Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Bintan Island of Indonesia

Bintan is one of the islands of Riau Archipelago of Indonesia. It is situated at about 40km from Singapore. Its capital, Tanjung Pinang is actually the capital of Riau Archipelago. From here you can see the importance of Bintan island.

Compared with Batam, Bintan is richer in its history. In conjunction with this background, it has more historical sites to visit.

Bintan's history is intertwined closely with those of Malacca and Johor Sultanates. Bintan and the rest of Riau Arcipelago were ruled by the Malacca Sultanate. When the Portuguese attacked Malacca in 1511, its king fled to Pahang of Malay Peninsula and later to Bintan where he tried to repossess Malacca. His successor moved to Johor and established the Johor Sultanate.

Later, the Dutch gained control of Bintan island. However, the Dutch was later driven out by a force supported by Malacca Sultanate.

In 1824, the Treaty of London finally settled that the islands south of Singapore are Dutch Territories. Again Bintan was under the control of the Dutch.

Pulau Penyengat is a must see historical site for visitors. It is situated at about 6km from Tanjung Pinang. It was the religious, cultural and administration centre of the region in 19th century. Sultan Mahmud Shah of Malacca gave this island to his bride, Raja Hamidah, daughter of Raja Ali Haji, the Bugis commander of Bintan, in an attempt to reach peace between the Malay and the Bugis. A grand mosque, Masjid Raya was built on the island. The mosque is huge and is visible from Tanjung Pinang.

Raja Ali Haji was the hero to Bintan's people. There is a monument by the seaside that commemorates him who sacrificed his life for his people against the Dutch.

Within the town of Tanjung Pinang, there is a Dutch Colonial Graveyard which reflects the life of the seamen at the old days.

Banyan Tree Temple is a popular place for the local Chinese community and Singaporean visitors. It is situated in a town called Senggarang. The temple is about 100 years old.

For holiday makers, there are broadly 2 areas for you to choose i.e. Lagoi (Bintan Resorts) at the northern part or Trikora Beach at the east of the island.

Lagoi is full of high end resorts like Banyan Tree Resort and Club Med Ria. These are exclusive resorts complete with golf courses designed by world renowned golf course designers.

Resorts and hotels at theTrikora Beach are affordable to average visitors. To name a few: Bintan Agro Beach Resorts, resorts complete with fishing facilities like Ocean Bay Resort and Kolam Kelong Trikora. There is even a resort providing diving guide i.e. Traveler Pondok Wisita. Visitors may stay in its air-conditioned or non-air-conditioned rooms overnight before diving.

Bintan is accessible from Johor Bahru and Singapore by ferry.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Chai_Yong

Indonesia - A Fascinating Culture of Tana Toraja

A group of 80 people, male and female, stood holding hands and forming a large circle on a field. They sang mourning songs in a slow tempo as thousands of spectators looked on. Slowly, they leaned to the right, then to the left, then right again, while occasionally stood on tiptoe. This is the Ma’badong ritual, song to accompany a funeral rite.

Torajan culture regards funeral rite as a very important event with deep meaning. In the past, Torajans believed that the funeral rite -called Rambu Solo- should be conducted to please the gods so that the dead will be forgiven and accepted into heaven. Nowadays, the funeral rite is conducted to honor the dead and the bereft family.

Rambu Solo is a huge Endeavour lasting a full week. No wonder it attracted thousands of people, both to attend and to help ensuring that the funeral rite goes smoothly. Hundreds, sometime thousands, of buffaloes and hogs were sacrificed for Rambu Solo. It all depends on how large the funeral rite is going to be. Larger ceremonies will require greater number of sacrificed livestock’s, even though buffalo does not come cheap, costing ten million rupiah ( US$ 1,100) each. The size and scope alone would be enough reason for foreign and local tourists not to miss observing Rambu Solo.

Nevertheless, Rambu Solo is only one of Torajan culture’s many exotic side. As part of the first wave of humans to inhabit the Indonesian archipelago and predecessor of the proto-Malay culture, Torajan’s tradition and way of life is uniquely remarkable. For example, Tana Toraja is one of the few places in Indonesia where people still build a tribal house -the Torajan refers to it as tongkonan.

