Tasikmalaya October Festival, Umbrellas and a broken screen

Disaster strikes

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!


Umbrella Display

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!

Grand Procession

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. 

Ki Lengser

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. 


Situ Gede

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.

Travel woes

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 mystory@hellomister.net

Fact File


  • 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. 

51 thoughts on “Tasikmalaya October Festival, Umbrellas and a broken screen

  1. Tasik’s attractions are enhanced by being the base for visiting Gunung Galunggung, and, a bit further away, Papandayan. Neither requires any serious climbing.

  2. Should I apply for the post of Ki lengser? I had a puncture 15 miles from base, discovered the tube was trashed, so tried to phone Gena for help. Phone would not work as Vodaphone had decided I was too inactive, so had to walk back – Luckily after 2 miles another cyclist came my way and gave me a spare tube. I have carried one ever since!

    • Hehe I think it’s supposed to be a young man who looks old, not an old man who looks young…

      I always carry a spare tube. Always. In fact these days I carry a spare tyre too!

  3. Answering your question – I cried, even some tears, everytime my phone drops. No one can bear the sound the drop, even more cracking sounds.

    By the way, your pictures are beautiful. You certainly has managed to capture the spirits of the festivals.

  4. Such a bright and beautiful post this is and those umbrella up in the sky are adding so much colours to the whole place.

  5. What an interestingly colourful event-cum-street parade. I have not heard of this October Festival before but this is definitely more wholesome and family-oriented. Amusing how local culture was incorporated, such as the shoe costume and weird mascots.

  6. This Tasikmalaya October Festival looks so much fun. Splendid colorful costumes and props. Such a great idea to celebrate this kind of tradition. Hope I can visit here next year to experience this superb festival.

  7. Aww sorry for your phone and the earthquake all in one day must’ve been a real hassle to you. But glad that you’re okay 🙂 The festival looks fun and great photos you got here! 🙂

  8. all that vibrant colours in one place…gosh such a beautiful sight..but the guy in the peacock outfit looked pretty displeased…

    Anyways, hope you got your screen fixed.

  9. Indonesia has a rich culture and I think part of traveling is discovering how to appreciate others’. The Tasikmalaya October Festival is so colorful, cheerful and lively. It’s even more interesting that in a world where technology is in great opposition with local culture, the people of Indonesia could recreate their festivals to depict their culture seamlessly. I’ll love to attend the Tasikmalaya festival someday. Nice pictures. And sorry about your phone. Rather than dropping, I’ve had mine stolen

    • Yeah I think it’s cool when traditional beliefs move into modern times alongside the artefacts of the digital age. The integration makes it easy to assume that that the places and modern and homogenous to other locations in the world, but it’s nit as easy as that!

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