Saturday, April 9, 2016

A Traditional Village that's got it worked out

I was impressed by Takpala, Alor's major tourist attraction aside from the underwater delights that most people come here for. It manages to be a living museum without tackiness, and the people maintain a genuine hospitality towards gawking visitors.

I got taken to Takpala by Razta, a chap I met at the Museum Seribu Moko in Kalabahi. He genuinely wanted to show me around and adamantly wanted no money for the experience. We went by motorbike, heading east out of town, turning right where I'd turned left the previous day on my hired bike. We arrived and walked up the stone steps to the village.

All the houses in the village are traditional Alor houses with lower verandahs and the sleeping quarters above in the thatched roof space. There's a hearth on the lower level as well as in the sleeping quarters, and although they may be dark and smoky, they are extremely cool. The people are also wonderfully friendly, allowing me to take photos, to look inside one of the houses, to watch the women cleaning the rice, and even to try doing it myself. The women are obviously used to this, as they effortlessly provide me with a pile of rice to winnow and someone else offers to take photos of me doing so. I surprise them by continuing to clean my little pile once the photo op is over, and for my persistence get a cup of coffee and we all have a good chat about our families and such trivia. I have to say, since I've invented a family, the conversation is so much easier than the one about why I'm not married. They all think my "daughter" is very beautiful, which of course she is, beautiful I mean.

upstairs sleeping area

Whilst I am chatting, some of the other women set up a few tables with wares for sale. Mostly beads and a few boxes for storing your betel nut supplies, and some ikats. They don't weave the ikats in the village, and I have no idea about the jewelry and beads, but I don't care, as this is a way that they can make money from tourism. There is absolutely no hard sell, and I end up buying two ikat sarongs, which I bargain down to something insanely cheap based on the fact that that's all the money I'd brought with me. They even give me a bonus necklace.

Then I head over to chat with Abner, the village headman, and get another cup of coffee. We chat and then he offers to get dressed up in his traditional garb for photographs. This guy is a real ham, you know he's done it hundreds of times before but he absolutely loves it, making fierce gestures and faces for the camera. Then I pop one of my newly purchased sarongs on, and his wife places a traditional belt around my waist and we take more photos.

I later discover that usually they ask for money for photos and dressing up, but either Razta paid something when I wasn't looking, or, because I purchased the sarongs they didn't ask for extra money, just asked me to sign the visitor book. Either way, the visit was extremely enjoyable and the atmosphere really welcoming. It's also possible to stay in the village, something I'd like to do if I returned to Alor.

After Takala we headed a very long way east to visit a very disappointing hot springs. But it's a tourist spot, so why not. The fresh coconut juice was worth the excursion.

Then we headed back to Kalabahi. A pleasant day indeed.

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