Traveling is where it leaves you speechless and then turns you into a storyteller. I disappeared from the busy streets of Jakarta and experienced a moving 6-day journey, exploring Kediri and its surroundings, and came back to the city as a story teller.
This is my story on the gems of Kediri we delved into, the spaces nearby and how I processed it all. From the people to the food, the nature till the landscaping — and even the tobacco. Kediri was packed with different surprises at each corner, and this Kediri Betutur experience left me impressed, overwhelmed and weirdly enough empty.
The journey began from when I caught the earliest flight from Jakarta leaving to Surabaya — still felt a confusion on why Kediri, was chosen to be the city to explore for my betutur experience. After the short flight, I landed safely to Surabaya, continuing on a road trip towards Kediri.
At arrival, I was welcomed by nasi pecel — a dish that I end up craving until this day. The combination of rice, long beans and hot, spicy peanut sauce tasted oddly different from how I would regularly eat it in Jakarta, the hotness from the sauce and the crunch from the peyek had a kick to it, maybe it was the village atmosphere, maybe it was the style of cooking but it surely got me excited to start the journey.
The trip itself was a combination of nature and culture — it was like the typical holiday where you’d stop by the tourist attractions such as Candi Lor, a historical temple built in 937, Gunung Kelud, the East Java stratovolcano and Monumen Simpang Lima Gumul, the city’s icon located in the CBD of Kediri. But aside from that, we experienced a more homey holiday as well, where we would walk down the streets of Jl. Dhoho, searching for the best street food, Pasar Setono Betek, where I found myself a pair of vintage Levi Jeans for only IDR 10,000 and Gereja Tua Poh Sarang, the oldest Catholic church in location where I sampled Sate Kelinci (Rabbit Satay) for the first time.
With the 6 days packed — there were endless possibilities in learning a new thing, in fact every day there was always something new I took in, there was always a funny memory or a touching time but from the countless memories I could choose —I jotted down in my head 3 moments that stood out the most from this trip: one where I felt like home, one where I learnt about myself and others and one where I will always keep close to my heart.
The first is when we went to Pasar Setono Betek, here is where I discovered a marketplace where there was everything. From fresh cow-brain chopped up, crisp greens straight from the farm, hot sambal roa sold in bulk and even my friend Gabe, found Kerupuk Pasir — a kerupuk that would make your nose tingle of itch. This was all located along the frontline of the market — what shocked me was when I reached the back area, where there were stalls lined up selling barang loak. It was the fleamarket of Pasar Setono Betek, and automatically when seeing this the images of cow blood and brain in my head fled.
Having such a passion in vintage wear, or anything aged, I thought to myself “Nab, you are home!”. I was extremely happy finding this treasure at the back of the market, it was filled with a complete pile of footwear from kitten heels to suede loafers, jackets in different shades of red and piles and piles of denim. The interesting part was actually meeting the stall owners, I spent a good half hour there, going through their items whilst talking to them.
One of them spotted my camera, and said: “Oh, mba’e tukang foto buat koran tah?” Which translates to asking if I was a newspaper journalist, I explained my reason on why I was in the market at the fist step and took pictures of them, surprisingly enough — they loved being shot, and if they weren’t happy with the picture, they would ask me politely to take it again and what surprised me more, was I was more than ecstatic to take pictures of them, I wasn’t so excited when I stopped by the other sites where it was green scenery, or maybe taking any pictures in general. But when I saw them pose for me, change smiles, change body gestures I couldn't resist!
Some of them had their families selling with them, babies and grandmas were all over the place. Some even named the cats around the market and labeled them as their own. It was a neighbourhood of friendly competition, living happily in the market space.
Most of them get their clothing in bulk, shipped from the city and sent in huge sacks where they would then curate which of them looks best for display — they all competed with each other, to get me to buy something from their pile, throwing items of clothes and telling me that this piece flatters my body more, this piece will make me look more pretty and some even said “Iki loh mba! Biar jodoh anteng dateng” which means “This one dear! So you can get your soulmate.” I finally bought a denim Levis skirt from Bude, she was the senior of all the stalls and people called her as the wisest one — she’s been in the loak industry since she was a teen.
The funny thing was I imagined myself as if I were in my favourite store, wondering about and picking from the racks and asking the shopkeeper if these jeans flatter me or not. I told them my stories on why I like op-shopping and they told me the best spots to go in Kediri, I ended up getting a pair of yellow baggy pants, with batik-like patterns. Both of the items I got were only IDR 10.000, imagine how happy I was getting such a deal on those one of a kind items.
I hugged them goodbye and headed back to the group, carrying a black plastic bag in my hands. To some people, it might be silly for them smiling around carrying something thats heavy of dust, but for me — it was like discovering new treasures, the thrill of finding a hobby of mine in a market, especially in Kediri.
