Archive for the 'English Articles' Category

12
Feb
09

Seeking Some Rest and Recreation Hidden Corner Batam

LET’S start by being brutally honest: At first glance, Batam Island does not really appear a great vacation proposition.

Parts of the island are best described as an eyesore, with highly utilitarian industrial and commercial premises stretching over large swathes of the land.

And let’s be frank about the land itself, too – flat for one thing, with soil – exposed through the island’s numerous excavations – in an unappealing orangey-yellowish color that looks infertile and grubby.


Now we’ve got that out of the way, there is one more thing to add: Better things lie ahead.

As you travel from the island’s Hang Nadim airport to the area known as Nongsa, the industrial and commercial buildings – and that grubby-looking soil – gradually give way to dense thickets of shrubs and low-lying plants.

Keep going. This unkempt shrubbery then gives way to something else – to signs of humanity taming this wilderness and making it into something lovely and fresh. You have arrived at the dreamy vacation area of Nongsa, Nongsa is in the northern coastal region of Batam Island, with attractive inlets and beaches that add up to an idyllic and tranquil setting for some rest and recreation. There are golf courses here for those so interested, but it is much more the coast, the beaches and the resorts along the waterfront that attract visitors.

The resorts at Nongsa range from the pristine and ultramodern to the more traditional and tropical made from timber and bamboo with thatched roofs. Some of the modern architecture is impressive but those who find all that concrete and steel clinical and cold with may prefer the more “traditional” architecture with its natural materials.

Regardless of the style of architecture, the common theme here is the sea and the Strait of Singapore that Nongsa looks out onto. The shores and skyscrapers of Singapore are visible in the distance – no prizes for guessing why Singaporeans account for many of the holidaymakers.

Singapore is but a 45-minute ferry ride away, making it all too easy for those city-dwellers to escape their crowded city-state for the tranquility of Batam’s resort, the ferry dropping them at the very well-constructed and -managed ferry terminal known as Nongsapura.

Thanks to Nongsapura, getting to and from the resorts is easy and comfortable, with ferries setting off at regular intervals to destinations in both Singapore and Malaysia. These speedy ferries deftly negotiate busy waters, weaving around the huge cargo ships and tankers that pass through the strait. Before all that, though, comes the Nongsa River.

The Nongsa River connects the island to the strait. Like much of the rest of Batam Island, it is surrounded by dense vegetation, which lends it a distinctly wild air. Trips upriver to view exotic birds and wild monkeys are possible, although most people find it hard to drag themselves away from the coast.

One of those coastal attractions is Nongsa’s impressive and expansive marina open to private vessels. Otherwise, there are plenty of watery activities to help while away the holidays: fishing, snorkeling, parasailing, water-skiing, jet-skiing and banana boating.

The downside of all these water activities is the water itself – or more particularly the clarity of the water. It is perhaps only to be expected that with this strait being a major marine thoroughfare – dozens of massive ships pass through the Strait and often time clouds of exhaust fumes can be seen belching from their enormous engines – the water is going to be on the murky side of pristine.

The problem of pollution is also evident in the work of the cleaners raking the beaches each morning, burying the less desirable offerings that have been washed up on the shore.

Never mind – there is no need to swim in the sea, as the resorts all have their own swimming pools replete with fountains and waterfalls, and a mix of depths to please everyone from children and the more serious swimmer. Given this, the sea may be better left alone as a backdrop for the resorts.

Otherwise, the environment in Nongsa is generally clean and well kept, creating great benefits for the local wildlife. In the thick lush forests, visitors can see exotic and colorful birds going about their business of foraging and nesting. At night, bats sweep across the sky, gorging themselves on the abundant fruit hanging from the trees.

Nongsa and its resorts may be quite different from the rest of Batam Island, but are created ideally for rest and recreation. The detail in the construction and management of the hotels and resorts means taking a vacation here can be very pleasing and satisfying – regardless of first impressions.

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2009/01/21/seeking-some-rest-and-recreation-hidden-corner-batam.html

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11
Feb
09

Cibodas Botanical Gardens: Full of Sweeping Vistas

THE most direct route to the Cibodas Botanical Garden is through the hills that rise up to Puncak Pass just south of Jakarta, passing through and down the pass and then on to near the town of Cipanas.

