There are a couple of excellent art shops in Rantepeo. One on the west side of Jalan Ahmad Yani has an upstairs show room featuring items from throughout Indonesia, but it does have a section devoted to Torajan arts and crafts. There are some incredible weavings and hangings - you certainly must take home at least one small piece of Torajan cloth. But what struck me the most were the incredible, large paintings on paper thin bark. The paintings all depicted parts of Torajan life. Asking price was approximately 50 US$ - could do a little bargaining if you bought a couple of items. The paintings were carefully wrapped and packaged in bamboo tubes (complimentary).
You can also purchase old pieces of Tongangon and rice barns in some of the villages, and many of the tourist sites have tiny replicas of the tau tau. Some amazing stuff - I wished I had a bigger back pack.
The first picture on the right is of my 'saviour' in the art shop in Rantepeo. I had been travelling in Sulawesi for four weeks, in Toraja for one, when I went to the art shop with my guide. After making my purchases we left and I returned to my accommodation. Ten minutes later I heard my guide yelling for me. I had left my camera - with all the pictures of my travels - in the art shop. The wonderful girl had run out onto the street, found my guide and returned my camera to him. I couldn't believe my luck - how generous she had been - the camera would have been worth months of salary to her. Some people truly have a heart of gold!
Next morning I bought a heap of kue khas Toraja - traditional Torajan cakes - and took them to the art shop to say thank you.
What to buy: First priority is to find a nice piece of Torajan cloth. Buy a painting as described above. And you can't leave Toraja without a few packages of Torajan coffee and some kue khas Toraja. If you can fit in an old piece of a Tonganan or rice barn .....
It is well-known to eat fruit and stay healthy. Pay a visit to Rantepao's market place North of Rantepao. Watch the many many bemos loaded with pigs, bags full of coffee, rice and others. Country people with their goods and wears stream in and out of town all day long. Follow the women carrying baskets with fruits and vegetables, men carrying wood-carvings, bamboo basketware, hand-made knifes, and bringing ofcourse all kind of their buffaloes ...
What to buy: South Sulawesi grows the most extraordinary variety of pisang/bananas; pisang mas, pisang raja, pisang susu ...
I love the fruits, favourite is durian, following by manga and mangistan. And do eat kedondong, pine-apple, papaya, manga ... Fortunatedly you can stop anywhere along the road finding the wonderful and rich fruit-shops (when season) ...
See VT fruit-lover Bigbenda >>>
B i g b e n d a
What to pay: ... irrelevant
Other interesting pieces include hand-spun Toraja weaving and necklaces made of plant seeds. Sa'dan is the weaving centre, where local women have formed a cooperative. Torajan ikat clothes are most often hand-spun cotton funeral blankets with large geometric motifs in the traditional 4 colours "red, white, black & yellow". Be aware the beautiful textiles are not that cheap ...
You can visit Sa'dan Sangkombong - Sa'dan To'Barana. My experience; ... the textiles do not that differ to the ones downtown.
What to buy: At Rantepao's market Pasar Hewan I got an originally dyed ikat blanket, yes... very expensive (one is about 120$ ...). And a kain kipris, colorful and 8m long made on a weaving-loom. Some sarungs and Torajan ikats, some for 100.000 Rp, cost now 20$ each, I heard ...
What to pay: Again ... be aware the Torajan weaving is not that cheap ... though even the "cheap" ones can be pretty and original patterned.
Woodcarving, weaving and basketry are the main crafts of Tanah Toraja. Some villages in the surroundings are noted for particular specialties. Wood carvings include panels carved like the decorations on traditional houses and painted in the 4 traditional colours of "black, white, yellow & red-brown".
All the souvenirs can be bought either in the villages or in the shops in Rantepao. Other artefacts sold in the souvenir shops include mini replicas of Toraja houses with incredibly exaggerated overhanging roofs ...
What to buy: People of Tanah Toraja do love bamboo, so a lot of products are made of bamboo, includes water carriers, roofs ofcourse, cooking vessels as well their decorated cases.
I got some great bamboo containers with designs carved and burnt on them, very decorative as well as functional ... some ideal for keeping spaghetti. And ofcourse woodcarving, original from Tanah Toraja ... *big smile*
And if you're fond of it ... take the world-class coffee for kopi tubruk. D e l i c i o u s !
What to pay: It's said the Rantepao prices are slightly differ from those sold in the villages, however some prices are outrageous. Go for a good bargain and lower the prices.
Ke'Te Kesu is a famous place for wood carvings. Meanwhile in Batu Tumonga you can find several antiques stuff ~ original and genuine taken part by part from an old Tongkonan [Torajan traditional houses]. If you're truely interesting, you can rebuilt them like a real Tongkonan at your homeland :)
What to buy: Wall decoration at Ke'Te Kesu and old wood carvings [antiques] at Batu Tumonga.
What to pay: From Rp 40,000 [at Ke'Te Kesu] to Rp 4,000,000 [at Batu Tumonga]
There are several souvenirs stalls around tourist atrractions. For Lemo, the best buy are Torajan tee-shirt and small bag [for women] made from hand weaving.
What to buy: Kaos Toraja [Torajan tee-shirt] and small bag
What to pay: About Rp 15,000 each