Indonesia is not only Bali, but there are a lot of other places with interesting culture and nature throughout its over 13,000 islands from Sabang in the country`s western most province of Aceh to Merauke in the easternmost province of Papua.
Irian Island or Papua is home to an incredibly diverse, rich and unique flora and fauna. No less than 85% of the island is covered by rainforest, much of it primary and untouched by man.
Wildlife abounds and includes some of the most interesting creatures known to man, while its coastal underwater world, which hosts truly amazing coral reefs, is equally magical.
And more than that remote tribal peoples of Papua have been considered as among the world`s last frontiers. Papua is home to around 312 different tribes, including some uncontacted peoples. Some speak languages completely unrelated to any other in the world.
But nowadays, Papua is eager to open up to the outside world by organizing various cultural festivals, including the Baliem Valley Festival, in order to attract foreign tourists.
Since 1989, the festival has been organized annually in the Baliem valley, home to a Stone Age tribe reportedly discovered and disturbed by outsiders only in the 1930s.
The 22nd Baliem Valley Festival was organized from August 8 to 11, 2011 at Wosiala, Wosilimo village, Jayawijaya district, Papua Province.
The festival`s theme this year is "Peace for All" as an expression of love and tolerance as well as harmonious life. It featured all tribes from the highlands of Wamena and the Baliem Valley such as the Dani, Lani, and the Yali.
Jaya Wijaya District Head Wempi Wetipo said on Monday (August 8) the Baliem Valley Cultural Festival was organized to promote Papua culture to the outside world.
He hoped the the festival would boost the tourism industry in Baliem Valley and its surroundings, and contribute to the regional revenues from the tourists arrivals.
The Baliem Valley Festival 2011 was officially kicked off by the tourism and culture ministry`s expert staff, Hari Kuntoro Drajat, in Jayawijaya District, on Monday (Aug 8).
The festival was one of the significant cultural events in the history of the Indonesian people in general and Papua in particular, Kuntoro said on behalf of Tourism and Culture Minister Jero Wacik at the opening ceremony attended by thousands of visitors.
Wasiwilo District, Jayawijaya, was a very special valley therefore it has been promoted as a tourist destination, he said, adding that the festival was also expected to help preserve the cultural values of Papua`s people.
In 2009, around 400 foreign tourists mostly from European countries and Japan had attended the Baliem Valley Festival. And this year, the Papua administration hoped to receive more foreign tourists.
Muhammad Faried, the culture and tourism minister`s domestic promotion director, said recently in Jakarta that a number of foreign tourists were willing to buy the Baliem festival package offered by a travel bureau at a price of up to Rp16.2 million per person.
"We have received reports from a number of travel bureaus that foreign tourists are attracted by the Baliem Valley Cultural Festival, as demonstrated by many travel package orders for the dates of the festival," he said.
Around 40 percent of tourists expected to attend the festival were foreigners particularly those from European nations, he said.
Indonesian Ambassador to Germany Eddy Pratomo In 2009 said Papua with its Asmat tribe and Baliem Valley was quite known in Europe especially in Germany.
Eddy gave the information when receiving a Papua delegation led by Jaya Wijaya District head Wempi Wetipo who was in Germany to promote Papua`s tourism.
The culture and tourism ministry has been supporting the Baliem Valley festival which is fully organized by the local government of Jayawijaya.
"The event is aimed at promoting Papua as tourist destination. We would like to manage the festival to become an effective promotion media to introduce Papua to wider public," Faried said.
The highlight of the Baliem Valley Festival is the mock tribal warfare held to maintain the agility and preparedness of the tribes to defend their villages.
To prepare for these mock battles, Baliem Valley Festival organizers prepared an arena of 400m by 250m and involved 500 to 1000 of warriors and dancers.
The mock battles at Baliem Valley Festival are accompanied by the Papuan traditional music of Pikon. Pikon is a musical instrument made out of wood skin which produces soothing sounds when one blows it. Not many people can play the instrument as it requires special skills.
The festival also presented other fascinating traditional art and cultural performances, including traditional Papuan dances, pig racing, Puradan Rattan Spear Throwing, Sikoko Spear games, and Papuan traditional musical performance. Foreign tourists are invited to participate in the spear throwing.
Suparwan, who came with his family from Java Island to Papua to see the festival, told local media that he was very impressed with the performances during the event.
"This is for the first time I visit Wamena with my family to see the festival although it is now fasting month (Ramadhan). It`s fantastic, and we can personally know the culture and life of the Baliem Valley people," he said.