Indonesia Tag

ramayana ballet, yogyakarta, indonesia, prambanan temple
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The mythical world of music and dance

Ramayana Ballet, Yogyakarta, Indonesia It's appropriate that with the ancient Prambanan Temple in the background, you are transported back to a time of demons, heroic animals and epic royal quests. It's a mythical world illustrated through dance and music that is the setting for a love story centuries old. The Ramayana Ballet is the most famous performance in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta. It was only while I was going through some photos of my trip there late last year that I realised I hadn't shared any photos of the incredible show. It's a graceful and fluid spectacle that juxtaposes the grandeur of the large open air stage with the focused detail of the ballet choreography. The whole performance, with the backdrop of the temple, feels exotic and, at the same time intimate. The costumes, the expressions, and the songs draw you in. The tale is an old Indian epic which has become popular...

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29 March
uluwatu, kecak performance, fire dance, performance at temple, bali, indonesi (6)
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Bali’s Kecak Fire Dance

Uluwatu Temple, Bali, Indonesia “Chark-a, chark-a, chark-a, chark-a”, and on… the chant goes. Almost hypnotic, trance-like, the thirty or so barechested Indonesian men sway with the rhythm. They’re sitting on the ground in a circle – and in the middle the drama is unfolding. Two young princes; a demon king; a damsel in distress; a mischievous monkey. They all play their parts in the ring of unceasing cantillation. The nightly performance is very popular here at Uluwatu. Buses bring the tourists from the resorts of Bali down to the southern tip of the island in time for sunset, when the show begins. Through the paths of the temple and past the clifftops with their views across the ocean, everyone walks, until you finally get to the stage. The performance is called a ‘Kecak dance’, an onomatopoeic title for the sound of the chant. It’s based on a traditional Balinese ritual but was actually...

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17 December
visiting mount bromo, Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, caldera, volcanic activity in indonesia (1)
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Sunrise over the volcano

Mount Bromo, Indonesia There aren’t many reasons tourists take the road south from Surabaya. To be fair, there aren’t many reasons tourists would even be in Surabaya in the first place, but let’s overlook that for now. Because the city is the staging point for the 120 kilometre journey down East Java to one of Indonesia’s most beautiful natural attractions. I’m talking about Mount Bromo, the active volcano that lies in the middle of a large valley. With its top blown off, it appears more crater than mountain, while putrid sulphurous gas and smoke billow out from within. One of the reasons it has become such a popular site for visitors is that Mount Bromo doesn’t exist in isolation. The valley is actually a ‘caldera’ – an enormous cauldron-like pit created by the ground collapsing after a major eruption. And all through and around this caldera are the remnants of volcanic action of...

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27 November
bali, indonesia, good, evil, development, commerical, traffic, spirituality (7)
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The good and evil of Bali

Visiting Bali, Indonesia There’s a dichotomy to Bali. It’s all, ultimately, about belief and perception. It’s about how you see the world, how you see your place in it, and how you judge the reason for it all. On this Indonesian island, there is a pervasive spirituality. The Hindu doctrines which have influenced it for centuries (while the rest of the country has moved towards Islam) remain today. In fact, in some ways, never more in history have they been more important to the identity of this special place. I’ve written about the spirituality of Bali before. The basic idea around the beliefs of the locals here is the acceptance that the same force that does good also does evil. The two, according to the philosophies, are inseparable because to understand one, you must have experienced the other. On this trip, probably my fourth of fifth to Bali (I seem to have lost count),...

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26 November
taman sari, water palace, yogyakarta, things to do in yogyakarta, sultanate, sultan (9)
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Sultan wants a wife

Taman Sari Water Palace, Yogyakarta “The sultans had two hobbies”, the guide is explaining. “Hunting and hunting.” “They hunt for four-legged…”, he pauses. “And they hunt for two-legged.” It’s to investigate this second type of hunting – the one that certainly sounds more salacious – that I’m on my way to the Royal Water Palace (Taman Sari) in Yogyakarta. It’s not far from the official royal palace, known as the Keraton. In fact, although it was built as a holiday retreat for the Sultan, it’s only a few minutes away by car or bus these days. The Keraton is still in use, as Yogyakarta still has a Sultan who acts automatically as the region’s governor. But the Water Palace is now a part of history. Its main use is not really appropriate in modern Indonesia. As I arrive, I can see that it has fallen slightly into disrepair. Not in the sense that it hasn’t...

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14 November
keraton, kraton, royal palace, sultan palace, yogyakarta, things to do in yogyakarta (6)
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Yogyakarta’s palace and the family honours

The Keraton, Yogyakarta At the palace in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta, there are two honours passed down through the generations. In both cases, when a son is born, the father knows his child will one day take on a special responsibility. It is the right and the duty of the child to follow in the footsteps of his ancestors. One of these honours is to become the Sultan of Yogyakarta, a hereditary title that dates back to the eighteenth century. The other great honour that stays in the family is to be a guard at the palace. It is not just royalty that passes on the job to the next generation, but also those who dedicate their lives to the royal protection. Today, there are two thousand palace guards in total. Only about one thousand are active, though. It’s a job for life, so as they get older and can’t physically work...

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13 November
pink beach, kanawa beach, best beaches, beautiful beach, komodo national park, coral, snorkelling (2)
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The most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen

Pink Beach, Indonesia When the sun catches the sand, the beach glows. But it’s not a pure yellow radiance. Shining and shimmering in the Indonesian heat, the open beach blushes a shade of pink. I’m here, far from civilisation on Komodo Island in the south of the country. It’s at least an hour by boat from the nearest town and the isolation means there are only one or two strangers sharing the sand. A beach like this doesn’t need a fancy name. It is simply called ‘Pink Beach’, which says almost all you need to know. It’s apparently one of only seven beaches in the world where the sand has this colour, a hue that’s caused by the red coral in the shallow waters. Small red grains mix with the normal grains of sand to produce the effect. The coral is the highlight of the beach here. Not just because of the part it...

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05 November
komodo dragon, attack, rinca island, komodo national park, dangerous reptiles (4)
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“I was attacked by a dragon and survived”

Komodo National Park, Indonesia Maen still has nightmares about that morning. About those few minutes in which he almost died. About the time he was attacked by a man-eating reptile and had to fight it off to save his life. “I don’t like to tell more my story because when I tell again, when I’m sitting alone, I remember,” he says, softly and humbly. “I would like to try to forget this story.” But Maen, the quiet-spoken middle-aged Indonesian, has agreed to tell me his tale so I can share it. He thinks it’s important for people to understand the dangers of the Komodo dragons. It was 2009 and Maen had been working here on Rinca Island in Komodo National Park as a ranger for about a year when he went into the office that morning. The small wooden building in the main camp looked the same as usual and he went in and...

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30 October