RUMAH TUO  (Old House)

Rumah Tuo (old house)

Rumah Tuo (old house)

Rumah Tuo is a tourist attraction in the Tabir Kecamatan (township) of the Merangin Kabupaten (county) in the Jambi Province of Indonesia. This home is considered historical because it’s claimed to be around 500 years old (they did acknowledge that it had been renovated several times). Rumah Tuo is surrounded by about 30 other similar homes. Its exact location can be seen on wikimapia by clicking this link.

This tourist site can be visited at any time and can even be accompanied by a cultural program that includes dancing, music, display of traditional cooking, as well as martial arts performances (this needs to be arranged for ahead of time).

Home Built on Stilts (rumah panggung)

Rumah Tuo is built on post, with the floor being about 6 feet off the ground. This is done to protect it from floods. This is common in many parts of Indonesia where flooding is common. There is a single set of stairs leading into the home on one end of the home.

  • This home is also called “Kajang Lako.” There’s also a famous boat in Jambi legends with the same name. Our article about that boat can be read by clicking this link.

Water Buffalo Horns

Inside the home there are water buffalo and deer horns mounted on several different posts.  In previous ages water buffalo horns were used to ratify contracts, covenants, or to signify that there was a treaty between two parties. That information was obtained from “The History of Sumatra,” which was written in 1783.

Horns mounted in Rumah Tuo.

Horns mounted in Rumah Tuo.

The agreement or treaty that was to be made was written on the two horns of a water buffalo, then the animal was butchered and eaten, symbolizing the ratification of the treaty. The single horn, with the writing inscribed on it, was then hung in the homes as a reminder that this agreement or treaty was in effect. The horns in Rumah Tuo do not have any writing on them.

Kitchen in Rumah Tuo

Wood is used to cook with.

Wood is used to cook with.

There is a kitchen in the back of the home. The kitchen consists of a small area that can be used for wood fires. There is no sink or running water, though we did see some homes in this area with water pipes leading into them. This home also didn’t have an inside toilet. Bathing and laundry tasks are done at the river, which is only 100 feet away.

Absence of Furniture

There are no beds, but we did notice hammocks that were tied up and stored away.
There is an absence of furniture, like Lazy-boy chairs, couches, or straight backed chairs or even a table. Mats on the floor work perfectly fine for the Batin ethnic group who live in this area.

Take Your Shoes Off

Since the culture of Indonesia (and many Asian countries) is to be seated on the floor for all activities, it is expected that you take your shoes off at the door. Doing this also helps to keep homes clean.

Traditional Dances

Traditional dancer from the Batin ethnic group.

Traditional dancer from the Batin ethnic group.

Tradition dancer from the Batin ethnic group.

Tradition dancer from the Batin ethnic group.

We made the below video during our visit.

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Below is a different dance commonly seen on Sumatra. It’s called “Tari Rantak.”

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Martial Arts Performance (pencat silat)

Pencak Silat Demonstration

Pencak Silat Demonstration

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Pencak Silat filmed during the our visit. (You can see “Rumah Tuo” in the background in some of the scenes (light-yellow home).

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Traditional Foods

Sharing a Meal in Rumah Tuo

Sharing a Meal in Rumah Tuo

While visiting Rumah Tuo in June of 2008, we had the pleasure of sharing a meal in that home with many of the men of the area.

Grilled bananas are delicious!

Grilled bananas are delicious!

Yes, I Ate With My Fingers

If you had a choice of eating with a questionably clean fork, or your clean hands, which would you choose. Some Americans think eating with the hands is unsanitary, but in reality, we use our hands to eat with all the time! We eat French Fries, hamburger, chips, chicken, etc., etc. So, why is it so strange to eat rice with your hands? The next time you pick up a fork at the restaurant, ask yourself, “how many mouths has this fork been in?” Or, “did the waitress drop it on the floor before she brought it out?”

Dodol

I deeply enjoyed sharing a meal with those men inside Rumah Tuo. As an appetizer to the meal they brought out something they called “dodol.” At first I didn’t think I was going to like it because it didn’t look too appealing, but after trying a small piece I decided I could eat some more of that.  It was quite good!!

Fear of the Unknown

Tragically we Americans are fearful of different foods, as well as fearful of becoming sick from eating things we’re unaccustomed to. I was in Indonesia for 15 days and I ate in small stalls, padang restaurants (more about that at another time), as well as with my Batin friends in Rumah Tuo–and guess what? I never got sick!!

Cultural Exchange

On our two previous trips to Rumah Tuo we took along many hundreds of hand-made gifts that school children in the U.S. had made for the children that live in the area around this village. On our first visit we brought small wooden snowmen to give away. Knowing that these Indonesian children have never seen snow, this was an ideal gift to present as a “cultural exchange.”

Little Indonesian boy reaching for the new snowman he recently received from children in the U.S.

Indonesian boy reaching for the new snowman he received from children in the U.S.

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Below is our video of giving snowmen to Indonesian children.

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On our second visit to Rumah Tuo we brought along many hundreds of small paper “helicopters.” The kids of the area were fascinated with this simple gift the U.S. children had made for them.

Indonesian girl holds a "helicopter" made by school children in the U.S.

Indonesian girl holds a “helicopter” made by school children in the U.S.

American Boy Making "Helicopters" for Indonesian Children

American Boy Making “Helicopters” for Indonesian Children

School children in the U.S. coloring helicopters for Indonesian children.

School children in the U.S. coloring helicopters for Indonesian children.

Below is a video we made of Indonesian children receiving helicopters made by American school children.

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Gamelan

There is a style of music that is well known throughout Asia, and in Indonesia particularly, and that music is called “gamelan.” This style of music is played on various types instrument, often in an “orchestra” like setting. It is very unique to the Westerner’s ears, and after listening to it for a while one begins to appreciate the talent and skill that goes into the composition, as well as playing of the various musical instruments.

Musicians at Rumah Tuo

Musicians at Rumah Tuo

Types of Inistruments
The actual instruments used in gamelan music can include bronze gongs, drums, flutes, bow and plucked stringed instruments, gong-chimes, metallphones, and sometimes singers. In lieu of bronze, some village instruments include the use of iron, wood, or bamboo.

Boy Carrying a Gong in Front of Rumah Tuo

Boy Carrying a Gong in Front of Rumah Tuo

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Spiritual Dynamics of Gamelan

Gamelan is known for being a highly spiritual style of music. In fact, the instruments are believed to have supernatural powers. It is also believed that the playing of the instruments can alter events in weather and nature. Because of the belief that the gamelan instruments have supernatural powers, the musicians and non-musicians are very respectful toward the instruments and the music. It is actually believed that each instrument is guided by spirits.

The below video is a musical performance.

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The below video is a musical performance.

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The below video shows how the instruments are made.

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The below video also shows how the instruments are made.

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