Indonesia: Petirtaan Jolotundo Dewasa; East Java

At the conclusion of our tour of the Resort’s extensive gardens, there was time for a quick sortie out into the nearby rice paddies and a walk to a village.


It was just a 15 minute walk along a very narrow path to get to the village. We needed to tread carefully as the path was along the top of an irrigation ditch.


Even here, beside the path, there were interesting plants and insects to find.


Unknown but obviously enjoyed the damp.


The various paddies contained rice at different stages of growth.  Some had not long been planted, while other paddies were nearly ready for harvest.


This crop was only days away from harvest…


…a fact that this hungry locust was more than aware of!


There were some attractive flowers of Mimosa pudica growing alongside the path.  It is a creeping annual or perennial herb belonging the pea family.  Its common name is Sensitive Plant because when touched or disturbed the finely divided leaves close up by folding together, thereby defending themselves from harm.  They re-open a few minutes later.  The plant is native to South and Central America, but is now a pan-tropical weed.


The small village was paved and very clean and neat.  The narrow roadways were lined with well looked after gardens.


A covered verandah sported a couple of tables made out of slabs of tree trunks supported by some old tree roots.  Nothing is wasted here!


Still unsheathed corn cobs, neatly woven into bunches, hanging up to dry.


Freshly cut and stacked bamboo, prior to being used for building purposes.


I guess this house belonged to a fisherman.


Interesting patterns and colours created by roof tiles…


…and stacked flat roof tiles…


…and split bamboo.


Bright yellow cosmos with their heads pointed to the sun.


Bi-coloured balsam… very attractive.


A couple of the younger members of the village were obviously interested us.


…and so was an older lady.


The whole area was rather wet as can be seen by the plant growth and water damage to the wall of this house.


Moss and ferns, another indicator of moist conditions.


Speckled flowers of the Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia wulfenii).


A busy wasp looking for moist mud to build its nest.


These lovely orange speckled flowers seemed to be common in the gardens we saw.


Another plant I don’t know… also enjoying the moist conditions.


The petals of this waterlily are still expanding after opening for the first time.


On our walk back to the resort for lunch, four of us decided there was time to continue on to a nearby Temple, Petirtaan Jolotundo Dewasa.It lies on the slopes of the 1653m Mount Penanggungan, a perfect cone that stands sentinel between the coastal plains and the volcanic hinterland.


 Along the way, we passed this abandoned shelter… the plants beginning to take over.


Jolotundo Temple is a centuries old Hindu shrine. It was built in 997AD for Udayara, a Balinese King, when he married a Javanese princess.


Nearby was a mosque.

Over many centuries and under successive dynasties, Jolotundo Temple has been a sacred place. Its still a place of spiritual power even today, long after Hindu-Buddhist Java gave way to Islam. The idea of bathing at this special bathing temple still brings pilgrims.


The temple precinct contains a series of stone pools filled with ‘holy’ water. These are filled with spring water which constantly runs and so replenishes any lost water. Many devotees travel quite some distance to bathe in the two separate pools, one for the ladies and the other for men. The spring water is supposed to possess ‘healing’ and ‘cleansing’ powers, so, after bathing, many pilgrims take containers of water away for later use.


A little boy and his dad at the men’s pool.


In the daytime these pools can appear to be a perfect family picnic spot. But, we were told, as darkness falls and the noise of the crickets rises, pilgrims arrive to burn incense, toss flower petals into the waters and bathe in prayer for healing, energy and good life. They come from many faiths… Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and those who still have ties to ancestor-worship and animism. But, unfortunately, we couldn’t stay until night fell… we still had many miles to cover on this day.


By the time we made it back to the resort, we were really ready for lunch… delicious.


 Before we left the resort we watched a demonstration on how to make red ginger tea. After that, we left the resort at 15.00 for the next part of our journey, a nearly four drive to Yoschi’s Hotel near Mt Bromo.

