Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Taman Alam Lumbini, Brastagi - North Sumatera (Indonesian Travel Destination)

For a short getaway out of the capital of North Sumatera, Brastagi is one of the choices you could opt for. Taman Alam Lumbini (Lumbini Natural Park) is located in Desa (Village) Tongkoh, near the valley of Sibayak mountain in Tanah Karo region (Karo Regency). From Medan - North Sumatera, it is around 60km to Taman Lumbini and from Taman Lumbini to the central of Brastagi City, you have to go up for around 8km.

This time, we went there by a private car and it took around 90 minutes with normal speed and traffic. If you wish to go there by public transport, you could take a Sutra (Sumatera Transport) mini bus in blue color from Jl. Jamin Ginting - Padang Bulan, Medan up to Tugu Jeruk, Brastagi. You just need to ask people to get to the Jamin Ginting Bus station and that your destination is to Brastagi.
Sumatera Transport (Sutra) Bus. Source: Trishinu's Blog
It's a forked junction at the Tugu Jeruk and you could clearly see the "Orange Monument" right in the middle of the forked junction. If you go from Medan, you would need to stop at that junction and take left from that Tugu Jeruk to get to the Taman Alam Lumbini. After the stop at Tugu Jeruk, you have to take a different bus called "Sigantang Sira (Sisira)" mini bus in yellow color. You would need to pay around IDR 4,000 for this trip and just tell the driver that you would like to stop at "Lumbini" or "Pagoda" and they would stop you in the nearest spot. From the stopping spot, you would only need to walk a short distance towards the Pagoda. I am sure you won't miss this Pagoda for the striking gold color.
Lumbini Pagoda front view
When you enter the area, the first thing you would meet is the garden. My area of interest was Strawberry garden. In this garden, you could pick your own strawberries, have them weighed and paid, and take them home with you. Other than that, they have other kinds of vegetables as well there, such as chili, cauliflower, etc. The only issue is that you have to go there at the harvesting time which is uncertain at times. When we went there a couple of days ago, nothing was there to be picked.
Strawberry Garden right in front of the parking lot.
For a short getaway to unwind yourselves from the city hustle and bustle, this would be a perfect spot. You don't have to spend anything for accommodation as you could go in the morning, roam around the city, and get back in the evening.

The Lumbini Pagoda
The name "Lumbini" is taken from the name of the birth place of Siddhartha Buddha Gautama at the Himalayan valley, Nepal. The Pagoda which exist in this Taman Alam Lumbini is a replica of Shwe Dagon Pagoda in Yangoon, Myanmar. This pagoda replica is the highest pagoda in Indonesia. The height of the pagoda reaches 46.8 meters. This place is built for religious purpose for the Buddhists. Many monks live here and many monks from all over the world would come to this place if they visit Indonesia, but the site is open for public and no fee is required to enter the shrine. All you need to do is just to list your name in the guest book in the front entrance.
Inside the Temple

Wishing Tree

Wishing Tree
The things to maintain during your time in the Pagoda:
  • Do not wear shoes or slippers
  • Change the mode of your phone to Silent as unnecessary noise is not accepted
  • Do not bring any food or drinks from outside. They have their own canteen and if you wish to have some refreshment, you could have it there. And to be noted, they provide vegetarian dishes.

The Park
Inside the Pagoda complex, you would be exposed to a park as vast as 3 hectares with variety of plantation from flowers and fruits. When we visited the place, it was raining on and off and we couldn't explore the entire area. However, some of the shots that I could manage to take are as follows:
I don't know the exact names of all these flowers, but they do look gorgeous :)

Kolang Kaling on the left; Passion Fruit on the top right; Tamarillo on the bottom right :)
The bridge to be crossed to enter the vast garden area.
The view from the bridge

The Brastagi Market
In this place, you could enjoy the famous Roast Corn and Sugar Cane Juice. Of course, other than those, they provide other meals and drinks as well. Being in this market with good companies, sitting leisurely, enjoying the corn and a cup of tea or sugar cane juice while talking non-sense to your friends is one of the best thing you could have ever done.

After enjoying the meal, you have the option to ride a horse or horse-drawn cart around the city. If you don't feel like riding them, just roam around the city and you could get fresh fruits; flowers (for garland or for taking home to be planted); souvenirs made of wood, bamboo, or steel; clothings; and pets (hamster, rabbit, dogs) with reasonable price and yet, you could bargain.

Flower Section. Source: Honey Bee
Fruit Market. Source:
Love the cacti :)
Mostly, you would find pork-based food here, but there are many Moslem restaurants as well where you could find non-pork meals. The most famous food here is Roast Pork ala Karonese (Babi Panggang Karo or shortly called BPK). Please pardon me that I don't have the shot of the menu as we were too hungry to think about anything except the food at that time :)

Final Note:

  1. The road to Brastagi is a winding road, so if you have a sensitive stomach, make sure you bring a vomit bag (sick bag) as you cannot stop in the middle of hairpin turn. Make sure to bring some balm or medication to ease your nausea as well.
  2. Please drive carefully - especially during the turns. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT TAKE OVER the cars in front of you during the turns. You don't want to have a goat-fight accident with a heavy-loaded truck that comes from the opposite direction. YES, there are many heavy-loaded truck would pass this road as Tanah Karo is the supplier of vegetables, milk, and flowers to Medan and around.
  3. Reduce your speed significantly during the rain. As this is a hill area, you can't predict when the rain shall come. No one wants your car to lose balance and fall topsy turvy on the road like a dead cockroach, OR WORSE, fall too the abyss.