It is not uncommon to find the sight of tongkonan with its distinctive overturned-boat shaped roof, sandwiched between lush paddy fields.

Scattered around Rantepao and Makale, capital city of Toraja Regency, are villages with old tongkonans that is still inhabited by its builder’s descendants. Among those villages, Kete’kesu is the most important because it has been designated a cultural preservation site and has one of the large number of tongkonans.

Five tongkonans stand tall amid the throng of visitors; each was made without employing a single nail and adorned with their own distinctive carvings. Even at glance, the tribal houses looked very old. One of them is reportedly four hundred years old. One of them is reportedly four hundred years old. On display in front of each house are buffalo horns to signify social status. The more and bigger those horns are, the higher the status.

Across the tongkonan lie grain silos that locals call alang sura, while at the back of the complex is an ancient cemetery that is at least as old as the tongkonans, but probably more, judging from the decaying wood of the casket inside. The word “cemetery” may remind us of bodies buried below ground and gravestones, but no such thing is evident in Tana Toraja. This is another unusual aspect of Toraja culture.

They do not bury their dead like in most culture; instead they put the dead inside caves, either natural or man-made. These burial caves usually exist in high cliffs or large rocks, such as in Lokomata. If natural caves are not readily available, then it must be carved into rocks, a painstaking process that can take years to complete and usually done well before the intended occupant passes away.

From outside, the entrance looked small. But inside, the cave is large enough to accommodate several bodies along with their belongings. Sometimes, a life size statue resembling one of the dead is placed in front of the cave opening.

Meanwhile, a baby who has not grown any tooth will receive different treatment in case of death. Instead of cave, the baby will be buried inside tree trunk, such as those found at Kambira. These burial procedures are widely acknowledged as one of Indonesia’s extraordinary cultures.

Soon to be World Heritage Site

Kete’kesu, Kambira, and Lokomata are not the only places to experience Torajan culture. Other places that should be visited including Palawa, Parinding, and Londa villages, megalithic stone structure of Bori Kalimbuang, Sullukang city, Sa’dan River in the middle, also has scenic view, dominated by green color of trees and vast paddy fields. One of the several places to enjoy the view is Batutumonga on the slope of Mount Sesean. From this quiet but beautiful spot, one can see clearly the Sa’dan valley and Rantepao city below. For only a 45 minutes trip from Rantepao, tourists can enjoy trekking and lunch or spend the night here.

While traveling in Tana Toraja, tourist can sometime come across marriage or house warming ceremonies (called Rambu Tuka) that are also quite unique. The ceremonies usually entail songs and dances performed in front of the Tongkonan. Torajan people hold fast to their culture as part of their daily routine. Their remarkable way of life has made the Torajan famous in the world and Tana Toraja is now in the process of becoming a world Heritage Site.

Getting the Most Out of Tana Toraja

Tana Toraja is a little regency located in South Sulawesi Province, about 380 km from Makassar, capital city of South Sulawesi. Numerous tourist sports are scattered throughout the regency, making Rantepao city, right at the heart of Tana Toraja, a perfect spot to begin any journey. Indeed, there are hotels and restaurant in Rantepao that specifically cater to tourist’s needs.

Reaching Tana Toraja is as simple as driving through paved road from Makassar, or flying out Makassar on Merpati Airlines every Tuesday and Friday. Tours guided to Tana Toraja is also available in Makassar and a very popular option with foreign tourists because it is practical and much more comfortable.

Fadil Aziz is a founder of Alcibbum Photography, the photography company specializes in Indonesian nature and travel photo. Visit his site http://www.AlcibbumPhotography.com to enjoy his works, including images related to Indonesia and this article.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Fadil_Aziz

Discovering the Exotic Lombok Island - Indonesia

Lombok is one of the most beautiful islands in Indonesia. It is known for its gorgeous beaches and strong affinity for the arts. Recently, Lombok had been the chosen port for cruise ships exploring the Southeast Asian region. Although not as popular as the other Indonesian island of Bali, Lombok is gifted with incredible beauty.

