Candi Rejo Village - Community Based Tourism Project In Central Java
Earlier this year my husband and I experienced the genuine rural life in Central Java. We went along to a village called Candi Rejo. It's located about half-an-hour from Borobudur, the most important Buddhist temple in Indonesia.
We heard from our partners in Indonesia that Candi Rejo has started community based & eco tourism project. We attended learn more about this project. In our perspective, community based tourism means tourism that consults, involves and benefits the local community. We wished to see if it was really the case with this village.
At first, we were not really sure what to expect. We bought our tickets from Bali, made arrangements with all the village chief, and the next thing we know we had been at Jogjakarta's airport.
Our guide was called I.J. (pronounced EE-Jay). She was very friendly and talkative, although her English was limited. She was an interesting lady. She's about 35 years, and everyday she wears a hijab (head scarf) and long sleeves shirt to pay for her arms though the weather was sizzling hot. Obviously it is a normal search for Muslim women there. IJ is really a single mom, raising 2 kids by hand. She is the sole female guide in their own village, and she's very proud of that. She said when there isn't any visitors to guide around she farms just like the rest in the people in their own village.
After we meet IJ we drove for the town, that's about one hour from the airport. The view was amazing. We could see a volcano in the distance while we passed mustard fields, cornfields, tapioca farms and also other kinds of vegetable farms. We also passed a 9th century Buddhist temple called Pawon. It is committed to Kuvera, the God of Fortune.
The very first thing we did when we got to Candi Rejo ended up being meet the village chief. We thought he'd be this older man using a grey mustache much like many other Indonesian government officials. We were surprised once the village chief, Mr. Ian, appeared. A charming 28-year old man, soft spoken and intensely well dressed.
He explained briefly a history of eco-tourism in Candi Rejo. Only a few in years past an Indonesian NGO approached the village and introduced the idea of community-based ecotourism. After many village meetings, the neighborhood in Candi Rejo embraced the concept. The village boasts the benefit of being not far from Borobudur, the biggest Buddhist temple in Indonesia as well as a great wonder of the ancient world. They have a river that can be used for white water rafting, and boasts a nice trail called Watu Kendil, that's the route to Kendil Hill. From the surface of this hill, you can view 5 volcanoes and also the whole construction of Borobudur Temple.
The ecotourism project in Candi Rejo is really a pilot project in Indonesia. The village has about 5,000 people, and majority from the people you can find farmers. The main unit that managed the tourism industry in Candi Rejo is the neighborhood runs cooperative (co-op), not the federal government. The head in the cooperative still reports for the village chief, but the revenue goes directly for the locals.
The locals voluntarily joined the cooperative. For example, individuals who have extra rooms within their houses can join as accommodation providers. People who have horse drawn rickshaws can join the cooperative as one of the village transportation providers. Everyone within the cooperative has to agree using the roster asia green tourism system, which provides the guides, porters, village asia tours, trek trail maintenance, and handicraft sales equal possiblity to make money.
No doubt how the ecotourism project has increased the village's economy. Since Candi Rejo gained its official "tourism village" status in 2003, it has developed into a cleaner and wealthier village. The village chief has ordered every home inside village to cultivate "Rambutan", hawaiian isle fruit tree before their houses. The result is: this village is now very green and shady. The weather in Central Java can get sizzling hot, so these big trees can look after pedestrians from your burning sun.
When we asked the village chief regardless of whether he is worried that particular day the tourism industry would bring outrageous pollution for the village, he was quoted saying the cooperative limit the volume of visitors each year. The tourism programs that they've developed also mainly concentrate on asia green tourism tourism, not touristy programs. So naturally, most of visitors who come to Candi Rejo are green-minded travelers. They want to find out about agriculture as well as to experience the real Javanese rural living.
In 2007, the village saw about 800-900 visitors. We saw photos of these previous visitors. Some schools from Indonesia's big cities have sent students to go to Candi Rejo to understand farming and rural living. It's true that many Indonesian children who grew up inside the big city do not know what the trees and fruit they eat looks like inside the ground. These kinds of learning programs guide them where the food in the market originated from. It also raises awareness one of the students of how important it can be to sustain your environment.
It's not just students from all over Indonesia that visit Candi Rejo. Governments business villages in Indonesia also visit Candi Rejo to discover village tourism and ecotourism.
We can't forget how nice people in Candi Rejo are. Everyone was so friendly and accommodating. We felt that town-based tourism really fit their characters. Their natural eagerness to match their guests made our trip so smooth and memorable.
In Candi Rejo we learned the best way to play the Javanese Gamelan (their traditional musical instruments). We also played volleyball using the locals, that has been very fun! We took the horse rickshaw everywhere during our stay there (0 emission for certain). We were also invited to check out the village chief's house for a community gathering. It feels like i was visiting our house there.
We left Candi Rejo with fond memories of the village. We would go back in a heartbeat. Hopefully the next occasion we could take our travelers there along with us. We're proud how the ecotourism and community-based tourism movement in Indonesia is developing rapidly. We hope these projects can alleviate poverty, create more job opportunities and most importantly sustain Indonesia's ecology.