Thursday, August 28, 2014

A story from Alor, Nusa Tenggara Timur, my Indonesia

“Hat hat hat hat…” “Hat hat hat hat…” The warriors of Takpala shouted, whileThe Takpala’s women singing a song and dancing in front of them, guiding us through the stone stairs and a path to the center of the village.  

“Awesome, but the currents are so strong. I’m exhausted” talked about the underwater and the currents at Hari Lolong.
“Yeah and we docked against the currents flow”
“Haha, I got to take some break, before reaching this boat” 

“So, how? Satisfied?“
“Yes, sure thing and no regret when going back to Jakarta this afternoon”
“Haha… exactly!”

“Halo” the Ternate’s kids greeted.
“Halo” “Halo” “Halo” so many halo with ear-to-ear smiles and giggles.

Those story chapters are still so clear in my memory. Those, what we would always talk about, to share and would last forever. My memory of the journey to Alor Island in Nusa Tenggara Timur Provence, my Indonesia. 

“Look! The hair’s so awesome! Light purple” I told Adi, while sitting down at Starbucks, Soekarno Hatta International Airport, Terminal 3, waiting for boarding time.
“Nah, she’s just wearing some hat” Adi responded.
“No Di, that’s a real hair” I insisted.
“Hah! *looking carefully* Wow, you’re right, that’s a purple hair!” he shouted with surprise
The purple-hair girl, named Upi, who turned out one of our twelve travel buddies in Alor with Tukang Jalan.

Day 1,
The sun just started to spread its morning ray and warmth in the east part of Indonesia, when the wheels of the plane landed on El tari International Airport’s runway in Kupang City.

3 hours later, we continued our flight to Alor and by afternoon, I stepped on Mali Airport. It was my first time flying with Fokker 50 and Alor is the easternmost of Indonesia that I have visited, so far.
welcome to Alor
Less than an hour after, we arrived at Om Chris’ home stay, where we would spent couple of nights in Alor. Quick break and refreshment before we jumped into the car and headed to Aimoli Village, chasing the beauty of Alor’s sunset at the bird’s head of this island. We watched the orange sun started to disappear in Flores’ Horizon, from Kokar Dock.
room at Om Chris
dinning room at Om Chris

sunset from Kokar Dock
Day 2,
First morning in Alor, and I stood on a stone dock called Alor Kecil, with my travel buddies, waiting for the boat which would sail us to explore the beauty of the landscape and the underwater of Alor.
view from Alor Kecil Dock
the boat

view from Alor Kecil Dock

“Duk duk..duk duk..dukdudkdukdurudukduruduk” the engine started, adding the noise to the hustle of Alor Kecil Dock. One by one, each of us jumped into the boat and headed to our first stop: Sebanjar.

“Shit! I left my underwater camera at the home stay” I shouted and just made me a little bit sad.

This spot had a quite long coastline with wide enough of shallow water area, before suddenly became a steep downhill to the deep blue sea. So far, personally, this spot was the best snorkeling’s spot in Alor. For me, Sebanjar was the jewelry of Alor, my favorite. Sebanjar had a breath taking underwater park, so beautiful with thousands of soft corals like their tapestry, dancing with colorful fishes.

Pura Island
This spot had no beach, yet it had a quite wide shallow water area. The spot was also a route of cold currents that even when we did snorkeling during midday, still felt so cold shivering inside the water. The tapestry of the underwater was still covered by soft corals, but not having Sebanjar’s density.

Pantar Kumbang Beach
It’s a white sand beach which has quite long coastline with crystal clear water. It was a beautiful landscape and background for taking pictures. We did take photo shoots there.
Pantar Kumbang Beach
Kepa Island
Kepa is a small island, located just across Alor Island. It only took less than 10 minutes to cross to Kepa from Alor, by a small single motor wooden boat. So far, Kepa has no electricity and fresh water. The residents had to use some solar light (in the evening) and brought fresh water by boat from Alor Island. However there’s a small resort called La Petite in Kepa Island and the price was so affordable. The resort is owned by a French, and because it is a diver provider, divers would be La Petite’s priority guests. It’s hard to find vacant room due to peak season of diving.
Kepa Island
Alor Island from Kepa Island
The best spot for snorkeling at Kepa Island was told at the other side where we docked, but it was not recommended due to some sacred cemetery placed nearby the spot and very strong currents. Anyway, Rudy, Adi, Upi and I did try for snorkeling just near the boat. It was not bad, but definitely was not as good as the other spots.

Day 3,
Again like a day before, I sat on my favorite spot in this boat sailing crossing the sea, to our first stop. Today I was so completely happy; because my camera underwater was saved in my pocket. What a beautiful day, the sky was clear and the sun’s so warm; enjoying the sea wind touched my face while listening the cheer and the laugh from my travel buddies.

