I grabbed the gifted t-shirt and my phone slipped out of my hand, spinning, and landed on the hotel step. It made a cracking sound that I dreaded to hear. I knew it was smashed before I picked it up. This was the moment things started to go badly on this trip. I was at Tasikmalaya October Festival which is an amalgamation of town birthday, trade expo, and tourism destination launch party. A real change from sacrifice and hair cutting!
Tasikmalaya is a small semi-industrial town with a history of producing shoes, and manufacturing clothes and woven goods, like baskets and mats. The city is also famous for having many islamic schools called pesentren. The main part of the festival was a street of colorful umbrellas hanging above delighted crowds of families who were stopping to take selfies. I walked about among the food stalls, drank coffee at the Terminal Coffee stall. Later, I surveyed the trade stands from Germany, Phillipines and Palestine.
Memoranda of Understanding
Early next day I joined the entourage and watched the signing of Memoranda Of Understanding between the four countries. Good luck for future trade, investment and working together to make the world better!
After that, we surged through the crowds, throwing shirts and key rings to delighted spectators. There were large numbers of people cheering on either side, and watching as local groups made their way past the stage.
Costume themes are old and new
The costumes reflected local production of things like brooms, baskets, shoes and clothes, but also reflected more modern themes like environmental awareness and litter disposal.
There is an emerging trend in Indonesia to be more aware of the impact of trash and I have even seen proper trash collection trucks recently. Reforming the kinds of civic services that are taken for granted in the developed world, and raising the notion that trash can’t just be thrown in the river or burned at the gatepost is a great idea.
There was often an ‘old man’ at the front of a float. When I say old, he was dressed and decorated as old, but was clearly younger. I found out that this guy is called “Ki Lengser” and is part of Sundanese history.
He greys his hair, blacks out a few teeth, and stoops over his walking stick. Then he walks in front of the group and plays a role similar to a court jester, but also to introduce the new guests. This must be part of the local mythology of respect and care for elderly, with a hint of magic and knowledge thrown in. Can you tell me more about Ki Lengser?
Shoes, weaving, flowers and baskets adorned the performers costumes
Some of the displays were really unusual and one guy had a spooky walking puppet child, which combined with his genie style clothing brought the magic that West Java is famous for, swiftly to mind.
After the procession had finished, I was short of something to do, and my colleagues were leaving. This was the moment that the disaster I mentioned earlier struck. I took my broken phone to Situ Gede, the local lake and relaxation zone, but I have to say that it wasn’t that nice. The water was murky, it was raining and the boat owners were using colossal claxons to honk across the water. They were loud enough to loosen the bowels and quite unnecessary.
Anyway, Situ Gede turned out to be a respite from the unfolding disaster. That night, the hotel started shaking. It was an earthquake! I was painfully aware of my vulnerability. On the seventh floor of the hotel, I might be in trouble if the building collapsed. Unable to call for help, or even say goodbye to loved ones is a strange, isolating feeling akin to the loss of lep in “Masters Of Solitude” – a thoroughly modern ailment. I rushed outside, painfully stubbing my toe on a sofa in the hotel lobby. All seemed quiet, and no further shocks, took me to bed.
Next day, the driver didn’t show up. I had arranged to meet him at 9:30. Eventually, he arrived at 10:37 and we raced to the airport. We made it and I forgave him, but I heard the flight had a delay of 90 minutes. I sat eating bakso and chatting with the other stranded passengers. However, news came that it was cancelled altogether. I was in a remote airport, with no transport links, no phone and no place to stay. Thankfully, the airport staff came to my rescue. They let me use their phone to call my wife, gave me coffee, and even organised a lift to the bus station. Finally, I took the seven hour bus ride to Kampung Rambutan in Jakarta.
Tasikmalaya October Festival
The breakage of my phone made me realise how dependent my travelling is on it. I had no way to find a place to stay, and would get the walk in room rate rather than use Agoda or Booking.com. I had no way to call anyone for help, which is really useful. No way to tell my wife I would be late to the airport. No way to contact people and tell them I would be late, or fix any issues. No way to arrange transport from the small airstrip where there were no other cars. It made me think how susceptible we are to it’s call, and I wondered if it’s possible just to throw the damn thing away, and focus on the here and now. On the other hand, the festival was great! It was good to see contemporary themes interwoven with traditional production themes and the people were super curious and friendly. I must have had my photo taken a hundred times in the umbrella display!
Did you ever break your phone when travelling? What happened? How did it feel? Tell your story in the comments or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tasikmalaya is in West Java. It’s not very touristy, but has quite a few hotels.
- There are road, rail and air links to Jakarta, Bandung and other places in Java.
- Tasikmalaya October Festival ran from 14-17 October 2017 and will be an annual event.
- The air link to Jakarta is new, and has a patchy cancellation record due to bad weather, many obstacles, and lack of landing facilities at the airstrip.