Superheroes are coming to the rescue of Thailand's temples, where monks have commissioned giant statues of comic book icons and toy robots to entertain children while parents donate to their coffers.
Instead of the traditional tranquil Buddhas and mythical beasts that adorn most monasteries in the land, the shimmering Wat Ta Kien temple outside Bangkok is guarded by three towering Transformer robots.
The enormous and intricate sculptures, made from bits of scrap metal and painted bright orange, yellow and blue, "have no spiritual purpose", explained monk Pra Vichien.
"It's for children so they won't get bored when they come to the temple with their parents," he said.
Other temples are following suit in a country whose monasteries compete to draw visitors and keep donations flowing.
At least four Buddhist temples across Thailand and a meditation center have bought superhero statues, according to Pairoj Thanomwong, the Thai artist who runs the workshop where the sci-fi monsters and comic book figures are manufactured.
Armed with blow torches, heaps of metal bolts and twisted car parts, the artists piece together the elaborate sculptures in a warehouse in central Thailand called "Ban Hun Lek", which translates to "House of Iron Robots".
The largest sculptures — around seven to eight meters high — can be sold for thousands of dollars, he said.
The factory also sells its wares to local restaurants and bars but its biggest customer base lies abroad, especially in Europe, with around 80 percent of sales made to overseas clients who have seen the statues on social media.
Pairoj started with comic book classics but has expanded production to include everything from steely desks and chairs to polished replicas of luxury cars and motorcycles.
Nearly 90 percent of the materials are recycled metal, a cost-cutting measure that also means each piece is unique.
Tastes have changed quickly since he went into business, he said.
"In terms of the products that people like, it evolves over time," Pairoj explained.
"Over the past 10 years, people used to like (characters from) Aliens and Predator, but now they like the Transformers."
Yogyakarta is known for its beautiful nature, cultural heritages and well-preserved Javanese noble culture with its Keraton and Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat Sultanate. But Yogyakarta, or simply Jogja, also holds a lot of mystery, that cannot be separated from the Javanese-colonial mixed culture of the beautiful city.
It’s always interesting, and at some point, thrilling, to see and hear about mystery of a place. Maybe the mystery adds to the charm of this city in the eyes of strangers, and that figures why some mysterious spots in Jogja are also the famous ones.
Yogyakarta’s Sultan Palace or Keraton is one of the oldest buildings in Jogja that holds many stories from the past. Urban legend has it that the residence of the Sultan of Jogja is guarded by many unseen creatures, so anyone who visits the palace should maintain good attitude. According to local beliefs, those who have malicious intentions will get some "warnings" from the invisible palace guards.
Pasar Bubrah, near Mount Merapi
Pasar Bubrah, or Bubrah Market, lies about a kilometer from Merapi summit and often serves as a base camp for mountaineers. Well, it’s not really a market, considering that it's located up high on an active volcanic mountain. It’s a famous urban legend spot in Yogyakarta regions, with a nickname “ghost market.”
“Surely Mount Merapi is the kingdom of the spirits. But not everyone can see it, only those who have the (paranormal) ability, or when the ruler of the unseen nature deliberately wants to reveal its existence,” said Mbah Marijan, the late Merapi caretaker.
The place got its name for a reason. The base camp has a reputation for being a center of unexplained events and paranormal activities, with countless mountaineers as witnesses. A mountaineer wrote on his blog that once he camped in Bubrah Market, and in the middle of the night his companions and him heard the sound of gamelan as if people of a village were holding a celebration.
But no one was there but them. Upon their way down, their guide asked them to hurry, but refused to explain anything. Once they arrived at Mbah Marijan’s house in Kinahrejo, he explained that Merapi’s invisible dwellers were seeking for a sacrifice, thus he urged his companions to hurry. That day, a German mountaineer who was conducting a research died near Merapi summit.
Legend has it that the Queen of South Beach is bound by an ancient agreement with the early ruler of Keraton Ngayogyakarta, Sultan Agung, that she will regularly take sacrifices from among his people. The agreement is believed to still intact.
