I was sitting on my purple couch having my mid-morning coffee hand in my familiar white mug. Sip after sip, I started organizing my thoughts for writing a new poem in Malay about interconnections among people in the region when my phone blinked in green. Although my phone was set on silent mode a message that I am going for a trip to Indonesia popped on the screen as loudly as if it was a ringtone, what a pleasant surprise it is.
I quickly got my passport and snapped a photo of it just as Abang Naddin Shaiddin, the head of Media Trip Delegation instructed me to do. It’s a Media Familiarization Trip to Southeast Asia to Jakarta, Bromo, Banyuwangi and Bali, from 11 to 21 October 2015, the invitation’s letterhead, adorned with the colorful bird-like logo with the tagline: Wonderful Indonesia.
Joining the delegation of 40 journalists from Southeast Asia that arrived from their respective countries; Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Singapore and Cambodia, we reached a unique landmark in the Jakarta’s Historic Center in the evening. Café Batavia staff greeted us with smiles. We were hosted by Indonesia’s Ministry of Tourism Director Noviendi Makalam.
The Café is set in a 200-year-old building on the northwestern corner of Fatahillah Square. It is the second oldest building in central Jakarta after the Fatahillah Museum; we were not only set to dine here but to step into 19th century Jakarta during the colonial era. I must visit this charming oasis if I would have the chance to travel to Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta someday.
After enjoying the stunning sights and learning so many interesting things I thought of writing about this trip. I must say that the Banyuwangi Using Tribe also known as Usingnese peaked my interest. Enthralled upon the visits of different museums and billeted in the environmental friendly Kusuma Agrowisita picking Guavas and Apples. Two of our local tourism guides Mas Ozzy and Mas Gatot kept on mentioning Coffee Using or Kapai .The sound of coffee seems too inviting that I felt as if it was calling me to taste its authentic fresh brew.
Because we were all excited to join the invitation dinner with the Bupati (equivalent to Regent or Mayor) of Banyuwangi, Bapak Abdullah Azwar Anas and sipping the last drops of our coffee, we forgot to get back to Santika Hotel Banyuwangi early. It is until the charms and scents of our rooms in the hotel enticed us to rest and have a good sleep so we could prepare for the Banyuwangi Ethno Carnival the next day. The theme “The Usingnese Royal Wedding” highlighted the Ethno carnival which was to witness the dazzling parade, symbolizing the nickname “Sunrise of Java”.
“It’s great. It’s traditional brewing. Yes, I like this coffee,” I excitedly answered Andy Monir (from Malaysia) a travel agent who came along to join us in the trip. He asked me how the coffee fared. “Never enough with one glass”, I added. I went to the mini bar inside a traditional house to ask for more. It was overwhelming, when the owner himself Bapak Setiawan Subekti served me a cup with his friendly smile. There is no doubt that Pak Iwan, as he is fondly called is an expert coffee planter who is known locally and in internationally made this cup of coffee more special by serving us himself.
I overheard the chats of Pak Iwan with Abang Naddin Shaiddin, seven traditional earthquake resistant Using houses are laid out nicely in the land of approximately 7,000 square meters. Each house was embellished with authentic furniture of Banyuwangi with antiques aged approximately more than fifty years .Typical traditional houses are Krokogan, Tikel, Tikel Balung and Serangan. Each house had divisions; foyer, living room and kitchen.
At night, the dim light with a sound of nature make the atmosphere cooler. No wonder why many guests linger or simply chat with Pak Iwan. If anyone wanted to taste this coffee, take a flight or ferry from Bali to Banyuwangi. In this trip, we travelled across the long road near Java Sea, from Malang to Banyungwangi. Everyone can actually choose which way to take. Along the way there’s also a ground black coffee shop.
I simply cannot think of a word that describes the kindness of the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia that brings guests for a familiarization trip like this. Aside from bringing me closer to the past, I can feel the warm welcome of the Indonesians that indeed we belong to the same ancestry and history – a race of gallant sailors, warriors, humble, peaceful and diverse.
Indonesia is truly a haven of “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika”, a national motto from a Javanese word for “Unity in Diversity”. With warm welcome, I am personally inviting myself as everyone is welcome to be their guest, not simply a visitor. I will be proud to welcome everyone and will say, Sugeng Rawuh to Wonderful Indonesia!