Since 19th of October, I decided to stay longer in East Nusa Tenggara and go from one island to another. East Nusa Tenggara is a part of Nusa Tenggara. Another area is called as West Nusa Tenggara. The most understanding of people outside East Nusa Tenggara about this area that people here are mostly Christian, while in West Nusa Tenggara, mostly people are Muslim.
It probably can be true, but doesn’t mean that East Nusa Tenggara only inhabitants by Christian and Catholic religious people. In fact, during my visit here, I was so amazed to see that another believers also get along with Christian and Catholic pretty peaceful.
There are lots of Muslim people either in Rote, West Timor, Alor even Flores. One time, a local asked me why do so many cases about fight between one belief to another in Jakarta – or Java island, they see in news, while in here, if Muslim wants to build a mosque, their neighbor, even from Christian or different belief, will help them. Same things happened for Christian who wants to hold a religious event or build a church, Muslim people will give them hands to help.
To be honest, I learn a lot about religions tolerance in this island. Sometimes it makes me feel ironic, that people in Jakarta who educated more, still debate whether it is a sin or not to greet Christian when they celebrate Christmas, or Chinese who celebrate Chinese New Year, and now, those young people who want to celebrate the Love day, aka Valentine day. What do the heck with those “educated” brain full people?
Anyway, I won’t talking much about those topics. I just want to share what you should need to know before you visiting the island. It probably isn’t cover everything, but it’s somehow that I managed to experience during my trip in East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. Check it out :
- Best Month to Visit
I experienced both dry and rainy season in East Nusa Tenggara. My first step in this island was in Kupang and Semau, in West Timor island. It was really so dry. Later on I moved to Rote island, also very dry. But it’s another interesting view for you to explore and captures. While in dry season, the landscape can be so exotic that make almost-dead-tree can be such a good object for picture. You will also feel like you are in Africa instead of Indonesia. Not because there are lots of wild animals (which probably are in forest!), but because there are bunch of dry savanna – it is really beautiful.
Dry season was last longer than it should be this year. Normally during November they already get some rains, but now the rainy season started around mid of December. It brought lots of problem for farmers, because they can’t plant rice and corns. When the area is very dry, they will pretty hard to get water. I saw lots of children and women carrying buckets of water on their shoulder or some used their head to carry the water. It made me treat water as a really valuable stuff. I learned to shower by very limited water, sometimes the challenging part is when I need to wash my clothes, because I don’t like to use same dirty T-Shirt for few days. When it’s raining season, they will fill their drums or buckets with rain water and use it for shower or washing clothes. I also did the same.
So best months for traveling to East Nusa Tenggara probably the whole year, because you will always get interesting experience, either lust of green land or the dry exotic area. But some people hate to be stuck while it’s raining, so normally March – November will be good for you to travel here.
Based on appearance, people from East Nusa Tenggara might be looked so scary and strong tanned skin. But don’t be scare because I met so many nice and genuine local people during my trip. For me, people here are so exotic. I like to see their tanned skin and light curly color hair. Some kids can have almost blonde hair (which now happened to me), not because their parents are expatriates but more because they often play around on the beach or under the sun’s heat every day. It is added the black pigment color for skin, but make black hair becomes blonde. Strange.
People are pretty much curious when see me in their town. They thought this woman from Jakarta is so crazy because leaving the big city to come to their village. They always think that I want to write about East Nusa Tenggara for some institution or government, seem like it is impossible for them to accept that I come to East Nusa Tenggara because of my own desire.
Don’t get shock if they approach you and touch their nose to your nose. That’s a part of their culture and how they greet each other. A friend told me, with greeting by nose, it is shown that they respect to each other and no fight between them.
Another interesting fact about how they love beetle nut so much. You will see lots of red mark around someone’s house, because normally they eat that beetle nut and spit it out in everywhere they want. Beetle nut is a part of their culture and never can’t be separated. When you go to a traditional village or an ancient historical places, it is very polite to offer them beetle nut. Once I went to a sacred place in Fulan Fehan, a local friend bring beetle nut and put it in the gate. It is a way to respecting their ancestor.
PS : If local asks you to eat beetle nut, you perhaps eat a bit as a way to respect them. But be careful because beetle nut is bitter and make your lips red! (Maybe nice for your natural lipstick? Hihihi)
- It is Beautiful Area but Not Easy for Tourist to Explore
What I mean with this, lots of places in East Nusa Tenggara which are so so so beautiful! Only to go there is such a really big challenge. First, there is no city map, or island map. So it’s pretty difficult to explore the area by ourselves because lack of information of route and destinations. There is no road information to go to a tourist place (either waterfalls, hot spring, traditional village, beach, etc) normally only locals know the way. They know where to turn left or right or stop. And we, tourist, have no clue at all which way we need to go.
