Minggu, 07 Juli 2013

Jakarta Globe : Touring the Supernatural and Haunted Sites of Bandung

The jakarta Globe : Edisi 7 Juli 2013
Features and Travel
Bandung is known as the capital of West Java, Indonesia’s fourth largest city, home to endless rows of shops and restaurants and picturesque buildings and landscapes earning it the nickname “The Paris of Java.”

But there is another side to the city, a much darker one. Scattered around Bandung are old buildings dating back centuries and areas that most try to avoid after dark, said to be occupied by tormented spirits from the past.

In the past two years, the ghosts seem to have grown more restless than before, their realms increasingly frequented and disturbed by a group of intrepid people participating in the latest holiday craze, “Wisata Mistis” (Mystical Tour).

Dadi Setiadi Suarsa, Wisata Mistis’s secretary, said that the community started in April 2011 as a simple discussion on the popular online forum Kaskus, asking people if they knew of any haunted places in Bandung. The topic proved to be popular among Kaskus users, generating hundreds of replies and comments.

One user told of numerous sightings of a Japanese soldier inside a cave in Juanda Park, where the Japanese used to torture prisoners during World War II. Another left details about a student who killed herself at her State Senior High School (SMAN) No. 5. There was also a post about a bodiless head on Jalan Cipaganti, and another about a boy who died from an accident haunting motorists on Jalan Babakan Siliwangi. The list goes on.

“It got us curious. We want to know whether the stories are true or not. We want to be able to prove or disprove these urban legends,” Dadi said, adding that the tour started informally as a group of five friends who were curious about probing the myths.

The group then started to upload photos and stories of their expeditions on Kaskus, which generated interest and saw the tour group expand to dozens of people.

“Now for every expedition we limit the number of participants to between 30 and 50 people. We have to establish a quota based on how spacious the places we’re visiting are,” Dadi said.

So far, the group has visited more than 20 places in Bandung that Kaskus users believe are haunted, he said. While users have suggested that there are many more haunted buildings in Bandung, the biggest hurdle is accessing them.

Most of the buildings, Dadi said, date back to the Dutch colonial rule which were taken over by the government after independence. Permits are required to gain access into these properties, most of which are abandoned, but the city has been reluctant to issue any.

“What we’re actually doing is promoting some of Bandung’s iconic buildings,” Dadi said, adding that most participants came out of the tour with a newfound appreciation of not only Bandung’s supernatural scene but also its heritage sites. “We want to tell the government that there is a real tourism potential in activities like this.”

Iman Abdulrahman, chairman of the group, said that part of the appeal was the fact that joining was easy. Participants only need to be aged 17 or older, or they can show a letter of consent from their parents to join one of the tours, which are staged every weekend. There is no tour charge, but participants are required to pay for their own food, admission fees and transport.

Surging demand has forced the community to be more organized with the tours, including seeking the help of mediums to ward off the evil spirits that the participants claim can get aggressive and hostile at times.

“There are people tasked with healing, protection and communication with the spirits,” Iman said. “But no one in the team is tasked with counter-attacking the spirits.”

Partawijaya, one of the members of the tour’s “metaphysical team,” said that participants were sometimes attacked and ended up being possessed or passing out. But he claimed that the spirits meant the participants no harm.

“They just like to play practical jokes on people,” he said.

One participant, Yuliana, said she was reluctant at first to participate when her friend asked her to join a tour to the statue of a the Dutch missionary H.C. Verbraak, which is said to be haunted. “Now I’m hooked because I’m curious about learning about other places,” she said.

Iman said that there were many people like Yuliana who were at first afraid to join. “Once they participate they can scream together, laugh together, share stories with one another. They bond with their friends. That’s why a lot of people join us again and again. It’s because of the fun,” he said

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