| Borobudur Sunrise:
It was more the intricacy than the size of Borobudur that first caught my attention. Although undoubtedly immense, the grand scale of Borobudur cannot truly be appreciated from a distance. Not unlike a pyramid or mountain in its overall appearance it challenges the traditional model of a temple in that it lacks an enclosed structure that is home to a depiction of a deity.
The Equator lies to the south, about a half day's bumpy ride by bus, but the island's elevation negates the tropical latitude. We were dozing, tucked in sleeping bags, when a rousing chorus of Gloria Hallelujah and O Come All Ye Faithful woke us.
Whatever the sights, there's no doubt that the highlight of a trip to Tana Toraja, the area of central Sulawesi whose capital is Rantepao, is to visit a funeral. This is easier than it sounds: because the funeral celebrations take a lot of preparation, not to mention expense, the Torajans have two funerals for each death, much like the Balinese; the first one is a private affair straight away after the death, and the body is preserved in the house where it died until the necessary cash has been saved up for the second one, a much bigger, more public affair. Because the second funeral is effectively a huge party and can be held at any time, it tends to be organised for between July and October when the relatives can come to visit more easily, during the school holidays. This leads to the strange concept of the Funeral Season, which Rose and I were lucky enough to catch the end of.
Indonesia's Chinese Celebrate Spring Festival:
On January 17, the new government under Abdurrahman Wahid lifted the ban imposed on Chinese New Year in 1967. Then President Suharto banned Spring Festival as part of a policy of repressing ethnic identities in the nation of 210 million. Other parts of that policy included closing down Chinese schools, forbidding the use or teaching of Chinese, forbidding Chinese to join Indonesia's military or government."
"Tens of thousands of Indonesia's overseas Chinese openly celebrated the traditional holiday Spring Festival in Indonesia for the first time in more than thirty years.