Part of its charm is its undeveloped nature, coupled with a very relaxed and low key environment. Most of the travelers that make their way to Lombok are adventure-seeking souls who absolutely love being outdoors. These type of explorers are drawn to the island's varied landscapes and activities such as surfing, hiking, snorkeling and diving. One of the highlights for many adventurous visitors coming to the Lombok region is trekking Mt. Rinjani.

Domestic tourists prefer vacationing in Lombok than in Bali for a couple of valid reasons. But the main reason is perhaps the big difference in the overall travel costs. In Lombok, accommodation, food and sightseeing tours are much cheaper. Another great thing about Lombok is that a large part of it is not mass tourism-oriented. Large gated complexes and noisy bars have not taken over the beach scene. If you want to truly experience rustic Lombok, consider a homestay in farmhouses, mountainside villages or simple homes on the beachside.

Staying with a family provides several advantages such as learning the authentic way of island living especially for the Sasak people. Your hosts may also offer to take you fishing, farming, hunting and even show you how to cook local dishes. And speaking of dishes, Lombok is known for its red and green chilies and spicy cuisine. This is quite understandable for an island that literally means chili in the Bahasa Indonesia language. Grab the opportunity to taste local dishes and accompany it with the fiery condiment called sambal.

The beaches of Lombok are quite stunning and they do not get as crowded as Bali's. If you long for seclusion, venture to the southwest section of the island. Lombok also has some sandy stretches that can muster up huge waves. This is why the island receives a large number of surfers every year. Some of the most popular places to tackle the surfing breaks include the tiny Gili Nanggu Island and Bangko-Bangko (Desert Point).

To get a taste of Lombok's passion for the arts, organize some village visits either on your own or with a tour company. By doing so, you will get a nice opportunity to see how locals expertly dye fabrics using the traditional technique called ikat. There are also a number of artisans who can masterfully make and decorate pots. You can also drop by the Sayang Sayang art market, and shop for excellent locally made crafts and products like pearl-decorated wooden boxes and baskets made of strong rattan.

The best way to get around Lombok is to drive your own vehicle as public transport on the island is unreliable and not extensive. You have the option to hire a car and a driver but you can also opt for a motorcycle, provided that you have enough experience driving one. The roads on the island are in fairly good condition, so it's easy to drive around the coast, countryside and even the highlands. One of the most scenic areas you will want to drive through is the coastal road between Senggigi and Pemenang. Stretching 21 kilometers, this road highlights incredible views beaches and inlets.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Nagib_Georges_Araman

Hvar - Island Jewel of Croatia

The stunning island of Hvar is one of the precious islands of Croatia and very much worth visiting. Located just off the Dalmatian Coast, this Croatian island offers its guests a picturesque landscape made up of rolling hills, colorful flowers, olive groves and lush vineyards.

And if this is not enough, Hvar also treats nature lovers with stunning beaches and remote coves, including Dubovica Beach. This pebbled beach features very clear water and a prominent waterfront restaurant. Part of Hvar Island's popularity is its consistent sunny weather. In fact, it is considered to be the sunniest island in Croatia. It is also the longest island in the Adriatic boasting a length of 68 kilometers.

The bayside town of Hvar is the capital of the island, and biggest crowd drawer. This has something to do with its visual appeal. Hvar is a town filled with Gothic palaces and marble streets free of vehicle traffic. It is charmingly surrounded by 13th-century walls, which in turn, house a wide range of restaurants, shops and hotels. Travelers who stay in the town also gets to enjoy its vibrant nightlife scene.

While in Havr town, don't forget to explore some of its most famous cultural, historical and architectural attractions, which include the Renaissance theatre, Cathedral of St. Stjepan and Trg Sveti Stjepana, which is one of the biggest squares in the Dalmatia region. While here, make sure to drop by the wide promenade that goes out to the shimmering blue sea and is just beside a lovely fishing harbor. This is one areas that is great to stroll around and experience. If you do have the time, don't just spend it all in Hvar Town - try to visit some of the small villages that dot the coast and ones located in the lush inland portion of the island, and you will not regret the decision.

The oldest village on the island is the Stari Grad, which captivates visitors with its own charming medieval streets. This village's history goes all the way back to 385 BC when it was known as a Greek colony. Stari Grad is also enclosed with grey stone fortifications and has notable attractions worth visiting as such as the Dominican monastery, the Church of St. Nicolas and the large fortified castle of Tvrdalj.