Another highlight for me occurred on the third day, we woke up at 2 am to leave towards Bukit Banyon to chase the sunrise. The ride was bumpy, you would literally jump every time the driver passed a hole on the road. When we arrived, it was foggy — the weather wasn’t in the best condition. All you could see were the city lights of Kediri, where the lights were put in position so neat and organized, the opposite of Jakarta’s messy landscaping.
We ended up waiting for around 2 hours until the sun actually appeared, now having this trip done with my fellow classmates and lectures, in those two hours we bonded, things I never knew about my friends soon came into my ears and things I didn’t think I’ll tell anyone were tattling out of my mouth — even though I had eyes drooping from exhaustion. Hints of the sun came in dropping, the colour purple and pink painted the sky, the sun appeared very slowly actually because of the foggy weather but when it did come, it took my breath away.
The view was spectacular, it did not just please my eyes but my ears were pleased from all the silence. Being up there was like there were no worries, and as cheesy as it might sound being up there with the right people made it even better. The bumpy ride up, was definately worth it.
After Bukit Banyon, we left towards Pantai Prigi. A beach that was filled with mystical stories and rumours. We didn’t take out our cameras here, we simply enjoyed the little break we needed from the city life. We took a boat tour and parked the boat onto a private island — it’s a shame that trash was found at the edge of the shoreline but aside from that the water and coral around it was amazing. Again I must say, the discovery of the island was more satisfying because it was with the right people.
I soon learnt a whole new side of me, I was never really a person into nature or its surroundings, I never really appreciated was has been put on this Earth. And I’ve learnt more about the people who are close to me, what they like and who they are. I repetitively thought in my head on how thankful I should be in life and how amazing life can be when the obsession on technology is taken away.
The last highlight was attending the Kediri Betutur, an art event combining the talents of Javanese art form from all over Indonesia. It was on a Sunday night at Situs Bung Karno “Ndalem-Pojok”. When I arrived, the sun has not yet set, the event has not yet started but it was crowded with people. The performers and its team, the residents around and street vendors were all around the place. I paid a visit to Bung Karno’s old home, seeing the inside and how incredibly sederhana it is,
Thats one thing that I got from this Betutur, sederhana in English means simple, modest, humble, homely. However, all those words sound better in Indonesian, no? The beauty of this Indonesian word perfectly explained how I felt in the next 5 hours of my life.
After visiting the home, the show was starting. A boy opened the event, reading Pancasila and Proklamasi Indonesia — my heart dropped as the little boy read it out loud in front of the mic. I myself, haven’t attended any upacara (ceremonies) in the past few years, and throughout my school years I have never been as proud to hear the proclamation as I was that night. Seeing this young figure at such small age interpret a strong nationalism spirit in him made me question myself on how I’ve impacted the nation or not.
The show continued with performances, dances with such strong choreography — each movement translated into a message. The performance was called Panji Tani which was originated from Panji Asmorobangun — a rich Aristotle who became a farmer. The dance within the performance represented different symbols, it was symbolised in rice, fire, water and smoke: each represented different meanings.
The performance was moving for me, it was so intense yet very subtle. There was no need for a big stage, or fancy lights, in fact they performed under a tree! But yet, there was a magical factor from within. I have never experienced such a feeling, it was a mixture of happiness, pride and a dab of mystical suspense. I was touched seeing the performers, lost inside the translation from movement. And what caught my eye was the people around it, the crowd watching it. They just sat down, on the ground — uncaring of whatever is around them and just kept their eyes peeled towards the performers.
I talked to a fellow photographer next to me, he was from the local papers in Kediri. He was impressed seeing a Belgian researcher coming into the village, and he was more happy that the foreigner gets to see this side of Java, this side of Indonesia. I smiled at him back and continued to watch the show until the end, it was closed by of course Kuda Lumping: is a form of Javanese dance that depicts a group of Horsemen. It lasted for hours, I was tired but I didn’t want to miss out, it was the first time for me seeing a performance like this and i was eager to find out the ending.
The peak of the trip was in Kediri Betutur, not only because it is the main reason for the departure but from the cultural dip I have let myself in. The Javanese culture has a certain beauty from it that is so attractive to hear or see, I felt a certain sederhana factor from watching the overall performance, it wasn’t just from Bung Karno’s old hut.
I finally understood why we were taken back to Kediri. The journey itself didn’t just give me the cultural boost I needed, but it let me get to know my self even more. The people of Kediri were just a bonus from their quiet, serene city. And I found myself lost in all the places i visited. Travelling does leave you speechless, and now that the trip is over, I often feel an empty feeling inside of me, craving to go back one more time.
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