A Matter Of Death Or Death

I don’t know why I bother with budget airlines, except from being budget, there’s nothing good about them. Air Asia have decided to try and trick its customers into believing they automatically have 20KG checked in baggage, then when you arrive at the airport you’re told otherwise and are asked to pay £20 per 15kg, double the price to book online. There was a queue of people who all had the same problem, so it is obvious that the deceiving website is designed especially so you will part with your cash at the airport. An extreme cheapskate will never be beaten by a corporate ploy, I simply payed half the price (or the same as what it would have been online) and only checked in 7kg. Once your half empty bag is cleared you simply put the rest of your belongings in plastic bags and carry them onto the plane. Tony Fernandes can’t even scam a budget traveller, never mind run a football club so it’s no surprise QPR were relegated…

Sulawesi is probably one of the weirdest shaped islands on earth, it’s as if when God created the world he decided to cough up a mouthful of phlegm onto the map and make it a mega island of Indonesia. Sulawesi’s main airport is named after Sultan Hasanuddin a well known leader, this made me realise that I could not name a single famous Indonesian person, if any else can, please let me know…

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The Sulawesi pose

The Toraja is an ethnic group of Sulawesi and can be found in Tana Toraja (Toraja land). What makes the Toraja people stand out from the rest is the fact their lives and culture seem to revolve around one thing – death.

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Toraja families save their whole lives to be able to have a special funeral for their loved ones. The more wealthy and important the person – the bigger the funeral. I’ve always thought expensive weddings were a waste of money for just one day, but at least the person is actually present to enjoy it…

When a Torajan kicks the bucket, a small funeral takes place a few days after the death. The deceased stays in the family home until the second, more elaborate funeral which happens usually during the funeral season in July/August, it can last up to five days and involve hundreds of guests. The funeral gets underway with a couple of reception days followed by bullfighting, cockfighting and kick fighting, which basically resembles two groups of football hooligans clashing on the streets. I was lucky enough to turn up at the funeral in time for the main event, buffalo sacrificing…

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Torajans believe that the souls of animals should follow the dead into the afterlife. Again, the more animals put to the sword, the more wealthy the deceased. The funeral I attended had twelve buffalos being slaughtered one by one. The machete pierces the beast’s throat in a split second, but the death can drag out for what seems an eternity. The most spectacular refuse to give up and seemed to rise from the dead. Believe me, I haven’t seen anything as graphic as that since the ping pong show in Thailand…

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Ouch

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The final moments

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The aftermath

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Kids playing with hooves, nothing is wasted

Possessions can be taken with a person in the afterlife, mostly in the form of cigarettes. Indonesians top the charts in the world’s smoking league so to prevent the living bumming tabs from the dead, graves are hidden in specially made cave cemeteries. Tau Tau are life size but not so lifelike effigies of the deceased that guard the cave from outside…

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Coffins from inside the cave

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Remains inside a coffin

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One of the more realistic tau tau, or is it Des O’Connor?

The Tongkonan (traditional house) is said to resemble the bow and stern of a boat which Torajan mythology suggest brought their ancestors to this land from the North.

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Toraja village

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The more buffalo skulls the higher the household’s status

Pasar Bolu market has a livestock parade that is held every six days. Folk come from all over Toraja to try and grab a buffalo bargain. Buffalo is a status symbol in this community, good ones can sell for thousands of pounds and a rare albino buffalo can change hands for five figures, all to be slaughtered at a funeral, imagine the amount of confetti you could get for 20 grand at a British wedding…

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Multi coloured chicks for sale

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Indonesian coffee – fresh from the Honda engine

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The deposit on a house

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One man and his buffalo

It seems that here in Tana Toraja they will go to any leanths to give the dead a magnificent send off. Whether it be slaughtering enough cows to supply Burger King with a year’s worth of Whoppers or booking Elton John to sing the requiem. Funerals are the be all and end all of life here, and death, means business. Everywhere you will find coffin makers, tau tau carvers, cave builders, animal sacrifice specialists and of course, guides for the tourists. There’s never any worry of work drying up, even during a global recession people will still be dying. As morbid as Tana Toraja sounds, it’s one of those places you must see before you…erm…die.

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Categories: Indonesia | Tags: , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “A Matter Of Death Or Death

  1. michael

    MMM very interesting Gary but think ile settle for my Wake in The Shack Cpl btles Jamesons and a few sarnies and pies and nibbles ,good tip about Asia Airlines thanks ile keep an eye open for that one ,bit gory them pics like .

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