First time placing my own feet on the island of Sulawesi, here I am in Tana Toraja, The ‘Land of Heavenly Kings’.
Toraja is clearly a place where the world’s most complex funeral ceremony takes place. Its tradition has been carried down hereditary for centuries. I had never known that funeral can be that enthralling until I came here, a land where people never see death as the end of one’s life.
If you’d like to explore more on their tradition and philosophy of life, then please check it out here!
It takes 9 hours by car, 11 hours by bus, and 50 minutes by plane to reach Tana Toraja. I suggest anyone to take bus (or probably rent a car) to get there and get a flight back to Makassar to save your time. The beautiful scenery tucked away in the arm of South Sulawesi. If you choose to take the round trip by plane, then don’t regret the things that you’ll missed 😉
The journey started in the morning and we got there just few hours before midnight. We stayed in Toraja Misiliana Hotel. If you want to stay there as well, I suggest you to contact the owner directly (not by agoda or booking.com etc). She’s really nice and I bet she’ll be really happy to help you.
We had never expected that we were heading to Toraja this summer. This trip was planned just a day before our departure. We spent 4 days in Makassar and Toraja. Indeed, it was tiring beyond what I had imagined. But for those history-and-culture-geeks, this is definitely what you’re lookin for.
PS: Click the pictures for better resolution!
Since we spent only 2 and a half days in Toraja, the first day was obviously a busy one. We managed to visit Ke’te Ke’su in the first morning. Thought it would be just half an hour but it turned out to be more than 2 hours. Thanks to the super informative local guide!
Ke’te Ke’su is all about a long long history of how the complexity of Toraja’s culture developed. We can only see the Tongkonans from afar but there is much more to see once you go further. We were heading to this place with delight and excitement! This was the very first time for us exploring the mystical and wonderful culture of Torajans.
A lot has changed to the native land, but not to their culture and tradition.
Here you can learn how Tongkonan plays a main role in one’s family. Don’t hesitate to ask a local to guide you around! The cost varies from Rp 50,000 to Rp 75,000 (USD4-USD5). If you’re lucky then you’ll find a really helpful and informative local guide like we did! 🙂
They got this giant tomb in the cliff. And yes, they climb up there just to put the coffins. I don’t feel like it’s a beautiful site or a nice place to take pictures, but it’s definitely a place that explains how Torajans are really respectful towards their family, even after death do them apart. They literally do anything to have the dead bodies safe from wild animals and maggots. That includes digging a hole in a cliff for months!
Thoughts on how the locals believe about deaths, this is where the dead bodies lay after the very loooongg and complex funeral ceremony ends. It’s the place where the dead are really ‘dead’ (well, according to Torajans’ belief).
Don’t get tired of it, cos what else you wanna see in Toraja other than its cemeteries? A collection of skulls and coffins are everywhere. It seems like nobody takes care of it but the families are actually looking after the cemetery until today. Not all cemeteries are this way though. Londa might be one (or the only one?) of those cemeteries where people put coffins in the sidelines of the cave.
We spot some cigarettes and plastic bottles inside the cave, we thought it was trashes and I even asked the guide why is it so dirty?! Why do people litter inside the cave? Are those all garbages?
Not exactly. Those aren’t trashes. Their families still come regularly to give offerings, and they can’t intentionally discard the remainder offerings because they need to hold ANOTHER CEREMONY to clean up the cave. Gonna spend lots of sacrifices and money for sure…
Oh, who doesn’t love Indonesia’s traditional fabrics?! Cos I really do!
I’m a huge fan of batik, but tenun (weave) really can’t get out of my sight. I’ve seen many weaver doing the exact same thing but I still have no idea how…does…it…work. The patterns go with all the impressive meanings and philosophy of Torajans. What excite me the most is the faithfulness of every woman who makes the tenun every single day of her life.
Walking down the area, you’ll find what I mean. It’s pretty cool to learn how to weave like once in your life, but how about sitting in the same place and doing the same thing…. every freakin day..?
I talked to one of the women and she said: “This has been handed down from long time ago, the technique, the patterns, the value, everything. It’s too precious to be forgotten”.
Little that we know that Toraja’s tenun is almost vanished these days. Teenagers and youths choose to wander outside Toraja and leave their tradition. This sounds sad 😦 but!!!!!! as the price of tenun keeps on increasing, girls and women start to keep an eye of it and learn how to make both Toraja’s tenun and ikat. This gives a glimmer of hope to the existence of the ‘legendary’ Tenun Toraja.
The very next day was the day I attended the funeral ceremony. Be prepared!
I can’t express how happy I was when I knew there was a big funeral ceremony 40 minutes from my hotel. We can’t see it everyday hence that was a really rare opportunity to witness it by our own eyes. We can always ask the Tourism Office (0423-25455) regarding the schedule of the funeral ceremony or Ma’ Nene ceremony.
Torajans hold the ritual mostly on July-August or December-January simply because they need all the family member to be back in town. Make sure you ask the tourism office and mark your calendar in advance.
The ritual lasts for days, or even weeks. It costs lots of money and needs a serious preparation. But this doesn’t make Torajans hold back from the tradition, they still cling to their very own beautiful and mystical funeral ritual.
The last, but not the least, Batutumonga.
Toraja is embraced by a vast hilly area. If you’re not into cultural thingy then make sure you get your feet on the highland of Toraja. I didn’t have the chance to explore more on the other exotic sceneries, but we went here just before we headed back to Makassar.
It’s one of my favourite view in town, and I’m certainly not alone with my opinion. Ain’t the best at taking pictures, but I promise you the scenery is MUCHHH MUCH better than these pictures. It was so breathtaking having a lunch with such a view.
I repeat, these pictures do no justice to what I saw. The tiny restaurant’s facing the expanse of forests and green rice fields. It worths some of your time before going back to anywhere you’re heading to.
Can’t spoil much about Toraja here, cos I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be a longg long story. So if you’re looking for further story about their culture and tradition please check it out here!!
Some places were left out, but I’m glad that we finally did it with just one-day preparation hahaha! If I have another chance to visit Toraja then I will:
- Prepare at least few weeks or even few months in advance, to make sure the flight ticket (Toraja to Makassar) is available and save my time!!
- Visit Toraja in August to see Ma Nene Ceremony (changing the cloth of the deaths)
- Plan for 5D4N or 4D3N itinerary to visit the other beautiful sites in Toraja
- Rent a local driver. They must be more experienced and familiar with Toraja (we used the same car and driver from Makassar, he’s really nice but not that familiar with Toraja’s tradition and attractions) :”)