The last part of that drive was in the pitch dark as we climbed up a very, very twisty road to our hotel. It was probably just as well that we couldn’t see much of the scenery that we were driving through… very steep sides to a very narrow road!  But we made it safely, had dinner and fell into bed… we had a wake-up call booked 03.00. The mini bus would leave at 03.30 for us to be in time to watch the sunrise over Mt Bromo… and we certainly didn’t want to miss that! More anon.


All photographs copyright © DY  of  jtdytravels

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Indonesia: Seloliman Nature Reserve; East Java

After breakfast at Minggu, we left our cabins to begin a two and a half hour walk around the Nature Reserve guided by the head guy. I was more than happy to have extra time in this delightful area, time to photograph more of the plants. As I don’t live in the tropics, many of the plants and their flowers were new to me… all rather exotic. Any help with the identity of those marked as ‘unknown’ is welcome?


A sleepy volcano created a wonderful backdrop to the resort.


Some of the plants were quite common in the gardens that we visited, like this one, the Peacock Flower, (Caesalpinia pulcherrima)… here in close up, a single flower.


Also in close up, in all its crinkly beauty, is the previously seen Crepe or Malay Ginger (Costus speciosus) with its ballerina like tutu petals.


This dragonfly was flirting around a small ornamental pond.  Thankfully, it settled long enough for this photo. What a beauty it is!


Perhaps, the dragonfly wanted to take a longer look at this waterlily, as did I.


Bleeding Heart (Clerodendrum thomsoniae) comes from Central Western Africa but is grown in many parts of the tropics.


Droplets of water clinging to a waxy leaf.


Unknown. Just one of the many that I hadn’t seen before.


A well camouflaged caterpillar eating its way through the leaves of its food plant. It was close to 10 cm. (4 ins.) in length.


An unknown member of the ginger family.


A whorl of spiralled leaves.


More raindrops on a waxy leaf.


This leaf has delightful symmetry and texture.  However, some chewing insect decided to upset the balance.


A large, female spider sits on her silky web while her diminutive suitors look over her larder.  They, no doubt, had other things on their mind, but we know what happens then!


Unknown… but superb don’t you think?.


Another unknown but delightful flower.


The deeply fringed petals of this (Hibiscus schizopetalus) lead to its name.  The species name translates to “cut petals”.  It originates in tropical eastern Africa.


The trellis supports a vine producing very large passion fruit.


Unknown to me… but it must have a common name referring to a leopard!


And yet another plant unknown to me.


A St Joseph’s spider showing its knobbly yellow ‘knees’.


I don’t think this spider bites but it looks as though it would at the first opportunity.


At the conclusion of the tour around the grounds of the resort, we crossed a road and headed off along some paddy bunds to a nearby village… but more of that anon.


All photographs copyright © DY  of  jtdytravels

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Bhutan #8 : Sosokha and Legends of a Divine Madman

After a rather uncomfortable afternoon and evening, I was feeling much better by the next morning and ready to join in more exploration of the scenic Punakha Valley.  We planned to travel south along the Mo Chhu to the fertile Lobesa farmlands and make a stop at the village of Sosokha.  This village makes the most of the tourism and souveneir trade associated with the ‘Divine Madman’, Lama Drukpa Kunley.  The phallic symbolism, so prevalent in rural Bhutan, grew up around the legends associated with this rather wayward monk’s life in the 1500s.  The Chimi Lakhang Temple, built in his honour in the 1500s, is a 25 minute walk through rice fields from the village.


P1000339  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000339 © DY of jtdytravels

On the drive south, we passed by the beautiful Punakha Dzong and were promised a visit there on the way back.  I just hoped the weather would hold.  The forecast threatened rain and this was one place in Bhutan that we did not want to miss out on or, indeed, have our visit spoiled by rain.  But the itinerary, as planned, had to be adhered to, no matter what… that’s the nature of group tours, is it not?


P1000454  ©  DY of jtdytravels

P1000454 © DY of jtdytravels

However, we did demand that the bus at least stop at the entrance to the Dzong when we noticed a group of women singing.  Sometimes you just have to take the moment when it presents itself!  And this is where we heard the Talo singers performing those special songs from Talo which, by centuries old tradition, could, until recently, only be heard at the Talo Festival in March.  The songs were, in my view, quite durgy, but they are obviously of great import to the locals.