When I was in Alor, I helped a lot by a local who build Zoom Alor community. She and her friends always exploring Alor, even to the remote area, to promoting their island. I am really glad this kind of community does exist in Alor! When I was in East of Flores, there is also similar community named #AyokeFloresTimur who will happily show you around the island (Larantuka, Adonara and Solor). Hope that another ones will emerge in another island – because information about touristic places in East of Nusa Tenggara is so limited. By building a community who love to explore their own island, it can make people know about their island more (by promoting it through social media), also it can be a good benefit for them in the future (such as become a professional guide or tour and travel business).
Don’t give up to explore East Nusa Tenggara, because the beautiful and natural places you will find here, will erase all the efforts and energies you give to find it.
Talking about food, each island probably has different kind of their traditional food. But because of the mixed people and they migrate from one area to another, I see it that their traditional food already eat by everyone. For example Jagung Bose (Bose Corn), which you can find not only in Kupang, but also in another West Timor area. Once the Kue Cucur (Cucur Cake), is not only exist in Rote, but also in Alor.
And talking about food, yes, lots of people in East Nusa Tenggara eat pork even dogs *sad. But that’s how the way they live. If you don’t like it, just don’t eat pork and dogs. Also you need to be familiar because lots of pigs and dogs around.
In some area, you will hard to find warung (small restaurant) because local people normally cook their own food and never eat outside. But in the cities, such as Kalabahi, Baa, Atambua, Larantuka, you will find lots of food to eat. But normally Lalapan (I think in Jakarta we call it as Pecel Ayam) ; but don’t get surprise that it can be 2 times more expensive than in Jakarta (around IDR 30.000,-/portion) since Chicken in here is so expensive (probably around IDR 80.000/whole chicken in SOE), there is also Mie Ayam (Chicken noddle) ; that I always eat it when I was in Kalabahi. Also you can find Sate Ayam (Chicken Satay), Nasi Kuning (Yellow Rice), Gado-Gado (Vegetable Salad). Well, it helps me to feel that I am at home (Jakarta) anyway.
Facility in some part of the island still are not available that perfect. In some area, you only can expect to get some local humble old guesthouse, while in some area, you can get bungalow or resort with such a fantastic rate. I didn’t use hotel that much during my trip, mostly I go through Couchsurfing (yes, Couchsurfers are exist!) or knowing local people from people and they allow me to stay in their house. For me, place to sleep no need to be luxurious as long as I can sleep. I have another article about list of places I stay during my backpacking in East Nusa Tenggara that you can follow.
Beautiful traditional hut for you to stay in Fatumnasi, SOE.
Road in some area in East Nusa Tenggara can be so impossible to believe! It is because too bad so I have no words anymore to express it. For example the road to Fatumnasi, from Kapan, it’s really crazy so bad. But it seemed nothing, when later on I go to Boti tribe. Road really terrible, such as no one care that there is citizens living there and need good road to connect them with world.
I heard from a local, normally local government will repair a 1 kilometer road here and there, but never do that in total in one time. In my understanding, that’s the reason why the whole road there will never be good. Because the new road will soon be broken again because the other road still not yet repaired. Maybe because of the budget? Hmmm…
I hope they will do more about the infrastructure in East of Nusa Tenggara, to let people from globe will be more easy exploring their area.
Transportation can drain your pocket easily. In big city, the cost from one place to another by Bemo (their public transportation) is cheap and fix price. Even you should be smart to ask local first before ride a bemo, because some person can try to give you a high price. Normally bemo cost around IDR 5.000,-/person/for short journey. For long journey such as from Oenitas village to port which I had in Rote, which took around 2 hours ride, it was cost me IDR 60.000,-/person.
But price of Bemo/transportation outside of the city can be so crazy. One time I was so annoyed with a guy who ask for IDR 100.000,- to bring me to Maulafa from Bolok port – which maybe only few kilometers. I wasn’t agree, because the Bemo system is to drop each of passenger in their house. I saw, already 7 person inside of the Bemo with their bags and stuff. It’s gonna be take so much time, also I don’t like the idea that he gets approximately around 1 million rupiah, only for one time ride like that by a Bemo! Blah!!
Sometimes, Ojek (motorcycle ride) is better than taking a Bemo. But you need to make sure to deal in the beginning about price. Also you need to tell them that it’s a fix price. Some Ojek will charge you more suddenly in the middle of journey, which really will annoy us. I got one, when I want to come to Lasiana beach from Atambua. In the beginning, he was agree to get IDR 10.000,- but just few meters away, he said : “Oh, it’s on the beach, so it should be IDR 15.000,” I was so tired that time and wasn’t think that a much big difference so I agreed to give. But watch out to those who try to ripe you off.
