Soe Things to Do Tips by theo1006
Soe Things to Do: 10 reviews and 49 photos
The palace of the Mollo kingdom
Sonaf means palace, and Sonaf Ajaobaki is the name of the residence of one of the three kings of Timor Tengah Selatan regency, who in colonial times were allowed to self-rule their tribe. Of course since the independence of Indonesia these kings or raja have no real power any more, and from the look of the surprisingly simple palaces it is evident that the kings of Timor never were very rich. The Ajaobaki palace was the centre of the Mollo kingdom, it lies a short distance north of Kapan village, 25 km from Soe, and can be reached by ojeg or bemo.
When we called we were welcomed by the queen, mrs Roni Mince OEmatan born Nokas. Here husband, raja Edison Ricar Ferdinand OEmatan was not home. She generously showed us around the premises, not many guests seem to call nowadays. Among her treasures is an antique china dinner set and glasses, never used for fear of breaking them.
The portrait in the fifth picture is of raja Edison's grandfather, Willem Frederik Hendrik OEmatan (deceased in 1939), who was also known as raja Tok(Tho) Tabelak OEmatan alais Laykoen Seoeng, because he was half Chinese.
It is interesting that the palace faces sideways from the asphalt road, which did not exist when the palace was built. The only access was by a footpath through a valley with a spring. The spring is still the water source of the royal family, where servants were doing the laundry.
Good manners require that after paying ones respects to the family one also visits the royal graveyard nearby.
Address: Sonaf Ajaobaki, kecamatan Mollo Utara, kab. TTS
Directions: 25 km north of Soe, on the road to Fatumenasi.
The Amanuban royal couple
In colonial times Timor Tengah Selatan regency was governed by the three kings of the Mollo, Amanuban and Amenatun tribes. We arrived unannounced at the Amanuban royal palace in Niki-Niki, yet were heartily welcomed by the queen. It took some time for the king, Nesi Nope, to appear because he had to dress up, and during that time his brother Bil did the honours.
The house of Amanuban dates its dynasty back to AD 1604, when its ancestors came from India, probably in concert with the Portuguese. They converted to Christianity as late as 1948. The present king's grandfather still had 42 wives, his father 9, but he himelf is quite happy with his one queen. Of course there is an extended family, most of them living in the kampung surrounding the palace. But one of the king's daughters lives in the USA with her American husband.
Mrs Nope is eager to sell some Timorese woven cloth. We buy a blanket of which the design was created by her grandmother. And especially for Theo a jacket which the king had made for himself to wear on a trip to Europe, but which he never wore because he didn't go after all. The jacket fits perfectly!
Of course we also pay a visit to the cemetery adjacent to the palace.
Address: Sonbesi, Niki-Niki, kab. TTS, propinsi NTT
Directions: The Sonbesi palace is at Niki-Niki, 27 km east from Soe, not far from the main road.
The "raja" invites us in
Boti is the best-known traditional village in South Central Timor regency, because its people guided by their village king or raja reject modernization and the Christian religion; they stick to their adat and are self-sufficient. Yet the number of foreign tourists making it as far as Boti is in decline. In the visitors book we saw that on March 24th we were numbers 7 and 8 for the year 2009. One reason for the decline may be that the present raja is less flamboyant than his father, who died in 2005.
Anyhow we were glad we came. The village itself and the road getting there are worth your time and money. The distance from Soe to Boti is about 50 km, count on at least 2 hours to get there. The last 10 km or so lead through arid country along a bumpy mountain road. You pass a few gates and a welcome porch in the local language, then you arrive at a parking. One man was sitting there, it seemed he had been waiting for us but we came unannounced. Only later we understood this was the raja or village king. He led us to another gate down a path into the village. In stark contrast with the landscape around, the village has lush vegetation and is surprisingly cool. One is forced to admit that these people are wise to stick to their way of living in this place.
The people of Boti do not speak the Indonesian language, some understand it a little, and no English at all. Children attend primary school, but only for four years and are taught in the local language. It is mandatory that you come with a guide who can act as an interpeter. It is also the guide's responsibility that customs are observed: a visitor should bring a gift of sirih pinang and join in chewing some. If you are not up to doing the latter, it is sufficient that the guide does.
