Month: October 2013

Pacuan Kuda Pedalaman Atambua

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“Yang menang pacuan kuda berarti paling tangguh dibanding semua yang tangguh. Di sini, kuda sama pentingnya dengan keluarga. Kuda dan joki yang tangguh, berarti keduanya dididik dengan baik.”

ImageAlex Un menerawang, rasa bangga terpancar dari matanya. Masa-masa menjadi joki sudah lewat, begitu pun waktu-waktu menurunkan kemampuan berkuda kepada anaknya.

“Lihat, itu kuda dari Timor Leste.”

Ia menunjuk ke arah lintasan. Seekor kuda beserta pelepasnya sudah masuk ke sana. Gadis Mata-mata, begitu nama kuda itu, bertubuh cokelat muda dan cokelat tua. Cukup ‘bule‘ di antara kuda-kuda lain yang semuanya cokelat gelap.

Tepat pukul 12.00 Wita saat pacuan kuda di Desa Tniumanu dimulai. Ada 14 babak hari itu, dengan total 120 kuda yang ikut serta. Ini adalah hari terakhir sebelum final,  pacuan sudah digelar mulai 4 hari sebelumnya.

Saya kagum melihat tribun penonton yang mulai penuh. Tniumanu bukanlah desa yang mudah dijangkau, butuh 2-3 jam perjalanan dari Kota Atambua. Itu pun harus melewati jalan beraspal bolong-bolong, kemudian jalan tanah yang cukup rusak.

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Lima kuda telah siap di garis start. Para pelepas menyerahkan kuda mereka kepada joki masing-masing.

Semua joki adalah anak laki-laki.

“Di sini ibaratnya, anak laki-laki belajar berjalan bersamaan dengan belajar berkuda.”

Anak-anak pemberani itu masih sangat kecil, mungkin sekitar 5-7 tahun. Mereka duduk tanpa pelana. Mengecup bagian belakang kepala kuda sebelum berlomba. Mengelus leher kuda yang sudah tak sabar berpacu di lintasan.

Lintasan pacuan kuda itu berbentuk oval sepanjang 1 Km, memutar luas di tengah lanskap gersang. Dari titik start, tribun penonton tampak mungil di ujung sana. Kuda dengan tinggi 140-170 cm berlomba di lintasan 600 meter. Kuda-kuda setinggi 180-190 meter berlomba di lintasan 800 meter. Sementara kuda yang tingginya mencapai 2 meter, mengelilingi 1 lintasan penuh.

“Yang besok jadi pemenang, hadiahnya tak banyak. Tapi rasa bangganya membekas sampai anak cucu,” kata Alex, tersenyum.

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ImageImageKuda dan joki yang tangguh, berarti keduanya dididik dengan baik. Seperti kata Alex Un,

“Apa yang kita punya, bisa jadi semua orang juga punya. Tapi yang kita punya, harus kita jaga. Harus kita sayang. Tinggal bagaimana caranya jadi yang terbaik, dengan apa yang kita punya.”

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A Dancer, An Angel

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Her jaw dropped. Her eyes widened when few strangers came up to her small house. It was a sweaty afternoon, almost 39 degree Celcius in Atambua, East Nusa Tenggara. She was a little bit nervous, spontaneously did a little slap into her forehead, regret herself for being unprepared to welcome her sudden guests.

But we, her guests, weren’t need any of her preparation. We came just to ask about Atambua’s traditional instrument, likurai, same name as its traditional dance. Finding likurai in Atambua was as hard as investigation reportage. There was no souvenir shop. Couldn’t find any in traditional market, not even in traditional houses. This woman’s house, is the only place our driver referred to.

She kept said sorry for not wearing proper clothes, only a blue t-shirt and short pants. She has a brown skin and shoulder-length curly hair, tied perfectly at the back of her head. But on top of all, her smile as cool as the autumn breeze. As warm as morning at spring. As bright as the sun that afternoon.

Just before we said sorry for interupting, she guided us into her home. Its green tile felt so moist, coolen our tired feet. She almost change her clothes before finally, we said our purpose and asked about likurai instrument.

Her eyes widened, once more. She didn’t know anything about likurai making process, nor where to find them.

But she is a likurai dancer.

Margareta Sin, she mentioned her name, is a likurai dance practitioner and lecturer. Since 2001, she teaches likurai dance to young women to wipe out bad thoughts about her village.

