I used to think that vacation means mountain, beach and underwater. So mainstream, isn’t it? But then last year, I visited Kampung Bena, part of Flores overland trip, which turn out, was wonderful that I’d delve to explore some more in the other side of the country (and other part of the world as well 🙂 ). In late 2015, I visited Tana Toraja in South Sulawesi and it was so mind-blowing.
Tana Toraja is highland that is famous for its unusual and astonishing culture. Visiting Tana Toraja is about “graves-hopping”, not to mention the appealing landscape. Again, I have only one day to look into the place at that time, far from enough I know, but that was really satisfying. So, here are several things to do to figure out of what Tana Toraja is all about :
1. Witness Rambu Solo Funeral, the most expensive funeral you’ll ever find.
It is interesting how Torajan believe the afterlife. The family consider their deceased are still alive until the proper funeral procession take place. The corpse is treated as a person who are sick, is dressed daily and is served regular meals and cigarettes. It could take months to years. For that period of time, the deceased is mummified by some formalin injections. They used to utilise certain balm made of herbs and some other natural ingredients to preserve the corpse, but formalin is preferable these days.
The funeral is festively extravagance. I am very lucky to witness it by my own. At that time, the ceremony last for around 7 days slaughtering 40 buffalos and more than 500 pigs. You can imagine how costly it was, even way more expensive than a Torajan wedding. It is advised that people wear black clothes to attend the funeral. I was wearing red T-shirt and I felt bad about it. The guide said that was actually fine since I was a visitor/tourist, but to be honest, I am not gonna do that if I have known since the first place.
Considering this wonderful event, make sure this funeral is in the top of your bucket list. My guide told me that the funeral procession frequently takes place in December or holiday season. Seriously, It was really mind-blowing! 😯 I really have to write it down in separate article.
2. Visit Lemo Village
Tana Toraja has many stone graves. One of the most famous is in Lemo village. Located around 10 km south of Rantepao City, Lemo is believe have been exist for centuries. The corpse is placed in limestone cliff in certain height. The higher the position, the higher their social status. A wooden dolls called “tau-tau” is made as a replica of their ancestor. It is placed in the cliff facing the village which symbolise their visible presence to the people.
The guide told me the reason why their ancestors have made the stone graves in the cliff. Torajan believe that as a provision in the afterlife, the corpse and their wealth (coins, gold, and other treasure) must be placed altogether. Since the items were often been stollen, the burial site must be set in a high place.
It is recommended to visit the place in the morning around 9 AM when the sunlight is in right direction for good picture concerning the place is in the cliff.
3. Explore The Cave in Londa Village
Londa Village is quite identical to the one in Lemo. In Londa, the corpse is not only placed in the cliff wall but also somewhere in the cave. There are also tau-tau but not as well-organised as the one in Lemo.
There are several guy who will guide you through the cave that filled with so many skulls and coffins. Since I had hired a whole-package-guide since in Rantepao, so I had no idea how much entrance fee and tip should I give. Anyway, the cave-guide is friendly and very informative.
4. Posing in Front of The Original Tongkonan House in Ke’te Kesu’
Ke’te kesu’ is a complete set of tourist attraction in Tana Toraja. There are burial site, traditional houses, museum, ceremonial grounds, and souvenir shop, not to mention rice field and its beautiful landscape. I came to the place in the afternoon so the place is quiet. The museum is closed already 😥 . Some people said that the original Tongkonan House (Tana Toraja traditional house) is here in Ke’te’ Kesu’. There are 6 houses (left side of the pic) and 12 granaries (the right side).
5. Visit the Baby Graves in Kambira
Another astonishing thing you can find in Tana Toraja is Baby Grave in Kambira. If the adult’s corpse is placed in cliff wall or on the cave, the baby’s corpse is placed on the tree 😯 According to the guide, that graves is named “passili” and is dedicated for a baby who die just after being delivered by the mother. They are recognised as innocent and should not be buried in the ground. Some other people said that the tree produces a lot of sap, so based on their believe, it will substitute breast-milk.
6. Experience Toraja Coffee
Toraja coffee is one of the best Indonesian coffee. Sadly, I am not a coffee-addict that I can not really distinguish the taste to others. One thing that was very impressive to me is the coffee guru named Pak Suleman. He is really passionate one. Every day, he only produces 3 kg arabica coffee. To start with, he sorts every single coffee seeds. He choose “the male seeds” instead of the female one (I just know that there are gender in coffee ). He roasts the seeds in a really really quiet night. The first “crack” is the best time to pick the seeds for further treatment. If the crack is too much then the quality will be no longer excellent.
He creates special “reactor” (roaster) made of clay and is heated on hot bricks. The infra-red emitted from the brick will help improve the quality. Beside that, pressure and temperature control plays such an important role. Anyway, I did not remember all of his explanation but as the one who have learnt a little bit of Chemical Engineering thermodynamics 😎 , I think some of his explanation was make sense.
The most important is that the taste was really good according to my friend. He also have ever been interviewed by BBC. Wow. If you want to buy it as souvenir, a-200 gr costs around Rp.120.000. It serves in a state-of-the art packaging which he said as the international standard. That’s cool. Seriously, come and taste the coffee. 🙂 .
7. Magnificent View of Bukit Nona
Actually, the place is not the part of Tana Toraja Regency, it is part of Enrekang instead. There’s a funny thing about the view. Guess what? If you look it very detail, it looks like a Vag**a 😆 , the guide even said Bukit Nona itself means “B*obs” . This is closely related to folklore of the locals. Anyway, I love the view. It reminds me of Mount Rinjani’s view on the way to Segara Anak Lake. Next to bukit nona, there are some nice cliff that I think it is pretty much like Yosmite National Park 😆 as seen on my desktop background in my mac 😆 .