The district of Donggo is home to the "Dou Donggo" (Donggo people), descendants of the original inhabitants of Sumbawa. They retreated to this mountainous area in the 17th century because they did not want to convert to Islam when the new sultan of Bima had done so.
Nowadays they may be counted as Muslims or Christians (there is a Catholic church in Mbawa), but they still preserve many rituals and beliefs of their animistic religion called Marafu.
We were directed to a few of the remaining traditional houses of Mbawa village. These are known as Uma Leme (pointed house) or Uma Ncuhi (adat chief house) and are now preserved only for attracting tourists. A group of students happened to arrive for their “KKN” (community service assignment) almost at the same time with us, and were going to sleep in one of these houses.
We also did not see much evidence of the traditional attire of the Donggo people, which was dyed in natural indigo colours.
If you can spend more time in the area than we did, you could visit other Donggo villages farther into the mountains, or on the western coast of Bima Bay: Kala, Sai, Sowa, Bajo, Sampungu.
Address: Mbawa village, Donggo district, Bima regency,
Directions: At 27 km east of Dompu on the road to Bima, in Sila, turn north towards Donggo village. After 10 km at the T-junction of Donggo the traditional houses of Mbawa are 1 km to the left (downhill). Whereas 5 km to the right via Mpili and O'o we saw the government guesthouse (pasanggrahan), just being visited by the governor of Bima. From there another road leads down to Sila.
To see traditional Bima weaving, you do not need to go out of your way to a remote village. Mr Nurdin of the tourist office pointed us to a home industry in Bima's eastern suburb Raba. At “Tenun Mekar Sari” we saw this girl on the road side in front of her house, working a simple hand loom.
We also asked around in town where to by a shirt made of traditional woven cloth. There does not seem to be much demand for traditional cloth, we found no shop nor any one in the market selling it. The only place having a broad assortment was Hotel Mutmainah.
Address: Jalan Jeruk no. 19, RT/RW 05/02, Kelurahan Rabadompu Barat
Phone: 646 056, Mobile 0813 3953 6788
In a side street north of the sports field Serasuba we found an old Dutch cemetery, locally known as the Christian cemetery. Poorly maintained, like several others we saw in eastern Indonesia (Kupang, Rote).
Some names still readable:
Diederik Cornelis Johannes, died at the age of 84.
Caroline Albertine Henriette Broers, died aged 4 months on January 21st 1912.
M.P. Tomasowa, died at the age of five on June 14th, 1932.
When driving through the hills to Sambori village from above we saw a lake and decided to seek it out on the way back. This turned out to be Waduk Roka or Roka Reservoir, created by a dam between rocky hills.
We were happy to have come this way. Not just for the sight from the top of the dam, but primarily for the activity around it. Children were playing in the irrigation canal that is fed by the lake. Villagers went their way by perilous paths along the rocks upstream of the dam. Buffaloes walked to the river downstream for a drink unherded. Horse-carts came the other way with sand from the river bed. The carters said it was for building some recreational facilities near the dam.
And with the water at hand we could give our car a much needed wash.
Address: Roka village, Lambitu district, Bima regency.
Directions: Roka lies 29 km from Bima. First go south to the crossing at Tetebu (18 km). Here take the new road east for 3 km, then turn right. At 21 km you pass a porch indicating the border of Roka. Proceed to a T-crossing where you turn right (left goes to Sambori). Pass through Roka village, the dam lies 1 km beyond it.
Our 2010 Lonely Planet guide says: “Sambori, located off a rugged road, has the real-deal grass roofs and some impressive three-storey houses. A chartered 4WD [is] compulsory for the trip.” Well, that information is outdated.
To start with, the route we indicate in the directions was easily passable with an ordinary car; at one point they were re-surfacing the road, and only the last 1.6 km was in poor repair.
Furthermore, we saw no three-storey houses, and all inhabited houses had corrugated iron roofs. The only grass-roofed structure was a guesthouse built for the purpose using laminated bamboo, a modern development. Here you can spend a night under the grass roof if you like. A small bathroom outhouse is provided. Apply to the village head, Mr Thaher.
Another reason for visiting are the irrigated rice fields, still very much worked the traditional way. The people of Sambori belong to the "Dou Donggo", the original inhabitants of Sumbawa, who now only live in some mountainous areas.
Address: Sambori village, Lambitu district, Bima Regency.
Directions: Sambori lies 38 km or an hour's drive from Bima. First go south to the crossing at Tetebu (18 km). Here take the new road east for 3 km, then turn right until you approach Roka village (28.5 km). Turn left and drive via Kamboro and Kuta until at 35.6 km your reach the border of Sambori. Another 2.5 km and you reach the village head's house.
Returning from our boat trip to Situs Wadu Pa'a we made a stop at Pulau Kambing, a small island in Bima Bay. It is a popular destination for picnics and school outings.
The island is very dry. Although kambing means goat, we saw no goats. There were some monkeys and one wonders how they slake their thirst. Perhaps by drinking water from the bay, which is not very salty.
A short walk from the jetty took us to a gazebo in bad repair, the place used for a picnic. Here one has a view of Bima town across the bay. But the view is much better if one makes the effort climbing to the top of the island. In our opinion the views are the best reason for visiting Pulau Kambing.
There are also two graves near the gazebo; our guide could not say who lies buried there.
Directions: If approached by boat directly from Bima harbour, the distance is only 4 km due west. That takes perhaps 10 to 15 minutes one way.
On July 5th 2011 we attended the ceremony commemorating the 371st anniversary of Bima Regency. On that date in the year 1640 king Ruma Ta Ma Bata Wadu embraced islam and became the first muslim ruler under the name of Sultan Abdul Kadir. But of course Bima kingdom is much older, even the name Bima proves that originally it was a Hindu kingdom. Bima or Bhima is the name of a hero in the Mahabharata epos that originated in India.
Few artefacts remain to keep the memory of that pre-islamic period alive, one of them is the Situs Wadu Pa'a, literally the carved rock site. Legend would have it that Bima himself sculpted the statues and reliefs on the cliffs bordering the sea. One hardly readable inscription has been interpreted as a candrasangkala or word-coded number referring to the Saka year 631 or A.D. 709. Considering the weathered condition of the sculptures, that may well be an indication of their age.
Recognizable items point to a mix of Buddhist and Hindu religion. There is a meditating Buddha, there are Shiwaist lingga's (a phallic symbol), and effigies of meru (the tiered roofs still common in Bali). Of course these may have been made in different periods. What seems plausible is that sailors from the west used to anchor at this spot, because there is a water source close by.
The site does not draw many visitors. We were accompanied by an employee of Bima Tourist Office, who brought a key of the gate in the iron fence. There are two overhanging rock faces with sculptures close together, a concrete walkway joining them.
Address: Sowa hamlet, Kananta village, Soromandi district.
Directions: We went by chartered boat from Bima harbour, a trip of 60 minutes one way across Bima bay. The site can be reached by road, but that takes 3 to 4 hours all around Bima bay, part of the route being in poor condition.