30. The Samudra Raksa

Jakarta Bound is a travelogue about life in one of the largest and most densely populated cities in South East Asia.

KapalSamudra

Having taken in the full splendour of the Borobudur temple, I took the north exit through the market. Here the ubiquitous traders sell all things Borobudur; models of the temple in various sizes and materials as well as wall hangings, sculptures, buddahs of all description, bangles, bracelets and other unrelated souvenirs. There was some really nice stuff in all fairness and I really wanted to take away a statuette or mini-model-monument. But I wasn’t on a two-week vacation and I already had more than enough stuff for my potential one-year stay. What is more, with my current living situation uncertain, who knows how many times I would have to cart all that stuff around before I headed back home. Previous experience has taught me that I’m pretty clumsy and I usually break souvenirs in transit; well either I break them or the heavy-handed baggage handlers do. That being said, I still have a fair amount of extravagant mementos from my travels. However, today I was travelling light and I was satisfied with the fact that I had enough digital memories of Borobudur stored in my phone and camera to fill a book and I was still only half way through my day trip. So I quickly made my way through the market trying to avoid eye contact and the invitation of buying and bartering and emerged out of the other end into the Borobudur archaeological park.

It was still relatively early in the day and I was in no rush to get back to my driver, so I followed the directions of a signpost that led me up a path toward the Samudra Raksa Museum. Inside was a life-sized replica of an 8th century Indonesian sailing ship of the same name that was built in 2003 by a British sailor called Philip Beale. Beale had visited Borobudur in 1982 and seen images of ancient Javanese sailing ships engraved on the base level of the temple that is below ground level. Cross-ocean trading had been going on between Africa and Indonesia since the Roman era and Beale wanted to recreate one of these journeys. Inspired by the Borobudur inscriptions and using the limited information he could find about the early Javanese sailors, Beale set upon a project to construct the Samudra raksa. After completing the building of the ship, Beale and his crew sailed it from Java to Madagascar and the west coast of Africa.

The Samudra Raksa Museum isn’t very big, but it is worth taking a look to gain a little bit of insight into the historial legacy of Indonesia. One of the great things about travelling is that you learn aspects of world history that you would otherwise never have known existed. Whilst most Europeans would be aware of the Vikings, the Spanish Armada, Admiral Nelson and the great British navy, how many would ever know what accomplished mariners the Indonesians were? Histories are more often promoted as a badge of honour and used to wedge a gap between us and them; typically the victors and those that were conquered. As such, you tend to be taught a history that is somewhat skewed in such a way to imbue a sense of pride and indoctrinate an attitude of nationalist superiority. So it is that in western education and culture, huge swathes of the historical achievements and the legacies of those ‘others’ from the dark continent that came before the European colonisation of the world are omitted. My brief tour of the Samudra Raksa Museum gave me the opportunity to learn a little bit of Southeast Asian history that I would have otherwise never known. It also gave me a brief reprieve from the heat of the sun.

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2 thoughts on “30. The Samudra Raksa

    • Kalimantan, the Indonesian side of Borneo is worth a weekend visit. Uluwatu and around the… I think it’s the east side of Bali has some great views and really nice beach clubs. Karimun Jawa I’m told is amazing. Komodo Island, parts of Sumatra (avoid Aceh) and Banka and Belitung… I really didn’t get to see as much as I would have liked, but I will 😉

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