handed down the generations for over a thousand years, whose results can be admired in the wonderful terraced ricefields of Bali.

At the lowest level, each farmer is a member of a subak, whose ricefields is fed from a single dam. The head of the Subak, called the Klian Subak is elected by its members.  In the larger subak that are fed by a canal, the lowest level is called the tempek.  The subaks, in turn are linked to mountain temples or pura masceti, which come under the sway of one of two lake temples, these are the Pura Batu Kau which coordinates irrigation in West Bali, and Pura Ulun Danau which coordinates the north, east and south of Bali.

Water temples hold festivals every 105 days, corresponding with the 105 days a rice-growing season in Bali. This cycle also determines the time of opening and closing of canal sluises, ensuring that plantings are staggered and that water is allocated in the most efficient and equitable manner.

However, every decision is always discussed at members’ meetings and unanimously agreed upon then carried down to each subak. In turn, the subak then calls their members together so that each member can decide when to start planting. Farmers then start planting in a consecutive manner after every 10 days.  (Indonesian Heritage: The Human Environment, Archipelago Press).

The Subak, of course, relates exclusively to irrigated ricefields, called “sawah”, other fields are rain-fed, and are known as tegalan.

In Indonesia, and especially on Java and Bali, Rice is not only a staple diet, but it stands synonymous with the word Food. No meal is complete without rice. Rice is also an essential part of social and religious ceremonies, since Rice in essence forms the lifeblood of the community.

The goddess of Rice is known as Bhatari Sri, or the mother of Rice. As the Indonesian archipelago’s staple food, Dewi Sri is not only venerated in Bali, but also on Java and other rice-producing islands.

Combining sacred traditional values and a highly organized system, therefore, the Subak, the unique Balinese rice farming culture is a manifestation of the Balinese Tri Hita Karana cosmological doctrine. It is the tangible reflection of the original Balinese ideas and beliefs that are essentially rooted in this concept, namely the awareness that human beings need to always maintain harmonious relationship between Man and God, Man and fellow humans, and between Man and Nature in one’s daily life. Such particular concept is in fact evident in the Balinese creative genius and unique cultural traditions resulting from the long human interaction, especially between the Balinese and the Hindu culture.

All the cluster sites of the Cultural Landscape also directly demonstrate the capability of the Balinese to make their unique cosmological doctrines a reality, practiced in their daily life through spatial planning and land use (cultural landscape), settlement arrangements, architecture, ceremonies and rituals, art, as well as social organization. Indeed the implementation of the concept has evidently generated a beautiful cultural landscape.

For these reasons, UNESCO has designated the “Subak” – Bali’s Cultural Landscape – as World Heritage in St. Petersburg, Russia on 20 June 2012.

(Source: Archipelago Press, Indonesia Heritage, the Human Environment, and  http://www.unesco.org)

A visit to the dramatic island of Bali will not be complete without watching some of the most captivating traditional performances the island has to offer. Aside from Barong and Janger Dances, another dazzling performance you definitely don’t want to miss is the traditional Kecak Dance, one of Balinese artistic masterpieces in the form of a dance and musical drama.

Held in the open air at sunset , usually above a cliff facing the sea, the drama depends entirely on the natural light of day. Starting at dusk, the story continues into the dark, when only light comes only from flickering bamboo torches.

What makes this dance particularly unique is that the drama uses no artificial backdrop, involving no musical instrument. The focus is entirely on the concentric circles of about 50-60 men, bare-chested, wearing only distinct Balinese sarongs sitting cross-legged around a set of torches in the center.

Instead of the traditional “gamelan” orchestra which usually accompanies other Balinese traditional performances, the Kecak is simply accompanied by the chanting of the chorus of men representing an army of monkeys continuously intoning “Cak! Cak! Cak!” or “Keh-Chak" in polyrhythmic sounds during almost the entire performance. This amazing human voiced orchestra is led by a soloist, who is in charge of indicating the high and low notes, and also acts as narrator. The effect, after a while, is to provide a wall of dramatic sound against which the action of the play is enacted.

The performance relates the shorter version of the epic Ramayana Saga with dancers playing as Rama, Shinta (Sita), Lakshmana, Rahwana (Ravana), Hanoman (Hanuman), Sugriwa (Sugriva), and other characters. The storyline starts when Prince Rama wanders into the woods with his wife Shinta and brother Lakshmana. There, the giant Rahwana kidnaps Shinta and holds her in his palace. Rama then seeks help and sends Lakhsmana to find his friend Sugriwa, the King of the Monkey Kingdom. Sugriwa sends his commander the white monkey, by the name of Hanoman, to check on Shinta in Rahwana’s Palace.

A dramatic scene is portrayed when Hanoman is captured by Rahwana’s troops and put inside a circle of fire to burn him alive. Instead of burning to crisp, the white monkey warrior remains unharmed and breaks out only to burn Rahwana’s palace instead. Thus, began the battle between the two forces.

At first, Rahwana and his troops manage to overrun Rama. However, Sugriwa and Hanoman then come to Rama’s aid along with the rest of the monkey troops, defeat the evil king once and for all.

Kecak Dance is said to originate from a Balinese ancient ritual called Sanghyang, aimed as a form of exorcism or to repel evil spirits in which dancers fall into a trance. The dance first appeared in 1930, after Balinese Dancer, Wayan Limbak worked together with German painter Walter Spies to create a dramatic performance version of the Sanghyang by incorporating the epic Ramayana saga. They took the innovation on a world tour, thus the dance became popular ever since.

Kecak Dance is regularly performed in many places all over Bali Island. However, the best place to watch this spectacular show is at the Pura Uluwatu, where the dance is performed daily with as background the dramatic sunset. The dance can also be found at Tanah Lot, GWK Cultural Park, Pura Dalem Ubud, Padang Tegal Stage, Batubulan, Umadewi Stage, and more.

By attending the massive Baliem Valley Festival, visitors will have a rare chance to learn and experience firsthand the different traditions of each tribe participating in the Festival without having to make the difficult trek to their compounds deep in the hinterland of West Papua. During the festival, have your camera ready. Very often you will come across unique moments that you never want to miss.

A number among the more than a thousand war participants, do want to keep abreast with the outside world, so they adorn themselves with local regalia, while sporting flashy sunglasses: a personal ad of a trendy look meeting age-old tradition. Ask them politely to pose for you. It’s an unusual anachronism not to be missed. All you need to do during the festival is just observe and enjoy the mock war. The longer it gets, the nearer the spears and arrows get to hit the opponents. The closer the miss, the louder the roar from the hundreds of spectators. They have participated in these battles every year so that participants do get better each year.

After the Festival, visitors can go sightseeing to the Dani Market in Wamena, and visit the traditional Wauma Village that can be reached by car from Wamena. In Aikima see a 250 year-old mummified village chief, or, after a 2-hour climb, see the salt springs, where Dani women have, for centuries, made salt in a simple manner.

 

Get There

For your own safety, when intending to trek alone into the interior, you are advised to first report your itinerary to the Police upon arrival at the airport. A number of travel agencies regularly organize tours to the Baliem valley.

Take a flight from Jakarta, Makassar or Bali to Jayapura, capital of the province of Papua, then, a connecting flight to Wamena will take you to the heart of Baliem Valley within the very same day.

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