Karena desa ini… Dulu namanya jelek. Terkenal desa perempuan nggak benar,” so she said.

When I asked her explicitly about prostitution, she gave me a weak smile.

Waktu itu, saya satu-satunya perempuan yang sekolah. Kemudian saya bingung bagaimana cara menghapus pandangan orang terhadap desa ini… Akhirnya saya belajar nari. Saya kumpulkan perempuan-perempuan di desa, saya ajarkan mereka.

She entered a room next into the livingroom, brought back a box full of likurai. That traditional instrument looks like gendang, but stay in the armpit for the whole dance.

Saya nggak tau lagi harus gimana. Saya nggak mau kalau nanti mereka benar-benar… Jadi PSK.”

She freezed. Her eyes saddened. Stared straight to the window, but I could see her mind doing a time-travel.

We did a warm chat for a while. She told me about her dream, her willingness to bring happiness and wealth to her neighbours. Talking to her is my biggest happiness that day. Her smile and kindness could make everyone’s heart melted.

We said thank you, but she kept regret herself for being (she was the only one thinking) rude and unprepared. But for me, for us, Margareta Sin is more than kindest person we met in Atambua.

On my way back to the hotel, I realized. She even didn’t know our names. Didn’t know who we are. For her, we’re just strangers. For us, she is a dancer. For me, she’s an angel.

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The Buddha is Walking

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I never thought Buddha would be this skinny.

Plus, he made a gesture I’ve never seen before. He didn’t sit, stand, or lie down as famously sacred Reclining Buddha. This sculpture in Wat Sa Si, the second biggest temple in Sukhothai Historical Park, implicitly looks like a woman.

The Buddha is walking. He lifted his left hand. The right foot stood behind his left one. For me, it seems like Buddha also had feminine side. I was going to ask anyone, but only few tourist came to Wat Sa Si that day. So I kept this curiosity by myself, until I found the answer in Ramkhamhaeng National Museum.

Ramkhamhaeng is the first king of Sukhothai Kingdom, rules between 12-13th century. The museum, consist artefacts and comprehensive informations about that first kingdom in Thailand, lays right in front of Sukhothai Historical Park’s main gate.

There are 13 Buddha postures represented by sculpture worldwide. But only 3 postures famously known in Asia: standing, sitting, or lying down. These postures indicate a God-like, king-like aspect of Buddha. But, neither Gods or kings represent his earthy aspects.

Then, kingdom of Sukhothai presented new image of Buddha walking among monks. This walking gesture also represent Buddha for being closer to people.

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So, if you see this Buddha posture somewhere, just remember it belongs to Sukhothai Kingdom. Maybe it can lead you to Sukhothai City. 8 Hours bus ride from Bangkok, 5 hours from Chiang Mai. 🙂

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Jatuh Cinta Pada Thailand

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Disclaimer: tulisan ini murni pengalaman pribadi. Tidak diendorse, tidak disponsor.

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Kita, dengan cara masing-masing, bisa jatuh cinta pada sebuah tempat.

Bagi saya, pada awalnya cinta itu berbentuk seorang pria Thailand berkacamata, berdiri santun dari balik meja resepsionis.

I upgraded your room for free.”

Senyum tersungging dari bibirnya. Saya sumringah, tapi hanya bisa membalas dengan senyum lemah. Tak jelaslah bentuk badan ini pasca perjalanan lebih dari 12 jam. Sudah pukul 21.30 di Sukhothai, saat petugas guesthouse menggiring saya ke kamar Superior.

Di bawah cahaya remang-remang, kami melewati beberapa bungalow. Thai Thai Sukhothai, nama guesthouse itu, tampak cantik namun sepi. Bunga warna-warni mekar disinari cahaya lampu, bertengger di pagar bungalow-bungalow kayu.

Petugas guesthouse menggiring saya naik ke lantai atas.

Kamar itu sangat nyaman. Tak terlalu besar, dengan kasur double bed berhiaskan handuk berbentuk sepasang angsa. Kedua angsa itu tampak sedang dimabuk cinta~

Sayang saya tidak sedang honeymoon. Lebih baik mandi di bawah shower air panas, dikelilingi keramik hijau mungil.

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Sekujur badan kaku, kepala terasa berat. Hari kedua di Thailand adalah hari pertama menstruasi tiba. Saya kembali membenamkan diri di bawah guyuran air panas, lama sekali, kemudian turun untuk sarapan. Restoran berada persis di seberang kamar. Nasi, telur mata sapi, sayuran, juga roti dan aneka selai berderet di satu meja panjang.

