Monday, April 25, 2011

The land of Toraja’s Sizzling Highlights

Known for its remarkable tenun or woven cloth and funeral ceremonies, Tana Toraja — “the Land of Toraja” — is a lot more than meets the eye.

Located in South Sulawesi, this prominent tourist destination in Indonesia is encircled by mountains, cliffs, forests and dotted with coffins as well as buffaloes.

It was an eight- to 10-hour drive from South Sulawesi’s capital city, Makassar. I did not want to close my eyes and fall asleep as the journey to Toraja offers a scenery I might regret missing.

Paddy fields and forests could be seen to the left of the road, and scary yet tremendous gaps to the right. The sky was bright blue and, through large clouds, the sun shone brightly.

Because it is a famous tourist destination, Tana Toraja is packed with visitors all year round, from backpackers to wealthy travelers.

If you want to go to Tana Toraja’s famous spots in Makale, Rantepao and Batutumonga easily, you can rent a car, which costs around Rp 400,000 (US$46) a day (negotiable). You can also take public transportation, such as a minivan (angkot) or bentor — short for becak motor (motorcycle-pedicab) — if you want to tour around the city.

Torajan houses called tongkonan, built using carved-wood panels can be seen throughout Toraja. The word tongkonan comes from the Torajan word tongkon — which means “to sit”. The walls of tongkonan are incised with wood-carving detail and are mainly colored red, black and yellow.

In front of a tongkonan, you can usually see a string of buffalo horns that show how affluent and wealthy the owner is. Four or eight horns indicate average wealth. Any other amount means the tongkonan belongs to a prosperous family.

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