Jelsa and Vrboska are the other two prominent villages on the island. If you want to see where the grapes, figs, olives, lemons and grapes are grown, then make your way to the fertile plain of Velo Polje. Fields of lavender usually occupy the slopes of the hills. If you desire a great scuba diving experience, you can easily book a day trip to the offshore Pakleni Islands.

The busiest time in Hvar is the period from May to September. One great thing about Hvar as a vacation destination is that it is relatively inexpensive and can fit in to even tight budgets. It is has a fresh vibe but does not have and extensive tourist infrastructure. Hvar is also experiencing some kind of transformations, more luxury yachts can be seen in the harbor and 5-star hotels and Venetian townhouses are popping like mushrooms on the island. The good news is that the budget-conscious still have a place on the island as there are cheaper accommodation options especially in smaller towns.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Nagib_Georges_Araman

Surfing Bali's Bukit Peninsula - All You Need to Know!

The Bukit is the place you go to surf those waves you've always heard about. There are surfers everywhere yet it still feels laidback and peaceful around this part of Bali. The waves can be crowded but there are plenty of them, you'll get your share! The beaches outdo the ones in Kuta, you can snorkel the reefs or relax at Dreamlands. The accommodations cater to all budgets and there are good restaurants. If the hustle of Kuta isn't your scene, and you won't miss the nightclubs and shopping, catch a taxi straight out here from the airport. It's about 40 minutes from Kuta to the Bukit and getting a van big enough for boards will cost about 70,00 -100,000 rupiah if you find a good driver. Prepare to be charged 200,000 though!

The main areas to stay out here are Dreamlands, Bingin, and Uluwatu, which all have hotels and huts overlooking the ocean. My favorite is Bingin, it's a bit more chilled out than Uluwatu and you have 3 surfing spots within walking distance. You can stay at the top of the cliff or down on the beach. The beach accommodations are basic, some are a bit rundown but they all have perfect views of the surf and cost around 50,000 rupiah per room. If you want a little more comfort and don't want to lug your bags down the cliff, stay up the top, it's still pretty cheap but the surroundings are far more comfortable.

Leggie's Bungalow (100,000 approx) offers large bungalows with private bathrooms and huge beds! There is a nice garden and relaxation area with DVD players and they are soon adding a pool.

Pondok Indah - Lynnie's Place (150-200,000 approx) has a similar setup to its neighbor Leggies. Some of the rooms are a bit newer and the garden is primo with good hammocks!

There are a few other similar places nearby called Alamanda's bungalow and secret garden. None of these offer ocean views. If you want the best of both worlds, views and comfort, it costs a bit more. Check out Mick's Place or Mario's if you feel like lounging in the infinity pools! These places all charge in dollars and can be booked at baliretreats.com.au.

Other than Bingin, there are many places to stay on the cliffs at Uluwatu, the beach at Dreamlands or the main road that runs along the peninsula.

Nearly every accommodation offers basic food, nasi-goreng, curries, toasted sandwiches, pancakes and burgers etc. If you feel like something different or healthier there are some good places in the area:

Stickie's Sandbar is on the cliff at Bingin. They offer exotic, organic food in a chilled out spot with lots of cushions to relax on. They also have real espresso coffee and internet access.

3D's Warung is found on the main road near the Bingin turnoff. This is where the locals eat, local food at local prices. The food is so good, large meals cost about 10,000 rupiah and beers are cheap too. This is the best option after a day of hard surfing.

Jiwa Juice is just after 3D's on the main road. It's an internet cafe that has a good menu with healthy options. The brownies, smoothies and croissants are the highlights here.

There is also a Mexican place, I don't know its name but the place is cool. There are old photos and surfboards all over the walls and it's pretty popular. Find it on the main road heading towards Padang.

It's basically all left-handers along this coast, although some rights can be found at Uluwatu, Dreamlands beach, and inside Padang, which has a friendly right-hander on smaller days.

