Kediri: Small City Matters Too

Xenia Veryano
Artikel oleh : Xenia Veryano
Foto oleh : Xenia Veryano
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Kediri as one of East Java regencies, has known by many people and tourists, because it has many interesting tourism objects. Kediri itself is an interesting regency that able to invite both domestics and foreign tourists to visit its beautiful tourism objects. This area is surrounded by mountain and has a lot of nature scenery, so that it makes its air cold and fresh. This regency also save historical value and common said has the old kingdom in Java Island.

Our trip started on 20th of April. To be honest I was a bit skeptical about the trip itself – coming from someone who was never really interested with the Indonesian culture.

The itinerary itself consisted of a list of visits to Kediri’s visit sites. Started with having lunch at one of the most famous spots for Nasi Pecel. Nasi Pecel is one of Kediri’s famous traditional food. It was basically rice with some long beans covered in spicy peanut sauce. The peanut sauce was probably the highlight of the whole meal. It was just perfectly seasoned.

After we had our lunch, we had the opportunity to visit the locals’ homes. We managed to go to the farm where they keep their cows. We also took the time to see their traditional-looking kitchen. They made the Kediri’s version of spiced Escargot here.

Next on the list was visiting a really old temple, Candi Lor. It was located in a small village, Nganjuk, just on the outskirt of the Kediri. Candi Lor was built by the famous Mpu Sendok of the Isyana Dynasty. It was made out of Andesite rocks. According to the temple’s guard, this temple was built to celebrate the Mpu Sendok’s victory in a battle against his enemy from Melayu.

What was fascinating about this temple for me was the form of the temple itself. It was very interesting how Mpu Sendok stacked up the rocks. Through time and weathering process, the rocks started to fall apart, creating this new form of the temple. A big tree grew inside the temple, and its roots actually what’s keeping the temple together until now. Moreover, on the side of the temple, there were some hand-made reliefs. It was just pure amazing.

The next day we were all brought to Setono Bethek traditional market. From a far, this market looked like a small one, with hundreds of stalls of basic market things; fresh fruits, spices, meat and poultry. Upon crossing the entrance that leads to various stalls and booths and other shops that one morning, I couldn't help but be reminded of the traditional markets that I have seen so often during my many trips to other rural area in Indonesia. This market did not just sell the basic necessities, but actually everything; From pre-loved clothes to motorcycle spare parts.

Being a fan of walking and taking photos, I was lucky to have come at a time when the market had just awoken, and its streets were not yet crowded with customers. Along the way, I also found myself stopping by stall areas dedicated for birds. From here, I learned that Javanese Men really paid attention to their birds. Birds became a symbolization of their masculinity. Men would feed their birds before they have breakfast in the morning, or bath the bird before they take shower in the morning.

Exploring the market gave me an indescribable thrill. It was an unusual thing to do for myself, especially for growing up in a big city where grocery shopping is always done at the supermarket. However here, I found myself actually enjoying it. I took this chance to talk to the stall owners, asking them the general questions like when did they start or is it their only job to sell in the market. Some said that they practically live in their stalls. They did not just rent the space but actually owned them. For me, it was such a gratifying feeling to find these people very resourceful and hospitable. They even offered me to take photos of them. They were very open, which I found very different with stall owners in traditional market in Jakarta. There tend to be a barrier between me as a photographer with them.

Next on the itinerary was visiting Mount Kelud. It was also located on the outskirt of Kediri. Mount Kelud is a volcano, but its charming scenery has attracts the tourists to visit this mount. It has the channel to the crater, sulfuric lake, cool plantation, etc.

It was an experience of a lifetime for me. I never had the chance to ride a motorcycle, because I was never allowed to. But when I got there, there was no other way of getting to the top of the mountain without riding the motorcycle. It was either that or we had to hike up the mountain. The ride up turned out really fun.

The weather up there was pretty gloomy and windy. I could not see far the distance as the fog blocked my vision.  However somehow it was really fun just being there with my classmates, taking photos of each other as well as the scenery.

Our long journey ended with a visit to a Wayang Kulit Artist’s home. Wayang kulit or shadow puppets are such an important cultural and artistic legacy that even the UNESCO designated the tradition as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Wayang performances date back to at least 930 A.D., and were probably part of active community life for many generations before that date.

