Ubud Writers and Readers Festival 2016


The 13th UWRF will be held 26–30 October, 2016,  celebrating the theme Tat Tvam Asi or ‘I am you, you are me’. This powerful ideology is crucial to the collective identity of Indonesia – uniting people from incredibly diverse religious, ethnic, cultural and historical backgrounds to share common respect and understanding.

Ian Burnet’s interest in Indonesia and its lesser known eastern archipelago has led him to write three books on Indonesian history: Spice Islands (2011), East Indies (2013) and Archipelago – A Journey Across Indonesia (2015). He is currently working on his fourth book about this fascinating island nation.

Ketertarikan Ian Burnet akan nusantara Indonesia telah menginspirasinya untuk menulis tiga buku mengenai sejarah Indonesia: Spice Islands (2011), East Indies (2013), dan Archipelago – A Journey Across Indonesia (2015). Ia kini tengah menulis buku keempatnya mengenai bangsa Indonesia yang mempesona.


Archipelago: A Journey Across Indonesia

Thursday 27 October, 17:00-18:00, Festival Club @ Bar Luna, Free Event

All aboard for an island-hopping adventure through Indonesia with voyager and historian, Ian Burnet. From Java to Timor, he’ll share stories and pictures of this diverse land – from the smoking volcanoes that form the archipelago’s spine, to its emerald waters and verdant jungles.

Rosenberg_Spicejak2Final_crop - web


Eternal Indonesia, Main Program Day 3

Saturday 29 October, 11:45 -13:00, Taman Baca

Wild jungles. Ancient cultures. Diverse beliefs. Indonesia casts a powerful spell on the visitor. Listen in as these writers reveal how the archipelago has captured their imagination, influenced their lives and works, and what keeps them coming back.





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Chance Encounters of the Indonesian Kind

We travel from Solo to Blitar by bus while on our 14 day ‘Journey Across Java’ tour. The bus is held up by a colourful street parade in a village as part of the Indonesian Independence Day celebrations. It is Festival Time and our group joins in the fun.

Some of the best travel experiences are of the unexpected kind and this was one of the many highlights of our trip (thanks to our guide Eddy Suryawan for the photos). The Indonesian people are always so welcoming and as you can see there are lots of happy smiles on the faces of all concerned








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Sari Temple in Central Java

One of the many highlights of our recent ‘Journey Across Java’ was a visit to the Candi Sari temple near Prambanan. It is quite unusual for Javanese temples as it also provided accomodation for the Buddhist monks and served as a monastery. The Sari temple entrance faces east, above the entrance is a kala head and below is a stone carving of a man riding an elephant.Historians believe the temple might have served as accomodation for those priests serving in the nearby Kalasan temple, whch has been dated to 778 AD.


Inside the temple there are three chambers that filled the building, each connected with the door between its walls.The statuary inside the temple is now missing, but there are niches in the north and south walls decorated with a kala makara.



The temple is built on two levels with the three rooms for prayer on the lower level and accomodation for the monks on the upper level. Above your head you can see where the beams supporting the upper floor slotted into the stone work and on the south floor is some angled carved stone indicating where the wooden stairs went up to the next level.


On the outside of the rectangular temple, are carved statues placed into two rows between the windows. There are a total of 38 Bodhisattvas divided into eight on the east side, eight on the north side, eight on the south side and 14 on the west side. Commonly holding the red and blue lotus, all the statues are in graceful attitude of tribhangga and some are playing musical instruments. On the right and left of the Bodhisattvas are small windows showing carved kinari kinara— creatures from heaven which are half-human and half bird. Above the temple each side of the roof line was originally crowned with three stupas


An image from the files of the Tropenmuseum in Holland shows how  the Candi Sari temple looked in 1901 before it’s restoration.



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President Soekarno – The Artist

In celebration of the 71st Independence Day of the Republic of Indonesia the Galleri Nasional is hosting an Exhibition of paintings from the Presidential Palace, collected by Soekarno the first President of Indonesia. Including many famous paintings by Indonesian artists such as Affandi, Basoeki Abdullah, Hendra Gunawan and the enormous painting by the artist Raden Saleh showing the treacherous arrest of Prince Diponegoro by General de Kock in 1830, and marking the end of the five-year Java War. Which in a huge touch of irony Raden Saleh gifted to the King of Holland and it was subsequently transferred back to Indonesia in 1978. If, like me, you are not expecting to be invited to the Presidential Palace, then this exhibition is a ‘must see’.

Prince Diponegoro





Galleri Nasional

During his lifetime Soekarno collected 2800 paintings of which only 28 are on display at the exhibition, many of which are related to the Indonesian struggle for independence against the Dutch. The painting on view here is by Kartono, one of the Young Indonesian Artists of the period and depicts a battle in the village of Pengok near Yogyakarta.

Galleri Exhibition

I knew that Soekarno was an architect and a great patron of the arts but what I did not know is that he was himself a painter and he started painting after his arrest and exile to Ende in Flores. The exhibition includes a painting he made, from a sketch by his artist friend Dullah, of a women entitled Rini with no details of her relationship to Soekarno or Dullah. Here the curator of the exhibition Mikke Susanto explains about the painting of Rini by President Soekarno and apparently her identity is still something of a mystery.

Rini Exhibition

Rini - Copy



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Bill Dalton’s ‘Archipelago’ Book Review

In this final saga of the author’s three books about his 30 years in Indonesia, Ian Burnet combines his love of adventure and travel with his knowledge of the region’s history to take us on a personal journey through geographic space and historical time across the centuries.