P1000458  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000458 © DY of jtdytravels

Hanging over a fence watching the ladies sing, were a group of locals.  Now I don’t know, and I shouldn’t make assumptions, but it appears from their faces that they are perhaps not too pleased, or at least surprised, that these songs are being performed outside of Talo and outside of Festival time.  Or maybe they were just listening intently to the words which, of course, I didn’t understand.  Whatever …, there’s not a lot of smiling.

This was just one of those small moments of happen-stance that can occur when travelling if we are willing and able to stop and take in what is actually happening around us and not just follow the scripted itinerary.

Our next stop was Sosokha.  And before we go on with the photos, let me warn you that it can be somewhat embarrassing, for those of us who live outside of Bhutan, to walk into a village such as this where every house, restaurant, cafe and shop is painted with a large and quite explicit phallic symbol.  They are just a fact of life here.  Bhutanese tradition has it that these symbols will drive away the evil eye and malicious gossip.


P1000465  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000465 © DY of jtdytravels

Various paintings and window decorations, including a phallic symbol, are common on village houses such as this one in rural Sosokha.  However, this symbol is now not often seen on modern houses in the capital city of Bhutan, Thimphu.  That’s perhaps just another aspect of this country becoming more in tune with the outside world.  And this symbolism is not generally part of the decorations on most monasteries and dzongs which are revered as places of worship.  But, just about everywhere else in Bhutan… yes, it’s a big and very obvious feature.  Some are ‘gift-wrapped’ with bows and the like, others a little less ornate but most seem to arise to the occasion!


P1000461  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000461 © DY of jtdytravels

A local cafe, suitably embellished.  No malicious gossip here, please.  Although, what we can gossip about are the myths and legends that underpin how this symbol became such an important part of Bhutanese custom.

Oral history in Bhutan infers that the phallus was an integral part of an unorthodox form of animistic and shamanistic religion called Bon which existed in Bhutan before Buddhism became the state religion.

And although there are many legends, myths and stories surrounding the use of this symbol, most of them refer to Lama Drukpa Kunley, a monk who lived in the late 1400s and early 15oos.  Referred to as the “Mad Saint” or “Divine Madman”, he was known for his bizarre lifestyle and total lack of inhibition and for his ‘shock-treatment’ ways of teaching.  He’s said to have used poetry, song, dance, humour, drink, and, not least, sex to teach his contemporaries the great lessons of life. He was a great seducer of women and apparently sired many children across the countryside, although he was never married.  I’m not sure how he would be viewed today in a time when monks have adopted a celibate lifestyle!

According to some, the mere mention of Drukpa Kunley will, ‘invariably, draw a mischievous smile on the face of most Bhutanese men and a red tinge in the face of many Bhutanese maidens’.  He is possibly partly responsible for the very strongly male dominated Bhutanese society, something which may change with the modernisation of the country.  (By the way, the current changes in Bhutan are termed modernisation NOT westernisation… there is a difference!)


Book Cover

Book Cover

Above is a photo of the cover of a book about the life of Drukpa Kunley.  He was, it seems, a relentless critic of the common man, be that man a monk or a farmer.  He mocked both secular and religious establishments, was not bound by commonly held views of morality and conventionalism, and spoke out against what he saw as the narrow-mindedness of people who do little more in life than ‘stake out and defend their own insular existence’.  He now has legendary status.

Our walk from this village of Sosokha would take us through farmlands to Chimi Lakhang Temple, the so called ‘Temple of Fertility’, which is dedicated to Drukpa Kunley.


P1000469  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000469 © DY of jtdytravels

On that walk, I was reminded very strongly of the paintings of Monet!


P1000470  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000470 © DY of jtdytravels

But a slight turn in direction and I was firmly back in Bhutan!

Mountains, rice fields, a chorten and prayer flags – all so very Bhutanese.


