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Tana Toraja, Indonesia

On earth there is no heaven, but there are pieces of it. The nature of Toraja, once it aspires its spell, anchors you in its net of bewilderment eternally, bestowing a reminiscence of titillation and glimpse of astonishment. Let the land embrace you while the water beats upon your heart with remedying liquid drops, and allow the air to sing you a melody of serenity.

To reach one of this prominent tourist destination in Indonesia, it would taking you up to 10 hours’ drive from South Sulawesi’s capital city of Makasar. Do not take a chance to close your eyes and fall asleep as the journey to Toraja offers a scenery that you might regret to miss. From the lofty Mountains of Karts in Maros; claimed as the 2nd largest in the world after China; the off to the city of Pare-Pare; a small harbor town who endure their developments as the next big city; then a rest stop enroute to Tooraja in Enrekang; an exotic magnificent view of Gunung Nona; where some of the mythical arrival of Torajan ancestral also derive from this place.

Lies in the mountainous area with a height of 300 up to 2800 meters above sea level; Toraja has a humid tropical climate with offers a constant temperature ranging from 16 to 28 degrees Celsius the all year; and two distinct seasons which is differentiated by the amount of rain. Providing a combination of freshness and cool climate; Toraja is perfect place to take time-of & return to health. Best time to visit is from March to October, with less of rain occur the all of the area.

Enter the heart of serene villages and see what makes the life of a Torajan so simple, and yet, so laid back in its essence. Stop by the rice fields and touch the soil where the heart of Torajan lies, and traverse into the misty forests of the rising down. The alluring beauty of the landscape will stupefy your soul.

After a wondrous journey that moves you through interchanging sight of stunning granite cliffs lofty mountains, and vast sea, you will arrive in Toraja. The Torajans are an indigenous Austronesian ethnic group located in a mountainous region of Sulawesi Selatan. Alongside their rich culture and traditions, Torajan also treasures abundant myths about origin of its name. learn the history of Torajan ethnic, where its people have been shaped by location and blessed with great longevity.

On this land, well-preserved ancestral traditions implemented within the peaceful communal society. A new idea like Christianity synchronize harmoniously with local customs, making Toraja someplace special. Witness the dramatic ceremony, family bound culinary and art of the only living megalithic culture on modern earth.

Enveloped by magnificent natural landscape, Toraja is life-changing experience waiting to be explored. The nature of Toraja, once it casts its spells, anchors you its net of bewilderment eternally. Let the land embrace you and allow the air to sing you a melody of serenity. The belief that Toarajans hold dear to their heart are reflected in every hand-crafted wonder conceived all by genuine intentions that these products will be beneficial to their community and the world around them. Coffee and handwoven fabrics are known to bear the signature taste and patterns Toraja are famed for.

The arable land of Toraja is very limited due to its rocky terrain. It is isolated by natural barrier, making it hard to trade with outsiders. On this condition, ancient people in Toraja must have relied on very limited resources they had. This living condition turns Toraja into a self-fulfilling ecosystem. And with limited options at hand, Toraja ancestors chose the oldest and most compelling art of survival: harmony. Torajans believe there’s a tie (lolo) that attaches human, animals and plants in one system. In order for human to survive, one must care for animals and plants. If one of the three is harmed, all of them will suffer the consequences. This philosophy is called Tallu Lolona. Tallu Lolona is teaching of Aluk Todolo, an ancestral religion dating back to Torajan mythical past. This ancient faith teaches Torajans to respect their parents, elder, ancestors, and the balance of life in general.

This philosophy lives on , even when modernization makes Torajan longer dependent on harmony to survive. Toraja is still and will strive for the balance between human, animals, and plants. The prized water buffalo, for example, is often massaged, hand-fed, bathed and let loose in the field to relax. The people are very gentle in nature, not only towards the animals, but to each human being venturing into their land. Pilfer or theft is uncommon, even for foreigners visiting. The plants are nourished not only by viable sources of nutrients, but with heart as well as part of the circle of life that adjoins the land. As the teaching representing the ancestral spirits themselves, Tallu Lolona this ultimate bond that binds all living entities in this mythical highland. It is the solemn sentinel that watches over in silence, existing through the veins of every breathing organism, spreading through the people themselves.

Alongside their rich culture and traditions Toraja also treasures abundant myths about the origin of its name. buginese called the sacred highlands ‘To Riaja’ or a place where northern people lived (‘To’ means people, while ‘Riaja’ means north). People of Luwu Kingdom had their own way of naming, referring it to ‘To Rajang’ or a place where the southerners lived. On the edge of the southern peninsula, people heard stories about a royal descendant known as Puang Lakipadada who came to Gowa Kingdom in 13th century to find eternal life. Gowanese called him ‘Tau Raya’ or the man from the east thus the place was also known as ‘Tana Tau Raya’ (Tana means land, Tau means man, and Raya means east). Coming from various origins, the legends presumably lead to the name ‘Toraja’ as we know now.

Northern Torajans believe that their ancestors sailed from the north, almost certainly from China. Northerners beliefs also mentioned the importance of women in Torajan culture. A long haired beautiful woman named Landorundun is told to be the personification of wealth and a daughter of Sa’dan noble is believed to be married with the Creator (Puang Matua) himself, allowing more northerners’ on earth. In contrast with northerners’ myths revolved around life and fertility Toraja southerners’ myths center around war (Rari), characterized by sacrifice and death.

