A vintage old dutch colonial style train station at Cirebon, West Java, Indonesia. One of the busiest train station in Indonesia due to its location, in the boundary of west and central java. Tourists like to stay 2-3 days in the city for delightful coulinary experience, Batik (Indonesian traditional clothing) shopping, and historical visit to Keraton (Old Royal Palace).
“To seek a piece of rare ethnicity which I could probably find in Baduy Dalam,” straightforwardly and unhesitatingly I gave my friend an answer when he asked me: “Why do you want to have all the difficulties trekking for hours up and down the hill going through a jungle in a monsoon season?”. I was right!
Baduy Dalam (Inner Baduy) is a primitive tribe living deep in the jungle of Banten, Indonesia. When I said primitive, I was talking about a real primitiveness. Obviously, using your gadget or camera is something prohibited in this village. No kidding, not to mention about electricity that you wouldn’t find in the village, they don’t even use nails, hammers, saw, or axe to build a house. Everything was built using only what nature provides. Wearing a shoe or sandal or slipper is something against their beliefs. They wear their own traditional clothing and will not wear any t-shirt you give. Some people do not even speak Bahasa Indonesia (mother language of Indonesia)!
Before I talk more about Baduy Dalam uniqueness, let me explain to you how to get to Baduy Dalam.
How to Get to Baduy from Jakarta?
This is how I get to Baduy:
- Take commuter line train from Jakarta to Rangkasbitung (2 hours ride). Price: IDR 3500
- Charter an Angkot (Indonesian very mini public bus) to Ciboleger (1,5 hours). Price: depends on negotiation
- Get some rest and start the journey to Baduy Dalam as Ciboleger is the entrance of Baduy. Expect to see some Baduy people at Ciboleger at weekend and holiday season.
Journey by Foot to Baduy Dalam
The journey to Baduy Dalam is not an easy one. The village could only be reach by foot. It took 4-5 hours of trekking. It may not sound so difficult for people who get used to hiking or trekking, but trust me, it is. I do hike mountains, but I still consider the path to Baduy Dalam is not an easy one to trek to. We have to walk through the jungle going up and down the hill. Some of the road, if not most, has really extreme elevation degrees, 60-70 degrees. The road is obviously not an asphalt road, it is not a rocky road either, it is muddy one instead because of the heavy rain. Going up is still okay. But could you imagine to walk down a soaking wet muddy road sloping down 70 degrees in the middle of heavy rain? I couldn’t even steadily stand on my feet!
So why would I want to go to Baduy Dalam in the middle of Monsoon Season? Why not wait until dry season hence my journey would be easier? It is because people of Baduy Dalam only accept visitors at specific time. January is one of it. If I didn’t go in January, I would need to wait at least until May. Yes, they have a strict rule for visitor and they don’t accept visitor from outside Indonesia.
So without thinking twice, driven by my thirst of pure ethnicity, I decided to go there! Even though it was in really bad raining season!
Until halfway, the area is called Baduy Luar (Outer Baduy). People living here has the same race as people of Baduy Dalam, but they are more open to the world and they watch TV :p. We will have to pass through some villages in Baduy Luar. Here, I can still use camera to document how the village look like. Here are some shots from the life in Baduy Luar.
Baduy Luar and Baduy Dalam was separated by a bridge. After crossing this bridge, it is already Baduy Dalam area that still close themselves from outer world. Thus, after crossing the bridge, I need to turn off all my gadget and electronic devices, including my camera, so no single documentaries was taken in the Baduy Dalam area. Some of my travelling mates were even asked by people of Baduy Dalam who guide us to wear off their watches. In short, we are not allowed to look so modern to enter the village. One of the guy told me that some times ago, a visitor was not allowed to enter the village by the elder just because of the sunglasses that he hang on his shirt.
This is the bridge that separate us from the outer world.
After crossing the bridge, the jungle looks so much different. It is more fertile. The trees are higher. The water in the river is clearer. And the atmosphere is calmer.
