When travelling in Indonesia, I always try to purchase a piece of tradtional cloth as a momento of the area I have visited. There are several small family run businesses in the Bima area where you can see cloth being woven the traditional way. Designs are beautiful, often very bright with gold thread running through them.
I was taken to a small family run business in Kampung Raba Dompu a few kilometres from central Bima. The traditional looms were under the main house. The family were more than happy to show me how the cloth is woven. They were quite excited by my visit and soon the 'extended family' were crowded in the area under the house. It was quite a sight!
The matriarchs of the family were keen to deck me out in traditional dress. I ended up purchasing a beautiful kain and selandang for 350,000 rupiah (about $35). I didn't even attempt to bargain, knowing that the cloth would have taken many, many hours to weave. In fact, I would have liked to have purchased a lot more - not just because of the cloth itself but also because the family were so friendly and gracious.
Then it was time for photos ..... Initially shy, suddenly all the children and their parents wanted to be in the photos. But it seemed imperative that I have a photo taken with the matriarchs. first.
It was an hilarious hour, one I will always remember.
If you have the time to explore the Donggo region on the western side of Bima bay, make the effort to get to Wadu Pa'a, an ancient Hindu site - one of the shrines contains 7th century sanskrit characters - but only recently excavated.
There are actually two sites - the first is a series of carvings on a large rocky overhang, but far more interesting is the second site, 50 metres further along the coastline, which has several relief sculptures.
Between the two sites is a fresh water spring, now formed into a well, right on the water's edge.
The boat building at Desa Sangeang takes place adjacent to a black sand beach. From the beach there are good views across to Gunung Api - an active volcano. You can visit the island, although the day I went to Sangeang was stormy and the seas were rough.
As I was walking along the beach, I was spotted by a group of young boys. Keen to show off in front of a foreigner, they stripped off and went splashing around in the waves. It was beautiful to watch children having such simple fun - trying to catch a shorebreaker, laughing and screaming.
Many of the houses in Desa Sangeang are built on stilts - protection from the tides - and are decorated with traditional motifs.
Sangeang is a small village 47km north-west of Bima famous for its boat building. It is a fairly long ride on the back of an ojek - roads are fairly good although pot-holed in places and, on the back of an ojek, you tend to feel every bump. Having said that, it is quite a picturesque journey.
I was surprised at the sheer size of the boats being built - huge wooden boats propped up on bamboo scaffolding.
Sangeang is worth a visit, especially if you have your own bike!
A couple of kilometres out of central Bima, up a steep winding road, is Dana Traha. It is the burial ground of Sultans. Both the first and second Sultan along with five or six others are buried here, with some of the tombs dating back hundreds of years.
The site is high on a hill and is a favorite spot for locals to view the sun setting over Bima.
A small donation, 10,000 or 20,000 rupiah, is requested to help maintain the upkeep of the locked cemetery site, but the viewing area overlooking Bima is free. A guide will explain the burial sites (although mine tended to revert to Bahasa Bima rather than Indonesian or English).
Try to arrive a half hour before sunset so you can walk through the cemetery and then watch night fall over Bima. An ojek takes about 10 minutes from the centre of town.
Definitely worth the trip before dinner.
If you are heading to Sape to catch the ferry to Flores or Desa Maria to see the traditonal lumbung, there are excellent views from high in the hills about 13km south-west of Bima. There are views into deep valleys with terraced ricefields.
Several road side warung sell coffee and other drinks.
Even if it is just for an hour in the afternoon, it is well worth an ojek ride from Bima.
My ojek driver had never been to the lumbung compound at Desa Maria, so when we arrived in the village we weren't sure exactly where to go. We noticed a group of old lumbung high up on a hill and headed through the ricefields and up the hill.
The lumbung were indeed very old and were no longer being used.
But the interesting part of this side trip was meeting a group of men who were innoculating their water buffalo. I asked them about this and they said the buffalo were kept for milking rather than use in the ricefields. It was only later when a bought buffalo milk candy that I realised how much buffalo milk was used in Sumbawa.
Desa Maria in the Wawo region south west of Bima has a large community compound of lumbung - rice barns. There are close to one hundred and each are numbered as they belong to a family in the village and are still used to store rice.
Some of the older barns were built the traditional way - no metal nails, although many now have metal roofs.
In the lumbung compound there is an area for village meetings. The compound offers wonderful views over the surrounding valleys.
If the compound is locked, a villager will locate one of the elders who will open the gates and show you around.
The old Sultan's Palace is now a museum containing a range of historical artifacts and many photos of Bima's part in the fight for independence. The grounds are free to walk into but you may have to locate the friendly caretaker if you want to enter the building. (admission rp 10,000)
Timid deer roam freely around the palace grounds and there are some large trees offering shade if you just want to sit down and relax.
