Indonesia has more approximately 14.000 islands and even though tourism is growing in Indonesia there are whole cultures that people are not connecting with. Here are three suggestions of off the beaten path places to visit in Indonesia
How to get here: To get to this village you have to actually rent a motorcycle and a boat to cross the river. Not recommended for those travelers on a budget, the fees can get until $300.
Why: In this village, there’s this kind of tree that can blur the smell of dead people’s flesh rotting go unnoticed. Deceased Balinese people aren’t being put into a coven, they are left under the tree with only white textile covering their bodies until their flesh and muscles rot away and only their skeletons remained. In that rotting process, not one fly or any other insects will get near that deceased bodies. And no flesh rotting odor will disturb the air surrounding the dead bodies either.
I’ve attached a picture where the skeletons are stacked unto each other; gruesome but pretty fascinating. (Maybe I’m the only one who thinks this is fascinating. hahaha). Make sure you donate some money to this cemetery if you’re interested to keep them up and running. In Trunyan, you get a different sense of Bali from the usual Kuta or Seminyak culture scenes.
2. Toraja, South Sulawesi
How to get here: Can only be reached by plane, from Jakarta to Sulawesi or any other big cities to Sulawesi. To go down South, rent a car.
Why: Fascinating cultures, two of them are Toraja clan and Bugis clan cultures. Toraja and Bugis are in one same place but they both consisted of a completely different cultural experience. They have beautiful wood carvings and architectures that dated back before centuries and they are still preserved until now, beautiful textiles and patterns that are special for that specific clan are also one of the reasons why to go down here.
Another fascinating fact about how the Toraja clan treat dead people (I’m sorry, but as a local, I’m completely mesmerized at how in other parts in Indonesia can be so different from the modern culture nowadays that cultivated Surabaya or Jakarta), they put bodies in cages in the mountains. This culture lasts from 1700 years ago until now and somehow they also don’t smell. But unlike in Trunyan, there are no trees surrounding this mountain. Also, pictures attached.
3. Tadulako, Sulawesi
How to get here: Tadulako is located in Central Sulawesi, in Palu exactly. To get here, rent a car and get a guide because most of Sulawesi people can’t talk English. Go to Palu first and then that’s where you can go to Tadulako. From Palu to Tadulako could take up until 3 hours.
Why: The Lore rocks that are believed came from the megalith times. Beautiful landscapes, and rocks. Big rocks. These Lore rocks are located in two places, in Lembah Doda and Pokekea. The carvings on the rocks indicated nature and humans, one big rock is carved similar to leaves which are believed to be the place where kings used to drink on or bathed on. There’s also this one mysterious rock that resembles couples, the local people believed, and there’s also a 2-meter tall statue that looks like a human.
Another thing about Sulawesi: they have the best seafood! According to my father’s childhood stories, he used to live very near to the beach where you can actually just fish the fishes directly out of the sea and cook it in his house with Sulawesi’s special Rica Rica sauce. Sulawesi has special delicacies like Tuturuga; turtle meat cooked in spices if the meat is cooked alone, it tasted like this harsh textured soil taste (if anyone has ever tasted the ground before) but with the spices, it’s delicious. There are dog meat delicacies and bats meals too. If you’re in for a ‘normal’ meal there’s the special BBQ’d pork. Bali also has its own special spicy BBQ’d pork but Sulawesi BBQ’d pork is completely different; they have liver, carrots, and potatoes side meals, onion, and tomatoes sambal, and delicious cuts of pork’s flesh and crispy skin.
If you’re in for a relaxing and soothing trip, try Gili Trawangan in Lombok, lots of other white sand beaches in Lampung, Situbondo (East Java), or most of Java, really. To see architecture from the Indonesian colonial era, you go to my city. In its east part of the city, many old colonial buildings still standing majestically and they’re all preserved and used as daily workplace, another famous museum that I really enjoyed is Sampoerna Museum; a museum about one of the oldest cigarette companies that still exist until now, beautiful presentation, very well-preserved museum, the Majapahit Hotel; famous for its heroic photograph in which a patriot bravely tore the colony’s flag down, or Jembatan Merah where lots of heroes fought British soldiers and because so many people died, the bridge is called “The Red Bridge” or “Jembatan Merah”.
There are also lots of other undiscovered places in Indonesia (in total approximately 14.0000 islands are still undiscovered and experienced before) and I believe these are some of the most fascinating places a local could have ever experience. You get to see how Indonesia really was, before its colonial era. These places, I believe, are authentic in presenting how mystique Indonesia was on life and death.
Some things I learned after discovering these places, were how I was not taking Indonesia’s cultures and spirituality seriously. As I teenager, I was used to living in an urban city, complaining from time to time how I want to get out of Indonesia and live somewhere else. I sense how Indonesia, in its most golden colorful history, has a big deal in the history of the world too. I also discover the ancient understanding of gods and religions, how they have an enormous role in why Indonesia became Indonesia in its present form.
If you are an anthropology graduate, culture and history enthusiast, outdoor lover, food lover, wanderers or travelers I think you will enjoy these unusual experiences. I highly suggest you get a guide when you visit these places because they are ancient and some of them may not even talk Indonesian, let along English. Bring cash, finding an ATM that operates internationally may not be possible. Be sure to always follow the spiritual rules (like not stepping on this or that, bow when you enter a something sacred, wear a special shawl to get into some places, or fold your hands to pray) as these rules are taken seriously.