After an hour walking in Baduy Dalam, I was separated from my group due to speed differences. The night has fallen and the sky was dark. I was totally alone on my path in the dark. The only light was one that my headlamp emitted. I could feel the mystique atmosphere. I don’t have such a gift, but I could feel something supernatural. I could feel the mystical force. It wasn’t something evil and intimidating, instead it was something very comfortable . I felt so peaceful that every single step I took feels like a walking meditation.
Even until now, I’m struggling to find the right words to describe how Baduy Dalam look like and what I felt when I was in Baduy Dalam. It is totally different world in there. As I told you it is forbidden to use camera in there. But I think even with picture, it would still hard to tell how Baduy Dalam look like and what kind of life people in there living. It is a kind of place, a kind of life, that we need to experience ourselves to understand.
There are 3 villages in Baduy Dalam. I visited one in the outermost. The other 2 are located deeper in the jungle. The number of the village will remain 3 all the time, each represent 3 different worlds in Baduy Dalam religion (human world, spirit world, and the world in between).
The village is nothing but a group of huts in the middle of the jungle. They are made of woods and people do not use nails, hammer, axe, or saw to build one. They only use what the jungle provides as the material. All the houses are facing to either north or south. None of them are facing to west or east, again it is because of their beliefs.
These wooden huts are located close to the river that plays a vital role to support Baduy Dalam people’s life. The clear water flowing through the river is what people drink, what people use to make food, what people use to clean themselves, and what people use to water the farm.
As what you probably start to imagine in your mind, the road in the village is merely just soil. Obviously it’s not made of asphalt or rocks. It is just soil which can be very muddy and wet after the rain.
Well, basically it is just a very primitive and traditional village in the middle of the jungle with no single trace of technology involved when it was built. Do you think it’s attractive? If it start to interest you because of its nothingness, the way the people live in Baduy Dalam that I’m just about to tell you may attract your interest more and make your imagination more vivid.
How Is People in Baduy Dalam Different from Us?
1. The Difference in Basic Principle of Raising Kids.
If you are a parent of a 10 years old kid, a normal one, you would probably utterly say NO to your kids when he/she wants to leave house and play outside. Well, with Security as an excuse, normal parents in the world would most likely give the same answer; but not there in Baduy Dalam. Parents in Baduy Dalam would teach their kids to go out of home and play in the jungle since they are very young. At the age of 5, the parents will even start to take their kids walk down the road to Ciboleger to see outside world. Very contradictive with the world we live in, right? Baduy Dalam parents basically want their kids to see the world, explore, play, and live in it since they are very young. While parents in our world usually limit their kids’s world to ones they think safe.
2. Extraordinary Physical Fitness
Perhaps it is because the parents take the kids to go strolling the jungle barefootedly since they are 5, people in Baduy is extremely strong and agile.
While it took about 4 hours for me to get to Baduy Dalam from Ciboleger, they can do it in 1 hour!
While even on a decent trekking shoe it was still hard for me to stand steadily on the wet, muddy, 70 degrees sloping down road; they can steadily stand barefootedly, and freely roaming around here and there. Effortlessly.
While I have been sweating my body from head to toe after an hour walking up and down the hill; sweat was nowhere seen in their body. The hair still looks dry. Not to mention they helped to carry some of the girls luggages.
Everything in the village is ruled by their religion. It rules almost every single aspect of life.
They have their own religion, it is called Sunda Wiwitan. This religion regulates how people live every day. The clothes people wear, the equipment people use, the birth of new village member, the marriage, the funeral, the education system, what people allow and disallow to do; everything is regulated under the religion and people are strictly following this. They also have their own month & year system which also be regulated by the religion.
They don’t have daily or weekly ritual to worship their God. Jaro, the head of the village told me that everything they do every day in life is their ritual. But they do have a celebration called Kawulan on February to April. I don’t know what they do at Kawulan, but they close the village to visitors during this period.
The village is ruled by what they called as Pu’un. This Pu’un can be equivalent to a king. His word is absolute. Pu’un is not allowed to meet any people not from Baduy Dalam. His house is even isolated and visitor is not allowed to get close to his house.