The former palace of the sultan of Bima (named Asi Mbojo) has been turned into the museum of Bima regency. But there is another Bima museum, named Samparaja. This is a private museum established at the initiative of one of the daughters of the last sultan, mrs Haji Siti Maryam Salahuddin.
We were lucky to meet mrs Maryam at home in June 2011. Less than a year before she had obtained her doctorate in linguistics at the age of 83! Her thesis was about the interpretation of an old manuscript in Bima script, part of the library she inherited.
Thus we were given the round of the museum with expert explanation. Of course there is a lot of family history in photo's and memorabilia. But also there are traditional dresses for ceremonies and weddings, as well as ceramics and other artefacts remaining from he royal household.
Hours: daily 8 am - 1 pm, except Fridays.
The two ships masts standing in front of the Palace Museum deserve a separate tip. Why do these masts stand there? We found the answer in a little booklet provided by the Tourist Office.
Already in 1668 the young Mbojo (Bima) sultanate had been obliged to recognize the overlordship of the VOC (Dutch East Indies Company). But during the reign of Sultan Abdullah (1854 – 1868) matters became really serious when the Dutch pressed the sultan to join forces against the Buginese from Gowa and Makassar, which the Dutch considered pirates.
Bima had long had friendly relations with these kingdoms, to the extent of intermarriage between the royal families. Rather than declaring war to his friends, the sultan abolished his navy. He also provided a safe haven for the Buginese.
A ship's mast was erected in front of the palace to commemorate the dissolution of Bima's navy. The original one of teak wood was replaced in 2003, because it had become rotten. It seems at some time a second one was added.
Bima was a sultanate from 1640 to 1952. It's local name was Mbojo, the name Bima later given by the Javanese. Asi means Palace, so Asi Mbojo can be translated as Bima Palace. The palace was built from 1927 to 1929 in a mix of Eropean and Bima style. When after Indonesia's independence the sultanate was abolished, the building went into disrepair. Efforts at restoration were begun in 1978 and eventually the palace was turned into a museum.
The museum houses a mixture of items related to Bima. There is a room dedicated to it's geology, zoology, botany and demography. Two rooms show traditional tools of farmers, hunters and fishermen, as well as those of various home industry. And of course there are exhibitions of ceremonial weapons and clothing, both of the court and of the common people.
The more precious items are displayed behind thick iron bars, among these the royal umbrella. And of the sultan's golden crown and dagger only pictures are shown; these are safely stored elsewhere.
Upstairs are the rooms where the sultan and his family used to sleep. There we met a school class; of course the children wanted to pose for a picture with us.
Hours: Monday through Saturday 8am-5pm.
To explore Bima (Bima City or Regency), I have several tips for you.
First: using public transportation
1. If you arrived at Terminal Dara (Bus station), Bus are ready for services since 7.00 o'clock (sooner for Tambora/Sanggar departures). Bus in Terminal Dara is main mass transportation to reach several district. Bus to Sape start on 4 PM, and number of trip on the afternoon.
2. Bemo (mini car) are available to explore city by 4 rutes, cost Rp. 2000-3000
- Bemo A (yellow) : Terminal Dara - Kumbe via Jalan Soekarno Hatta (main street)
- Bemo B (blue) : Terminal Dara - Bima Port (Pelabuhan Bima) - Kumbe via Jalan Gajah Mada (northern street)
- Bemo C (back side of car is opened/Gereen) : Terminal Dara - Rontu via Jalan Gatot Subroto (Southern street)
- Bemo D (red) : TErminal Dara - Terminal Jati Baru (to Ambalawi and Wera district)
3. Benhur (local horse cart, like cidomo in Lombok or delman in Java), free route drive except Jalan Soekarno Hatta. Cost 3000-10.000/person depend on distance.
4. Ojek (motorcycle). Cost Rp. 5000-10.000. You can rent it Rp. 50.000 a day.
I often snorkeling on several diving spot at Albalawi district. I like these places because the coral reef ecosystem is in good condition, visibility and depth of sea water is perfect to snorkeling. I recommend you to explore Oi Fanda, So Sanunde, and Sori Nehe wit your diving/snorkeling equipment...
RABA is the capital town of BIMA District, is a bay front little town, a stop over when someone traveling from Lombok island to Flores island.
Here you could see an old Bima seaport just 5 KM distance from the city center, an intercity bus terminal, the administratif office of BIMA District, the administratif office of Bima Mayoralty, Sultan Palace ( Asi Mbojo), Museum and Bima Bay