The Wandering Woods

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Torajan Funeral Ceremony #1

Our first stop in Indonesia was Makassar, capital of the island of Sulawesi. We stayed only 1 night and then managed to get a night bus heading north to a place called Rantepao. People from the Toraja region of south Sulawesi are best known for their elaborate funeral celebrations. We had heard that locals in this area were happy to receive foreign guests to the ceremonies so we thought it would be interesting to see what they were all about. We hired a guide to take us around for the day and ended up at the first day’s festivities of the biggest funeral of the year! An elaborate and expensive funeral means that the deceased held a position of prestige in the Torajan community. It usually takes many months and sometimes even years to save enough money and plan a funeral like this.

Most of the roads are in this area are in pretty poor condition and all the traffic made things even worse. We got as close as we could and then walked the rest of the way.

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Below is the village we visited where the funeral was taking place. The prominent buildings are traditional Torajan designs, built to look like the shape of a boat.

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Here is Oliver entering the village. We weren’t really sure what to expect but knew it would be completely different than anything we had seen before.

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Once inside, we walked to the main square where everyone was gathering. Hundreds of people were sitting in open buildings all facing the middle and a group of men in red shirts, white sorongs, and black cowboy hats were arranged in a circle. They were singing songs while women in turquoise dresses served tea.

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Also in the main square were numerous buffalo and pigs which had been brought to the funeral as gifts. Some of them were going to be sacrificed and others might be given back to other guests or friends. Our guide thought that there would be around 500 buffalo and several thousand pigs at this funeral!

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The first day of a Torajan funeral involves welcoming family members and friends who have traveled from near and far to honor the deceased.

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This man with the microphone could only be described as the funeral’s “Master of Ceremonies”. During the time we were there he went around announcing the gifts that people had brought and where they came from. There was another person with him writing down the details of the gifts since this family will be expected to reciprocate at the next funeral.

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There were various groups of people singing, playing music, and performing war dances.

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And a band of young boys playing bamboo instruments was also part of the day’s entertainment.

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We didn’t actually see any animals being killed at this funeral (sacrifices don’t usually happen on the first day) but the image below is what we were left with.

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Filed under indonesia travel traveling travel photography sulawesi tana toraja asia toraja culture

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Return to Indonesia - Itinerary

Last year we visited Indonesia as part of our around-the-world trip and went to the islands of Java, Flores, Rinca and Bali. Now we are going back, but this time for a totally different experience! Our rough (7 week) itinerary is as follows:

- fly from  KL to Makassar, located on the island of Sulawesi
- spend some time in South Sulawesi visiting the Toraja region best known for elaborate funeral ceremonies
- fly to Jayapura, located on the island of Papua
- spend a couple of days visiting Sentani Lake
- fly to Wamena, the main town in the Baliem Valley, just in time for the cultural festival in which dozens of local indigenous tribes participate
- do some trekking around the Baliem Valley region
- fly to Sorong (via Sentani) and spend about a week scuba diving around Raja Ampat
- then spend some time on the Banda and Kei islands, located in the province of Moluku

This should give us a nice mix of culture, beautiful scenery, and beach time!

Filed under travel traveling itinerary travel itinerary indonesia

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I love discovering new (and less touristy) Parisian neighborhoods! I stayed for a week in Belleville, located in the 19ieme arrondissement and there are so many great cafes and parks to explore. Les Buttes Chaumont and Parc de Belleville provide incredible views of Paris. And famous French singer, Edith Piaf, was supposedly born on the pavement at 72 Rue de Belleville.

Filed under Paris france belleville neighborhood arrondissement 19th travels traveling cafe park edith piaf