The humble wayang kulit’s artist has been making wayang since he was just a young boy. It was a legacy taught by his dad and grandparents. The skill to make wayang kulit is believed to be passed down the family line – he’s passing it down to his sons too.

His wayang kulit are made from stiff thick water buffalo leather. Each puppet is hand made, with the delicate openwork punched though with sharp knives and chisels. The support rods are made from buffalo horn, beautifully shaped, heated and bent into sweeping arcs and tied to the puppet with soft cotton thread. Aside of buffalo leather and horn, some of his masterpieces were also covered by gold leaves.

The third day was just another adventure. We had to wake up really early by 2 am because we were going to drive up a hill to see the sunrise. We all dozed off as soon as we got to the bus. It took around 2 hours to drive up the hill. When we got there, we had to wait another hour until the sunrise. All gears out and we were ready to take photos.

We were all greeted by the sun as she gradually rises from below the horizon radiating the most brilliant colors over the mountains in the far. Such a beautiful scenery that we could barely witness in a big city like Jakarta. We began to take photos with our cameras or phones. I was mesmerized by the colors produced by the mix of the sunlight and the fog in the morning.

The fun part of the day was actually after the photo-taking session. It was just a fun experience to gather together with fellow classmates – we don't usually do this as most of us are busy with our own businesses on daily basis. Just to be present (no phone service on the hill), to sit there and enjoying the moment, while listening to the guitar played by one of our classmates, was a blissful moment for me personally.

Fast forwarded to another memorable moment; It was when we went to the middle of the road in the Gumul intersections to take the night shots of Kediri’s very own Arc de Triomphe. It was my first time taking a night shot with a slow speed mode. It was nothing but pretty sceneries.

After all the adventure we went through, the culmination of this trip was the event “Kediri Bertutur”. Kediri Bertutur is an event with an aim to preserve the fast dying culture, in this case was the Kediri’s culture itself. It showcased different performances by local artists and was held at the Bung Karno’s Site “Ndalem-Pojok”. There were different performances being performed during the event, including some traditional dances, singing, and wayang show. Of course, the highlight of the event was the “Panji Tani” dance. The dance retold the Panji stories, where Panji Asmorobangun was a nobleman who chose to live as a farmer with his beloved wife, Dewi Sekartaji. There were some messages being conveyed in the show; Mostly about how the nature and humans are connected. The smoke and incents symbolized the relationship between humans and the ultimate Creator. Moreover, there was the mythical creature of a human with a cow head. This was to symbolize the relationships between the universe and everything in it, which was based on the Shiwa Bhairawa teachings.

In conclusion, this trip left a big impression in my heart. I was wrong to think that a small town like Kediri do not matter. I learned that Kediri is home to a cigarette factory for the biggest tobacco company in Indonesia, Gudang Garam. Tobacco business actually supports the Indonesian economy by hard. Therefore this small city actually matters. With that being said, unfortunately the culture of smoking is carried throughout the city too. I feel like everyone was smoking there. You can find any kind of tobacco there. Rolling papers were sold freely everywhere, which I found really odd. 

Having to meet and talk to a lot of people in Kediri made me realize their hospitality towards tourists was simply amazing. They were very friendly and helpful and would answer any questions thrown by us. Very much different with most of the people in Jakarta. There were no barriers between us, which made my job to take photos even more easier. 

Moreover, from the photography point of view, Kediri was just beautiful. Each persona of everyone I took photos of came out in the photos really well, because these people were just being true to themselves. There were no pretending or trying too hard. I am beyond grateful to be able to capture these photographs. These people simply do the things according to the cultural values they were taught by the ancestors. They do not think according what the society believes.

Aside from that, there are a lot of cultural values and Javanese aspects that I learned from going on this trip. Some Javanese values that I have never heard or known before was learned throughout the trip. It is simple amazing to see how most people in Kediri are still holding on to their ancestors’ values, because we all know that culture is dying out, especially due to the rise of technology and the western culture.

Lastly, simply being able to spend some quality time with genuine people all around, without the intrusion of technology (simply because phone service is really bad in some areas), and by just being present in the moment, was a true privilege for me.   



My photographs of Kediri Bertutur can be viewed on my facebook album "Kediri Bertutur".

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