Before reaching Cipanas there is a turning to Cibodas that leads to a seemingly endlessly climbing roadway.

It is evident then that the botanical garden is set at a height but this only hints at the hills and valleys and sweeping vistas and landscaping that are soon to be seen. In a sense the entrance to the garden does little to suggest what lies beyond either.


A relatively modern gateway has been erected, but whilst it is clean and functional, it is not really grandiose and there is little or no information on hand here to guide the visitor. There can, then, be a sense of entering into the unknown when passing through the gates and into the botanical garden.

Initially though, the garden does not look like being anything particularly special. Among the first things to be encountered is a quite extensive collection of bonsai trees. These miniature trees can be purchased but this is nothing unusual; bonsai can be found for sale in many parts of this area.

A sloping grassed area here looks plain and really rather uninteresting; it is evident soon enough that some exploration and so too trekking is going to be necessary in these gardens.

For the less energetic visitor cars may be driven into and around much of the gardens, but this really misses the point and opportunity of walking among and being refreshed by nature.

Walking on, the visitor is soon strolling through avenues of pine trees and viewing intriguingly shaped lakes that are still and so reflect the sky which seems so near at this altitude. These are really the first signs of how land here has been shaped and manicured by researchers and conservationists.

The Cibodas Botanical Garden is made up of over 100 hectares of land which has been described as “Paradise on Earth”.

Various botanical experiments had been happening in this area previously, but it is generally accepted that the garden was established by J.E. Teysmann in 1862. Since its founding, the garden quickly grew into a large and important collection of species, a research center and conservation area.

The garden, which is really quite beautifully situated at the base of the Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park, are part of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences and for good reason.

The collection is cited as having close to 6,000 living specimens that are derived from over 1,200 species. This incorporates cacti and succulents, conifer and palm trees, rhododendrons and roses and varieties of bamboo and orchids.

Along with all this there is a herbarium, many eucalyptus trees from Australia and quinine from South America. This all amounts to a remarkable and varied collection that is of huge scientific importance.

The park setting that can be seen today was largely laid out by scientists. Dr R.H.C.C. Scheffer was a director of the Bogor Botanical Garden and he was largely responsible for the garden’s design here. The undulating lie of the land here creates much more variety in landscape than the garden in Bogor.

But it is not just the garden that creates such a place of interest here.

In 1889 a decision was made to incorporate the primary forest that lies around and literally above the garden. This is an area of close to 250 hectares and it is in this area that some good trekking may be done and a quite impressive waterfall may be reached.

Thanks to the undulating terrain here, at first some climbing is required heading in the direction of the waterfall. This is followed by a quite sharp and steep drop that can be quite challenging when muddy and so slippery. This then leads on to a rock-strewn stream fed by the waterfall.

The sound of the waterfall begins to be heard and, as the trek to the falling water is through a narrow valley, moisture from the waterfall hangs in the air and creates a damp atmosphere.

This is not a trek of footpaths and handrails but is over stones that may be both slippery and jagged – on this trek alone three people were seen falling heavily on the stones and into the water.

But if the treacherous stones and streams can be negotiated, it is well worth it because the waterfall is quite impressive. The water falls powerfully from a precipice some thirty meters or so up. On its way down the water hits a shelf of rock and this seems to add to the spray that surrounds it.

Close by, the power and velocity of the falling water is immediately obvious, as the drop from the high precipice is sheer. But further away too the waterfall’s presence can be felt as the spray from it tends to linger. The waterfall is, then, a highlight of the park area, but all around there is much to please the eye.

The walk back from the waterfall may be made through a less steep and so less challenging valley. This is where the natural and rather wild beauty of the area can be truly appreciated.

Thick forests blanket the slopes of Mount Gede and Pangrango and occasionally wild monkeys can be seen swiftly but warily leaping between trees.

The more parkland elements of the garden’s area are good for trekking and an appreciation of nature in its more wild states. Back in the more man-made parts of the garden nature is more tamed, trained and trimmed to scientists’ and landscapers’ designs.

In the garden areas waterfalls have been created too so that the mountain water cascade down the slopes.