Second in command would be Jaro, the head of the village. He knows outside world better than anyone in the village. He is the representative of the village. He would sometimes need to leave the village to attend national tribe summit held by Indonesian government. I learnt about Baduy Dalam from the dialogue with him.
4. Devotion in Religion and Tradition
Two of the traditions that they embrace is to always be barefooted and to limit themselves from using technology including transportation. These 2 rules don’t stop them to go explore the world beyond their home. One of the guy told me that sometime he would go to Jakarta. Walking. And Barefooted. With their extreme physical fitness, all they take is 1,5 days. Go google how far Ciboleger from Jakarta is. Imagine if we had to walk it barefootedly.
What I Got from My Trip to Baduy Dalam
Baduy Dalam. In my mind, I have more memories about it than what I just told. My visit to Baduy Dalam was just a 2 days one night stay, yet I learn a lot of things.
Firstly, it was the feeling of “enough” and satisfaction in the nothingness. People there don’t have steady income or house or car or savings. But I can feel the atmosphere of satisfaction. Of having enough and true happiness of having what they have. They don’t ask for more. They smile and happy with what their have.
I think it’s a very noble feeling. In the real world, new things keep coming and their creator are smart enough to also create the feeling of necessity in our heart. We are manipulated to keep buying more things.
In the morning on my day at Baduy Dalam, while having breakfast, I saw kids smiling playing and running around the village. Their laughter were one of the most sincere I have ever heard. I think to myself that even without high end game console, people can still be happy and satisfied. While it’s very hard sometime for us to be thankful and satisfied with what we have, isn’t our own existence something to be thankful of?
Second thing that I got from my trip to Baduy Dalam is bigger wanderlust.
“Travel is never a matter of money, but of courage.” My trip to Baduy Dalam just re-echoed what Paulo Coelho said in his book Aleph.
Hearing the story of how they walked barefootedly to Jakarta, doesn’t it inspire you to go travel more? It does to me.
I mean, what’s your excuse? You have at least a pair of shoes, don’t you? So if you have the desire to go somewhere, just go. A trip will never be in vain. Meeting new people, hearing new stories will always teach you something new. It is something more precious than your money. So, just go!
I hope my writing about Baduy Dalam could open your mind and inspire more of you to start grab your backpack and go. It’s a different world out there! Ciao!
P.S.: click here for the documentary video
After so many trips, I come to conclude 3 ultimate tricks to have my trip meaningful.
Go unplanned, See through local people’s eyes, Be open.
1. Go Unplanned
Every traveller is looking for a soul satisfaction by going travel. The key of a successful travel is when you open yourself and accept new things you find on the road. Making a classic “must visit list” or overly detailed itinerary may block yourself from the original purpose of your journey.
For example, no matter how bad you want to go, most likely you won’t leave your hotel on 2nd day if you make a 5 days reservation. You’ll be feeling like you are wasting your money if you do so. Even if you do leave your hotel earlier, you’ll still have that guilty feeling of wasting money; and this will affect the quality of your journey.
So, go unplanned! You don’t have to make every room reservation or book every city tour to assure you you’ll have enough activities during your journey. It may stop you from doing new things you’ll find on your journey. Just collect a little information about the city or place you’re visiting, just enough for you to understand what the city look like and famous for. And then, let your feet take you to places it desires to go, let your heart decide what you’re gonna do.
2. See Through Local People’s Eyes
Every city, every place, has its own culture and way of living. Many different things are regularly done by local people even though it may be something you barely imagine in your hometown. Try to see through and understand things from local people’s eyes. Do things they do everyday, dance their dances, and eat what they eat. If you don’t like their food, there must be at least one McDonald’s somewhere in the city. But before you decide to eat McD, please give local food a taste at least once. Before you start your day doing regular book reading, please at least start your day local’s style once. This will enrich your soul with new things and experience.
3. Be Open
Open your heart to new people, culture, and experience!