After some polite conversation one makes the tour of the village. The village counts some 250 inhabitants and has its own never-dry water source. One is invited to stay over in the guesthouse, but we saw in the guestbook that very few visitors actually do this. Nor did we, although we think it may the best way to get to know daily life in Boti.
The tour ends in the souvenir shop, with exclusively locally made items. Again it was evident that the shop rarely opens. We bought a blanket and when leaving were draped with a shawl as a gift.
See also our Travelogue Boti traditonal village.
Directions: Come with a guide. From Soe take the road to Niki-Niki, just before reaching Niki-Niki take the turn-off leading to Kolbano beach. Half way there a sharp turn-off left leads along the last 10 km of mountain road. A bus may take you as far as that turn-off, but the walk from there in the heat of day does not look appealing at all.
As at the Mollo cemetery, in the Amanuban cemetery no ancient graves. Because written records are lacking not much seems to be known of the dynasty before around 1900.
Address: Sonbesi, Niki-Niki, kab. TTS, propinsi NTT
Directions: See tip: Meet the king at Sonaf Sonbesi
%iLopo%i at Oetune beach
There are two popular beaches on the coast south of Soe, sought out for a weekend outing. Kolbano beach is famous for its coloured pebbles, Oetune's broad sand beach is more suitable for swimming. Both beaches are an estimated 20 km apart, or one hour because this stretch of road is in bad repair.
Apart from a few lopo or gazebo's there are no facilities at either beach. Also no food stalls at the beach or along the road, so bring your own water and picnic.
If you come just for a swim in the waves, take the shortest route to Oetune beach. This route leads via Noelmina, 25 km west of Soe on the Kupang road, and takes about 2 hours one way. At Noelmina a winding mountain road branches off to the south coast. After a while the road reaches the coastal plain. When the road starts running parallel to the coast, look out for a small signboard pointing to Oetune beach.
If you are ready to make it a full day outing, you can make a round trip. From Oetune it is another 20 km or one hour to Kolbano on a road in poor repair. Yet this is an interesting part of the trip when one pays attention to the way people survive here in relative isolation.
After having one's fill of Kolbano beach, one can return the way one came, or make a full circle by taking the bumpy road to Niki-Niki and from there to Soe. Count on six hours travel time to visit both Oetune beach and Kolbano beach.
Colorful pebbles of Kolbano
There are two popular beaches on the coast south of Soe, sought out for a weekend outing. Kolbano beach is famous for its coloured pebbles, Oetune's broad sand beach is more suitable for swimming. Both beaches are an estimated 20 km apart, or one hour because this stretch of road is in bad repair. The pebbly beach of Kolbano is quite long, but the usual meeting point is at a landmark rock, of which a large piece was broken off by a recent tsunami wave.
The ride to the Kolbano beach is long by whatever means one makes it. We had the fortune to go there with a class of students in a chartered bus. A friend travelling independently did it piggyback on a ojeg, which requires some endurance, as the trip takes 3 hours one way by either of the two possible routes.
But the trip itself is worthwhile, for viewing the changing landscape and the way people survive in relative isolation. So count on a full day for a visit to Kolbano or both beaches and take your time for stops on the way.
Apart from a few lopo or gazebo's there are no facilities at the beaches. Also no food stalls at the beach or along the road, so bring your own water and picnic.
Directions: The easiest approach to Kolbano is via Noelmina, 25 km west of Soe on the Kupang road. The distance is 110 km and takes about 3 hours one way. At Noelmina a winding mountain road branches off to the south coast. After a while the road reaches the coastal plain, where you pass Oetune beach and still have to go an hour east on a road in bad repair for about 20 km.
A shorter way to Kolbano is via Niki-Niki, where a road branches off to Oinlasi. After several km another turnoff leads to Kolbano by a very bumpy road. Because of the road condition better also count on 3 hours by ojeg along this shorter route.
One can visit both beaches and make it a round trip, going to Kolbano via Niki-Niki, then an hour along the coast to Oetune and from there back to Soe via Noelmina.
Divination with stick at %iotenaus%i
They call it benteng None or 'None fort', which conveys the idea of thick walls and towers. Actually the village None is built on an outcrop of rock with ravines on three sides, making it inassailable from these sides. The village is only accessable from the fourth side, where a low wall has been built from behind which enemies could be kept at bay. Holes in the parapet allowed defendants to shoot at the enemy with home-made fire-arms.
