Musi Festival looking to promote tourism

PALEMBANG: A four-day festival is underway in South Sumatra to promote tourism and the local cultures of the province.

Musi Festival 2009 was officially opened Wednesday by the Tourism and Culture Ministry's tourism marketing director general, Sapta Wiranda. The event, which is taking place at the Benteng Kuto Besak castle, will end Dec. 6.

This fourth running of the festival features a dragon boat contest with international participants, a national culinary festival and an education development fair.

A Dream Venue For Javanese Weddings

A wedding can be one of the most complicated events that you will ever have to organize. In Javanese tradition, the big day is a major cause of celebration for both extended families and their neighbors.

“Once in a lifetime” becomes a catchphrase for many future brides and bridegrooms, as they make meticulous arrangements for their wedding day. But the pressure for everything to be perfect can sometimes take away from the newlyweds’ enjoyment of the big day.

Roemah 7a is a wedding venue run by a young couple, Anthon Novianto and Dewi Syarah, who have anticipated this problem by providing a list of wedding organizers, photographers, caterers and decorators.

“Before, the bride- and the groom-to-be would come to us, looking lost about how they should organize their special day,” Dewi said. “Now, they can simply choose from our list of vendors.”

Located in a leafy residential area, Roemah 7a is designed like the home of a traditional Javanese noble family. A magnificent Joglo (traditional wooden Javanese house) stands by the terrace between a pair of stone gupala (mythical creatures that guard the entry of a house) on each side. A delman (traditional horse carriage) stands on the corner of the front lawn, accompanied by a pair of old cars, a three-wheeled Reliant Regal MK1 from 1953 and a Mazda R 360 from 1960.

The parking lot in front of the house can accommodate up to 40 cars. “For large weddings, we usually rent the vacant lot next door for the guests’ cars,” Dewi explained. In total, the venue can accommodate up to 600 people.

In the foyer stands a magnificent teak table topped with Italian marble, adorned with a fresh flower arrangement and old kerosene lamps.

The room also features a collection of old projectors for 8 millimeter, 16 millimeter and 35 millimeter films. “My dad used to play movies for my birthdays with these projectors when I was a little boy,” Anthon said.

On the right side of the foyer stand floor-to-ceiling cupboards featuring Anthon’s collections of Indonesian vintage comic books from the 1950s. Among his collections are “Si Buta dari Gua Hantu” (“The Blind Man from the Haunted Cave”), by Ganes T H, and “Jaka Sembung,” by Djair. The prize of his collection is the original manuscripts for a Medan comic book.

The dining room boasts of a long dining table made entirely of teak. An antique crystal chandelier casts a romantic yellowish light over the room. On a side table is a vintage Victrola phonograph from the 1920s, which Anthon said he “bought from an old man in Japan.”

One side of the wall features a brightly-colored 1950’s enamel signboard for Prijaji cigarettes, featuring a noble Javanese man smoking a cigarette, while the other side of the wall is decorated with dada peksi (long intricately-carved wooden beams often used for hanging crystal chandeliers).

“I salvaged them from ruined Joglo houses in Central Java,” Anthon said.

Wedding ceremonies usually take place in the spacious room at the back of the house. Adorned with an intricate teak panel from Demak, Central Java, and antique hand-crafted Javanese doors with a Loro Blonyo (a Javanese sculpture of a couple) standing in front of them, the room possesses a sacred and solemn ambience.

The homeowner’s collection of traditional weapons, such as kris, daggers and javelins from around the country, is also displayed in this room.

“In this room, the couples usually perform temu [a Javanese ceremony in which the bridegroom and his family meet with the bride and her family], ijab kabul [the marriage ceremony] and sungkeman [where the bride and the bridegroom ask both sets of parents for their blessings at the end of the wedding],” Dewi said.

On one of the walls is a wide teak carving depicting an episode in the Ramayana, an ancient Hindu epic.

Two bedrooms are also provided as dressing rooms for the bride and her bridesmaids. The larger one features Anthon’s collection of handmade Japanese dolls in glass boxes. The smaller one features an intricately hand-crafted daybed from Madura Island, East Java.

“The Chinese influence show in the dragon and phoenix-like patterns on the carvings,” Anthon said.

The room also boasts art deco furniture from the 1920s and jengki furniture from the 1950s.

Wedding receptions usually take place outdoors in the leafy backyard, which boasts bamboo shoots, a giant rambutan tree, frangipanis and a large traveller’s palm tree. A Joglo gazebo from Kudus, Central Java, functions as the center stage where the bride and groom are seated for the reception.