Uluwatu gets the most swell, attracts a crowd, but with several peaks it's not hard to get waves. Impossibles offers long rides and has plenty of room to move, Bingin is a short wave, has a much tighter takeoff and if 15 people are out its pretty crowded. If you want to get barreled easily though, this is the place. Dreamlands is a beach-break, it usually has a soft outside peak and a fast inside shore-break. Around the corner is Balangan, a peaceful spot which can offer really nice, racy long lefts on its day. If a huge swell hits and you're experienced enough, Padang has the best barrels in the area.

Other Stuff
Renting a car or motorbike makes your stay so much better, you can surf wherever is best each day and you can get up early and go, no waiting to organize a ride. A small 4WD will cost around 100,000 rupiah a day, a bike 25-50,000 a day. You can organize them at most accommodations. With a car you can also find better restaurants and it's good to pick up a gallon of water from a convenience store. The bottles can be overpriced at hotels and it means less plastic for mother earth to deal with. Internet is available at Jiwa Juice and Wartel on the main road, Stickys at Bingin, and a few accommodations are starting to get wireless. Phone calls can be made at Wartel but I recommend taking an old prepay mobile from home. Buy an Indonesian SIM card and you can text drivers for pickups, organize flights and even make international calls from anywhere. XL SIM cards cost about 35,000rupiah and calls are 2500 a minute to anywhere, even international! There are Yoga and Tai Chi classes in the area, keep an eye out for flyers at cafes like Jiwa Juice.

Andrew D L has enjoyed several trips to Bali, loves travelling to surf, and presently leads surf tours [http://www.typhoonsurftours.com] through Japan during typhoon season.

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The Beautiful Mountain Town of Sapa Vietnam

Sapa is one of the naturally serene and lush towns in Vietnam. It attracts many travelers with its magnificent landscape, which features colorful tribal villages, French colonial villas, lush vegetation and numerous green fields stacked on one after another.

Sapa is also close to Fansipan, the highest peak in Vietnam. Nestled at an elevation of 4921 feet or 1500 meters, Sapa is in Hoang Lien Son mountain range, in the northwest region of the country. Because of its geographical location, the town's rugged scenery usually experiences being clouded by a warm mist, which only adds to Sapa's beauty and charm, and making it truly a unique place to visit.

Sapa is about 376 kilometers from capital city of Hanoi. Sapa has risen to be the most popular mountainous district in Vietnam. You will easily be charmed by the terraced rice fields, the ethnic lifestyle and the cool climate, inviting you to stay longer in Sapa than you intended. Becoming a tourist destination paved the way for the establishment of hotels and accommodation facilities in this town so you don't have to worry about finding a place to sleep during those tranquil nights. If you really want to immerse yourself into the Sapa lifestyle, you can also arrange for a homestay in one of the tribal villages.

One of the best things to do in Sapa is walk around the town early in the morning as the tourist crowd is not yet in full swing. The town is small, so you can easily navigate your way on foot. In fact, everything in and around town can be explored on foot making the most popular activity in Sapa - trekking. Trekking to various villages is fun and adventurous. Just make sure that you have good trekking shoes or boots and waterproof bag. There are also tours that involve renting a bicycle or motorbike to explore the countryside and visit waterfalls.

There are other less rigorous things to do while in Sapa. You can always visit other neighboring villages like the Lao Chai Village, by hiring local transport like a jeep or van. You may also watch ethnic minority dance performances, sign up for the Hmong sewing classis and visit notable attractions like the Han Rong Resort, Sapa Culture Museum, the Sapa Lake, Bac Ha weekend market and the European orchid gardens and colonial buildings.

Sapa is home to a couple of ethnic minorities such as the Dzao and Hmong. These people live a simple life and have managed to maintain their culture and traditions. It is a rewarding travel experience to visit their villages and learn about their way of life. You can ask them to be your trekking guide instead of getting one through the hotel. Other than agriculture, the tribes are also now relying on tourism for a living.

Remember to always be respectful and courteous when dealing with them, especially when taking photos; always ask their permission first. The best time to visit the town is arguably from September to October as this is the period when the rice fields are turning their color from green to yellow. During wintertime, the town receives more of that appealing fog. No matter when you visit Sapa, you will definitely enjoy this new pin on your travel map!

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Nagib_Georges_Araman

Sa Pa Vietnam