P1000471  ©  DY  of jtdytravels

P1000471 © DY of jtdytravels

Along the way, we came upon this test field of the various varieties of rice already released in Bhutan.  Research into rice growing and improved farming techniques is one of the key on-going programs in Bhutan today.

According to a report on the economic impact assessment of the rice research program in Bhutan,  D. PEMA CHOEPHYEL, Director of the Council for Research and Extension in Bhutan, states that rice is “indispensable in the Bhutanese diet and culture; without rice, hunger remains insatiable and divine offerings stay unfulfilled.  In the good old times, there was enough rice for every-one, even a little extra for trading with neighbouring Tibet.  Now, Bhutan needs to import (some) milled rice annually.  The situation would have been worse if not for the national rice research and development program.

The remarkable journey of rice research in Bhutan began in 1984… and has… come a long way, starting from scratch to now building a redoubtable national research system that has started paying rich dividends.  This report attempts to document the impact in the country.  As uncovered in the study, we are proud to note that rice production has been increasing steadily over the years, improved rice technologies have led to an increase in national rice output, farmers have been adopting improved technologies with high net returns, and household food security has improved markedly.”


P1000472  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000472 © DY of jtdytravels

A view back to the village across the rice farms.


P1000473  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000473 © DY of jtdytravels

Closer to the temple, we came across a handicraft shop, selling, amongst other souvenirs, various representations of the famous phallic symbol.  Many Bhutanese tourists as well as international visitors, come to this temple.  It is one of the most visited temples in all of Bhutan so the people of the village do a good trade.  I wonder what the mad monk would think of this use of his name and his lifestyle for commercial gain.


P1000474  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000474 © DY of jtdytravels

As usual when travelling, I looked for something suitable to hang on our Christmas tree.

I decided on one of these small dolls.


P1000477  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000477 © DY of jtdytravels

Although archery is the main traditional sport of Bhutan, Khuru is another popular game played with the aim of striking a small target.  Unlike archery, Khuru requires only a relatively simple kit of darts and target and can be enjoyed in any village field.  We stopped for awhile to watch a group of young men show off their skill at this sport.


P1000478  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000478 © DY of jtdytravels

The dart has to be thrown over a long distance at a very small target.


P1000480  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000480 © DY of jtdytravels

As we neared the Temple, a group of monks approached us.

They wore the typical red robes of Bhutanese monks.


Black Chorten at …. (photo from web)

Chimi Lakhang Temple (photo from web)

The Chimi Lakhang (or ‘No Dog’) Temple was built late in the 1500s, in honour of the mad monk. Legend has it that Lama Drukpa Kunley earned this honour by subduing a demoness at Dochu La.  She, it is said, had been demonising the locals and he probably subdued her in his usual seductive way, using his ‘flaming thunderbolt of infinite wisdom”… now there’s a fancy euphemism for you if ever I heard one!  He then killed the demoness, who by then, legend affirms, had taken the form of a dog.  After saying “No Dog”, he then buried the remains of the dog under a mound on, presumably, this hill. And then he’s said to have built the black chorten seen on the right in the photo. 

This temple is also referred to as the ‘Temple of Fertility’ and infertile couples come from all over Bhutan to receive a blessing to help them conceive a child.  Since the mad monk was known for his uncontrolled lust and womanising, one of his greatest gifts to countless beneficiaries of his lust was: children; the gift was life itself.

And there you have it, a couple of  legends associated with this temple.


P1000483  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000483 © DY of jtdytravels

Nowadays, the monastery associated with the temple, is a place of education for young boys since monasteries are one of the best ways for poor people to have their boys educated in Bhutan.  The boys don’t have to stay as monks once educated but they can choose to stay on if they so wish.  I wonder what the future holds for these two?

And just before we leave this famous temple with its various legends,

here’s your flower for today…


P1000482  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000482 © DY of jtdytravels

… a beautiful waterlily in a pond by the temple.

Now you didn’t expect that, did you?

more anon


All photography © copyright David Young

Thanks to Jennie for the research for this story

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