Spiritual Healing Trip: Mount Merbabu in Central Java, Indonesia

This journey was part of our Taman Hayat’s #SurelyGreenIsGood healing trips in 2018.

Mother Nature was calling…. This trip took place in October 2018 where Indra and I were feeling overwhelmed and overloaded at work; we almost felt stuck. We know ‘stuck’ is not a word we want to use when we describe our work. Our job excites us; it winds us up. So we knew immediately it was a warning telling us to slow down, to pause, and to breathe. We wanted to reunite with Mother Nature. 

Text by Monica Fernandez. Photos by Fransisca Angela.

Climbing Mount Merbabu

After doing quick research, we decided to climb Mount Merbabu in East Java. It was the first week of October when Indra and I along with three of our happy friends (Fransisca, David, and Tefan) took the train from Pasar Senen to Solojebres Station. It was past midnight by the time we reached our destination and got picked up by a driver, which we hired prior to our departure. We arrived at Suwanting Basecamp at 6 A.M in the morning, immediately fueled ourselves, and rested for a couple of hours before starting our trek. We felt keyed up and nervy because the locals told us there would be no source of water on the trail, in addition to that the route we picked was apparently not the easiest and fastest one. We began to flirt with the idea of hiring a guide and wrestled with this dilemma for a few minutes. Nonetheless, we told ourselves we had enough preparation and reminded ourselves that Suwanting route had the most incredible views! They were plain enough to silence our inner doubts.

Suwanting Basecamp to Post 1

We were leaving the basecamp at 9 A.M and started easy on an asphalt road in Suwanting. After 30 minutes of walking, we passed some prosperous farms and entered dense pine woods. The first thing that hit me was the smell, a wet almost rotten scent that soothed me. The woods were silent, but not in an oppressive way, it was rather a comforting one. The path was fairly easy and we were so absorbed in the scene; we didn’t know what kind of hardships awaited us. 

Post 1 to Post 2

Our packs, which had been filled by 4L of drinking water and other stuff, began to feel heavier.  At first, the beginning of the hike was mild; but after passing Stage 1 we began to ascend the hills and kept facing steep rugged paths. For hours we walked and climbed through these open woods, up over hills-down into valleys-but only to ascend again another ridge higher than the last. Walking through the woods with a heavy backpack on one’s shoulder was no joke, but we had considered all that beforehand and were not discouraged by it. Some people camped in Post 2, but we decided to keep climbing.

Post 2 to Post 3

The trail from Post 2 to Post 3 was the toughest stage on this trek. The ascent up the hill was long and exhausting. The Sun had set when we passed Hutan Manding and rested there for a few minutes. Although the view was beautiful, the forest was oppressively silent and colder. The locals also believed that we had to say our greeting when we entered this particular forest. We didn’t stay long as it got darker and we still had a long way to go. The Sun sank further below the horizon when we left. 

It was dark and we never reached Post 3! The final ascent of the trail was extremely steep, rough underfoot, and potentially slippery. We were so very tired, we didn’t realize we used our water unwisely (there were supposed to be 3 sources of water along the trail, but we had not seen a drop). Sad. It was growing colder and we tried to focus not to trip over hidden things in the dark. Some of us started to feel unwell but we knew we needed to keep moving. We stood for some time debating what it would be best for us to do. But the best thing to do was to keep climbing. A gloomy chillness made us shiver and I could feel a general feeling of uneasiness filled the air.

After almost losing hope and being disheartened, we finally arrived at Sabana 1! It was almost 8 P.M…. We almost cried….  Although we were exhausted and parched with thirst, we could not help ourselves but to stop and take a good long look at the picture that lay before us. We threw our bundles down on the ground and stretched out for a few minutes before building our tents. The air was cold and frosty but our hearts burst with joy. 

Post 3 to Summit

Where we camped, we were rewarded with an amazing view of Mount Merapi, Sindoro-Sumbing, as well as the other surrounding mountains in the region. We camped for two nights but we decided not to summit as we ran out of drinking water. But things were different for Tefan and Fransisca as they made it to Puncak Suwanting with no water at all! Strong determination was all they had. 

“The summit is what drives us, but the climb itself is what matters.”
— Conrad Anker

To sit atop a mountain alone is a wonderful feeling. They said, “The summit is what drives us, but the climb itself is what matters.” We lay for a long time, fascinated by our own littleness and the vastness of our environment being borne in upon us. It was crazy to say this, but I was my happiest self, living out of a backpack in the toughest condition and willingly submitted to all hardships just to have this strange energy transferred to me when I touched the Earth. I learned how to stay in the moment, how to trust myself, and how to sacrifice my ego. I felt strangely contented and humbled, the extraordinary feeling that can only be given by Mother Nature. 