The book’s scope seems impossibly ambitious, but yet it manages to give us within just 175 pages a sweeping kaleidoscopic view of all the cultures that have ever washed up upon Indonesia’s shores.

Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelagic nation comprising as many as 17,000 islands that sits astride two oceans and stretches 5,200 kilometers, embracing a total area of 5 million square kilometers, more than the total land and sea area of the entire United States. Indonesia is also the most culturally diverse nation on earth. Its national motto almost had to be Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (“Unity in Diversity”) as these islands are an extraordinary mixture of races, religions, languages and cultures.

No one has published a trilogy of books about Indonesia in recent times. But Archipelago is quite different from Burnet’s other two books Spice Islands and East Indies. Unlike the others, the author uses his journey across a sizable swath of the archipelago to tell a broad history of the country related to the places he visited. He is able to conjure up  an historical anecdote, erudite observation or indirect link about every place he visits.

From the image of a giant pot-bellied Singhasari guardian statue on the opening page, this historical travelogue is filled with an unusual and stunning potpourri of full color photographs – many taken by the author – that reflect the multicultural nature of the vast string of islands – vintage 17th C. maps of Batavia and Java, colonial architecture and monuments; Borobudur stone reliefs, ancient Buddhist statuary and Hindu temples, goddesses and bathing places; erupting volcanoes, paintings depicting important historical events; old grave yards and artifacts; the traditional villages; Christian churches, rituals and textiles of the eastern islands; revolutionary slogans emblazoned on walls.

He takes us along on one of the world’s greatest train journeys from Jakarta to Bandung, enjoys a cold beer on the hotel terrace while looking out on the street life of a remote provincial town, rises before dawn to catch a sunrise, chugs across a strait on a fishing boat, splashes cold water over himself from a bak mandi, shares a hard wooden warung bench with Balinese farmers or becak drivers for a crispy fried duck or nasi goreng, faces a menacing Komodo dragon, circumambulates Borobudur in the cool morning silence before the tourist hordes, we remember past trips we have taken and are spurred to explore parts of Indonesia not yet visited.

Archipelago, both an illustrated history and an informative travel book, will delight historians, newcomers to the country, travelogue readers, as well as both bonafide and armchair travelers. A comprehensive history of Indonesia would take several volumes. What Burnet has uniquely and handily accomplished in offering fragments of the country’s history related to his journey is to produce an engaging and enticing piece of modern travel literature.

For the complete book review by Bill Dalton please follow this link:


To see more reviews of Archipelago – A Journey Across Indonesia please follow this link:


Meet Bill Dalton, the Travel Writer

Bill has spent much of his life travelling and writing. His saga took flight in 1971 as he embarked on an eight-year backpacking journey across 65 countries that was the journey of a lifetime and would later result in his highly-acclaimed travel guidebooks.  Bill’s Indonesia Handbook was first published in the mid-1970’s and ran for six editions until the early 1990’s and The London Sunday Times called it “One of the best practical guides ever written about any country”.

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Pulau Kumba is erupting!

Kumba Island lies in the Banda Sea of Eastern Indonesia and north of the island of Lembata. The island must be sitting over a hot spot in the earth’s mantle as it seems to have been active over many years. The sailing ship Vega stopped at Pulau Kumba in 2015 and its captain Shane Granger took these beautiful photographs of the island and its active volcano.

Pulau Kumba 1

And the amazing donut like cloud formation surrounding the eruption


And how about this night image of Pulau Kumba erupting with the full moon in the background.


Subject to the usual sailing conditions, Sea Trek Sailing Adventures plans to visit Pulau Kumba this year in September during their 14 day East Indies Spice Exploration voyage around the islands of the eastern Indonesian Archipelago – please see the map below and go to their website for details.


The Ombak Putih

Maumere to Ambon

The East Indies Spice Exploration voyage from Maumere to Ambon

I will leave you with this video taken in 2014 from the Blue Dragon LOB showing a spectacular eruption.

Full details of the East Indies Spice Exploration 2016 can be found the SeaTrek website

East Indies Spice Exploration w/ Ian Burnet

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Kertanegara – A demonic King?

A Javanese chronicle relates that King Kertanegara was buried at Singhasari in East Java in 1295, three years after his death, and deified as a Shiva-Buddha. His temple tower is divided into two parts, the lower one Sivaitic or Hindu, the upper one Buddhistic, because in his life he prided himself on honouring Shiva, as well as Buddha.

0027 CandiSingosari_Michael Gunther

Candi Singhasari

King Kertanegara is believed to have been killed by an assasin during a Tantric ritual or a Tantric orgy, as some have written. His deified statue is that of Bhairava, a demonic form of Shiva, who is portrayed standing on a pedestal of skulls, wearing a chain of human heads around his naked body, a crown of skulls on his head and holding a skull drinking cup in his left hand.

Bhairava 06-RMV-1403-1680-photo-RMV_0


The statue of Bhairava is missing from the central temple niche in Candi Singhasari and was apparently taken by a Dutch Governor of East Java to decorate the garden in his residence and now resides at the Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde in Leiden, Holland

Two giant Dwarapala or temple guardian statues stand nearby, each adorned with skulls, with a snake wrapped around his torso and holding a giant club. Carved from a single block of stone and weighing around forty tons. they are to large to move, even by the Dutch, and would have guarded the entrance to  King Kertanegara’s palace ot temple compound.

0029 Dvarapala_Michael Gunther

The giant Dwarapala or temple guardian at Singhasari

Interested in the temples of East Java? You can find out more by joining Ian Burnet on a ‘Journey Across Java’ by train and mini-bus from August 17 to August 30, 2016.  For all the details please go to:



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