Gua Jepang, the Japanese caves, also adds to the list of the most mysterious places in Jogja. There are two of them: the Japanese Cave Puncong on Jogja-Parangtritis Road and the other is Japanese Cave Kaliurang, the underground tunnel, located at the foot of Mount Merapi. We’re talking about the Kaliurang one.
In the past, the cave was used as a place of torture of prisoners by Japanese soldiers. With many deaths occurred in the cave plus a tense atmosphere, many people have reported ghost sightings here. The recurring paranormal activities ranging from a sound of bodiless, marching soldiers, a ghost of a warrior covered in blood, unseen entity crying for help and local ghost called pocong.
Even in this modern era, the legend of Kanjeng Ratu Kidul or Nyi Roro Kidul (the Queen of South Beach) is still intact. Legend has it that the area of the south coast that is considered haunted is Parangkusumo beach, where the port of Sultan Palace takes place. This beach is believed to be the magical gate of the Kidul Palace, the occult home of Kanjeng Ratu Kidul. The spreading myth regarding this beach is, those who wear green color at the beach could be dragged by waves and died. Green is believed to be the favorite color of the queen, as is often seen in her paintings.
In the district of Gunung Kidul, there’s a phenomenon called Pulung Gantung. Pulung means “the flaming fireball”, and its presence always invites horror and uneasy feelings as if something terrible is about to come. Pulung Gantung drives people crazy, and those who see it (believed to be) ended up killing themselves.
Locals believe that death-message-carrier pulung is red and bright in color, while goodness-carrier pulung is white with a hint of green and blue. As if confirming the legend, Gunung Kidul area boasts numerous suicides. Averagely there were nine suicides per 100,000 population per year — that means 33 suicides per year, higher than Jakarta.
When someone mention “Trinity” and “Naked Traveler,” you’ll know what they’re talking about.
Yes, Trinity is one of the most popular travel writers in Indonesia. She now has published eleven books on traveling, including the phenomenal "The Naked Traveler" series. Since she started her blog in 2005 and published her first book in 2007, Trinity has inspired many young people in Indonesia to grab their shoes and start their own adventures.
“The Naked Traveler” books are collections of Trinity's short stories and notes while traveling around Indonesia and the world, including tons of humor, interesting shots, as well as the pros and cons of places she visited. She eventually gave up her corporate career and became a full-time traveler.
To date, she has visited 80 countries.
With the places she has been to, does she still have a dream place to visit? We talked to her to find out.
Can you tell us about your current activities?
I’m currently finishing The Naked Traveler 8. It's still about my experiences while traveling abroad and exploring Indonesia and the difference is in places I went to. The stories are obviously different than I wrote in previous books. Right now I just focus on that, because I don’t write while traveling. I only start writing when I’m home.
Do you have plans to travel in the near future?
This Eid we’ll go to Manado for a family holiday. Every year we travel together to different places. This year the planis to dive in Bunaken, then go to Tomohon and have some culinary adventure there.
I also plan to go to Rote, an island in East Nusa Tenggara with stunning tropical nature. At school back in the day, I read in textbooks, Rote Island is the southernmost island in Indonesia. I've been to Sabang, the westernmost island in Indonesia, so I'm curious to see Rote. They said the underwater scenery is amazing.
After a long period of traveling, surely you have visited many places. Did you ever get bored?
No, I never get tired of traveling and adventuring; I mean when I travel, there are always surprises waiting for me in every corner. The challenge is to write the story. It’s not an easy stuff. Certainly, there's always writer's block or moodiness. But then again, as long as I keep on traveling, I'll always have new stories to tell.
Any dream destination you haven’t visited yet?
Oh, there are many. There are 196 countries all around the globe, yet I’ve only visited 80 of them. There are 35 provinces in Indonesia, I’ve only explored 30. But there’s one thing on my bucket list that I don’t think will be fulfilled anytime soon, but one day I promise I’ll be there.
I'd love to explore the South Pole. It is a unique destination. It’s a road less traveled with minimum human presence. The nature is as virgin as it can be, and of course, I wanna be there before the ice melts. But it will need certain preparation so it won’t happen in the near future. However, I know what it takes to go there. When I was in South America, I found out that there’s a boat to the South Pole, which will take a week to reach the Antartic shore. But the cost is super expensive and the quota is limited.