Whether natural and wild or more tamed and controlled the falling waters of Cibodas and its flora and fauna offer a wealth of good sights for the eye and healthy outdoor areas for the body as a whole.

Sources : http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2009/02/03/cibodas-botanical-gardens-full-sweeping-vistas.html

10
Feb
09

North Sumatra : Toba Lake, Maimoon Palace & The Great Mosque

TOBA Lake
World famous is the crater Toba Lake in the Batak highlands; approximately five hours drive from Medan. Toba Lake is the largest lake in South East Asia and also one of the most spectacular, surrounded by tall mountains and with the large island of Samosir in the middle. If we descend from the mountain we see the lake glittering in all its beauty. The Dutch writer Rudy Kousbroek even called Toba Lake, ‘the most beautiful place on earth’. Most visitors stay on the peninsula of Tuk Tuk on Samosir, named after the linguist Herman Neubronner van der Tuuk. In general people stay several days on Samosir to discover the island, to visit traditional Batak villages, to swim in the lake and go to the hot springs in Pangururan.


The centerpiece of North Sumatra, Lake Toba’s bracing climate and magnificent panoramas clear the mind and soothe the soul. For decades a magnet from regional and foreign visitors alike, Toba has developed into a full-featured highland resort while retaining the rustic charm and relaxed ambiance that define Toba’s attraction. Formed by a stupendous prehistoric volcanic explosion, the 100 km long lake is the largest in Southeast Asia and one of the deepest and the highest in the world. The drama of that cataclysmic birth persist in 500 meter cliffs dropping into the blue-green waters, surrounded by steep, pine covered sloped, the climate is fresh and pleasant, with just enough rain to support the lush vegetation.

Toba Lake is a 100kms x 30kms volcanic lake in North Sumatra, Indonesia. Toba Lake has become one of the main tourist attractions for a long time in North Sumatra apart from Bukit Lawang and Nias, visited by both domestic and foreign tourist.

Maimoon Palace
This building is dominated by yellow colors. However, do not connect it with the color of a political party. Yellow was the typical color of the Malay. There are family photographs, furnishings, and old weapons inside the building. The Maimoon Palace was the legacy of Deli Sultanate. Maimoon palace was located in Brigjen Katamso Street, Medan. Sultan Deli, Sultan Makmun Al Rasyid Perkasa Alamsyah, had established this palace. The designer was an Italia architect, and finished in 1888. Built on a land measuring 2.772 m2 wide the palace building is facing to east, and become the centre of the Deli kingdom. This palace consisted of two floors that were divided into three parts, which is the main building, the left wing, and the right wing. In front, around 100 meters, stood Al-Maksum mosque that are well known as Medan’s Great mosque.

The Great Mosque
This Great mosque was one of the Sultan Deli legacies in North Sumatra other than the Maimoon Palace. This mosque was still utilized by the Muslim community to pray every day. Some of the building materials for this mosque decoration were made in Italy. Foreign tourists visit this mosque from various countries all over the World. This Great mosque is the most beautiful and biggest mosque in North Sumatra. Sultan Makmun Al Rasyid built this mosque in 1906. This Great mosque is located only 200 m from Maimoon Palace.

Sources:
http://www.indonesia-tourism.com/north-sumatra/great_mosque.html
http://www.indonesia-tourism.com/north-sumatra/toba_lake.html
http://www.indonesia-tourism.com/north-sumatra/maimoon_palace.html
http://lh3.ggpht.com/_ePnFmEdNBdY/Rvi_nAzqP3I/AAAAAAAADbk/RLJqsr-wWP4/DSC08306.JPG
http://www.simalungunkab.go.id/id/gallery/file/wisata.jpg
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/52/Maimoon_Palace_Medan_Indonesia.jpg
http://my-indonesia.info/imgdata/gallery-img3426_MedanRethaMasjidRayaMedan.jpg

Laughing is healthy, especially if you laugh about yourself.

