Sun of the East

Panorama 1 Galeri Indonesia Kaya
Due to limited seat in the auditorium, visitors watched live streaming of Matahari dari Timur on a projected screen in Galeri Indonesia Kaya.

Teater Koma, one of the country’s most renowned and productive theatre group, staged a play set in the land of Papua. It tells about a restive land where a vicious dragon brought chaos and plight onto the helpless natives.

In their primitive state of life, the dissilusionment continues to grow as they live in fear of the dragon terror that has victimized them simply for the fun of creating more sufferings, meanwhile aware that their resource-rich land is sucked by foreigners—explicitly referred to as the whites—without being able to stop it.

Their means, limited to the use of wooden spears for aggression and relying on supernatural protection of the divine beings projected in the form of endemic animals, cannot match the rage of the machines.

The chronicle of Papua, a conflict-ridden land of paradise

The play presented two unresolved conflicts lasting for many years, which are the conspicuous exploitation of the mother land by the technology-advanced foreigners and the inferiority-afflicted society caused by neglect and poverty.

One of the performers walk through the aisle after the play

This probes our national awareness towards helping the indigenous people of Papua, the Indonesian citizen of the eastern-most island. Their ineptitude is the result of national abandonment.

Hence, upon realizing that the nation turns its back on them, they turn their hopes to self-governance. Their shout for freedom in the opening act is an alarm against the long neglect.

Their prophecy—as told in the following act—that a native hero will raise, carrying a spear and kill the dragon to free his people, is a warning about what will come true when people wish it.

Matahari dari Timur (Sun of the East) is the 138th play by the Teater Koma, taking place in Galeri Indonesia Kaya, Jakarta. 12 artists performed in the 50-minutes drama written and directed by N. Riantiarno rich in traditional costumes, animism symbols, as well as the theatrical choreography show and music scores.

The story from Papua is a chronicle of Indonesia.

Cahaya Dari Papua - 01
Actors and actresses performed Papuan dance in Matahari dari Timur. Photo courtesy of Galeri Indonesia Kaya.

House of Pitung


North Jakarta, aside from the heavy-loaded traffic to and fro the biggest sea port of Indonesia, there is a hidden cultural heritage. Rumah Si Pitung (House of Pitung) is a big residence that was once owned by the richest fish merchant in Marunda.

Pitung is considered as a local hero, the Betawi version of Robin Hood who lived during 1800s. Some people said this two-storey house was where Pitung hid during his escape from the Dutch troops since he and the host were friends. But others argued Pitung actually robbed the rich man.

The death of 28-year-old Pitung is also still a mystery, either by shot or mutilated after his hair being cut (it is believed you need to do this to kill a man who has magic, and yes, Pitung was an expert of martial art).

In 1972, Rumah si Pitung was bought by the local government and restored in 2010. Now people can still go up and down the stairs trying to relive Pitung’s life in each room of the stilt house. On weekends more visitors come to have a study trip or get invited to a party that was sometimes held there.

The contemplation of st. John


The article first appeared in Monomat, 20 May 2013, gracing the cover of the international edition of think archipelago magazine V6 May 2014.

Since ancient times, contemplation is said to involve the recitation of words in whispers, or muted.

img150 John Climacus was an exceptional person in the history of Western theology because he was revered to as a saint by Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church even though there was no any records about his life.

His study about the stages in contemplative prayers was part of his teaching that lasts until today’s practice of Christianity. On any given day, some people would come to the church in search of self-fulfillment.

The need to contemplate

Is it important now to contemplate as suggested by Thomas Aquinas?

Samadhi, a term in Buddhism and Hinduism which similarly refers to a state of deep meditative contemplation.

Many centuries ago, the definition that entails this divine activity is to have the vision of god. In his Ladder of Divine Ascent, which was drawn in the 12th Century and now resides in Saint Catherine’s monastery, Mount Sinai, Egypt, Saint John Climacus is depicted to have led his followers on a narrow stairway to Heaven, where god awaits.

In a religious society, where god functions as the answer to humans’ plight, praying for a solution is a banality.

But the increasing complexity of modern life creates necessities beyond the promise for an eternal afterlife or a wishful thinking to witness the biblical prophecy.

