Hidden tea hills

Tea plantation in Sukabumi, West Java

There are 11 major tea-producing provinces in Indonesia that contribute to the country’s seventh place in the world’s biggest tea exporters. At the top spot of these provinces is West Java with nearly ten thousand hectares of lands in total for tea plantations.

The province’s green scenery dominated by plantation in relatively high altitude is a correct assumption. But some are off-limits to the public, as they belonged to a privately-invested lands.

But given its large size, it is quite impossible to hide it from travelers sight. This one, for instance, is situated on the outskirts of the province’s capital city, Bandung. It hides behind Setu Patenggang, a natural spot popular for its sulfuric lake on a white crater at the top of an inactive volcanic mountain, Mount Patuha.

By continuing the uphill tracks beyond the crowded meeting point at the entrance of the sightseeing place, the stony path leads to the remaining of what used to be a lush West Java forest, before it shrinks to its current condition to make way for expanding population and the living space. Beyond these trees is an abrupt change of scenery.

An unhindered vista of flat and green tea leafs blanketing the surrounding hills was worth half an hour lonely walks from what was initially supposed to be a typical tourist visit to the white crater.

With a little sense of intuition, an adventure-seeking traveler is more likely to get what he/she wishes for, more than just seeing a crowded places on guidebooks.

But this gem could have been more available to public when the demand is as popular a commodity as it is in Britain, for example. With a population four times less than Indonesia, the per capita tea consumption is ten times more.

Although Indonesia is traditionally among the top ten tea producers globally, its national consumption ranked 46. Given the topographical suitability to plant tea leaves and the enormous size of land, West Java has a far way to get anywhere near its full potential, but the downside it brings is apparent.

Forest diminishes in favor of plantation. And as fast as the rate of deforestation, people must be aware of the price to be the first in agricultural commodity.

Eeriness crept as one took a walk down the narrow path that only fitted one body, and added by the mountain breeze that brought cold air at noon. The thick fog at the top of the mountains and the gloomy weather made it seemingly hard to tell the time.

Heart raced when the sound of approaching vehicle was heard from the distance, for fear of being caught by the patroling staff. This piece of land, after all, serves for business purpose, hence those who are not employees are barred from entering.

Tea plantation in Sukabumi, West Java

Go south


Yenny Wongso is a bachelor of Chinese Language in Beijing. In her recent tour to Western Europe and Italy, she captured many remarkable pictures. She now works and studies in Jakarta.


The clear blue sky as the backdrop of the chains of mountain—part of the giant Southern Alps—welcomed the plane when it landed on the south island of New Zealand. The Queenstown International Airport was flanked by a fraction of 50 volcanic mountains in the country. Don’t worry, the last earthquake occured in south island in 1968.

White clouds blanketed most of its long summit, a beautiful scenery to begin the journey on this resort destination. For Asian tourists coming from the typical densely populated home city, the south island would have certainly made them dumbfounded with the least appearance of humans.

It is one of the less inhabitated lands on earth in comparison with the modern world that is crowded by over 6 billion people.

The ultimate stop on the visit to the south island of New Zealand is Christchurch, the third most populous city in the country after Auckland and Wellington in the north island, with just over 340,000 inhabitants. Over 30 per cent of the south island population lived in Christchurch.

As the history of the European settlement in New Zealand started in the south island during the goldrush that culminated in the 19th century, Christchurch is the country’s first established city.

Frequent series of earthquakes over two years since 2010 had changed its outlook into even more vibrant and new. Rapid and thorough restoration that took place in the past two years made the traces of destructive impact of earthquakes disappeared.

New Zealand was one of the last stops of human migration in the prehistoric era. Its indigeneous Eastern Polynesian people, the Maoris, settled long before the Dutch and British voyagers found the island in the 17th century, calling it Autearoa, meaning the land of the long white cloud.

The country’s name refers to the Abel Tasman-led Dutch explorers who called it upon discovery in 1642 Nova Zeelandia. The British explorers anglicised the name to New Zealand, and unanimously agreed by consesus for use until today.

Brave the world

Monomatthink archipelago V8 Nov 2014Brave the world is the cover story of the 8th international edition of think archipelago magazine, a post-independence discourse on 7.9 million coastal population in Indonesia who live with less than USD2 of earnings per day.