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Saya mempercepat langkah menuju resepsionis, tak sabar ingin menjelajah Sukhothai Historical Park. Kembali berhadapan dengan pria Thailand berkacamata. Dia memberi kunci sepeda untuk disewa. Sayangnya, tubuh yang kembali cerah berbanding terbalik dengan cuaca yang mulai mendung.

Saya pun murung.

Satu jam. Dua jam. Dua setengah jam, saya masih duduk di lobby menunggu hujan reda. Si resepsionis agaknya terenyuh.

I think you should go this afternoon, just after the rain gone. It’s raining here almost every morning.”

It’s okay, I’ll wait here,” angguk saya, kemudian memalingkan wajah ke arah luar, fokus pada bunga-bunga yang dijatuhi air hujan.

Tapi tak lama kemudian, resepsionis itu kembali datang. Dia bawakan secangkir teh dan semangkuk gula. Juga payung, dan jas hujan.

For you. Be careful.”

Saya tersenyum sumringah, mengucap terimakasih berkali-kali sambil mengenakan jas hujan.

Agenda bersepeda hari itu berjalan sempurna.

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Hari terakhir menginap di Thai Thai Sukhothai. Sesaat usai mandi pagi, saya kembali menyewa sepeda untuk gowes ke pasar tradisional. Tapi dudukan di sepeda itu terlalu tinggi untuk badan saya yang kecil.

Si resepsionis turun tangan. Tak lama kemudian dia memanggil bala bantuan. Bukan satu atau dua, melainkan empat orang. Sesaat setelah bergumul dengan sepeda, kelima petugas guesthouse tersenyum senang.

It’s finish, your bike.”

Voila! Sepeda siap digunakan.

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Saya baru benar-benar menyadari alangkah cantiknya guesthouse ini, saat tiba di penginapan usai blusukan di pasar.

Thai Thai Sukhothai tak bisa dibilang besar. Tapi, warna-warni bunga bertebaran sepanjang jalan. Di depan bungalow, di jalan setapak, di papan petunjuk arah ke restoran. Hiasan patung keramik mungil tersebar di banyak tempat.

Singkatnya, tempat ini bisa membuat para tamu memilih tinggal di guesthouse saja.

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Pukul 12.00, tuktuk menjemput persis di depan kamar. Di depan meja resepsionis, si pria Thailand berkacamata siap mengucapkan selamat tinggal.

Thank you for your stay,” ucapnya, melakukan gerakan Wai.

It’s a very pleasant stay. Thank you,” saya pun ikut menangkupkan kedua tangan di depan dada. Dia melambai sampai tuktuk saya hilang dari pandangan.

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Kita bisa jatuh cinta pada sebuah tempat, masing-masing dengan cara berbeda. Thai Thai Sukhothai adalah tempat saya jatuh cinta. Bukan dengan resepsionis berkacamata, tapi oleh keramahan orang Thailand.

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*note: Dua tahun berturut-turut, Thai Thai Sukhothai menerima Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence. Atas seisi guesthouse dan keramahan petugasnya, saya dengan senang hati menulis review  🙂

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A Songthaew Convo

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“Where are you from?”

“Indonesia.”

“You go alone?”

“Yes,” I smiled to the songthaew driver.

“How brave!” she nodded, smiled widely, moved gear and drove the songthaew to downtown Chiang Mai. Since arrived at Arcade Bus Terminal an hour before, she was the first person I had conversation with.

That traditional Thai passenger vehicle, songthaew, can accomodate nearly 12 person at the back seat. But I sat at the front, precisely beside the driver.

“It’s uncommon for Thai woman, travel alone like you,” she said quietly.

“Same thought for Indonesian too. Don’t really know why. People say it isn’t safe enough for woman to travel alone. But thank God, I got a lot of help.”

“You know, maybe it’s happy to be like you. Different with other people. Being uncommon with another woman.”

“But you’re uncommon too. Is it common for Thai woman driving a songthaew?”

“No…” she smiled. “Ah! That’s your hotel!”

She pulled the songthaew to the roadside, then moved from her seat to help me brought my backpack to hotel’s front door.

“I’m happy to see woman like you. Hope my daughter will be like you one day… Be careful, girl. God bless you.”