Striving in today’s world requires humans to face constant and inevitable problems. But when one seeks meditation to free the mind and focus on finding a solution, perhaps it indicates too the transcendental significance that still persists in modern society.

In their solitude, sheltered from the outside world, two men are aware that God is a living reality.

The makeover of an icon


A night view over Ampera Bridge, Palembang
A night view over Ampera Bridge, Palembang

Musi River is indispensable to the history of civilisation in the region, and for hundreds of years developing into what is now called Palembang, the capital of South Sumatra province. It is vital in building trades with Asian traders and voyagers coming from as far as Middle East.

This is the centuries-old economic backbone that give the city shipping access to otherwise a landlocked region. Palembang is surrounded by land, and the closest shores lays miles away east. Ampera Bridge and Kuto Besak Fort were two historic gems of the city located around the river.

Benteng Kuto Besak
Benteng Kuto Besak under light decoration

While Kuto Besak Fort was initiated by the ruling Sultanese in the 18th century, thus removing the palace from the deep woods into the river bank, Ampera Bridge was a national triumph in the early years of independence, politically speaking.

It was a realisation of over 50-year ambition, started by Dutch administration’s idea in 1900s to connect the thriving economic hub split by a river.

The idea was never materialised until the Soekarno, the first president of Indonesia, brought the plan back to the table and gave full throttle at the time when the republic was still at its infancy and reserves in short supply.

A political bridge

He secured financing by using up large portion of war compensation from Japan, as well as importing their technical knowledge and engineers. That is why building Ampera Bridge is more of a political triumph rather than a technical one, in domestic point of view.

Most of its time, the bridge only sat there as a reminder of a once overarching vision by the late leader of the nation who arguably had inaugurated more landmarks than his any other successors to this date.

Over three decades ago, the officials decided to stop utilising the center part of Ampera bridge as a retractable section to make Musi River passable for various size of boats, even heavy barges and ships.

Even in the 90s the lifting mechanism had been removed, and so permanently disabling its unique feature.

After many years in silence, some local supervisors who took part in the project confessed that there was an oversight in construction that only years after had everybody seen the impending consequence.

Palembang old city
Dilapidated shophouses found in many parts of the city bear historical account to the creation of foreign settlements, subsequently the formation of trade routes and economic activities that led to the city’s steady growth in the Dutch colonisation period toward the twentieth century.

A spirit revival

Nevertheless, the citizen of Palembang once again witness the revival of spirit in modernity that the makers of the bridge used to envision half a century ago.

A foreign giant lighting company had undertaken a project to embellish the look of the bridge with a stunning show of light.

Street lamps drape the surrounding area into a glittering night experience, and the reflection from the water surface helped create a vigorous night scene at the heart of Palembang.

Street view of Palembang
Palembang enjoyed the status as one of the highlighted western regions in the initiial phase of 5-year national development. Presence of wide roads indicated infrastructure modernisation. It is a pity that sentralistic approach further dominated the country’s modern history.

The city administration now has recreated a new image to showcase its ambition, manifested in the Jakabaring sports complex playing the 26th SEA Games in 2011.

Capable of holding over 20 sports, now it attempts to host another international-level sporting events, the third Islamic Solidarity Games, due open 22 September 2013.

No less than 40 nations have confirmed participation in the event that will cost the host city an estimated USD13.2 million.

The rooster church of Menteng


Multiple pyramid-shaped roofs supported by large pillars as typically seen in art deco style is the main design features of GPIB Paulus Church in Menteng, Jakarta. Built in 1935 in the wake of the early 20th century economic crisis, then known as malaise period, the Dutch communities in the far colony had barely made it through with the financing after collecting enough donation from patrons inside the church councils in Europe and the Dutch East Indies.


Architect F. J. L. Ghijsels with the firm Sitzen en Louzada were commisioned to design the building. It was located at the central intersection of then Batavia’s primary housing district.

The Presbyterian church shares similar status to the Jakarta Cathedral in terms of historical and cultural significance in Indonesia. It is a symbol of interfaith peaceful coexistence when the governor-turn-president Joko Widodo visited both places on 2013 Christmas Eve.

