Earlier this year my husband and I experienced the real rural life in Central Java. We went to a village called Candi Rejo. It’s located about half-an-hour away from Borobudur, the biggest Buddhist temple in Indonesia.
We heard from our partners in Indonesia that Candi Rejo has started community based & eco tourism project. We went to learn more about this project. In our perspective, community based tourism means tourism that consults, involves and benefits the local community. We wanted to see if this was really the case in this village.
At first, we were not really sure what to expect. We bought our tickets from Bali, made arrangements with the village chief, and the next thing we know we were at Jogjakarta’s airport.
Our guide was called I.J. (pronounced EE-Jay). She was very friendly and talkative, even though her English was limited. She was an interesting lady. She’s about 35 years old, and everyday she wears a hijab (head scarf) and long sleeves shirt to cover her arms even though the weather was very hot. Obviously it’s a normal look for Muslim women there. IJ is a single mom, raising 2 kids by herself. She is the only female guide in her village, and she’s very proud of that. She said when there are no visitors to guide around she farms just like the rest of the people in her village.
After we meet IJ we drove to the town, which is about 1 hour from the airport. The view was amazing. We could see a volcano in a distance while we passed mustard fields, cornfields, tapioca farms and other kinds of vegetable farms. We also passed a 9th century Buddhist temple called Pawon. It is dedicated to Kuvera, the God of Fortune.
The first thing we did when we got to Candi Rejo was to meet the village chief. We thought he would be this older man with a grey mustache just like many other Indonesian government officials. We were surprised when the village chief, Mr. Ian, showed up. A charming 28-year old man, soft spoken and very well dressed.
He explained briefly the history of eco-tourism in Candi Rejo. Only a few years ago an Indonesian NGO approached the village and introduced the concept of community-based ecotourism. After many village meetings, the community in Candi Rejo embraced the idea. The village also has the benefit of being very close to Borobudur, the biggest Buddhist temple in Indonesia and a great wonder of the ancient world. They have a river that can be used for white water rafting, and also has a nice trail called Watu Kendil, which is the path to Kendil Hill. From the top of this hill, one can view 5 volcanoes and also the whole construction of Borobudur Temple.
The ecotourism project in Candi Rejo is a pilot project in Indonesia. The village has about 5,000 people, and majority of the people there are farmers. The main unit that managed the tourism industry in Candi Rejo is the community runs cooperative (co-op), not the government. The head of the cooperative still reports to the village chief, but the revenue goes directly to the locals. best attraction Sentosa singapore
The locals voluntarily joined the cooperative. For example, those who have extra rooms in their houses can sign up as accommodation providers. People who have horse drawn rickshaws can join the cooperative as one of the village transportation providers. Everyone in the cooperative has to agree with the roster system, which gives the guides, porters, village tours, trek trail maintenance, and handicraft sales equal opportunity to make money.
No doubt that the ecotourism project has increased the village’s economy. Since Candi Rejo gained its official “tourism village” status in 2003, it has developed into a cleaner and wealthier village. The village chief has ordered every home in the village to grow “Rambutan”, a tropical fruit tree in front of their houses. The result is: this village is becoming very green and shady. The weather in Central Java can get very hot, so these big trees can protect pedestrians from the burning sun.