Rental motorbike is another challenge that in some area can be so impossible. The better way is to talk with local and ask them to lend their motorbike for you. I paid IDR 60.000/day when I borrow motorbike in Alor, in Rote, it cost IDR 75.000/day which you can get from the hotel you stay, while in Larantuka I paid IDR 100,000/day which no one officially rent motorbikes, so I just borrow from the neighbor.
From one island to another, you can go by Pelni’s ship. But the problem is, their schedules are hard to find. Better you go to the port to make sure what day/date/time the ship goes. Their website is terrible not updated and don’t forget to ask when will you arrive in your destination.
- Internet and Phone Signal
To be contacted easily during your trip in East Nusa Tenggara and able to connect with 3G internet, I suggest you to use Simpati/Telkomsel simcard, because… It is the only telecommunication provider that work in East Nusa Tenggara.
I made a mistake by buying cheap package of internet, around IDR 100.000,- for 4.5G, and it was crazily always empty in few days! So I changed it into 8G (which is in total 14G with some non-sense package, such as internet in 4G area – well, where on earth in East Nusa Tenggara that cover in 4G?) for IDR 250.000,- and it last for almost a month. Better.
Don’t expect for wifi because it’s hard to find. But amazingly, there are some internet café in town; such as in Baa, Kalabahi, Atambua, Larantuka. But don’t be surprised if some areas aren’t covered with phone signal or internet.
Talking about phone, my Iphone was broken after I visited Boti tribe, so I need to find new one in Atambua. It was funny to see mostly people commonly use only Asus or Samsung here. So then I got one Asus for me. In Larantuka I see they sell OPPO. But I don’t see another brand in the store. Maybe in Kupang more of options, but for sure never try to repair an Iphone in Kupang. Or never try to repair your phone at all in Kupang >,<
The most bank you can find only BRI (Bank Rakyat Indonesia) or Bank NTT (Nusa Tenggara Timur). Say bye-bye to bank BCA (Bank Central Asia) and bank Mandiri because I found it so hard to find. Only available in Kupang. But BRI also for visa so if you are foreigners, you can withdraw your money by this bank too.
- In Listening to the Music
Well, I could say people in East Nusa Tenggara really love music, the louder better for them. I was in shock after attending a peaceful Christmas mass, local started to play loud music, most of it gospel house music. I also heard from a friend, people also celebrating Eid Mubarak by bring speaker to the beach and play house loud music and dance together. Sound fun! But riding in a bemo with such loud of music can feel annoy and also fun too. Well, just be prepared.
I wouldn’t tell you about how many languages they have, because it’s too much and I don’t know. But I can tell you that people in East Nusa Tenggara (mostly in West Timor, Rote and Alor) will speak to each other in their local language, or if they use bahasa Indonesia, they will say it in Kupang’s accent. This accent brought me in confusion in the beginning. Not only that, they like to cut the words, adding more confusion to me.
For example : They say, “Beta” as Me. And they cut it into “Be.” Then, “Sonde” which mean No, but they short it into “Son”. Oalalalaaa…
- Drinking like a local
They have special traditional liquor called Sopi. It is made from lontar (a palm kind of fruit). For me it almost taste as Vodka, only with fruity after taste. While in West Timor, Rote and Alor it called as Sopi, in Maumere, it called as Moke. Both are having a different range of alcohol. Good Moke can burn your throat and good Sopi can be a petrol for your motorbike!
As I love fruits a lot, so fruits become my concern while traveling here. I was so shocked when knowing that Salak (snake fruits) in Atambua can cost IDR 50.000/kilogram. Weh! But you can find mangoes, jackfruits, avocado, banana easily here where there is the season. I was so sad when I see in Larantuka and Flores, jackfruits are being thrown away because no one pick it up, while in Alor, me and kak Wany love jackfruits a lot. I bought one whole jackfruits for IDR 20.000, such an achievement!
Don’t surprise if you order an orange juice but it will come in form a lime juice. Orange in here means Lime, hihihii. Because normal oranges are so expensive here (IDR 55.000/kilogram), so they change it into lime.
I was eating a red dragon fruit in Larantuka and I am almost choked when I know that one dragon fruit here can cost IDR 25.000! My God! In Jakarta, maybe only IDR 5.000 per-each. Fiuh.
- East Nusa Tenggara is not only consist of Christian people
As I said in the beginning, that lots of Muslim people in East Nusa Tenggara. Even you can find people who believe in Hindu in some area as well. I heard there is a temple in Rote and I saw a temple in Larantuka (which is very famous as Catholic area). Also I was surprised when I saw two huge beautiful mosques from the ship stood so amazingly in Larantuka.
So if you are a Muslim and afraid to come to East Nusa Tenggara, it is really not make sense, instead I learn a lot about religious tolerance in here. Now, will you discover East Nusa Tenggara too as I do now?