When was the last time you breathe some fresh cool air or enjoy the beautiful scenery of the hills? When was the last time you see misty lakes and learn the history written on ancient temples? If it has been quite a while, maybe it is time for you to visit Dieng, an enchanting plateau in Central Java, which is the right destination to experience all of them.
Some people call Dieng as a place above the clouds due to the altitude of this plateau, which is no less than 2,000 metres above sea level. No wonder this place has a cool weather. The temperature normally ranges between 10 – 20 degrees Celsius. However, it can be dropped to 0 degree Celsius at night during dry season (June-August).
Dieng also known as Kailasa or a sacred place of God and Goddess. The word “Dieng” itself means Hyang or “God” in ancient Javanese. Indeed, Dieng is a place that was used for rituals and rest area (Dharmashala) by Hindu wanderers especially the sect of Shiva.
There are many Hindus temples scattered throughout Dieng such as Arjuna Temple, Bima Temple, Gatotkaca Temple, Srikandi Temple, Puntadewa Temple, Setyaki Temple, Parikesit Temple and Dwarawati Temple. Some of these temples are influenced by southern Indian style but most of them were developed in local style, which can be seen in their tower shape roofs. Arjuna and Bima temples were build in the 7th-8th century during Sanjayan dynasty, which make them the oldest temples in Java.
Administratively, this plateau extends over two regions, Wonosobo and Banjarnegara and is located around 14O kilometres northwest from Yogyakarta or 14O kilometres southwest from Semarang. Dieng Plateau is actually a volcanic area that has been periodically formed since 2 million years ago. There are three phases in this forming process. First, the volcanic eruption shaped the mountains. Second, the craters were no longer active and became rain pouches. Third, the volcanic activity inside the earth is still occurring so it creates hot springs and calderas until today.
Beside temples, Dieng also offers lakes, caves, plantation, craters, springs and even museums. However, the highlighted tourism spots are Telaga Warna, a lake with changing colour depending on the bubbling sulfur deposits around its shores, Kawah Sikidang, a crater with moving and even jumping mud, and Kailasa Museum, a museum conserving archaeological objects found in Dieng such as statues, fossil, and so on. The entry fees to visit tourism spots in Dieng are varied, ranges from Rp.4,000 – Rp.10,000.
Dieng also has interesting foods and beverages such as Mie Ongklok, Purwaceng and Carica. Mie Ongklok is a semi dry noodle in light peanut sauce and shrimp paste with chicken satay (or other satay if you wish) as topping. This spicy food is really good for dinner. Along with Purwaceng, they are a good combination that can keep you warm in freezing nights. Purwaceng is a beverage made from special ginseng that only grown in Dieng. It tastes bittersweet, slightly like ginger, and looks like thick tea (dark brown). This drink is said as a good health supplement. It can be mixed with tea, coffee or wedang ronde, a special hot beverage made from ginger, sugar and peanut. Carica is a local fruit looks like small papaya and is best served as sweetmeat which is sold Rp.12,000 per bottle.
The best time to visit Dieng is on June or July when an annual event, Dieng Culture Festival, usually takes place. This event is a great opportunity to enjoy almost every cultural attraction in Dieng, including the most famous one: Ritual Rambut Gimbal or a haircut ritual of local kids who have dreadlock hairs. Those kids are believed as the avatars of Kyai Kolodete and Nini Roro Ronce who are the ancestors of Dieng. According to the belief in Dieng society, the dreadlock hair is a misfortune so they need to be cut in a ritual to throw it away.
If the dreadlock hair is not being cut in a special ritual, it will remain growing. The ritual can only be done when the kids indicate that they are ready and they specify their requests that must be fulfilled. These requests are different. Some are costly such as cattle and jewelleries while some are naive like colourful fish, party gown, hat that must be purchased in certain store, tempeh, red rose apple and so on. However, these requests must be accomplished no matter how expensive or naive they are.
The ritual is guided by the custom leader and conducted in four steps. First, kirab or a parade from the custom leader’s house to the location of jamasan. Then, jamasan or showering ceremony at Sendang Maerokoco or Sendang Sedayu, a spring near Arjuna Temple. Third, pencukuran or shaving at Arjuna Temple and surrounds. Last, larungan or an activity to throw the hairs into Telaga Warna, so it will flow to the Southern Sea.
In addition to the ritual, during Dieng Culture Festival you can also enjoy local cultural attractions such as Thek-thek or a musical performances using bamboo as instruments, Pencak Silat or a kind of martial art, Jaran Kepang or a traditional dance, and many more.
Staying in Dieng for couple of days is not a big deal. There are many accommodation types available. However, during Dieng Culture Festival, finding accommodation can be tough. Luckily, since the 2013 Dieng Culture Festival, the committee provided camping ground for visitors. Although the weather can be really cold, camping in Dieng gives unforgettable experiences such as seeing the sun rises from behind the hill or watching local farmers fertilizing the vegetables in the morning.
With such completeness, Dieng is definitely a must visit destination. So, if you still wondering where to go to have a whole bunch of experiences, Dieng is one of the possible answers.
*this article was previously published in Indonesia Travel Magazine