A tandem bicycle from the Netherlands and a pair of becaks (tricycle rickshaws) stand by lagoon pools, as if promising to take the newlyweds safely through their life journey together.

“The becaks are male and female,” Anthon said. Brought from Solo, Central Java, the steps of the becak wadon (female becak) is slightly lower than the becak lanang (male becak) to accommodate women wearing a traditional jarik (tight wraparound batik cloth).

“At Roemah 7a, we provide a unique ambience for your wedding,” Dewi said. “One that is homey and intimate, as well as rich in tradition and history.”

Roemah 7a
Jalan Lebak Bulus 1 no. 7A
Cilandak, South Jakarta
Tel. 021 751 2332

Ayana named Asia’s Leading Luxury Resort following rebranding

AYANA Resort and Spa Bali has been awarded Asia’s Leading Luxury Resort at the World Travel Awards 2009, just months after rebranding under management of the world’s top hoteliers.

Formerly Ritz-Carlton Bali, AYANA rebranded on 1 April after a management change initiated by the owner, who’s invested millions of dollars to strengthen the property’s position as Southeast Asia’s premier destination resort. Recent enhancements include the new Rock Bar, located on natural rocks abutting the ocean; renovation of Padi restaurant and AYANA Ballroom; and appointment of William Gumport as Chef de Cuisine at Dava.

The 77-hectare property retained the vast majority of its 950 staff and selected West Paces Hotel Group led by Horst Schulze, former president and founder of Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, to provide management expertise. General Manager Charles de Foucault brings more than 30 years’ experience, including 17 with Ritz-Carlton hotels, while Food & Beverage EAM Marc Dobbels is a Michelin-star chef with extensive hotel management experience.

The property offers 78 villas and a 290-room hotel perched on cliffs along a 1.3 kilometer coastline. The island’s largest spa, Thermes Marins Bali, features the Spa on the Rocks treatment villas amidst the ocean, and one of the world’s largest Aquatonic Seawater Therapy Pools. There are six wedding venues including two glass chapels, 13 F&B outlets, and extensive recreational and conference facilities.

Tagged ‘the Oscars of the travel industry’ by the Wall Street Journal, the World Travel Award validates AYANA’s successful rebranding.

“It’s a great honor to be recognized as Asia’s best luxury resort, when you see the competition in today’s luxury market,” said Charles after receiving the award at a Gala Ceremony in London. “There’s no shortage of beautifully designed or luxuriously-appointed resorts, and the Rock Bar opening has put AYANA on the map for every visitor to Bali. But we go beyond the ‘hardware’ of our facilities, to welcome guests with the warm hospitality, rich culture and dedicated yet discreet service of our ‘software’, our people.”

The WTA accolade follows several other awards since AYANA’s rebranding. It was the only hotel in Indonesia ranked amongst Asia’s Top 15 Resorts - and the World’s Top 100 - in Travel + Leisure’s 2009 survey, was ranked Bali’s #1 resort by AB-Road Japan, and voted Asia’s #3 Spa Resort by SmartTravelAsia.

Jakarta City to unveil nominees of tourism award

The Jakarta Culture and Tourism Agency will announce the candidates for the 11th Adikarya Wisata award on Monday.

Dubbed the most prestigious award given to enterprises that contribute to the city’s tourism industry, the prize is expected to improve the level of service in the sector.

“Adikarya Wisata motivates people working in the [tourism] industry to perform as the award gives them pride. Those who win the award must provide very good services,” head of the agency Arie Budiman said Thursday.

The award will be sought after by 758 enterprises from 18 categories, including hotels, restaurants, night clubs, tour and travel agencies, spas and airlines.

Arie said after announcing the nominees, a panel, in cooperation with SWA magazine, would conduct a customer satisfaction survey and quietly visit the candidates between January and July 2010.

The award winners will be announced on the commemoration of the city’s anniversary in July next year.

American Academic Bangs the Drum for Javanese Gamelan

Sukoharjo, Central Java. An American academic expressed concern on Monday over younger Indonesians’ apparent lack of interest in studying traditional gamelan orchestral music, which she linked to the growing popularity of Western culture at the expense of Javanese culture.

“Every time I come to Central Java to watch the traditional art performances, like wayang kulit [shadow-puppet plays], I have found that the gamelan players are mostly above 40 years of age. Where are the children and young people?” said Margaret DuFon, a professor of Asian-American literature and Asian studies at California State University’s Chico campus.