A lot of people, local and fellow travellers you’ll meet on your journey. Open yourself, talk to them! Listen to their story. Understand what inspire them to travel and what make them feel alive. Be insipred! Let yourself understand the differences of people and understand that we are pretty much the same in our differences. Remember, it’s not just the PLACES WE GO, but it’s the PEOPLE WE MEET THAT CAPTURE OUR HEART.
Each place has their own culture. Many things may not be making any sense to you, please accept that! There’s long history and a good reason in every culture. Try to look through it from local’s eyes and understand why they do things their way. Respect the differences and don’t push people to believe what you believe. Remember, you’re visiting their home, not the other way around.
Experience new things! Don’t be too scared to jump off the cliff in Himalaya or dive to sunken ship in Bali! You have been so brave by leaving your house 1000s miles away. Don’t just stop until then. Isn’t it a great feeling the first time you are on your bicycle overcoming all the fear of falling? So don’t be scared to do new things you could only do at the place you visit. You may not be returning to that place all your entire life. Live in the moment!
Even though in literal translation to Bahasa Indonesia Kampung means Village and Naga means Dragon, Kampung Naga (The Village of Dragon) is nothing like Mount of Erebor from The Hobbit movie where Smaug The Almighty Dragon lives. It is instead more similar to The Shire, a tiny peaceful village, where Bilbo Baggins and The Hobbits live in harmony.
I learnt from Pak Habib, a local gentleman, that in Sundanese language (local language) Naga can be translated as Valley. So, Kampung Naga is actually Village in The Middle of Valleys. It is indeed located in the middle of the valley, isolated from outside world by 439 step of stairs.
Geographically, it is located between city of Garut and Tasik in West Java, Indonesia. About 25 to 30 km from each city.
Just like The Hobbit’s Shire, Kampung Naga is a village that still uphold its traditional culture. They put meaningful spiritual aspect in almost every single thing you can see in the village, the thatch, the 2 front doors in every house, the room arrangement inside the house, even the direction where the houses are facing to.
Kampung Naga, led by the village elder, is a home for 113 families, living in 113 different houses. Other than those 113 houses, there is one mosque and one village hall, making a total of 115 buildings stand strong in the village. This number of 115 hasn’t been changed for so many years.
Each house will look like this. It is not a mistake putting 2 doors at the front, they built it like that on purpose.
There is no electricity in the village. They rely on traditional fire lamp for the source of light inside the house.
With no electricity, they use traditional wares for cooking.
Each one of these houses are standing next to each other very organizedly facing to same direction. It is one hell of experience just to walk around the village. These pictures will tell you everything.
Most of people work as a farmer. Even right when you enter the village, you can see rice terrace in your surroundings. The planting season is January and June, only twice a year. Again, it is because of their strict belief on tradition that they do not want or allowed to plant more than twice a year. So, for the best view of the village, it is suggested to come around those two months when the paddy grow side-by-side very beautifully, colouring the valley with green colour.
Even though technology is something rare here, they are quite advance in irrigation system. They use a well maintained mechanical system to help the irrigation. The best thing is that the mechanical system is environment friendly.
Kampung Naga is not a big village. It is quite small that only take 1 or 2 hours to stroll around the village. As for me, I feel the climax when I’m in the village square. It is not about how beautiful the village square is, or about the fascinating traditional mosque near the square. It is because of the life I feel in there. They barely know facebook, but they are more social than most of the social media user. Kids are not playing Playstation, but they look happier and more satisfied playing hide and seek than a rich kid playing Puzzle Bubble on their Playstation. I see the quality of life. Something that we all had when we were a kid. The togetherness and the joyful laughter.
Sometimes in life, we need to take a break. A break from anything too city-like, too tchnology-advanced, too convenient. Kampung Naga with its traditional culture and nice people is a perfect place to have that break and recharge your battery. A day trip from Jakarta is enough to visit it. You could extend your stay in the beautiful city of Bandung if you want to.
As the final words, I would like to send you the warm greeting from the people of Kampung Naga. Bye!