10
Feb
09

Bali Beautiful

AS our Combi van coughed its way up to Kintamani on the northern side of the island, the sky suddenly gave way to torrential rain that quickly inundated the narrow mountain road. Right about then, the Combi sputtered and died. Our driver started and restarted the engine in vain while our guide tried to reassure us that this rain would be short-lived as they usually are in this part of the world. The heavy downpour was now threatening to carry our van downhill with it. Speeding vehicles were passing us, splashing muddy water in their wake. After what seemed like an eternity, the engine sprang back to life and we slowly edged our way to Penelokan for lunch where front and center row view seats of Gunung Batur and Lake Batur awaited us.


We sat impatiently through lunch waiting for the veil of mist that shrouded the volcano to lift. A faint hint of sunlight and we finally caught a glimpse of Mt. Batur with its perforated peak surrounded by the lush valley floor and dark blue lake.

Views like this are commonplace in Bali. Picture green terraced hillsides, temples great and small, fascinating roadside craft shops, and a choice of beaches. These are just a few of the reasons why visitors are returning to the island after the tragic bombings in 2002 that killed so many people. In Kuta where the horrifying explosions occurred, a Hindu shrine stands unscathed while the area next to it has been razed to the ground. Rather than be angry for the desecration of their peaceful island, the Balinese gathered in prayer for those who perished.

Prayer is intrinsic in Balinese culture which is deeply rooted in the Hindu religion. The pura or temple is an important institution in the daily life of the people. This is where they worship, celebrate life and send their dead to the afterlife. Every village has at least three temples, each dedicated to one of the Hindu Trinity – Vishnu, the Preserver of Life, Brahma who is the Creator and Shiva, the Destroyer.

With hundreds of temples in Bali, it is difficult to decide which ones to visit during a short stay. But Pura Tanah Lot has arguably the most dramatic setting. It is well positioned on top of a rocky promontory in southwestern Bali. At high tide, it is practically floating in ocean waters. Tanah Lot means earth and sea, quite apropos given its location. When it is low tide, it is possible to walk to the islet and climb up to the temple. Also at Tanah Lot is Batu Bolong, a rocky outcrop straddling land and sea, like a protective arm cradling a cozy beach. It has an arched opening carved by the ocean over time. Several shrines sit on the edge of the rock.

We happened to visit during their New Year festival. This celebration takes place more frequently when the Pawukon Balinese calendar system is employed. (A Pawukon year has 210 days.) It was a lively scene with colorful streamers moving gently in the breeze. Men garbed in white shirts and pants and white turban called “udeng” were praying under one of the tents. Women arrived with their offerings balanced on their head. They wore a sarong tied with a sash, required for all women (including visitors) who enter the temple. A whiff of incense burning and gamelan music playing in the background further heightened the heady and exotic ambience.

There are many deities in the Hindu religion. The Pura Ulun Danu in Bratan is a temple dedicated to Dewi Danu, the goddess of the waters and source of fertility. It has a lakeside setting with Mt. Batur in the distance as its backdrop. It is often cloaked in mist lending it an ethereal appearance. Within the temple grounds are fine examples of meru, a multi-tiered black thatched pagoda. Merus have an odd number of roofs up to a maximum of eleven. The royal temple of Taman Ayun in Mengwi has an impressive line up of merus in its inner courtyard. Together they constitute the “skyscrapers” of the village.

Everyday we discovered offerings to the gods in palm leaf trays in the most unexpected places. Some contained flowers and betel, others fruit and rice flour cookies, and during the festival, we saw more elaborate offerings, all of them attractively arranged. The contents notwithstanding, the Balinese are always trying to please their gods and ancestors. This must be the reason why Bali and its people are blessed with beauty and serenity.

Currency exchange: Be careful with money changers. A money changer in Nusa Dua insisted on changing my $100 with small bills then placed his hand on top of the stack of bills he handed to me and pilfered several bills this way. (The hotel staff accompanied me to the money changer after I complained and helped me recover the amount of money taken from me.) Although the sign clearly states “Authorized Money Changer”, this does not mean they are above board. It’s best to change your money in the bank even if the exchange rate may be lower. Local currency is Indonesian rupiah. (By Rosario Charie Albar).

Photos by Rosario Charie Albar.

Source: http://www.travellady.com/Issues/June05/1552BaliBeautiful.htm

You have to endure caterpillars if you want to see butterflies. (Antoine De Saint)