As close as the Jakarta Cathedral is to Istiqlal Mosque, the biggest in Southeast Asia, GPIB Paulus Church stood directly opposing the Sunda Kelapa Mosque, creating a hospitable circumstances between different religions. Both are also listed among the conserved historical buildings in the city.

GPIB Paulus Church has a popular name among the Jakartans: Gereja Ayam. Its tower was decorated with a rooster, perhaps a weather vane in the old days. Decorate your desktop with these wallpapers, available for download via Purnadi Phan Photography Flickr account.



Dangerous Bangkok


A writer and a business photography practitioners, that is how Dicky Stefanus describes himself. He loves to experience a new culture, meet new people and to share knowledge.

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You might have heard about Dangerous Bangkok, a 2008 movie starring Nicholas Cage. Well the title is enough to describe my tiny adventure in Bangkok. I won a round trip to Thailand from a world famous air conditioner company.

Hearing lots of the beautiful and the exotic Bangkok, I decided to prolong my stay in Bangkok for three days and two nights. The story is not to say Bangkok is bad. On the contrary, I want to say please go there. It is a beautiful city. However, knowing more about the city in your travel wish list is an advantage.

I also have a few great friends there, especially my lovely Ann W.

Apparently there are quite a few oriental minority. When I was there, a tour guide book told not to get a cab that refuses to use meter. Apparently this is hard enough to be true. When I speak to the cab drivers they just said in adequate English, “No! no! out!”. Or else they will just ask 100 bath.

Thuk Thuk in Bangkok
Thuk Thuk roams the streets of Bangkok

This rules also apply to Thuk Thuk. With a stern face, my local tour guide stated that don’t talk too much or try a bit pushy. If this works please how tell me how.

Thuk Thuk scam

Before I left my group tour, I learned how Thuk Thuk drivers can do some unpleasant things to you. But I just need to experience it anyway. Otherwise I won’t have this story to share to you. Due to budgeting and internet recommendation, I decided to stay in Khaosan Road. It is kind of Jalan Jaksa in Jakarta, where there are nice accomodations for backpackers.

The story was in my first day alone in Thailand. When visiting temples around Khaosan, I met a good European. When we were traveling there was a guy telling me that he is a policeman. He told me that that day was the king’s birthday, so some Thuk Thuk’s could be rented for free and he will take us around Thai if we can we can give him some money for the service.

The tour was sponsored by the king himself. I smelled something fishy, but hey, it is an adventure. We got around great and famous places of interest. Finally we were taken to a gem factory.

It was pricey. I didn’t find it interesting, and so I thought this was the end of the tour. But later he asked us to go to a travel agency, and there I fell prey to the scam and took the accomodation package because it gave a 3/4 higher rate of the first hotel I went into days before.

However when I checked at Khaosan Road the price I paid was triple than what the hotels in Khaosan Road offered. Well, how the tour goes, I will save it for another time. I hope you enjoy the pictures and the notes. I can’t wait to hear your comment or other experience.

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1833 ruling family


A writer and a business photography practitioners, that is how Dicky Stefanus describes himself. He loves to experience a new culture, meet new peoples and to share knowledge.


Dubai’s government operates within the framework of a constitutional monarchy, and has been ruled by the Al Maktoum family since 1833. Currently oil and gas only provide 7% for Dubai capital income.

Realizing the minimum oil supply in their land, the government develops what is more advantageous for them to become a free trade and economic centre.

Dubai is called the “shopping capital of the Middle East”. It has more than 70 shopping malls, including the world’s largest shopping mall, Dubai Mall.

The city draws large numbers of shopping tourists from countries within the region and from as far as Eastern Europe, Africa and the Indian Subcontinent.

While boutiques, some electronics shops, department stores and supermarkets operate on a fixed-price basis, most other outlets consider friendly negotiation a way of life.

7Dubai real estate is well known worldwide because of its lavish buildings, rapid growth, and quick returns. They rent to foreigners who want to invest in the UAE, like the palm islands.

Dubai has a rich collection of buildings and structures of various architectural styles influence by local and international designer, and currently they have the tallest sky crapper in the world, taller than Taipei 101.

Prohibitions on “indecent clothing” are an aspect of the UAE to which visitors are expected to conform. Recently, many expatriates have disregarded the law and been arrested for indecent clothing, or lack thereof, at beaches.