Reviving Indonesia’s past glory as the world’s biggest archipelagic state, then called Nusantara in pre-colonial era, is the newly elected Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s keynote in terms of economic development. In what his administration touted as the maritime axis power, Indonesia is going to build its economy with much larger proportion coming from the waters.

Pushing renewable resources would mean a boost in fishing output, and the vision to increase sea trade would translate into an ambitious plan of ports building. To this extent, the government has a huge task of making a headstart.

Some analysts said the country is not by any means close to the bold terms of the maritime axis power, and the vision far-flung.

Bojonegara port redevelopment plan layout
Bojonegara port redevelopment plan layout

Like in this lagging port infrastructure in Bojonegara, Banten, the decade-old vision to transform this shore into a port in West Java that will overtake Tanjung Priok in Jakarta as the hub for Sumatra-Java sea trade, let alone an important regional port on par with Singapore lacks every indication.

The service boat operated by Kadiman, among other small number of crews as seen on this page clearly suggests that Bojonegara has a long way to go. Its inability to handle large vessels is the reason Kadiman still works there. He and his small boat carries passengers and goods from and to the ships anchoring off the waters.

Since Bojonegara is close to the Merak, one of the busiest ports in Indonesia, it has seen heavy traffic of cargos, tankers, and other large utility vessels such as dredging ships. Some shipping companies have made Bojonegara their home port.

But Kadiman does not get a lot of money there. The absence of infrastructure, especially the docks, is now certainly something he is grateful of, and also to some dozen other boat crews. Bojonegara remains trapped in visionary rhetorics, and it has not transformed into reality.

Maritime power is not only limited to trades, but also the sovereignty over waters. The newly appointed Foreign Affair Minister Retno Marsudi underlines her agenda settling disputed claims with neighboring countries, and bolstering cooperation. The Joko Widodo-led new administration marks a dawn where Indonesia braves the world.

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The Akihabara crossings

Inna KC
Inna KC
Laurentius T. Pesik
Laurentius T. Pesik


Akihabara is known as the heaven for otakus with its collection of Japanese anime and comics. Following years of redevelopment, this place is now famous for Akihabara Crossfield, a business complex with the aim of promoting Akihabara as a center for global electronics technology and trade.

You can also find the the famous AKB 48 theatre in Don quijote Akihabara and the cafe just right next to the JR Railways Station.

Shinjuku is a commercial center and home to many well-known sights and tourist attractions. Several of the tallest buildings in Tokyo are located in this area The most interesting part of Shinjuku would be the Kabukicho district, Tokyo’s most notorious red-light district. To the south is Shinjuku Nichome, Tokyo’s largest gay district.

Ueno is the face of Tokyo with cultural atmosphere. It is famous with art galleries and  museums, shopping and jewellery wholesale arcades. This is also the place where you can experience traditional Japanese performing arts, such as theatrical entertainment and comical story-telling (rakugo).

japan 4

Desa Sasak Ende

think archipelago V7 Aug 2014PHOTOGRAPHS  I  SALLY CONDRO

Desa Sasak Ende is the cover story of the seventh volume of the international edition of think archipelago magazine. It followed Sally Condro’s account on her visit to a cultural heritage site in West Nusa Tenggara. Go to the archive section to read the whole magazine.


The house floor made from the mixture of cattle excretion and mud.
The house floor made from the mixture of cattle excretion and mud

The native village of Sasak Ende, two hours ride from the city center of Lombok, has been a major international tourism destination in this island.

It is an expansion of the tourism-oriented rural area project, following the success of Desa Sade, where hundreds of household have thrived there relying mostly on selling souvenirs and hand-woven fabrics.

Other villages where the conservation of clothing, house types, language, and even way of life are conditioned in such a similar model, are Tetebatu and Sukarara. These tourism villages are  all located in the Special Economic Zone of Mandalika, a tourism economy model of West Nusa Tenggara province. So far the national policy seemed to have worked.

The near absence of trash along the road and in the vicinity is an evidence just how serious the local administration takes the steps to keep the prime status of this place of interest.