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“Elephants Never Forget”, Hope for Life Auction with WWF Indonesia

Words and photos by Fransisca Angela.

How does it feel to come back from a journey of soul searching only to find strangers occupy your home? That must feel odd, maybe you would get upset or even try to get it back. But sadly, not in the case of Sumatran elephant. This is the story that touched us about the critically endangered Sumatran elephants that were not only losing their home to human civilization but also trying to survive with the help of local rangers under the Elephant Flying Squad that was initiated by WWF Indonesia. Unlike any other conventional rangers that relied on clandestine, those who preferred to be called as Mahout focuses on individual skill training to relieve conflict between humans and elephants. 

Two weeks prior, we received an inquiry from HOPE (Yayasan Dunia Kasih Harapan) to collaborate for their Hope for Life Auction event at Hotel Monopoli on Monday 3rd December 2018. They aim to gather local artists as well as makers to contribute in the live auction by creating works that represent this precious animal. The benefit from this auction will help to sustain the conservation of Sumatran Elephants in Tesso Nilo as well as to raise awareness towards this critical issue. Without hesitation, we agreed to participate and fully support the cause.

For the exhibition entry, we get to team up with our good friend from Imaji Studio, an ethical fashion brand that focuses on natural dyeing practice. We decided to highlight the main issue as the focal point of our showcase, which is the tropical rainforest that represents the home of Sumatran Elephants. We carefully selected the plants to bring a contemporary look of a tropical rainforest, then having the indigo dyed textile work by Imaji Studio that distinguished as a waterfall. A portrait of an eye gaze from an elephant in Tesso Nilo by Julian Latif gives a perfect final touch to our humble corner.

We tried to interpret Taman Hayat movement into the installation. There is always hope when perception becomes an idea. Maybe elephants are now threatened but it’s not too late to save them.” – Indra Wijaya

For the auction itself, we bring three different plants with its own character that we personally think were aligned with the backstory of Sumatran Elephant in Tesso Nilo. The declining population of Sumatran Elephants means that it will also inhibit the sustainability of a forest chain. That also includes the quality of air, oxygen, and clean water, to medicine. 

The cause of habitat loss in a rainforest doesn’t only affect the livelihood of elephants but also takes its toll in a slow growing plant like Euphorbia Hedyotoides. Ever since our attempt to reproducing this particular plant with local farmer has been successful, we felt the need to shine a light on this beautiful creature.

As for a great resemblance of an elephant skin, we showcase this ‘Elephant Tree’ with its distinguished texture. The beauty is magnified even more with a vessel inspired by the richness of Indonesian culture and nature we pour into this object called ‘The Living Sculpture of Sumatran Elephant”. 

Through Cereus forbesii ‘Spiralis’, we want to showcase the spiral nature of this cactus, inhabited from its Cactaceaean relatives. The unusual black-colored and rustic terracotta pot portrays the distinctive beauty of Indonesia’s forest, which treasures an incredible amount of wildlife.

What we love in participating at an offline event like this was how our plants evoke many interests and great conversations with new and familiar faces. It makes all the effort and tiredness worth in the end. So thank you to whoever stopped by, chatted with us, asked questions, and even bid our plants during the auction. I hope we can continue to live in harmony along with other living creatures out there. The exhibition will still be available for preview until this Saturday, 8 December 2018 at Hotel Monopoli.

You might have heard the phrase “Elephants never forget.” During the press conference of the Gala Dinner, it rings true when one of the Elephant Flying Squad rangers shared that elephant has an enormous brain capacity amongst other living creatures, and with its impressive memory, it has a sense of belonging. That’s exactly what makes them special. Just like us humans, we exist in a place where we belong.

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News: Africa’s Oldest Trees, Baobab, are Dying Mysteriously

It’s been one of our bucket list items to go to Madagascar and to witness all the mysterious plants endemic to this particular stunning country. One of many bizarre plants we are dying to see in its natural habitat is the majestic Baobab tree, the oldest Africa’s tree. Sadly, this dream of us is unlikely to happen as some of the continent’s most ancient and biggest specimens died suddenly in a mysterious way. It broke our hearts tremendously.

The scientists collected no signs of an epidemic or disease, leading them to a suggestion that climate change is the main culprit of this tragic phenomenon. However, further studies are needed to confirm this idea.

These long–living trees can live up to 2,500 years old and had been an icon of Madagascar. Known as “the upside-down tree”, the mighty Baobab trees have witnessed more histories than humans have, they also play a significant role to the local communities living around the forest and also to the ecosystem in the dry African savannahs.