Bia Tabang
Still it was a snorkeling spot with Alor’s specialties: soft coral tapestry. Alor is the kingdom of soft corals but with clownfish rarely seen. It was like an abandoned real estate. Not like the variety of the soft corals, Alor has limited kind of fishes. However, I saw many of moorish idols here.
underwater at Bia Tabang
underwater at Bia Tabang

underwater at Bia Tabang
Uma Pura – Ternate Island
A stone dock on a clear blue water looked clearly in my eyes, while the boat’s sailing near and finally docked.
Ternate Dock
“Halo” “Halo” “Halo” the kids of Uma Pura shouted, welcoming us with ear-to-ear smiles, white healthy teeth and beautiful dark/dark-brown skin color of East Indonesia.
one of the kids of Ternate
Off the boat, we walked through narrow winding path, with downhill on our right side. We walked circling a part of Ternate Island to a small village which was well known by their tenun ikat (a fabric from wool with traditional bundle technique).
a path to Uma Pura
the view drom Uma Pura

woman of Uma Pura with her tenun ikat in process

The village is located just by the beach with houses built at terracing land. The village was a little bit confusing for me; it’s like a little labyrinth inside. The village was so clean and I found friendly smiles and little “halo” in every opened window and door. I was so welcomed here.
the girls of Uma Pura
A young woman sat beside her displayed product of tenun ikat.
“How much for this” I asked her, while pointing a red scarf with sea turtle as its pattern.
“Fifty thousand” she replied with smile.
“Okay, I’ll take it” I responded the price with my best smile.
I was not sure, but I guessed I noticed a glance of excitement in her eyes while I refused her offer to wrap the scarf because I immediately just put the scarf around my neck instead.
red scarf with sea turtle pattern
Jawa Toda Beach
Like Pantar Kumbang Beach, Jawa Toda Beach is a white powder sand beach with quite long coastline. For sure, this place would be a perfect background of landscape in pictures.
Jawa Toda Beach
“Let’s go snorkeling” some friend said.
“Yeah” “Let’s go” other replied.
The captain cancelled to drop off the anchor, and continued sailing to the next snorkeling’s spot.

Hari Lolong – Pura Island
We’re back to Pura Island but at a different spot from the day before. The spot called Hari Lolong, has no beach but rocky shoreline with narrow shallow water. Hari Lolong was my other favorite snorkeling’s spot with soft coral tapestry and many of schooling big fishes, including barracuda. Wearing complete snorkeling gear (fin and life vest) would be necessary here, due to strong currents, unless you’re a good and strong swimmer.
Hari Lolong's underwater
chasing the fish

schooling fish
Hari Lolong's underwater
“It’s good. Isn’t it? But the current’s sick, so strong!” I shouted after jump into the boat.
“Indeed, the current is strong” Prue answered.
“I had to have quick breaks couple times before I can reach this boat” I continued.
“Yeah, so do I haha” Prue replied.

“Hey, why they pullover to the rocky shoreline?”
“Haha I bet they are tired against the current”
And four of us on boat continued our conversation about random topics.

“There, they are walking along the shoreline. I bet they would continue snorkeling from across the boat and back here”
“Oh haha, the current beats them down”
And the first time what Didith did after back on the boat was nagging Dwi. Turned out they were drifted by the current to the rocky shoreline. They got  casted away.
They were waving and screaming to us, blew a whistle, but unfortunately the wind blew against us to them, so we couldn’t hear any sound from them.   

Thank God, everyone was safe and sound. Every nag, anger now becoming a laugh and joke. Hopefully, that little incident would become a funny story for us and a warning for others.

Kepa Island
We got back to this small island, not for snorkeling but for staying one night at some local house (because La Petite was fully booked) and spent the night at Kepa like locals.

“Days before you guys arrived in Alor, there were hundreds of dolphins in this strait, fooling around there” Agus said, while pointing to the narrow strait between Kepa Island and Alor Island, in front of the house.
“Seriously!” others shouted.
“Yes! Look at these pictures and video” Agus replied and opened his camera.
Unfortunately, there was none of dolphins by the time we spent the whole afternoon waiting for them to show.
the strait - one of the dolphins playgrounds in Alor
view from home stay at Kepa
The night was getting late and the sea wind blew stronger. One by one of us left the small circle and went to the bed room. Resting their eyes and soul, continued the journey in the utopia world and left no sound but peacefully breath.

At the end, there were only three of us left in the circle (Me, Dwi and Papa – the owner of the house).
They both talked about the needs for fresh water and electricity in Kepa Island, related with new regent elected.
Me? I just sat on my chair and looked to the dark canvas up above, enjoying every twinkle of the millions stars and trying to count the falling stars (which were often). 
Day 4,
I woke up and instantly saw the peaceful blue strait. It was so made my day. Pity, we had to check out and sailed back to Alor Kecil dock and continued the exploration of Alor in land today.

Alor Besar Village
First stop was Uma Fanja to see 800 years old Quran, which was inherited from the first generation of Alor Island. The Quran was written on a wood paper and saved inside a 800-year-old wooden box.
the 800 years old Quran and its box
Kadelang Market
The traditional market was located in the center of Alor City. There’s no difference from other common traditional market. We stooped here to buy betel and arecas for a gift to locals in our next destination.
one of the corners of Kadelang
In really tight schedule, one of us decided to go inside the market and looking for Alor’s walnuts, which was quite famous in Indonesia.

