Monday, June 30, 2014

Exploring Surabaya, Malang And Madura In A Flash

Just like last year, this year my office organized a Donor&Journalist Visit. This year, it's the project in Bangkalan, Madura island that took the center stage. But unlike last year, this year I got help from four other colleagues. And so, I put in one-two days prior to the visit to explore Surabaya and Malang. 

Surabaya: Late Lunch And Cheng Ho Mosque Surabaya

I arrived in Surabaya on June 21, met my colleague Devi and then dropped my duffel bag at Hotel Santika Premiere Gubeng (nice hotel, I'd say). We had late lunch at Ria Galeria, a small eatery nearby just at the corner of Jl. Bangka. I ordered Sop Ayam Jamur Es (chicken soup with mushroom), while Devi had Rujak Cingur (vegetable and cow's snout topped with shrimp paste).

We later went to Cheng Ho Mosque Surabaya for Maghrib and Isya prayers before hopping on a car to go to Malang, Devi's hometown.

 Rujak Cingur

  Sop Ayam Jamur Es

Masjid Cheng Ho Surabaya

Malang: Radjiman Wediodiningrat Mental Hospital And Jatim Park II (Batu Secret Zoo)

Before anyone asked about the hospital, let me start by explaining that Devi's mother works as a nurse at the hospital. So their house is inside the mental hospital compound. I stayed in Devi's home for two nights and it's really a memorable experience.   

At night, I could hear a man screaming (not in pain, but more like in agony). When I asked Devi about it, she just shrugged her shoulders and said,"Someone is having a fit. That's normal here." It's funny how "normal" gets its meaning in different places.

In the morning, I was about to take a walk around the neighborhood when I saw groups of men and women in green ensemble heading towards the residential area. I asked Devi whether they were the patients and whether it would be okay to interact with them. She said,"Yes, they are the patients. It's okay, they love talking to non patients. They are just lonely because their family seldom, sometimes never, visit them here. If they are walking around, that means they are well enough, otherwise they will be confined in their rooms."

I was a bit skeptical upon hearing her reply. But then as I walked around quietly, trying not to catch their attention, two patients approached me. And the following conversation ensued...

Patient #1: Hello, assalamualaikum!
Me: Err, hello, wa alaikum salam.
Patient #2:  Do you have a pen?
Me: Sorry, no pen.
Patient #1: Can you take my picture? 
Me: Okay (then took their picture)
Patient #2: Can we take a look at the picture?
Me: Sure, here you go (showing them the picture)
The patients: Thank you. See you.

Devi later took me around the hospital compound on a motorcycle. As we made a left turn, another patient ran toward us and called us,"Mbak, Mbak!" We tried to ignore him, but he managed to catch up with the motorcycle (we're not speeding anyway) and then he gave me a bunch of flowers,"Here, for you." I didn't know what to say, but,"Umm, thanks."

It was really heartbreaking to see the patients in the mental hospital. The way they just stare into the distance or doing something repeatedly, it's just sad. They may look physically healthy in the outside, but they carry their wounds inside. The invisible wounds are more difficult to heal, indeed.

Two patients who requested for a photo session :)

The flowers given by a patient

Radjiman Wediodiningrat Mental Hospital is said to be one of the largest (and perhaps, also one of the oldest) mental hospital  in South East Asia. The construction of the hospital began back in 1884 and it took 18 years for completion. Here are some photos I took in the hospital compound.

Devi later took me to around Malang. First stop was PTPN XII, the tea plantation in Malang. But since I've seen the one in Pangalengan (read here), I did not took a lot of pictures. We had quick lunch in Toko Oen Malang. Then we went to Jatim Park II (Batu Secret Zoo). Here are some photos from the zoo.

This handsome bird suddenly made appearance when I walked by :).

Madura: Wood Pellet Industry And Bebek Sinjay Restaurant

The project in Bangkalan, Madura island is about wood pellet as an alternative energy. Why in Bangkalan? Well, in the 1970s most area in Bangkalan was degraded land. There was no tree and no resources of water, it was a massive dry patch of land. Then Irham Rofii, a local kyai (Muslim cleric), encouraged his students and local people to start planting trees. Many people looked down on his efforts, but Bangkalan today nowadays is a lush green area because everyone love to plant trees. 

The wood pellet project was initiated to give local people benefit from their tree planting habit. Kaliandra (Calliandra callothyrsus) was chosen because the tree does not need a lot of time to grow and can grow in degraded land. Besides for wood pellet, kaliandra wood can be used as a fire wood, the flower can be used for bee farming and the leaves can be used for livestock feed.

Now, what is wood pellet and what is it for? Made from compacted wood dust, wood pellet makes a good substitute for oil fuel. It can be used for cooking activity at homes and restaurants as well as to generate electricity at coal-powered plant. Wood pellet is sustainable, produces less ash and reduces green house gases.

The project in Madura is a collaboration between my office, Ministry of Forestry (MoFor) and the cooperative of Gerbang Lestari, which is owned by local people. The cooperative procures machine to produce wood pellet and buys the wood from the farmers.

