Fri, 30 May 2003

Candirejo tourist village offers unique scenery

Bambang M and Gigin W Utomo Contributors Magelang, Central Java

It is six in the morning in Candirejo, Magelang, Central Java. The thick mist is lifting and the air is getting warmer. The beautiful surroundings are beginning to appear.

In the distance, four volcanoes -- Mount Merapi, Mount Merbabu, Mount Sindoro and Mount Sumbing, are visible. In the foreground the majestic Borobudur Temple stands out above lush green ricefields. Progo River and Sileng River cross the village of Candirejo like giant snakes.

This view can be savored from one of many hills in the Menoreh Mountain range, some 800 meters above sea level in Butuh, Candirejo.

Just three kilometers southeast of the Borobudur Temple, the village is famous for its natural scenery and culture.

Along with the beautiful scenery, tourists can also find large oddly shaped stones on the hills. The stones are named according to their appearance and many of them resemble household goods, so are given names like Watu Kendil (Pitcher Stone) or Watu Dandang (Steamer Stone).

According to local beliefs, if Watu Kendil topples, it will be a bad sign for the lowland areas around Borobudur Temple. According to local superstition the area will be threatened by floods.

Lying so close to Borobudur, many tourists spend the night at the village and then watch the sunrise from the temple.

"The residents are aware of the village's potential, and have agreed to make Candirejo a tourist village," said Slamet Tugiyanto, the head of Candirejo's village.

The village was officially named a tourist village by Minister of Culture and Tourism I Gde Ardika in April this year.

"The development of Candirejo as a tourist village is also meant to avoid the concentration of tourism activities only at Borobudur Temple," said Satya Hermawan of Patra-Pala Institute for Social Ecology and Ecotourism. Patra-Pala Institute is a non- governmental organization that helped develop Candirejo as a tourist village with the financial support of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Interestingly ecotourism in Candirejo is managed completely by local residents who have prepared everything tourists need, including 10 Javanese-style houses for homestays, and local tourist guides.

Covering an area of nearly 49,000 square kilometers, the Menoreh Mountan range surrounds the Borobudur Temple. A change in either the cultural or physical landscape therefore, would effect the preservation of the temple. If the area is deforested, for example, Borobodur could be flooded.

Visiting tourists can enjoy the morning views from the mountains and then go trekking through the Menoreh range where a variety of birds and animals can be seen. Locals believe rare Javanese tigers live in the area.

Trekkers can go to the pandanus cave, so called because of the thick pandanus trees found along the trail between Butuh and Wonosari.

During harvest time, tourists can pick fruit and vegetables with the local people.

"Many foreign tourists love trekking along the riverside," said a local guide Imam Taufik, referring to the beautiful landscape along Progo or Sileng river where tourists can watch local fishermen at work.

Other interesting places to visit include the bamboo and pandanus handicraft centers, where tourists can learn how these crafts are made.

At certain times, tourists can watch nyadran , a ritual held every Ruwah month according to the Javanese calendar to offer prayers for the villagers' ancestors. The Candirejo village also holds cleansing rituals the 15th of every Sapar month according to the Javanese calendar.

The village is also home to traditional performances like jathilan dance, shadow puppet shows and traditional dances like Gatholoco/Wulangsunu and Kubrosiswo.

Touring the village offers guests the opportunity to refresh their mind while at the same time helping to preserve Borobudur, one of the world's most famous historical sites.