The southerners’ myth tells about Tamboro Langi’ and Lakipada who descended from the sky with stairs. Tamboro Langi’ established Sangalla’ Kingdom and initiated contact with other kingdoms in South Sulawesi. Lakipada, on the order hand, is a theologian that preaches about the existence of afterlife (puya). Lakipada’s teaching continues to be center of Toraja culture until present day. We can see the influences of his teaching in Rambu’ Solo (burial) ceremony, Ma’nene (changing clothes of the deceased) ceremony, and the famed cliff or cave cemetery.
In the past, Toraja isolation restrained the development of its civilization and halted their communication and transportation attempts. It grew at a slower rate compared to the people of Bugis or Makasar living in the on their territory are used as rice fields, the productions are barely enough to feed everyone, making the Torajans live in a small concentrated community with high self-sufficiency.

In present day, Toraja people maintain their peaceful communal life. They have castes defining the social standards through their ancestral heraldry. When problems arise, they huddle up together and find the solution as an extensive family. Torajans love having guests, including tourist, probably because in the past guests are rare and visitors must have endured a tiring journey to reach the village. The common greeting when one walk past another man’s house or visiting is “Manasumoraka” roughly translated as “have you cooked?” implying that there are no boundaries to be of concern between guests and the host. simply stated, Torajans are friendly , humble, and welcoming to adventures and explorers alike. So don’t be afraid to greet them in your journey.

There is nowhere else on earth where the words death and lavish can be paired in a sentence as in Toraja. In this ethereally charming land, death has never borne sadness. On the contrary, it is the ultimate goal of life, longing to be celebrated by both the departed and the family members left behind. Cheers that echo through hilltops, a big feast for all guests, and traditional dances redefine what human perceive as morbid into something beautiful. The death ceremonies of Toraja, named Rambu Solo’, is the apotheosis of Torajan festival because of the sheer magnitude and cultural significance that follows.

Rambu Solo’ is a ceremony of the departed, where buffaloes are highly revered as a sacrificial entity playing an irreplaceable role in Torajan traditions. The more a Torajan individual is respected, the more buffaloes it would take to sacrifice when they depart. Some even bear, staggering numbers of hundreds, with a belief that with each buffaloes sacrificed. The departed will enter the afterlife (Puyu) more easily. The meat of the sacrificed buffaloes are then shared with the guests attending as part of the revelry. It is a very extravagant and paramount celebration dating back to ancestral times, where buffaloes carefully and lovingly cared for gives their meat back to the community that cherished them.

These ceremonies are events highly anticipated by locals and travelers alike, as they show the true hues of Torajan culture in its essence. Grand is not even a word fitting enough to describe the excitement and festivities going on as the Torajans always celebrate the parting in an extravagant feast.
Then comes the burial. Contrary to traditional norms, here, burial should not be hidden from the public eyes. Tombs are laid down through a specific construct; the higher the location, the nobler it is for family members. In each ceremony, children and descendants pay respect to their elderly departed.

The peak of the tourist season in Toraja is June to August. Prepare your reservations well in advance if you plan to visit during this time. To avoid the crowd, visiting off season is always an option worth considering. The best time in terms of tourist traffic and weather happens between April – June and September – October.

Since Toraja is located in high ground, pleasant climate envelops it all year around. Daily temperature varies from around 16°C in the evening and early morning to around 28°C during the day. This climate allows most hotels in Toraja to thrive without the use of air conditioner. As the other areas in Indonesia. Toraja too has only two seasons: wet and dry, with June to August as the driest months. The highest rainfall normally happens from September to March.

Toraja is in the UTC+8 time zone (known in Indonesia is WITA or Waktu Indonesia Tengah), the same as Western Australia, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Bali and one hour ahead of Jakarta.

The visa requirement depends on the length of your stay on your home country’s regulations. Indonesia visa provision is prone to change. Before starting your journey, it is important to check the respective requirements at the Indonesia Embassy or Consulate Office in tour home country.

In Toraja, only Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) is accepted for cash payments. In general, transactions in Toraja are cash-based. Credit cards are not commonly used for payment, unless if you see Master or Visa logo on the cashier of hotels or restaurants. There are banks and ATMs in Makale and Rantepao where you can change your foreign currency into Rupiah or get your cash.

Bring wash and wear light cotton clothes, a light rain jacket with a hood, and a good sweater. Tennis shoes are fine for basic footwear, but if you plan to do outdoor activities (trekking or hiking) you will need sturdy shoes or boots. Bring one of your favorite hats to keep the sun off during long walks. Bring along some pre-packaged towelettes. These are handy for disinfecting your hands before eating or after a trip to the kamar kecil (lavatory).

Indonesians love adding spice to their food. The word “Pedas” (spice) must be one of the first things you learn to say in Indonesia as part of your culinary adventures. Depending on the region you are in, the spice might already be added to the food and in places like Sulawesi it is placed onto the side of the plate. If you can’t handle spice make sure to learn to say “Tidak Pedas” before ordering your food.

Once you stay outside of the big cities in Indonesia, many locals may have never seen a foreigner before, so get ready for the stares. This is rarely intended in a malicious way, once you make eye contact with an Indonesian and smile they will often return the grin. Calls of “Hello sir or miss” are normal and many people are just trying to practice their English with you. Indonesians are so friendly and welcoming, if a little shy to start with, but if you need help with anything on your travels there will always be a crowd of people offering to help. Make sure you always use your right hand when greeting people, paying and eating.