Western-style dress is tolerated in places such as bars or clubs, but the UAE has enforced anti-indecency prohibitions in other public spaces.

The transportation in Abu Dhabi is also convenient, and even you can rent a car. However, please be careful if you hit a camel you might replace it with the same price of a Ferrari or more.





IMG_2655 edited Cappadocia Region is located in the center of the Anatolian Region of Turkey. Ancient volcanic eruptions blanketed this region with thick ash, which solidified into a soft rock—called tuff—tens of meters thick.

Wind and water went to work on this plateau, leaving only its harder elements behind to form a fairy tale landscape of cones, pillars, pinnacles, mushrooms, and chimneys, which stretch as far as 130 feet (40 meters) into the sky. This is an outwardly appearance for the eye.

Cappadocia has survived three regimes, from first the Greeks and Persians and later the Byzantine Greeks. They develop freely pass the death of Alexander the great, and spread their territory until the black sea. This was until the Roman came.

IMG_2575 IMG_2737In Cappadocia there are quite many underground cities. There even eight layers deep tunnel, with camp entrance and multiple exits. This is a maze that was designed specially by Early Christian people that at that time were not received as a religion yet.

Interestingly the people devise a significant sanitation, ventilation, stable, garbage disposal method, food storage (for hundreds or thousands of people), rolling mechanism doors and traps to hinder the pursier.

This is cleverly device to make Romans that famous march in a group become more solitary, and vulnerable. It’s quite the same with the tunnel method used by the Vietnam in the great World War II facing America.

This tunnel is a bit small for Indonesian with the average 167 cm, so you can imagine how its feel for Turkish that mostly has the average of more than 175 cm. The most important towns and destinations in Cappadocia are Urgup, Goreme, Ihlara Valley, Selime, Guzelyurt, Uchisar, Avanos and Zelve.

Among the underground cities worth seeing are Derinkuyu, Kaymakli, Gaziemir and Ozkanak. The best historic mansions and cave houses for tourist stays are in Urgup, Goreme, Guzelyurt and Uchisar.

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The most interesting part for tourist attraction in Cappadocia must be an enjoyment of balloon flight. (There are no branded shops or marvelous hotel. This is a place to enjoy a life without worrying the jet pack life in Istanbul with your own ace). This is a sensation that will burn to your brain.

If you travel alone, this will not also be a problem because most of the townspeople can speak English quite well. If you’re lucky and have the time, please go to balloon flight station which available in almost all part of town in Gorome.

The next morning they will pick up and drop of the customer directly to the hotel. Due to its inland location and high attitude, Cappadocia has a markedly continental climate, with hot dry summer (it can reach 39 degree in the day) and cold snowy winters. Rainfall is sparse and the region is largely semi-arid.

es 2If you by chance visit Cappadocia in summer please feel free to try Turkish world famous ice cream, with the name dondurma. The taste is on more distinct taste, with a bit sour, sweet and a goat cheesy milky smell.

The interesting part is how they serve it, with traditional clothes and a long stick. Vendors often tease the customer by serving the ice cream cone on a stick, and then taking away the dondurma with the stick and rotating it around, before finally giving it to the customer.

Well you must know not that many customers like (or aware) with the idea, and the reaction varied.

Harnessing hydropower


Untitled-1-01 The panoramic Niagara Falls, famous among world tourists for its epic and natural beauty, is located in three different places across two countries, Canada and the United States of America.

Each country shares the waterfall, and the other one sits on the border line between Ontario, Canada, and New York, The United States.

IMG_20141004_213716Niagara River is considered the best example of water resources humans made the most out of, from drawing huge numbers of tourists and other economic interests to harnessing hydropower.

Nikola Tesla was especially commemorated here for his alternating current system that is applicable for generating electricity out of the waterfall.

Developed since the 19th century, Niagara Falls is now the largest power source for New York State, and a site for the biggest hydropower plant in western hemisphere.

Nowadays the power facilities along the river produces 4.4 gigawatts of capacity. The engineers achieve it by leaving little environmental impact, although the high density commercial zone development has caused more serious consequences. IMG_20141004_213749_resized-1