When we visited, the machine was still in trial mode. But it will be soon up and running. Several potential buyers have come to the factory to order the wood pellet.  
A farmer cuts his kaliandra tree

Two workers cut the wood to smaller bits

Out on the field

We closed the day with early dinner at Bebek Sinjay Restaurant, which has been basking in the limelight. It only serves fried duck and coconut ice. Quite simple eh? So customers do not have to ponder over pages of menu. 

Bebek Sinjay Restaurant

The famous Bebek Sinjay :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Trip To The World's Third Largest Atoll, Part 2

28 May 2014

Good morning, Takabonerate! We woke up in the morning and quickly ran to the beach. We saw baby sharks of blacktip reef shark type.

Baby shark and my toes

 The underwater view

The following conversation after this pic was taken:
Dwi: Come, baby shark, come. Breakfast is ready.
Tini: Dude, they are not cute kittens. Just throw it away.

One of the sand islands (gosong) in Takabonerate

Embracing the blue

A typical house in Latondu island, and other islands in Takabonerate atoll

Dried fish

With one of the green sea turtles in the captive breeding area

 Children in Latondu island showcased their synchronized springboard jumping ability :)

The best thing about Takabonerate? My cellphone could not receive any signal! Oh, perfection!

29 May 2014

Today we went snorkeling at a spot with a sea wall and a trog. It was exciting and eerie at the same time! We could see the corals deep below and the school of fishes swarming near the surface. We went to three snorkeling spots and all of them were beautiful. I really didn't do justice with my pictures here. It was a whole lot more beautiful in reality.

The deeper shade of blue is calling. I should dive on my next visit!

Takabonerate is beautiful underwater and above the sea level

Besides having fun under the sun and sand, we tried to give back to the people. We stopped by Tarupa Kecil island and gave the children several text books, children magazines and pens that we had brought from our hometowns. Those were just simple things for us, but the kids were delighted to receive the gifts.

30 May 2014

It was a sad day as we had to leave Tinabo island (and Takabonerate) and back to Selayar island. We departed at 4 a.m. The star-loaded dark sky slowly turned bright and blue as we continued our deep slumber. We touched Selayar at around 9 a.m., checked into our hotel and headed out for another water adventure :).

Liang Kareta

Bird eye view

 Panorama of Liang Kareta

Framed by the boat's ladder

 My bed for the night

31 May 2014

We waited for the ferry to Bira. Ahh, we would soon leave this paradise and return to the cubicles.

The ferry that serves Selayar-Bira route

This photo was taken a few minutes after the gate was opened

 Our backpacks were piled into one

But before heading back to Makassar, we stopped by Tanahberu, a village whose residents specialize in ship making. Here are some photos.


And that's a wrap :).

I will take a break during the month of Ramadhan and may be posting sporadically when I'm able to do so. May all beings benefit from the fasting month. Hope to be back in full force in August.


If you want to visit Takabonerate atoll, you may contact Pak Ahmadi, who is in charge of the resort management in Tinabo island. His cellphone number is +62 812 15447 4809. Besides taking care of room reservation, Pak Ahmadi can also help with boat rental.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Trip To The World's Third Largest Atoll, Part 1

See the previous photo I posted. Here's what ensued after I saw the view:

"Oh my God, the sea is so blue!"

That was what we -- 13 people who came from various places across Indonesia -- kept screaming along the way from Pamatata Port, the ferry port in Selayar island, to Pattumbukan port, the small wooden boat port that is also in the island. The one-hour car ride between Pamatata and Pattumbukan provided us with such beautiful view that we forgot the two-hour ferry ride we just went through.

Little did we know that it was just the beginning of even more beautiful view that we would see in Takabonerate National Park.

Yes, we went to Takabonerate National Park, a marine park that include Takabonerate atoll. Located on the southern offshore of Sulawesi island's 'left leg', Takabonerate is the world's third largest atoll after Kwajifein atoll in the Marshall Island and the Suvadiva atoll in Maldives.   

How To Get There:

Picture from

1. Go to Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi.
2. From Makassar, take a car ride to either Bulukumba (Leppe'e port) or Bira (Bira port). We chose to go to Bira, because well, we want to explore the small islands near Bira before hopping on to the ferry. Makassar-Bira is around 4-5 hours by car. The driver, who is a local, advised us to depart before dark because we would pass Jeneponto, an area that he deemed as 'not safe'.
3. Take the ferry ride (2 hours, if the sea is calm) between Bira and Selayar to reach Pamatata port
4. Go to Pattumbukan port (one hour car ride from Pamatata port)
5. Another boat ride (also around 5 hours, if the sea is calm) to Tinabo island, which is the only island that has resort facility in the national park.

It was such a long journey to reach the place. But it was a journey worth to do.

Now, let's go back to how we started the trip. We were a group of 13 people coming from various backgrounds -- 6 from Jakarta, 1 from Solo, 4 from Samarinda and 2 from Makassar. Before this trip, we had never gone tripping together, let alone know each other.