I think that note ends the post for today. I should say my special thanks to Ensui and Kiminiko to get me and mom here after a very long time. And Bravo for Ensui for the excellent driving :).

So folks, if you visit North Sumatera, you might want to try to come here and enjoy the hospitality, the fresh air and fresh view this place provides.
Welcome to Taman Alam Lumbini

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Religious vs Spiritual

Finally, after a long time, I am writing again.. Phewwww... It's been a super-busy month after the last holiday in Tangkahan that I feel like I was in a military bootcamp.

So, again I incidentally met up with a topic of being a religious person and a spiritual person. Mostly we refer both terms as being the same. Let me tell you.. They are not the same.

Imagine if someone tells you, "Hey, you never go to church/mosque/temple. You should go there and develop your spiritual life". If someone ever tells you this, knock that person on the head and tell him/her that he/she gets it all wrong. OK, I'm just kidding. Don't knock anyone's head, yet.

Being religious means that you understand all the content of whatever the religion you are embracing. You understand the rituals, you understand the content in the holy script, you go to church/temple/mosque and you pray properly. Does it make you a spiritual person? The answer is NO.

I could go to temple everyday, I could memorize all the mantra and the songs for the divines, I could practice yoga perfectly, I could preach in front of a group of people about devotion and religion and holy script. Do all these make me a spiritual person? The answer is still NO.

Spiritual and Religious exist in opposite spectrum. A person could be both spiritual and religious, but being one of them does not mean that he/she is being the other as well. An atheist is definitely not religious, but he/she could be a very spiritual person indeed.

Being spiritual means that you see beyond your personal existence. It means you understand that you are just a part of a greater means. A spiritual person would love himself/herself, but not to the stage of being selfish because a spiritual person believe in union. A spiritual person understands that we all are connected in one dot and hence, he/she has the capacity to love others the way he/she loves himself/herself.

You may observe many people out there who do not involve in religious activities - they do not meditate, they do not say chants, they do not carry the holy script all the time, but you could see that they are a fine and kind person. You could see kindness in their movements. This is because they care about others, they try to find a way to help others to betterment, they respect others, and most of all, they understand that nature has its own power that no man could play around with.

There are many religious people out there who can't be said as "kind" at all. They love to judge others without trying to see where they are standing. They believe by getting up in the morning, practice yoga, be in a state of deep meditation and pray before leaving the house make them superior. Believing that they are superior give them the authority to underdog others who do not do the same as what they do. These people are religious by word, but they are not spiritual by heart. They follow certain dogma which is far from love, care, and understanding. They are not connected to their own surrounding. Instead, they are self-centered and they do not share the goodness they have within them with their surrounding.

There are several examples that I could say about these spiritual people that exist in our lives. I will give you two for today.

The first - I know a person who seldom goes to temple. He doesn't know how to chant all the mantras and he definitely does not know all the rituals needs to be done for the prayers. That's his religious background. But, one day, there was water tap running unused and he was very angry with the fact that no one cared about it. In that anger he was saying something like this "Look, there are millions of people out there including infants and women who do not have access to clean water at all - not even once a year. They have to drink the pee of the camel in order to quench their thirst. We may not be able to go there and supply the water to them. We may not be able to help them directly, but the LEAST we could do is to respect what we have. We have clean water running all day and night. We have the electricity to pump that water from the well to to entire house. Respect that. Be grateful for that. Do not behave as if you don't care about anything except your own well-being". Does this person a spiritual person? The answer is YES.

The second - There is this one girl I know who hates the topic of God. She does not believe in the existence of God. But, if she sees someone litters without thinking of the consequences, if she sees someone goes inside a forest with all the backpacks full of snacks, eat them there and throw the non-biodegradable garbage in the forest instead of taking them back where they could throw them properly - she would hit the roof. Other than that, she respects animals the way she respects human beings. She won't harm animals unless it has to be done. Does that make her a spiritual person? The answer is YES. Subconsciously, this girl has made a connection with God by having such warmth in her heart. The problem is that her brain does not want to admit that, yet. I do hope she understands that soon and make peace with that contradiction.

I believe that being spiritual is to follow your inner conscience. If you truly listen from within, I assure you that it will never give you a wrong answer because God lives in you. The only problem is whether we are sensitive enough to listen to it or not. Whether we want to follow that path or not.

Being spiritual means to be connected with God in a one-to-one interaction instead of through all sets of rituals and chants. Being spiritual is when you see beyond your personal existence and come to the image of God. It is when you respect others, it is when you care about others, it is when you help others when you can, it is when you care about the animals to the extent of your capability, and it is when you care about the well-being of this mother earth where you are standing.

I understand that no one is perfect and it is impossible to be a 100% spiritual person. There will never be a word "perfect" in our lives. We will never achieve that "perfection", but what is it in life if we don't try ourselves to perfection, isn't it? ;)