There. She gave me the frendliest smile I’ve ever get in the Land of Smile.

Hurts Like Heaven

I curse myself for having Thai Massage that time.

It’s not that I didn’t like, nor regret spending 200 Baht for the most painful massage I’ve ever had. Maybe it wasn’t the right time. Or maybe, God knows that I should have massage after four days struggling in a pretty fatigue journey.

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It was almost dark in Chiang Mai. I spent the whole day strolling in Old City Quarter, visiting temples and trying all (halal) foods at the street stall. I had this kind of curiosity (well, a lot) to try everything that I haven’t taste or done before.

That’s why I didn’t think much when decided to have Thai Traditional Massage located in Tha Pae Road.

ImageA middle-aged women smiled to me at the front door. Then she guided me upstairs, to the 4th floor. I was the only one ‘victim’ in that twelve-mat room. After a relaxing footbath, she gave me a loose-comfortable clothes to wore.

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I laid in the mat. She sat towards me then made Wai: a typically Thai gesture, both hands in front of your chest. Then she took my foot and started to massage it, gently.

Gently and painful.

Beside hands, she also used her arm to apply firm rythmic pressure into my body. This kind of massage influenced by traditional medicine system in India and China. But the greatest difference is: Thai massage used yoga-like positions. She used herself to stretch my body. She pulled my fingers, toes, ears. Cracked my knuckles, squeezed my head. She even sat on my back and pulled my body to any direction.

No, she didn’t use any oil. And yes, she succesfully turned my body into a jelly.

In the local language, Thai massage called nuat phaen boran or simply nuat thai. That women practitioner said it can increase blood circulation and help strengthen joints, prevent backpain.

After one hour of pain and moan, surprisingly, I felt relaxed and energized. I slept comfortably at night. True it is, the Thai massage, hurts like heaven.

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Few minutes before the massage finished, another tourist came in. Not even in 5 minutes, she yelled.

“Ouch! Slower!”

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Just the illustration, taken from yamflow.wordpress. Been there, done that.

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Another Thai Massage in Old City Quarter

A Special Guide

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It was raining when I stepped into Wat Mahathat. For some reasons I became impatient for exploring Sukhothai Historical Park, which is the main purpose I came to Thailand.

This park, covering 70 km2 area of land in Sukhothai City, consist more than 193 ruins of Sukhothai Kingdom. Wat Mahathat is the center of them all. It’s the most sacred, astonishing, bizarre temple established in 13th century. Sukhothai, along with Lan Na, are the oldest kingdoms in Thailand.

I putted myself under a raincoat.

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As I started to explore Wat Mahathat, the rain became heavier. I don’t mind. Nobody saw me anyway. Sukhothai is a less-touristy place compared with Chiang Mai or the over-crowded Bangkok. In a moment I started to adore the huge Buddha statues and viharas surrounded by brick walls, lotus ponds, and moats.

I walked slowly, unblinked, trying to capture all details that carved in the temple. The camera works for a while, but I don’t want to harm it under a heavy rain. Then suddenly, something barks.

It was a black dog, stare at me from the aisle. It was some kind of spooky situation: I was the only one tourist in Wat Mahathat, under a heavy rain, surrounded by huge Buddhas and red-brick temples. At this point, the rain was getting heavier and the thunder wouldn’t stop yelling.

Can’t remember what I had in mind, I talked to the dog.

“What are you doing? It’s raining out here.”

I putted my face near him (it was a male). He blinked, then go to the opposite way. I didn’t move. He started to bark again.

“You want me to follow you?”

He barks, walked into the aisle, moved to another vihara. I started to follow him. He moved from one aisle to another, made a few turns, barks when I stopped. Then suddenly I realized that he’s guiding.

He’s guiding me.

He made me walk across more than 10 viharas, seeing all 28 Buddha statues including the giant two near the entrance. He patiently waited when I took pictures of chedi which adorned with beautiful stucco figures of lions, devils, and three headed elephants.

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As he guided me exploring Wat Mahathat, the rain began to stop. The grey sky slowly dissapeared, replaced by a clear blue sky with dotted white clouds. The sun shines the temple and lush green landscape surrounded.

The black dog guided me back to the entrance. Still, none of tourist came to the temple at that time. He accompanied me walking to the bycycle I rented.

As I ride the bycycle, he looked at me. I smiled. I said thank you. He barks. I guess he said goodbye.

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