So how did we meet?

Well, Untung & Vissia are the sweet couple behind the share-all-cost trip. Untung was Aneen's high school friend. I was Aneen's university friend. Vissia works at the same company with Tini, Tini was Agnes's high school friend. Untung usually goes tripping with Sofyan. Vissia posted the trip plan in an Indonesian backpacker forum and four people from Samarinda (Dwi, Ria, Ina and Tiwi) and two from Makassar (Firman and Arif) responded to the trip plan.

25 May 2014

The six Jakartans and one Solonese met at Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport, Makassar at 10 a.m. on May 25. While waiting for the other trip members who would touch down at Makassar at 5 p.m., we decided to have a quick tour to Rammang Rammang, an area of karst hills in Maros. It is similar like Gunung Kidul, but the hills are in a circle formation, giving a sense of an enclosure. 

Here are some photos:

 Panorama of Rammang Rammang

Another view of Rammang Rammang

Yours truly, posing like a Vietnamese in Ha Long Bay, hahaha

Our next destination was Bira, which was around 5-6 hours from Makassar by car. Before going there, we went back to the airport and BTP to pick up the other trip members and then the driver hit the pedal like he was being chased by a pack of hungry wolves. He also put on a very loud house music version of Dangdut Pantura to keep himself awake. The song of "Berondong Tua" would definitely be the soundtrack of this trip.

"To reach Bira from Makassar, we need to pass Jeneponto and the area is not safe enough at night. We need to pass Jeneponto before 9 p.m.," the driver said.

We arrived safe and sound in Bira just several minutes past midnight. The seven people from Jakarta and Solo (heretofore will be called as 'the older ones') checked in at a local inn, while the younger ones (they're still in their 20s) set up their tents.   

26 May 2014

Today's agenda was island hopping and snorkeling. But before that, we had breakfast at Amatoa Resort, which is situated near our inn. Then we went to Kambing island (for snorkeling) and Liukang island (for lunch). Firman and Arif skipped this part of the trip as they preferred to lounge in their tent in Bara beach.

I wanted to show you how blue the color of the ocean was. 

 Clown fishes near Kambing island

The waves and currents were very strong in this area at the moment of our arrival. I was a bit afraid to jump into the sea, but I just couldn't resist the blue color of the ocean. The visibility was as high as a crystal, even if you choose to stay in the boat you can still see the sea bottom.

We touched down Liukang island for lunch. Then we walked to the nearby village because some wanted to buy the woven fabric made by the locals.

Panorama of Liukang island

A view of the dock

Dried fishes along the dock

Dried octopus in Liukang island

The weavers

Most houses are on stilts. The lower area are communal spaces, where they weave the fabric, dry the catch of the day and socialize with the neighbors.

From Liukang island, we went back to Bira. Some took a bath and rested, while me, Vissia, Aneen and Sofyan walked to Bara beach to see how the younger ones survived in their tents.

Sand pattern in Bira beach

Bira beach, when the tide is low. One of the cottages above is our inn.

We closed the day with dinner at D'Perahu restaurant. We may be backpackers who stayed at humble inns, but we splurged on the food :).

27 May 2014

Bira port was around 1 or 2 kilometers away from our inn. We were not enthusiastic on the idea of carrying our backpacks to the port, but luckily we found pete-pete (a public minivan). The following photos chronicled our journey from Bira to Selayar's Pamatata port to Pattumbukan port.

 We were crammed inside the public minivan, heading to Bira port

We are a big family of Deuter backpacks :D. My Futura 32 (inside the blue rain cover) looks so tiny compared to Firman's (the  largest backpack in the photo). Firman's backpack weighed at 30 kg (he carried tent, sleeping bag and snorkeling gears), while mine was only 9.5 kg (as of Soekarno-Hatta International Airport).

The happy-go-lucky 13 people met up with Daeng Zul (far right), who was supposed to join us but had to cancel on the last minute.

Kids standing near the ledge in the ferry

Selayar island. I never got tired seeing the blue.

The Pertamina gas station in Selayar only opens two hours every day (09:00 - 11:00), and the queue is too overwhelming. People resort to the ones owned by locals (the price is more expensive, of course).

 Fishermen in Pattumbukan port

The activity of loading and unloading in Pattumbukan port

We left Pattumbukan port at around 4 p.m. Not long after we set sail, it was raining and the waves became rough to go through. I swallowed one of those anti-motion sickness pills and went to a deep slumber. I woke up from time to time, and even saw the red sun slowly and gracefully setting behind the boat, but I was too sleepy to take the photo.

After the rain stopped, the waves became a bit easier to handle. The night sky in the middle of the sea was very dark, we could see the stars above and were mesmerized by the amazing milky way. One by one, we all fell asleep. 

We arrived in Tinabo island at around 10 p.m., the older ones checked in into the room while the younger ones set up their tents.

Next post: Takabonerate :)