After enjoying the long stretch of stunning paddy fields scenery, visitors arrived in the village and welcomed by the village chief. His short introduction about the village was a useful narration to understand the living condition and the local custom.


A village inhabitant who makes fabrique using traditional hand- woven technique.

He told that life in Desa Sasak Ende is always in harmony with nature. Cows and calves are regarded an asset of high value. These animals live under the same roof with the village inhabitants.

The locals perceive them as true partners and deserve an exceptional reverence. Everything that comes from cows must be put to use efficiently. In an extreme instance, cow dung is used to harden the floor in each house.

The dried cow dung left no foul stench. The inhabitants also hold a philosophy of mutual respect that is symbolised in the typically short front doors placed in every house.

By bowing your way down into the house, you pay respect to the host. It goes the same with the host welcoming a guest at the door way.

A mother carrying her child in Desa Sasak Ende. Weaving keeps the native female busy.

Mountain forest of West Java

Mountain forest of Bandung, West Java

Rocky path near a crater of Mountain Patuha, around 50 kilometers off Bandung, provides an easy trail for visitors who plans to enjoy natural scenery on the weekends.

But the crater lake is the main place of interest that attracts the majority people, if not all. The short walk is mostly overlooked, and that is what makes this section of forest hidden from outside presence. It is known mostly among locals, but ironically taken for granted.

The forest at the crater of Mountain Patuha can be reached by driving further up from Ciwidey, a tourism spot famous for its cold climate.

By taking the alternate road instead of following the sign to the sulfur crater, what was thought an off-limit area appears to be a rocky path that reveals an unexpected wilderness.

A deeper walk into the forest will bring an encounter with a variety of plants, some of which are hundred years old trees.

The leafy branches that prevent direct sunlight, thus causes high moisture, has created a conducive environment for an equally wide variety of moss.

The natural cycle of life and death in Mountain Patuha makes its lush forest alive. The dead tree gives way for the growth of new ones that will continue the life span of this forest for another century, provided well-preserved.

So far, the preservation of Mountain Patuha helps keep the tropical view pristine in a relatively cramped space on the outskirts of Bandung, West Java.

See also: Hidden tea hills of Sukabumi, West Java

Mountain forest of Bandung, West Java

Mt. Titlis


Yenny Wongso is a bachelor of Chinese Language in Beijing who now pursues another degree in English Education. In her recent tour to Western Europe and Italy, she captured many remarkable pictures. She now works and studies in Jakarta.

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The journey to Mount Titlis is one of the most memorable ones in Europe that is full of beautiful scenery with an eternal snow on the top. People can go skiing down the vast slopes on winter or even summer.

It is actually range of mountains that is located on the western part of the Alps, the primary tourism icon of Switzerland. It is also the highest summit in the Urner Alps section, although it pales in comparison with the Dammastock of the adjacent valley, or the most famous Alps crest, Mont Blanc.

In this picture, although barely seen, there lies the Engelberg-Titlis cableway that facilitates the world’s first revolving cable car. From inside, I enjoyed the spectacular view of the mountain.

As the cable car ascends, I saw the scenic parts of the mountain, from the cliff, the rocky mountainside, and the snow-covered slopes as we were reaching the peak.

The scenery was just like a painting that caught my eyes, so beautiful and unforgettable.


The hillside of Mount Titlis is a perfect scene to remember the long journey to Mount Titlis. Clear blue sky with a small village sitting under snowy mountain make a peaceful picture.



The capsule city Makati


Ika Warastuti loves exploring words. She has great respect to Pramoedya Ananta Toer for the man’s grandiose artistry in narrating monoto-nous, ignorable occasions in life into emotional passages that blow her away. She works as an analyst and occa-sionally manages a blog at warastuti.com. She her accounts of Manila, Philippines below, featured in the sixth volume of the international edition of think archipelago magazine.

Panorama Manila

The taxi driver nodded following my request and took the right line of the road, taking us through the fly over toll road heading to Makati City of Manila. The view below us was complicated and dense: Flocks of residences intersected by a railway and minor traffic jam in several spot.

The view indicates a conglomeration of those with economic dependence to the existence of the city.

