Sunday, December 16, 2012

Buton Island: The hidden gem of the east

Traveling around Buton Island in Southeast Sulawesi in three days requires at least two things — a tough driver and a good company.  

A tough driver is crucial to beat the hard terrain and bring you to any destination safely, while good company can laugh with you on bumpy roads and share excitement when you pass the wonderful scenery.  

Buton comprises five regencies — Buton, Muna, Wakatobi, Bombana and North Buton — as well as one city, Bau Bau. 

The fact that there are bad roads in remote areas around the island is ironic, since it is the richest natural asphalt source in the world, after Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. 

Unlike nearby Wakatobi — which has successfully promoted itself as a heaven for underwater lovers, Buton Island is not popular among many travelers. There are not many traces of tourist activities in the regency, except for a few hotels and restaurants located in Bau Bau. 


But after a closer look, this island reveals its identity as a home to rich cultural, marine and fauna resources. 

There is no direct flight from Jakarta to Bau Bau. You have to transit at Hasanuddin airport in Makassar or Kendari airport in Southeast Sulawesi and continue via smaller aircraft on Lion Air or Merpati Nusantara Airlines.   

Overall, it takes six hours to reach Bau Bau’s small airport via Makassar in South Sulawesi from Jakarta. The airport’s arrival room is full with colorful and bright banners on the wall, promoting some hotels in the city. 

During the short journey to reach Calista Hotel, a minimalist hotel located just next to Kamali Beach, my eyes were captivated by cashew trees and traditional houses. 


The cashew trees were everywhere. They crowd the backyard houses, side streets and occupy a large portion of the plantations in the remote hills nearby. 

The island’s traditional wooden houses, called rumah panggung (stage houses) still exist in some parts of town and plenty are found in the suburbs. 

Newly elected Buton regent Umar Abdul Samiun gave a two-day tour to some 20 journalists from Jakarta of the remote corners of the regencies that he wants developed into tourism sites. 

Tourism, he said, would let people know the island better.  

“The central government is more interested in sectors that need direct funding, such as infrastructure, than tourism. To date, we have tried to collect data and improve infrastructure to attract investment in tourism,” he said.  (Jakarta Post)


Read more (with photos)..

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