The Jakarta Post
Gili Kenawa, part of Gili Balu district in Poto Tano village, West Sumbawa, is seen from above. (Eco Regions Indonesia/File)
The 410-hectare cultural village of Mantar in Poto Tano subdistrict is being promoted as one of the gems of West Sumbawa regency.
Nestled at 640 meters above sea level, it is popularly known as "the village above the clouds" thanks to its breathtaking views. It is also said to always have the same number of albino residents: seven people.
Having been declared a cultural village in 2010, Mantar once served as filming location for the 2012 movie Serdadu Kumbang (Beetle Troops) helmed by artist couple Ari Sihasale and Nia Zulkarnaen. The movie's icon, the pohon cita-cita (aspiration tree) has become a unique attraction for visitors.
"Pohon cita-cita can be found at the highest point of Mantar village. From there, the view is gorgeous; visitors can marvel at the ocean and neighboring islands. At certain times, they can also feel the clouds; this is where the nickname comes from," West Sumbawa Culture and Tourism Agency head I Gusti Bagus Sumbawanto told The Jakarta Post on Friday in Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB).
In the last two years, Mantar's high elevation has provided an interesting option for paragliding events, from festivals to competitions. Its unique culture, especially in relation to the albino residents, also makes it a destination for curious travelers.
"Believe it or not, Mantar always has seven residents with albino skin. If one dies, then one will be born with albinism; this continues to happen until now," said Bagus.
Home to 400 families and 2,000 people, the villagers believe their ancestors came from several ethnicities, such as Javanese, Indian, Pakistani, Portuguese, Chinese and Thai. "This is what makes the local residents have certain physical characteristics; some are white, even albino, some have brown skin, and there are also those who are black," said Bagus.
Legend has it that their ancestors were stranded in Tuananga waters below Mantar village in the 18th century during the Majapahit era. A stone on the closest beach that looks like a boat is said to be a fossil of the ancestors' vessel.
As part of the administration's efforts to develop Mantar as tourist destination, a parking lot is set to be built at the foot of the village, allowing visitors to enjoy horseback riding while enjoying the views.
(Read also: Archaeologists unearth ancient Mataram Hindu temple)
"There'll be no more rental vehicles going up to Mantar in the near future. The cars will be parked below and visitors can ride a bicycle or horse to reach the village. This will be the recommended tourist package in Mantar: exploring the village above the clouds on a horse."
Other facilities currently being developed in the village include public toilets and homestays offered by locals who reside in the region's traditional staged wooden houses.
Situated around 17 kilometers from the city of Taliwang, the regency capital of West Sumbawa, Mantar is not easy to reach as the 5-kilometer road leading to the village is not yet sealed. But those who are lucky enough to hike to its peak can expect to marvel at the eight breathtaking islets of West Sumbawa, including Kenanga Island.
Bagus added: "When the sky is clear, you can even view the peak of Mount Rinjani on Lombok." (kes)
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