The toll road brought me to a contrast view when I arrived in Ayala Avenue, the nuclei of Makati, many people said. The skyscraper of Bank of the Philippine Islands stood on the right side of our way.

Another pivotal institution, the Philippine Stock Exchange, is also located on the avenue. Most of individual spaces are built vertically in a massive number of towers so that it forms concrete jungle which can block the sunlight due to its heights.


The weather was good during my visit. So I and friends could enjoy an evening at the Ayala Triangle, a spacious park where people can jog, meet up with friends or just sit and sip a cup of coffee.

Similar parks are rarely seen outside the city. It was like entering a capsule city, where the quality of the air, the anthem and the habits of the people are completely different with the supporting regions around it.

Life in Makati

Makati has its own circadian cycle. The life in the city is lit up by the white collars marching to their offices and dimmed when the office hours is over.

Around 400,000 people are estimated to be dwelling the city. The number is boosted on weekdays to become one million due to the incoming workers from the surrounding Manila.

Manila, PhillipinesThe local government has implemented advance policies to regulate the city dwellers. The ban on plastic bag usage has been effective since around a year ago. Each shopper needs to bring their own non-plastic reused bag for loading their groceries at supermarket.

Smoking is also strictly regulated. These two policies have classified Makati high above the other regions of Manila where environmental concern remains low.

Living cost

A friend who has spent her last three years in the city said however, that life in the city is quite pricey. The living cost in Makati is relatively higher compared to other Southeast Asia’s metropolitan hubs like Bangkok and Jakarta.

The rent and property price are 1.5 higher than in other big cities. The electricity supply in Makati is managed under private entity, which eventually leads to 2-3 times higher price.

Social diversity

Perhaps, due to mixed culture and international network which are based in the city, the city dwellers have more intense exposure to foreign culture. Many youths raised in the city no longer speak Tagalog.

If I can describe Manila in two-sided coin, Makati represents the side of 21th modern century while the rest regions seem stuck in nineties. Will this sophisticated civilization be contagious to the surrounding? Otherwise the capsule city will remain a contrast, like a winner who stands in loneliness.

Manila, Phillipines

The old port


Sunda Kelapa

Sunda Kelapa Port is still functioning as it had been since seven hundred years ago. It now accommodates only the wooden Phinisi ships, due to the relocation of the main harbor to Tanjung Priok, which was built in 19th century to keep up with the Suez Canal-induced maritime trade increase.

It was this limitation that made the old port a relic of the past.

But the faces of the hopefuls and hopeless are intertwined on the decks of these typically archaic ship models.

Their wooden hulls left an impression that these ships are unable to stand the test of time, nor able to handle the burden with which the modernity carries.

sunda kelapaThe exasperation on the ship crews faces reflected the atmosphere at the old port of Sunda Kelapa.

The people and the ships have been overwhelmed by the manual work, even though the work load shows only a small fraction to that of the modern port activities.

Nevertheless, the old ways of seafaring and trade refuse to surrender to the surge of time in this north-end of Jakarta’s old section.


Sunda kelapa

Westward desolation


Centralistic government of the past and its marked downfall in 1999 has given rise to a system overhaul that offers autonomy rights across the vast archipelago of Indonesia.

Autonomous region was a new concept that garnered widespread support, and the amendment of decentralisation law in 2004 strengthened the notion that the crises-stricken country was making changes for a better future.

But years later, some said in apprehension that we may not be ready yet for such dramatic changes. The nation of 250 million population appeared to run in circle catching its tail.

The counter-effect

The once celebrated idea has been a cause for desolation. In many regions, development has gove reversal. This rundown house is the district government property used for a secretariat office for food and agricultural stock planning.


This is a chain of the apparent dysfunctional system that surprisingly occured in Banten, one of the provinces in West Java, and in border with the capital province of Jakarta.

Dirt road like this certainly cannot sustain regional development. No passenger vehicle can cross this fragile wooden bridge.

There is a desperate urgency for paved roads that can bring materials to build villages, power lines, and access to the closest trade centers.

The local people overcome the distance by foot or motorcycles. The means of goods transportation has never existed.

The decentralisation law that granted Banten a separate administrative province in 2000 has yet to free the people from the westward desolation.Cikaso