Alor Island – A traditional village and bronze Moko drums

                                        East Indies Exploration 2017

SeaTrek Sailing Adventures depart from Maumere in Flores on September 22 for a 12 day voyage around the outer islands of the Indonesian archipelago to finish in Ambon on October 3, 2017

East Indies Voyage

A map showing the Ombak Putih and our 12 day voyage from Maumere on Flores along the island chain that leads to the Banda Islands and our final destination at Ambon.

After we visit the whaling village of Lamalera on the island of Lembata, one of the highlights of our voyage will be a visit to the island of Alor and our dawn arrival as we sail up the narrow and beautiful bay towards the town of Kalabahi.

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The island of Alor and Kalabahi Bay

This is a view looking down the beautiful Kalabahi Bay towards the volcano that guards its entrance.

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Alor has much cultural diversity as there are eight languages and at least 25 dialects spoken by its different tribes and from the town of Kalabahi we travel across the island to the traditional village of Lembur Barat.

Village Traditional

Greeted by the village elders, we will be able to visit their homes, and be introduced to their traditional culture including dance, bronze moko drums and ikat weaving.

Village Elders

At the centre of the village is a circular platform with a stone altar known as a mesbah on which are displayed some of the heirloom bronze moko drums kept by the village. In this photo the community line up behind the altar in preparation for the dance.

Village Centre

In the lego-lego dance the elders hold each other arm in arm as they begin a dancing circle around the central stone altar. They are then slowly joined by each successive generation of younger and younger people, and each group joining the dancing circle represents the unity and togetherness of the community.


The rythm for the dance is created by the rattle of the bangles on the women’s feet as they stamp their feet in unison.

Village Dancing Feet

The male warriors perform a traditional war dance

Village War Dance

Large bronze drums originally arrived in Indonesia after being manufactured using the ‘lost wax’ method by the Dongson culture of North Vietnam. These drums were manufactured over a period of almost one thousand years from 600 BCE until 300 CE and were traded across South-East Asia. The origins of the Moko drum are less well known but they may have come originally from China and then were manufactured in Java. They are smaller than the Dongson drums, are waisted and obviously could be held and played as an instrument.

They became a very important part of the culture of Alor and have become symbolic of the island where the Moko drums remain an important status symbol. They are particularly important in their ritual value and are still generally required as part of the bridal dowry, though the short supply of moko today means that moko must often be borrowed or mortgaged for this purpose. Here examples of these heirloom drums are displayed on the central stone altar.

Moko Drums

Detail of a Moko drum

Moko Drum


Traditional woven textiles on display in the village

Village Market

Training the next generation of warrior dancers.

Village Child Warrior

Details of the voyage can be found on the SeaTrek website at





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Javanese Gold – The Wonoboyo Hoard

One of the treasures on display in the National Museum in Jakarta is a priceless collection of golden jewellery and ceremonial objects found at Wonoboyo near Yogyakarta in Central Java.

The hoard was discovered as recently as October 1990 on the slopes of Mount Merapi by five farmers while digging a paddy field to lower its surface.  One of their hoes struck a hard object which turned out to be a large Chinese jar of Tang origin filled with ancient objects, many made of gold. Further digging uncovered four similar jars and a bronze box all containing a treasure of gold and silver objects weighing a total of 35 kilograms.

The hoard was discovered only 5 kilometres from the ancient Prambanan Temple Complex in Central Java and is considered to be one of the greatest archeological discoveries found in Indonesia this century.

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Golden Armband decorated by a Kala face

Among the hoard objects is an armband decorated with a kala face for protection. Armbands like these were worn by people of the highest rank, or by the king himself, and can be seen on the stone statue of Shiva Mahadeva in the Shiva Temple of the nearby Prambanan Temple Complex.

The objects demonstrate the mastery of the Javanese goldsmiths. From the design, inscriptions, and quality of the objects found in the Wonoyobo hoard the owner is thought to have been a king or at least a person of the highest rank and the hoard is estimated to date from the reign of King Balitung (899–911). 

0024 Mount Merapi

The eruption of Mount Merapi, by Basuki Abdullah

Based on the presence of a gold begging bowl, the site is thought to have been a Royal Hermitage possibly for a King who had abdicated the throne. The hoard was covered by 3 metres of lava and volcanic ash from nearby Mount Merapi.  This would have occurred after the catylasmic eruption of the volcano around 929 CE, which ended many lives in Central Java and forced the shift of government and culture to East Java.

Merapi from Prambanan

Mount Merapi is still active and can be seen from the Prambanan Temple Complex

The Ramayana bowl is considered to be the most significant object in this discovery because it is the first known bowl decorated in relief with scenes from the Ramayana. The same scenes which line the inside of the balcony balustrade of the Shiva Temple at the Prambanan Temple Complex. The Rama story is depicted on the bowl in panels on each of the four lobes. Each panel shows two scenes which are read from the right to the left in the manner of the clockwise circumambulation of a sacred site.

