I have to thank my mom for her habit of bringing me along with her whenever she travels. I like to think that she loves to bring me along because I’m reliable (read: I’m technologically aware and it gives me advantages over things like getting a good hotel and ticket deals and finding out the latest cool places to visit). Last week my mom called me repeatedly to ask me to come with her to Batu, a city in the mountainous area of Malang, East Java. I’ve been to Batu before, but it was four years ago. I always love it because of the cold weather and the scenic view. I jumped at the first chance to go to Batu, and off I go with a morning flight to Surabaya.
There are several options to reach Batu. Either by plane to Surabaya’s Juanda Airport or Malang’s Abdul Rachman Saleh Airport. The second option is getting on a train to Surabaya or Malang. I always go through Surabaya because I’ve to pay a visit to Darmo Kali, my mom’s childhood house. My mom and all her siblings spent their childhood and youth time in this haunted, old house. Most of the member of my extended family has had experiences with the invisible inhabitants of this house. I was once locked inside a bathroom because I took a shower too long though I’ve been warned before. But other than that, I’m so glad that I never experience anything weird. Anyway, I was picked up at the airport by a minibus rented by my family, and we went to Darmo Kali before going to Batu. The ride to Batu from Surabaya take about 3 hours. However, near Batu, the road started to get crowded, especially during the holiday and it could take 5 to 6 hours when it’s the peak holiday season. Since it wasn’t the holiday season, the ride to Batu went pretty well. I was asleep halfway through the trip, and when I woke up, we’ve entered the outskirt of Malang.
I spent most of my time in Batu admiring the gallant Mount Arjuno-Welirang while sipping a manual brew coffee in the back porch of my family’s villa. Mount Arjuno-Welirang stood tall and proud at the height of 3339 m (10955 ft). Besides him, stood several other mountains including Mount Welirang. As I’ve written before, I love the idle time during traveling. I’m by any means, a laid-back traveler. Though I like to explore new places during traveling, I also cherish the idleness and quietness of traveling. I enjoyed the moment of getting up in the morning in a strange area that I’m not familiar with, as if I see a whole new world with a whole new life, poles apart from the life I live in the hustle-bustle of Jakarta. I was planning to visit several waterfalls in Batu. Batu is famous for its’ many waterfalls, from Coban Rondo, Coban Talun, Coban Putri, to Coban Rais. But, the thing with traveling with family is, you always have to compromise. My cousins and I would be okay with trekking to the waterfall site, but I don’t think my aunts and uncles would be okay with that, so we resorted with ‘family-friendly’ sites. In the end, I visited Batu Secret Zoo, a sunflower farm, and the famous tourist village, Desa Wisata Pujonkidul.
Batu used to be a part of Malang, but they gained their ‘independence’ as a city sometimes in 2000 ish. Because of its’ location which is located on the slope of several mountains, Batu has a very scenic view, and the Dutch East Indies government built Batu as a resort city. The history sets the motion of Batu as one of the most visited and best tourist destination in Java. In fact, Batu, along with Yogyakarta and Bali is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Indonesia. This because Batu doesn’t only offer plentiful of a scenic natural tourist destination, but they’re also home to many family-friendly tourist destinations from Batu Secret Zoo, The Transportation Museum (Museum Angkut), Dinosaurus Museum, and many other things. I got a chance to visit Batu Secret Zoo. I’ve never been here before, and I was undoubtedly impressed by how well-maintained the zoo is and how affordable the ticket price is. I can totally see the appeal of this city because, in addition to all the animals, there are also several attractions that can be used for free. This place is definitely a perfect destination for a family holiday.
The thing that left such a massive impression on me during my traveling to Batu is my visit to Desa Wisata Pujonkidul. In contrary to Batu Secret Zoo and all the Jatim Parks which are owned by a private corporation, Desa Wisata Pujonkidul is managed by the villagers themselves using Program Hibah Bina Desa (PHBD), a fund given by the government for a village to develop their village. The concept of Desa Wisata or Tourist Village itself is a concept widely applied to a lot of mainly with abundant natural, human, and cultural resources. The Special Region of Yogyakarta (which includes the Sleman Regency), embraced the concept of the tourist village, with around 2000 of villages identified as tourist villages.￼ The concept of tourist village benefits not only private corporation and capitalist system but it mostly benefits the villagers who can manage their own fund through BUMDes (Badan Usaha Milik Desa). The concept drives independency for the village, it brings into the open the vast potential that the village has, it also drives innovation and creativity of the villagers because they’re driven to create a product with more economic value based on the natural resources they already have. More importantly, in Pujonkidul, they’ve been able to give employment through 85 young male who were unemployed before – the human resources are absorbed by working in many attractions, restaurants, and shops offered in Desa Wisata Pujonkidul.
My visit to Batu, especially to Desa Wisata Pujonkidul awakens something deep within me, a plentiful hope and optimism for Indonesia. Despite the current condition that makes a lot Indonesians feel pessimistic about the future of our country, there are still many undeveloped potentials in many parts of Indonesia. Besides, from my experience of traveling, I come to understand that wherever you go and no matter how developed, wealthy, and advanced the country seems – its’ citizens will always have something to criticize about their own countries. Other countries will always seem better than our country just like how our friend’s foods always seem to taste better than the meals that we order. I clearly remembered back when I was solo traveling to Penang and stayed at a hostel, I met other travelers, there’s a sibling from the UK, an American, and an Australian. They all have good things to say about Indonesia, they praised the culture, the abundant natural resources, and they cherished their experience there. I too, praised their countries just the same and deny most of the thing they told me about Indonesia and instead focus on the negative parts of it. Funnily, they also only have bad things to say about their countries. This is a recurring experience I had whenever I soloed travel and stayed at a hostel where I could talk with other travelers. I then start to question whether my tendency to badmouth my own country in front of these foreigners stems from the inferiority complex I had as a citizen of a formerly colonized country. This is why to travel is to live, to travel is to open my eyes from the preconceived ideas I had about other countries.
And so, just like the title suggests, to me to travel is to live. Because to live means to never stop learning, to understand that the world is such a vast place with endless things to discover, and also to be grateful. Wherever I travel, no matter how close, even just to Tangerang for example, there’s always something that I could learn. Gustav Flaubert said it perfectly by saying: “Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world”. As someone who lives in a self-centered city like Jakarta, traveling offers me a perspective that yes despite my struggle of being stuck in hours of traffic jam in Jakarta, my problem is just too tiny for the world and I should’ve been thankful that at least, I got access to a lot of things by living in Jakarta. In the end, we really are just a tiny speck in a vast universe and travel helps us to see that more clearly, so to live is to travel and to travel is to live.