DuFon, herself a gamelan player, said it was becoming increasingly difficult to find young people in Indonesia who listened to or played gamelan.

She said it was disconcerting that many young people seemed to prefer Western music as opposed to traditional forms of Indonesian music.

“Culture is closely related to lifestyle, and for me personally, American musical culture is agitating,” she said. “As a person who loves Javanese culture very much, I worry about the younger generations who have this identity crisis and culture shock.”

DuFon was an international guest at this weekend’s Gamelan Makers Festival in Polokarto, a village close to the border between Yogyakarta and East Java.

The professor, who is fluent in both Indonesian and Javanese, said she supported regional movements to promote local cultural roots. She also expressed hope that school curriculums and national examinations could be tailored to incorporate more traditional cultural aspects from each region, including the arts and languages.

“A language shows a nation,” she said. “I’m concerned to see many women prefer to use Indonesian with their children at home because they want their children to be able to communicate in school using Indonesian.”

Ecotourism: The Green Way

Boasting vibrant culture, breathtaking mountains and hundreds of kilometers of pristine beaches and tropical forests, Bali remains one of Asia’s premiere tourist hot-spots. However, like many locations that have borne the brunt of fast-paced development of tourism and industrial infrastructure, the sheer number of visitors to Bali is increasingly placing the island’s environment and culture under pressure. Bali is currently facing numerous environmental issues such as pollution, loss of important natural systems, lack of water and electricity and inappropriate development that impacts on local communities.

Agung Wardene, the executive director of the Bali chapter of the environmental group WALHI, points to tourism as the main cause of the island’s environmental degradation.

“With more hotels being built every day the demand for water is growing. Water shortage is a huge problem. Most water in Bali is used up by hotels, creating problems between the tourism industry and farmers,” he says.

Bali’s economy relies on tourism, and the tourism industry in turn relies on the island’s natural assets as a draw card for visitors. How environmental and cultural degradation posed by tourism is managed or mismanaged is crucial to the future viability of Bali as a tourist destination.

Agung says that the current level of expansion within the tourism sector is not sustainable.

“Tourists come to Bali to enjoy the beaches and nature, building more luxury hotels and infrastructure will not help tourism in the long run because it will damage the environment,” he says. “The current tourism policy needs to be re-evaluated.”

Despite inadequate regulation enforcement and lack of incentives, many players in Bali’s tourism industry have been proactive in establishing sustainable tourism practices.

Linda vant Hoff, the co-proprietor of the Sarinbuana Eco Lodge and an avid environmentalist, says that the international market wants more responsible environmental management.

“If the government won't enforce [environmental management regulations], the industry just has to get on with it anyway... To see the future, look at the high occupancy, international standards and efficient operations in the hotels in Bali that have worked through an involved process to achieve Certification via Green Globe.”

Heeding the call, some hotel owners on the island have instituted ambitious environmental projects, from water treatment and conservation to organic farming of produce for their restaurants.

Numerous eco-lodges and eco-village stays have been mushrooming across the island, not only raising environmental awareness among visitors, but also incorporating the three major pillars of economy, community involvement and ecological conservation.

Sarinbuana Eco Lodge

Tel: +(62) 361 743 5198
Awards: Wild Asia’s “Best Eco Lodge in South East Asia” 2007-2008
Rates: Bungalows from Rp 1 million ++; budget rooms from Rp 100,000

Bali Mountain Retreat

Tel: 0828 360 2645
Rates: From Rp 150,000 – Rp 910,000

Uyah Amed Hotel

Tel: +62 363 23462
Rates: From US$36

Bali EcoAdventure & Resort

Tel: +62 361 901 874
Rate:  From Rp 420,000

Bali Udayana Kingfisher Eco Lodge

Tel: +62 (0) 361 7474204
Rate: From US$60
Awards: Green Globe Eco Certificate since 2005

Puri Lumbung Cottages

Tel: +62 362 92810
Price: From US$72
Awards: Green Hotelier certified; Tri Hita Karana award 

Agung Bali Nirwana

Tel: 081 2394 7308
Rate: From US$145

Alila Resorts
Price: Alila Ubud from US$224++; Alila Manggis from US$155++; Alila Uluwatu from US$580++
Awards: Alila Ubud and Alila Manggis have been certified by the Green Globe since 2007 and have won the Tri Hita Karena and the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism 2008 award

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Old town Kota to host music festival next week

The Jakarta Old Town will host a music festival of traditional Portuguese-influenced gambang kromong combined with modern music next week.