The fortification dates from precolonial times (the village guide put its age at eight centuries), when headhunting raids on rival tribes were part of the culture. The None people are part of the Amanuban tribe, and they had an ingenious procedure to decide on war or peace. First, the village council would meet at a spot called the pene to discuss whether to attack the Mollo tribe in the north or the Amenatun tribe in the east. Then a second meeting would follow at the otenaus or divination site. The divination procedure resulted in a prediction 'we will live' or 'we will die'. In the latter case of course the raid was off, it was back to the pene for another meeting.
The divinaton itself was twofold. If an egg was broken and traces of blood found in it, this was a bad omen. Then the warriors would have to stretch their arms along a stick pushed against a central pole, and if they could not touch the pole with one thumb while holding the other end of the stick in he cup of their other hand, they would surely die.
The guide points out other special places, e.g. the pulo anjing or 'dog island'. The latter is another rock seperated from the main outcrop by a ravine some 5 m deep and 2 m wide. When the village had a ceremony to celebrate, the dogs were moved onto the rock by way of a board serving as temporary bridge. Once the board removed the ceremony could go forward without the dogs disturbing it.
By the way, a none is a weaving tool used for measuring off thread.
The village is accustomed to receiving visitors. A guide will appear with a guest book and expect a contribution. And you better be prepared to buy some traditonal cloth at the end of your tour around the fort.
Directions: None village is easily reached, it lies just a 15 minutes walk off the main road from Soe to Niki-Niki at 19 km from Soe. Take a bus or an ojeg to where a signboard points inland. The ojeg may bring you half the distance along the dirt road.
Past Fatumnasi you enter the reserve.
For nature lovers a trip to Gunung Mutis nature reserve is a must. Both the alpine landscape on the way getting there through Fatumnasi mountain range as well as the rugged landscape at 2000 m elevation in the reserve itself are quite unusual for Indonesia.
You can follow the road through and past the reserve as far as your car will take you, through Punu and Nenas villages, but eventually you will have to turn back. Or, if you like trekking, ask your guide to allow time for a hike on the rocky outcrops and to the natural bonsai trees. For a hike to the top one has to stay over at Fatumnasi village. Bring food and water, there are no food stalls here.
There are several worthwhile sites on the way to the reserve, but we think it is best to visit these on your way back as the morning hours are the best to see the reserve.
Fatumnasi is 41 km from Soe, but ojegs will be reluctant to take you that far out and up. Infrequent public transport goes as far as Fatumnasi, but onwards into the reserve you'll have to walk or come with a rented car.
We made the trip with the 4WD of mr Marcel Sino, see transportation tip. And see also our travelogue.
Directions: The road to the north from Soe through Kapan and onwards.
Oematan royal cemetery
The cemetery of the Oematan royal family of the Mollo kingdom lies halfway between Kapan village and the Ajaobaki palace, where a dirt road turns west. It is accessable only on foot, an obliging woman living at the dirt road showed us the way and offered a drink of water.
We were slightly disappointed that the cemetery does not have any ancient, pre-christian graves. The oldest tombs date from 1937.
Address: Kapan village, kecamatan Mollo Utara, kab. TTS
Directions: A short distance north of Kapan village.
Enjoying the pool
Oe, pronounced 'ou-ei', in Dawan (Timorese) means water, like Ci in Sundanese (West-Java). So if the name of any place starts with Oe, one knows there is water around.
The Oehala falls are the most popular place to go from Soe for cooling off on a hot day. On holidays guaranteed to meet a bunch of youngsters here. Yet the falls are still relatively clear of litter, and you have to bring your own picnic: no food sellers.
The water falls down in numerous steps, do not omit to go down to the lower pool past the hydropower station and see the river flowing further down between two huge trees. We were there at the end of the rainy season, but were told the falls never run dry even at the end of the dry season.
Entrance fee is just Rp 1000.... only when the booth is manned.
How to get there
The Oehala falls lie about 10 km north of Soe. If you take a bus in direction Kapan, the bus will drop you off at the access road and you have to walk another 3 km along this road. Alternatively negotiate a price with an ojeg driver to bring you to the parking at the top of the falls and wait until you are ready to go back.
You can also make a visit to the Oehala falls part of a longer trip to Kapan (botanical garden and the Mollo 'palace') or even to Fatumenasi alpine village and Gunung Mutis nature reserve.
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