Ramayana Bowl

The Ramayana Bowl showing the Ramayana story

Many of the works of art are inspired by nature and here is a beautiful necklace comprised of thirty-eight golden mollusc shells. The shells were made by the lost-wax casting technique. Where a clay core is covered with wax which is then shaped into the shell before being covered again in clay.  Liquid gold is the poured into a hole in the top of object and replaces the wax which drains out the bottom.

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Golden Mollusc Shell Necklace

Another work inspired by nature is this miniature gold palm leaf bucket which was probably used in temple ceremonies.

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A Golden Palm Leaf Bucket

The handle of this beautiful golden ladle curves upwards and its top is in the form of a palm leaf in bud. An inscription in Old Javanese on its rim indicates the ladle was used as a ceremonial object.

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A Gold Ceremonial Ladle

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Replica Items on display at the Prambanan Museum

This large crescent shaped pendent is covered in decoration. It is too large to have been worn by a person and together with two elephant size golden anklets which are also on display, could have been worn by the royal elephant as the royal procession paraded through the streets.

elephant necklace

Large Golden Pendant – to be worn by the Royal Elephant?

Information and images of the objects are from the book, Indonesian Gold – Treasures from the National Museum, Jakarta and exhibited by the Queensland Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1999.

We will be visiting the National Museum in Jakarta to view this collection and also the Prambanan Temple Complex during our ‘Journey Across Java’ this August 2017. For more details please go to the Heritage Destinations website at:



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Old Batavia – The Harbourmasters Tower

This lithograph from 1844 by C.W.M van de Velde shows Indonesian prahus alongside the landing dock or Aanleg Plaats on the Main Canal at the interior of Sunda Kelapa harbour. A harbour which is still used by the large Bugis prahus of the wooden trading fleet today.

The lithograph shows the Harbourmasters Tower (Uitkijk) on the opposite side of the canal and the beginnings of the  Spice Warehouses or the  Westzijdsche Pakhuizen on the right. Charles William Meredith van de Velde was himself a Dutch naval officer and head of the Dutch Royal Hydrographer’s Office in Batavia.


Image courtesy of the Bartele Gallery, Jakarta

This image painted by J.C.Rappard some fourty years later shows the Kleine Boom or landing stage constructed on the same site, on the left is the corner of the Stadsherberg erected opposite the landing stage, and in the background the Harbourmasters Tower.


Image from the Historical Sites of Jakarta (Adolf Heuken SJ)

This photograph taken from almost the same position shows the present day condition of the Harbourmasters Tower which has been restored as part of Maritime Museum or Museum Bahari, which now occupies the former Spice Warehouses.


The Harbourmasters Tower as it looks today from the same location

On this map of Batavia from 1770, the images would have been drawn from just below the former Kasteel Batavia, on the left hand side of the Main Canal leading up into the city and looking across to the Bastion Culemborg (47), where the Harbourmasters Tower and the Spice Warehouses are located.


Image courtesy of the Bartele Gallery, Jakarta

The following photos shows the Habourmasters Tower from the entrance side near the Maritime Museum  (Museum Bahari).


The view to the Spice Warehouses (Westzijdsche Pakhuizen ) or the Maritime Museum (Museum Bahari) from the HarbourMasters Tower.


We will visit this area of old Batavia on the first day of our Journey Across Java-2017 tour. Please follow the link to Heritage Destinations for the details:

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Netherlands Indies -Vintage Travel Posters

Heritage Destinations will be repeating our ‘Journey Across Java’ tour for 15 days from August 18 until September 1, 2017. I thought these vintage Dutch travel posters that follow our journey would be of interest.


We will travel most of the way from Jakarta (Batavia) to Bandung (Bandoeng), to Yogyakarta (Djokjakarta), to Solo (Soerakarta)  to Surabaya (Soerabaja) by train. But there is no reason to take the night train as we want to be able to see the beautiful mountains, terraced rice fields and lakes of Java as we travel the distance from Jakarta to Surabaya.


This poster must have been designed to attract a particular type of traveller – the overweight Dutch colonial male whose hat is too big! After we leave Jakarta our train slowly climbs 800 metres up through the mountains of West Java on our journey to Bandung and we see wonderful views of terraced rice fields and distant mountains.  We also pass 100m above the  Cisomang River, on the modern equivalent of the trestle bridge in the poster.


And this poster is for a more sophisticated traveller – those interested in the art, dance, music and culture of Indonesia.


Humidity recedes, gradually replaced by cool, fresh air as we steadily climb up to the broad plateau containing Bandung. Once described as ‘the Paris of Java’, in Bandung we will stay in the renovated and historic Grand Hotel Preanger with its art-deco architecture and decor.


We journey from Bandung to Yogjakarta by train  and as we roll through the sculptured rice terraces, rich cultivated lands and mountains of West Java, the views from the train demonstrate the beauty of the people, the wonderland of colour and the beautiful smiles that can be seen across Java.