I’m always looking for the natural beauty of each destination, and my favorite are the beach and the underwater. Speaking of which, Indonesia is a second to none, especially in eastern Indonesia. Landscape and nature there are amazingly beautiful.
When it comes to foreign countries, I seek the culture, architecture, although I still look for the nature as well, depending on which country I'm visiting. When I was in one of the developed countries in Europe, I enjoyed the architecture of the cities. In Asia, there are many unique and interesting cultures to be seen. If in Africa, there are safaris and wildlife. I’m usually looking for things I can’t find in Indonesia.
In addition to the fun , what do you get from traveling?
The more I travel around the world, the more I love Indonesia. I learned to appreciate my own country because this is not only about the beauty of nature or culture, or the architecture alone, but there are many comforts in Indonesia that can not be found in other countries.
For example, in European countries, after getting off the bus, you must walk in the middle of the cold. In Indonesia, you can ride an ojek. Another example, when you wake up starved at 2 a.m., unlike in Indonesia, there won’t be food to buy. In addition, there’s nothing that can beat Indonesian food. They’re the most delicious in the world!
The western coast of Aceh hides some secret paradises, and one of them is Momong Beach. Located in Lhoknga Subdistrict, Aceh Besar District, the remote beach is tucked in between hills of rocks, so exploring it takes effort and a bit of adventurous spirit. But once you get there, you'll see that all of those sweats and aches would pay off.
Momong Beach lies on a road less traveled and is not widely known yet. The paradise has all of its natural beauty: white sandy beach, lush rainforest and crystal clear sea. This beautiful beach can also be seen from Lampuuk Beach which is located not too far from a resort called Joel's Bungalow.
How to get to Momong Beach?
From Banda Aceh, Momong Beach is a 30-minute ride away. Trips can be taken from Jalan Elang in Banda Aceh, where you have to take directions to JalanTeuku Umar in Sukaramai (via Jalan Aladin Mansyursyah). From Jalan Cut Nyak Dhien, take direction to Seubun Keutapang, then take direction to Meunasah Balee until Joel's Bungalow seen at the corner.
Use Joel's Bungalow as a benchmark to reach Momong. According to travel blogger Arie Yamani, before the entrance gate of the inn, take the path on the right, which leads to Momong Beach. If you’re driving a car, you should park it near the inn.
Access to the beach is a bit difficult. Only two-wheeled vehicles could make it to the path until you reach the last stop where the road ends. From there, you still have to take a 500-meter walk to Momong.
The path you’re going through lies side by side with local residents' plantations and it could be slippery when it rains. After leaving this path, you have to climb a little bit to a small hill and through the canopy of trees, not too far from a small rainforest. From here, you can already hear the sound of waves hitting the rock in the distance.
When you reach the edge of the tropical forest, you’ll see what the whole struggle was for. Momong beach, with its incredible white sand beaches and blue sea, lies there with blue sky and rocks as its backdrop.
Unfortunately, swimming is not allowed due to sharp rocks and corals on the seabed, but you still definitely can take postcard-perfect photos here!
What do you have in mind when you hear "Dubai"?
You might think about huge desert, skyscappers and luxurious shopping centers.
But the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates has much more to offer than that and we're sure you'd want to experience them yourselves.
Here are some places and activities you might want to try.
1. Stay in style at Al Maha Resort
Have you ever wondered how it feels to live in a desert? Al Maha Resort is not just a luxury place for you to stay in, but it also offers you the culture and experience of living in a Bedouin-typical building.
You can also see animals that can only be found in Arab countries such as Oryx and Gazelles while sun-bathing at the poolside. FYI, you can also swim in the temperature-adjustable pool!
Al Maha Resort can also provide a place for 300 guests if you need to hold a wedding ceremony, family gathering, or other event.
2. Seek thrills at Skydive Dubai.
How about jumping out of a plane from 4,000 meters height through clouds? Skydive Dubai provides experienced instructor and safety rope to make sure you are safe. You can do it for the thrill or you can do it for the 'gram because a photographer would also be ready to capture your skydiving moments.
