Java is the country's political and cultural heart, with a devout Muslim society and lingering reminders of the Buddhist kings and Dutch colonists who shaped its history. And Bali is its artistic soul, with a spiritual Hindu population and landscapes that have inspired painters and performers for centuries.
We began our discovery in Jakarta, the country's capital. Located on the northwest coast of Java, Jakarta has a population of over 20,000,000 of which nearly 100% are Muslim, making Indonesia the world's most populous Muslim-Majority nation. Our first stop was the Istiqlal Mosque, which opened in 1978 and is the biggest mosque in Southeast Asia. After exploring a botanical garden and market in Bogor, we went to Bandung where we learned about the indigenous music of the Sunda people on a visit to an angklung workshop, where we met with an artesian who makes these musical percussion instruments that consists of bamboo tubes and a frame with tones somewhat akin to a xylophone. We also visited with local veterans, many of whom fought to gain independence from the Dutch after World War II. Next, we traveled to Yogyakarta, a city known for its fine art and culture such as colorful batik cloths and the ancient Hindu temples of Sambisari and Prambanan and the colossal Buddhist temple of Borobudur. Our journey there by train revealed some of Java's most iconic rural scenery as we wound along forest-coated hills, rural towns, and alongside terraced rice paddies cut into the slopes.
After bidding farewell to Java, we flew to the tropical island paradise of Bali. A Hindu enclave that stands alone in the middle of the rest of the largely Muslim Indonesia, Bali has fostered a deeply spiritual culture with arts, dance and music performances all abound, customs, and social rules unlike any place on Earth. First, we witnessed Legong Dancing, a refined dance form characterized by intricate finger movements, complicated footwork, and expressive gestures and facial expressions traditionally performed by pre-pubescent girls. Next, we traveled to Ubud from where we made day trips to villages around the Kintamani Volcano including the village of Trunyan where the people do not practice cremation but display their dead in open graves concealed by bamboo lattices and remarkably preserved by the roots of the fragrant taru menyan tree. On a visit to a coffee plantation, we learned about the cultivation process of kopi luwak by which the bean is harvested from the feces of the civet cat then ground and made into a unique brew that is often called the world's most expensive coffee. While in Ubud, which is known for its scenic rice fields, elephant camp and the sacred Monkey Forest, a sanctuary where hundreds of Balinese monkeys gather in giant nutmeg trees and at a small temple, we experienced the daily Balinese life in the rural hills and crowded markets. After departing Ubud, we explored the 17th Century Pura Ulun Danu Beratan Temple that floats on Lake Bratan. As we journeyed to Singaraja along Bali's northern coast, we viewed the impressive Gitgit Waterfall and observed a Hindu funeral procession and cremation ceremony. Lined with black volcanic sand beaches and picturesque coastal and fishing villages, northern Bali maintains a quieter pace than its neighbors to the south. There, we visited local schools, enjoyed the colorful sun as it set behind the Bali Sea and spoiled ourselves with a couple's massage. Along our route to Bali's southern shores, we wandered about in beautiful rice terraces known as subak, an irrigation system woven into the landscape. Brilliant green and flooded with reflective waters, these rows of paddies have become a symbol of rural Bali. In Jimbaran, a coastal town overlooking the Indian Ocean, we visited the tenth century Pura Luhur Uluwatu Balinese sea temple, perched on a cliff 330 feet above the water and also celebrated Jodi’s 43rd birthday.
From Bali, we flew to the small fishing village of Labuan Bajo on the western end of Flores, a predominantly Roman Catholic populated island. From its rustic jetty, Labuan Bajo became our gateway by boat for visiting its smaller neighboring islands. On the unspoiled islands of Komodo and Rinca, we saw many Komodo dragons in their natural habitat. These monitor lizards varied in size but can grow up to 10 feet in length and can weigh up to 150 pounds. On the island of Flores, we visited the Cecer Village where the clan-based Manggarai speak their own dialect. There, we witnessed Caci dancing, a sport in which masked men wield whips in stylized combat that is meant to symbolize the unity of men and women in creation. We also stopped at the St. Damian Rehabilitation Center, a home ran by a Roman Catholic nun dedicated to taking in Indonesia’s severely deformed and handicapped children of all ages. We concluded our journey with a visit to the uninhabited island of Kelora followed by an unexpected visit to a remote fishing village on Rinca Island.
Though over 4,000 pictures were taken, only those that best represent our trip are showcased in this book. For more of our pictures from Indonesia or other lands we have visited, please visit our website at www.floydandjodi.com.
Floyd Schleyhahn Photography www.floydandjodi.com