In Central Java we will spend three days exploring Jogjakarta and the highlight of the tour will be our visit to the magnificent Borobodur Monument which is the largest Buddhist sanctuary in the world. A colossal cosmic mountain built from one million blocks of stone the monument took perhaps 10,000 artisans a century to build. After a catyclismic eruption of the nearby Mount Merapi it lay buried for almost 1000 years under layers of volcanic ash and vegetation until its rediscovery in 1814.




On our journey to Solo in Central Java we will visit the massive Prambanan Temple complex which consists of 244 temples and is dominated by three main temples dedicated to the three highest gods of Hinduism – Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Keeper, and Shiva the Destroyer.


After three days exploring Solo, we will travel by train to Trowulan in East Java to visit to the remains of the royal city of the 14th century Majapahit Empire.The ancient capital was surrounded by a high red brick wall with deep pools, palaces, temples and pavilions. The impressive Trowulan Museum helps put the site into perspective before we visit the remnants of the historic city.

We travel on to Surabaya and where we will stay two nights at the renowned Majapahit Hotel (originally the Hotel Oranje). As one of the three great hotels of Asia built by the Sarkie brothers, it is even bigger and more magnificent than its sister hotels – the Raffles in Singapore and the Eastern and Oriental Hotel in Penang.



For those interested in the details of the tour, please go to the Heritage Destinations website below:



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A Journey Across Java – 2017

After  a succesful journey last year, Heritage Destinations are repeating their ‘Journey Across Java’ this year with another small group of interested and interesting people.

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Borobodur, the largest Buddhist monument in the world

Beyond Bali, much of Indonesia is unknown to many Australians. But in many respects, Indonesia is Australia’s most important overall relationship.  Yet the historical and cultural differences of our nearest neighbour are vast, possibly among the widest of any pair of adjoining countries.



For the traveller, opportunity knocks, and here is a frequently overlooked destination that begs exploration. Join Heritage Destinations on a 15 day tour across Java from August 18 – September 1, 2016, with Ian Burnet, the author of the recent book Archipelago – A Journey Across Indonesia, as your leader.


Indonesia is the largest archipelago nation in the world. Is extremities are six thousand four hundred kilometres apart, as far as Perth, Western Australia is from Wellington, New Zealand. Almost seventeen thousand islands both seperate and link the Indian and Pacific Oceans and contain a rich human diversity of over three hundred and fifty different ethnic groups. The people are a subtle blend of cultures that have invaded since neolithic times – Malay, Chinese, Indian, Melanesian, Portuguese, Arabian, English and Dutch. Their history is a saga of wave after wave of human migration who either absorbed earlier arrivals, eliminated them or drove them into less favorable regions such as deep forests, high mountains, or remote islands (where they can still be found today).

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The Hindu Temples at Prambanan

Our starting point is the capital Jakarta, centre for government, politics and business – the brain of Indonesia. West, Central and East Java follow including travelling by train to Bandung , Yogyakarta, and Surabaya. From Yogyakarta we will visit the World Heritage listed sites of Buddhist Borobodur and Hindu Prambanan  and we have time to explore the arts, crafts and busy markets in this the cultural heart of Java. Other interesting centres such Solo and the nearby World Heritage Listed ‘Java Man’ site at Sangiran and the centre of the former Majapahit Empire located at Trowulan are included. Our final stay is at the famous Majapahit Hotel in historical Surabaya before the tour conclusion in Denpasar, Bali .

Garden of Hotel Majapahit in Surabaya Java Indonesia. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.

The magnificent Majapahit Hotel in Surabaya


WEA Sydney offer interesting and worthwhile travel experiences. It’s a good time to visit some of the lesser known landscapes of one of the world’s most interesting societies.

Consider joining us on a Journey Across Java and travel with a knowledgeable WEA Sydney lecturer you can trust, who shares your values, listens to you and adds value to your journey. Please go to the Heritage Destinations website for details of the Journey:

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Old Dutch Semarang – Nederlandsch Indische



Pabrik Rokok Praoe Layar in Semarang has remained in continuous operation since the Dutch period in Indonesia. Its office building and factory in Semarang was formerly owned by the Dutch firm Maintz & Co, which provided electric power, and it shows the characteristic architecture of the Dutch East Indies of the period. Below is how it looked in 1927 and how it looks today.



One of the many brands of kretek or clove cigarettes in Indonesia, rokok Praoe Layar (Sailing Boat) was marketed as the ‘fisherman’s cigarette’ and  seems to have retained its niche market along the pantara (pantai utara) of the north coast of Java despite the inroads of the major cigarette brands. The brands visual imagery is unique and has obviously not changed since the Dutch period


The Main Enrance to the building


The window above the Main Entrance

Here is an example of the branding from the Dutch period.


And its branding today is hardly any different



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Miguel Covarrubius in Bali 2


There has been a lot of interest in the art of Miguel Covarrubius and so here are some other examples of his images of Bali, its people and the dance.


Bringing offerings to the Temple


Temple Offerings


Preparation for the Dance


Movements of the Legong Dance


Legong Dancer


The Dance


The Baris Dance

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