The Jakarta Tourism agency will hold the Jakarta Music Festival on Dec. 5, targeting thousands of people for the one-day event to be held from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Tourism agency deputy head Tinia Budiati said the festival would show the diversity of Jakarta's music.

"There will be 8 modern bands, 17 traditional bands and four djs," Tinia said.

There will also be a session for a tribute to the late Betawi comedian and singer Benyamin S., and street children will also perform in the event.

A performance from the band Naif will close the event.

Jakarta’s Old Town Pictured as Indonesia’s Hollywood

If a novel plan pushes through, the famous Old Town in West Jakarta could find new life as Indonesia’s Hollywood, according to city officials.

Arie Budhiman, head of the city’s culture and tourism agency, said on Monday that it was time to elevate the Old Town’s role from its current status as tourism destination and venue for events.

“We want to turn the Old Town into the center of culture, especially in terms of cinematography. Old Town could be the Hollywood of Indonesia,” he said.

First, Arie said the government would provide a new campus in one of several Dutch-era buildings in the area for the privately owned Jakarta Arts Institute (IKJ).

Chandrian Attahiyat, head of the agency’s Old Town technical unit, said that by 2012 IKJ undergraduate students would be able to use Old Town as their new campus.

“We want a vibrant Old Town,” he said. “It will have an influence on the area and create arts communities that could encourage creative industries in the district.”

Chandrian said that of the 284 historic buildings in Old Town, 23 belonged to the State Enterprises Ministry, six were owned by the city administration and the rest belonged to individuals or private companies.

He said the city administration and the State Enterprises Ministry had formed a Heritage Building Revitalization Team to repair the 29 buildings they owned between them. In the first phase, the city would revitalize five buildings in 2010.

Chandrian said the city would choose one of the buildings owned by the ministry as the new IKJ campus. However, he said that the city was still discussing which building and the building usage procedure. Whether the city buys the building, borrows it from the central government or takes it in the form of a grant has to be decided also.

Arie added that IKJ planned to hold various events this month in the Old Town area, such as art exhibitions and filmmaking activities in the area. He believed that it would make the area more attractive.

Separately, Tinia Budiati the deputy head of the tourism agency, said in a press conference on Monday that the Old Town would host the “Enjoy Jakarta Music Festival” this Saturday in the Fatahillah Museum in the Old Town area. The event, which will be held from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. will promote the Betawi (native Jakartan) culture and will include traditional dances as well as cultural performances married to modern music.

To encourage more visitors to the Old Town, admission to the event is free.

Indonesia’s National Museum Stands Test of Time

There’s an old saying in Indonesia that a big nation is one that appreciates its history.

Through history, people can learn about their cultural origins and their national identity. However, museums — the traditional storehouses of items from the past that help people understand the developments that shaped their society — are not very popular here. Most Indonesians seem to prefer to spend their weekends and other leisure time at the many shopping malls that are scattered across Jakarta.

But that may have started to change in the last few years, with the revitalization of Jakarta’s Kota Tua, or Old Town, triggering a new enthusiasm among the younger crowd for attending museums.

“Going to museums is actually a fun experience. More young people in this city should visit our museums instead of just going to the malls,” said Sandra Fetriana, a 21-year-old university student visiting the National Museum with some friends.

The museum, located in Central Jakarta, is trying to build exactly that kind of culture. In its favor, the museum has perhaps the most strategic location of any such institution in the city. It’s located in the heart of Jakarta’s business district, only a 10-minute drive from the city’s main train station, Gambir, and just across the street from National Monument (Monas) park.

National Museum, or Museum Nasional in Indonesian, is also the oldest such institution in Indonesia, and has the country’s largest historical and cultural collection, with more than 141,000 items. Most were collected from Indonesia’s own backyard, but there are also some items that were purchased from other countries.

John Guy, a curator of Southeast Asian art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, was at the National Museum recently taking pictures of Hindu-Buddhist sculptures.

“Museum Nasional is one of the best museums in Southeast Asia,” he said. “This museum has so many hundred-year-old collections.”

Guy visits Indonesia once a year to conduct research and always makes a point of going to the National Museum.

His favorite item is the largest statue in the collection, the more than 4-meter-tall statue of Bhairawa, a manifestation of Buddha, believed to be from the 13th or 14th century.

“Isn’t that beautiful?” he said.

The museum is also sometimes known as Museum Gajah, or the Elephant Museum, because of the bronze elephant statue in front of the building. This statue was a gift from King Chulalongkom from Thailand in 1871.

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