Travel, Teach, Live in Asia

Raja Laut - Indonesia Cultural Destinations
By:Arthur GJ

Bali (Indonesia)

When one talks about Bali Island, often the word "paradise" comes to mind. Indeed, this island abounds with cliches: world-class surfing, paradise for food, golden magnificent beaches, wild and crazy nightlife... But if generally a cliche is an ensemble of false ideas, here the cliche turns out to be true, as all the elements quoted above can be found in Bali. But above all, Bali has a unique culture, made of ancient legends and myths, and beyond that, made of a great open mindedness. With its internationally renowned many forms of art such as dance, music, painting, sculpting, Bali is not done amazing you.

Kuta

Despite its infamous partying lifestyle, Kuta has many things to offer and is the ideal gateway for your adventure in Bali. Indeed, it is 10 minutes away from the Denpasar Airport and by bemo, motorbike or taxi, not far from towns like Seminiak, Ubud or Lovina. Apart from that, you will enjoy Kuta for its gorgeous sunsets and the golden sands. There are also a reasonable number of places to shop to buy handicrafts, batiks and local souvenirs.

Ubud

Ubud is a little town located about 45 minutes from Kuta. Famously and deservedly called the center of Bali's art scene, Ubud guarantees a romantic and clever escapade. Ubud is located at 300m above sea level, and hence enjoys a cool climate. This latter fact makes it a perfect spot to flee from the heat and the crowd of the other Balinese towns.

Ubud city is a real concentration of culture, typical Balinese architecture, and eagerness for knowledge. It is the best place on the island to have a real glimpse at Bali's Hindu. Heritage and will delight all the curious and inspired people who want to experience something more than the fun and sun. These last fews years though, Ubud has inevitably lost a tiny bit of its charm as the merciless machinery of mass tourism spares none city. Nevertheless, if the town center is a bit noisier and competitive than before, the lane and the corners that are located away from it are really worth the visit and constitute a true must to put first on your to-do list. There, the nightly traditional dances which render Ubud so special and popular are exceptional.

Many beautiful rice fields surround Ubud and they constitute a relaxing and interesting activity to do. Many people like to hire bikes and ride in the paddy fields. There are also a lot of temples, historical sites, museums and galleries that are worth the visit. The icing on the cake is that every landscape that will accompany you is breath taking, so bring your camera along. Be it the long lanes full of art galleries or the magnificent greeneries of the fields, you will be charmed by Ubud.

Borobudur (yogyakarta) (Indonesia)

Along with the Angkor Wat Temple, Borobudur is one of the finest wonders of South East Asia and doubtlessly the most prestigious monument in whole Indonesia. It is a Buddhist temple located about 40km northwest of Yogyakarta. Place of pilgrimage, Borobudur is now a Unesco World Heritage Site. It has a lot of dramatic history behind it. According to some sources, it was built around 800 AD, but it is unclear by whom exactly and 75 years were necessary to finish its construction. After heyday for Buddhist people, the monument sank into oblivion under volcanic ashes and jungle that grew over it. Its "second life" in 1814 when Stamford Raffles (the Singapore Discoverer ) made the Dutch engineer Cornelius' discovery public. All the credit was given to Raffles although he did not participate to the unearthing itself.

After this discovery, the site was under archeological attention and in the same time, slightly became more and more appreciated. Being a World Heritage Site, it has been renovated between 1975 and 1982. Now, it draws tourists but especially pilgrims from all over the world and is the most sacred place of worship for all Indonesian Buddhists.

To have a wonderful and unique experience, you can go to Borobudur during the Waisak festival (During the full moon in May). This ceremony celebrates the birth, life and death of Buddha with a long procession that goes from Candi Mendut to Borobudur. It is the perfect occasion to see all the rituals that accompany this kind of Buddhist celebration. It a colorful, spiritual and unforgettable experience.

Borobudur is shaped like a mandala. A mandala is a circular diagram that has its roots in Tibetan traditions. The whole temple is a representation of body, speech and mind of the Lord Buddha. All its architecture and statues live in harmony, and all the elements that form Borobudur are part of a pattern that serves for meditation. It is a real and spiritual guidance for pilgrims for them to find and achieve their way to Nirvana.

Tana Toraja, Sulawesi (Indonesia) Tana Toraja, or " The Land of Heavenly Kings" is a region located up in the hills of Sulawesi, Indonesia. The two important cities of this region are Makale, the capital, and Rantepao, the largest town. The inhabitants are the ethnic group the Torajans. They are predominantly Christians but obey to their cultural heritage and stick to it.

Tana Toraja is nothing compared to what you have seen or experienced before. You will be stunned by their culture. What makes Tana Toraja so special and unique is all their spectacular funeral rituals and their fascination with the dead.

Death Ceremony in Tana Toraja

An array of beliefs and rituals accompany the daily life of the Torajan people. When someone dies, it is believed that the deceased is not separated directly from the family as he continues to protect and save them by bringing them good luck. Also, as the funeral is considered the most important ceremony in the Torajan's life, it takes time for the family to save money to buy a buffalo. Indeed, the burials are accompanied by buffalo and pig sacrifices. The more important the deceased, the more the buffalo. Some dances are executed; the dancers' outfits are based on traditional warrior dress and weaponry. Therefore the funerals can happen a long time after the death.

The funeral season takes place during the months of July and August, so naturally it draws more tourists and curious than the usual. Do not hesitate to get a bit off the beaten track to have the best perception of this amazing Torajan life, or to come during the rest of the year. Makale is the capital of the Tana Toraja Regency. Rantepao is the cultural center of Tana Toraja and is a good gateway for your adventure in Tana Toraja. An absolute must-see in Rantepao is its market, Pasar Bolu.

Nias Island (Indonesia)

Nias Island is an Indonesian island located on the western side of Sumatra. It is a paradisaical place known for its turquoise waters and, above all, for being a great surf destination. As a matter of fact, one of the main source of income of the locals is seasoning surf. It is an internationally known surfing spot renowned for its world class waves, the most popular site being Lagundri Bay.

Apart from these surfing features, Nias Island is blessed with gorgeous scenery and a lot of other water activities to do: Fishing, diving... Indeed, the waters there are very rich.

The people of Nias, who calls itself "Ono Niha" (it means "People's children") will amazed you with their strong culture. They live simply and are very hospitable towards tourists. Earning their lives mainly fishing or farming, they live in old traditional houses, built with heavy woods and following a special architecture to resist the wrath of the weather conditions.

Raja Laut is a splendid yacht designed along exquisite classic lines for private yacht charter and luxury expeditions in South East Asia. The name Raja Laut means "KING OF THE SEAS" http://www.rajalaut.com/about/history.php in Malay, and was an honorific title used in ancient times.






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