Takpala Village
This is a traditional village of Abui tribe, which was located in a highland of Alor, not far from the downtown. There were couples of warriors and women in traditional clothes were ready to welcome us, when our car entered the village.
Abuis at Takpala Village
“Hat hat hat hat…” “Hat hat hat hat…” The Takpala’s warriors shouted and jumped. The warriors kept shouting and gently moved to the heart of the village, to the place where the welcoming ceremony and two traditional dances would be held.
While the warriors shouted and jumped, the women of Takpala danced elegantly while sang some song. The song was sound like a perfect collaboration with the sound of leaves from tall trees which were fence off the path, a way to the center of the village.

Two similar dances were performed: Lego-lego and Cakalele. The dance and the song were monotone, yet so mysteriously beautiful and peaceful. We got also invited to join the second dance (Cakalele) and danced with them.
The dances started with some warriors shout something and followed by the beautiful monotone songs, sang by the women. The dancers slowly moved then forming a whirl with 3 Mokos as the center. So breath taking, and I thought it was something that I had to see, live.
the dance was just to start
the warrior of Takpala

the woman and the little woman of Takpala
the beauty of Takpala
Beaches: Batu Putih, Ilawe, Dehere, etc.
Leaving Takpala, we just drove the car along coastline of Alor. There were so many beautiful beaches and most of them were empty from any visitors. The Beaches never failed to show us the beauty of blue and turquoise of Flores Sea. 
Batu Putih Beach
Batu Putih Beach

whether Ilawe or Dehere
Day 5,
Last day in Alor Island. The travel organizer: Tukang Jalan had no schedule anymore, a.k.a. it was a free time. Most of my travel buddies were leaving Alor in the morning, while me and Adi would leave Alor after lunch, to Kupang then continued our flight back to Jakarta.

Lucky me, I succeeded to persuade the others left (Adi, Prue, Dwi and Agus) to go to Sebanjar again and did some snorkeling for the last time in Alor.

“So, how’s the second time?” Prue Asked me.
“Satisfied and no regret to go back to Jakarta this evening” I answered with big smile.
“For sure” others laughed.
Sebanjar's underwater
Sebanjar's underwater
Sebanjar's underwater
Sebanjar's underwater
Sebanjar's underwater
Sebanjar's underwater
Sebanjar's underwater
Sebanjar's underwater
Sebanjar's underwater
After a quick face refreshment with mineral water and changed my clothes behind the bush, Adi and I were ready to get dropped off at Mali Airport.

Mali Airport
Time 12.30 CIT (Central Indonesian Time / WITA) Adi and I were sitting in boarding lounge, waiting for our plane which got delayed because of the wind. The wind blew up to 25 knot and the Aviation Safety policy for Fokker 50 allowed the plane flew only in 10 knot.
Time 13.00 CIT Adi sat in the boarding lounge. Me? Sat in canteen outside the small terminal building joining my travel buddies ((Retno, Didith, Paul, Rudi, Upi, Liza) who were flying to Kupang this morning. Yes, they got also delayed by the wind condition.
Time 15.00 CIT we left the Mali Airport because all flights were cancelled for today and we had to extend our stay at Alor for another night.
25 knot
Takpala Village
Blessing in disguise. We still had a little time to spend in Alor, and we decided to visit Takpala Village one more time. On our previous visit, there were so many visitors and we barely even checked the traditional market selling many of handy crafts by Abui Tribe. 

We arrived at Takpala Village an hour or two before dusk. There were a few of them and still with a big smile welcoming us. They were not wearing their daily traditional clothes, but they still sold many handy crafts in their shops. There were no other visitors but us, so it was perfect.

Me? Explored the market looking for something unique and made from wood.
3 of us (Rudy, Upi and Paul) tried to wear Takpala traditional clothes, it was fun!
The rest of us were exploring the village, accompanied by one local as the guide and stories teller.
traditional house of Takpala

Day 6, (Additional)
Mali Airport
Time 07.00 CIT finally we were boarding and flew to Kupang.

A second or two, I turned my head to see for the last time, the beauty of Alor in Mali Airport. I smiled and walked into the plane.
Mali Airport from the hill
“Good morning” greeted by the flight attendance.
“Morning” I replied.
It was an unplanned vacation and I decided to join the trip by impulse invitation from Adi. It was a vacation to destination that I never expected before. Great travel buddies, and great destination are the perfect vacation.

The people of Alor were so kind, friendly and welcome. The city, the village and the sea were so clean because the people take good care of their land. The people of Alor treated us with no difference with foreigners. It was so cool, especially for me who had couple of experiences for being discriminated in Bali.

Alor definitely has a beautiful landscapes, interesting cultures and for sure, awesome underwater park. I think I got a whole package in this trip. I spent quite more expensive budget for this trip (than my previous trips) and I’m happy. It’s totally worth it. Money well spent.

Hopefully someday, I can go back to Alor. I can go back to the beauty of Alor and hopefully I will find The Alor that I’ve known before. 
Special thanks to Resviana O. for my English translation review 


  1. Thank you for such a detailed post, really helpful that you mentioned all the names of the beaches and snorkelling spots