You can experience the free-fall for about one minute before the instructor opens the parachute and you will spend around 5 minutes witnessing the beauty of Palm Jumeriah until you land. You can also skydive above the desert if you want.
3. Dine like a star at Bread Street Kitchen & Bar
Bread Street Kitchen & Bar in Atlantis, The Palm offer tempting European dishes with a nice interior design.
You also can try their best menus including wagyu beef burger, Alaskan crab and pineapple carpaccio with kiwi and coconut sorbet. The restaurant is owned by Gordon Ramsay, so you know it's good.
4. Explore the dessert with Platinum Desert Safari.
One thing you must try while visiting Dubai is its Desert Safari. The tour would take you to exploring Dubai’s desert. The driver of Land Rover would pick you up in the afternoon and stop to let you taking pictures while enjoying sunset from the desert.
At night, the driver would take you to a great campsite to enjoy BBQ, Arabian coffee, Sisha, ride a camel, surf on the sand or paint your hands with henna. Belly dancers would perform before you leave.
Local elebrity Mischa Chandrawinata has enjoyed those activities in Dubai and shared the moments on his Instagram.
Check this video to watch Mischa's desert safari experience.
Valentino Rossi was spotted in Labuan Bajo, West Manggarai, East Nusa Tenggara on Monday.
The Italian racer was recorded stepping out of a plane in Komodo airport, Flores, East Nusa Tenggara. He was seen in black outfit and with a backpack.
Photos from Youtube/Telolet Bus Mania
The province's Head of Tourism and Creative Economy Agency Marius Ardu Jelamu confirmed the news.
“Yes, it’s true. [Valentino Rossi] arrived in Labuan Bajo airport and I think he's visiting the famous destination," he told state-owned news portal Antara.
Marius hoped that Rossi's visit would bring spotlight to Labuan Bajo although the racer has not shared anything regarding his visit on social media.
Rossi is scheduled for a pre-season race in Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia on Jan. 30.
Though West Kalimantan is not as popular as Bali or Lombok, there are many things to see in this province. Here are some pictures to show you what West Kalimantan has to offer.
1. Kapuas River
Image via Instagram/@emialfian
With 1,143 km length, it is the longest river in Indonesia. While local residents rely on Kapuas for their daily purposes, tourists can enjoy the river from spots provided by the government.
2. Randayan Island
Image via Instagram/@uraypascalw
Randayan Island in Singkawang is one of tourists' favorite places to visit during Holiday in West Kalimantan. You can get here via Suak bay or Samudra Indah beach using motorboat for only 30 minutes. With its clear blue water and quiet athmosphere, this island is perfect for those wanting to find peace and stay away from city noise.
3. Rombo Dair Waterfall
Image via Instagram/@uthezeno
Rombo Dait in Skendal, Air Besar, Landak, West Kalimantan has been famous since 2015. It has a seven-level waterfall that is also a part of Dait river. Reaching this waterfall is a bit of challenge as you have to go through steep roads, but its natural beauty makes the effort worth it.
4. Pak Kasih Tayan Bridge
Image via Instagram/@aliahusnah
It is the longest bridge in Kalimantan and the second longest in Indonesia after Suramadu bridge in East Java. The bridge in Tayan Hilit, Sanggau, West Kalimantan connects West Kalimantan with several provinces in the island.
People come not only to cross but also to take selfie and even have picnic near the bridge.
5. Lemukutan Island
Image via Instagram/@zenacantiek
Local government dubbed this island as a tourist village. You can jump into the blue water and take pictures with corals.
6. Sirin Punti Waterfall
Image via Instagram/@nuranisamaliki
The waterfall in Kelampuk, Meragun, West Kalimantan provides visitors with fresh air and beautiful view.
7. Jamur Bengkayang Hill
Image via Instagram/@delvistepani
People call this place as “a land above the clouds.” You can reach this place by riding motorbike for four hours from Pontianak to Bengkayang, West Kalimantan. After taking a walk for 1.5 hours, you will be able to enjoy the wonderful view.
This place has become a favourite place to go since 2014 and people usually go here for a camping. There is no entrance fee but you are expected to maintain the cleanliness.