The locals utilize almost every part of the trees to support their living. The bark is used for the construction of their house, while the fruit is used for their meals. The leaves can also be used for medicinal properties and the giant trunks are turned into shelters or water storage during a dry season. The locals even “built a pub inside the living tree’s thousand-year-old hollow trunk,” stated by National Geography News.

The stunning Baobab (Adansonia digitata) has grown strong and tall for generations, its trunk reaching a height of 18 meters. The researchers intended to examine why the species are so long-living, unexpectedly discovered that 9 out of 13 of oldest and biggest Baobab trees have collapsed in the past decade. They aged between 1,100 and 2,500 years old. How heartbreaking. How could this happen?

The experts stated that the cause of the deaths remains unknown. As mentioned, there was no evidence of an epidemic or disease. Tarin Toledo Aceves, a forest ecologist, points out that too many trees are dying too fast for the trend to be natural.

“From 2005 to 2017 is about 12 years, and considering the long life span of these trees, it is rather unlikely that is a natural pattern.”

Instead, experts suggest this incident may be the result of a hotter, drier climate. It is strengthened by the fact some older ones collapsed in areas where the African climate is increasing most significantly.

Researchers assume that warming temperatures have either killed them directly or have affected them in a way that makes them weaker in facing natural phenomena such as drought and diseases.

The death of some of the oldest and biggest Baobab is sad. However, it doesn’t mean we can’t do anything about it. We re-write this article because we hope this news will awaken us about the current condition of the Earth and how it affects many of us. We hope it motivates the rest of us to take action in protecting our planet and the world’s remaining endangered species. Otherwise, Madagascar (and many other countries) will risk losing more of its forests.

Text: Monica Fernandez
Source of Photos: Instagram @tothewonderblog, Pinterest

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Project: BangkitkanTekad Campaign of Indomie, Jakarta

We are thankful. It was such a privilege for Taman Hayat to be part of the work where the people want to make a change for a better Indonesia, be it a small change or a big change. 

In 2017, Indomie was celebrating its 45th anniversary and introduced #BangkitkanTekad campaign which enabled Indonesians to achieve their dreams for the country, whatever their “Tekad” or willpower was. 

Monica of Taman Hayat along with Nike Prima (Founder of Living Loving), Leonard Theosabrata (Founder of Indoestri Makerspace), Anthony Reza (Founder of Get Craft), and Andhika Nugraha (Illustrator) received an opportunity to share about their challenge and willpower, in order to create a change for a better Indonesia.  

For everyone who involved in this work, you reminded us that the impact you wanted to create through your works, is the key that keeps you going til today. 

Once again, we’d like to thank Indomie for the opportunity given and SYN Films for the beautiful BTS photos.   

You can check the full version of #BangkitkanTekad video campaign here, but you have to first log in to Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Indomie/videos/10155518058696501/

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Meet The Dutch Gardener Cok In His Greenhouse, Netherland

This journey was a part of our #SurelyGreenIsGood trip to Europe. 

To see and to learn, from the people the Creator allowed us to meet. We are grateful! This time we traveled to Honselersdijk; it was windy and cold. By the time we reached our destination, we were soaking wet from the rain. The weather was unpleasant and Monica was not feeling well, but we would never regret the decision we made to visit Cok. 

Text & Photos by Monica Fernandez



We departed from Alkmaar at 7 AM in the morning and made a transit in Amsterdam. It was funny because most of the Dutch people we asked did not know the exact location of Honselersdijk; they literally used a device to locate where it was (and I kid you not!). The destination was literally a non-mainstream one, though. 

Back to Cok, he is a Dutch gardener. He is amazing and possessing a humble personality at the same time. We learned a lot (and a lot of things) from him! He started from zero and now he owned a greenhouse filled with a collection of bizarre-looking plants, exported to all over the world. There were hundreds of species that we have only seen online or in the books. 



He once said, “Cacti and succulents have always been my favorite. I mean, how could a plant look something like this? I couldn’t think of anything else. They are beautiful.” Yes, and this statement reminded me of someone – Indra. He once said a similar thing; he even said they must be from outer space! 

“Talk to your plants, and they will show you.” – This is when we discussed how we indicate if our plants need more water (or get too much water), need more sunlight (or get too much sunlight), need a new planter, need a fresh pack of potting soil, or even need more attention! 

“Never give your plants too much water. Make sure they are completely dried before you water them. Completely. Otherwise, you’ll kill them.” – A basic advice that people might have heard all the time, but he just re-emphasized the importance of it. Yes, a crucial one.

“You know the meaning of succulents right? It literally means it stores water in their stems. In their original habitat, they do not receive water for months or years. The root systems are generally thin and shallow. But when it rains, they can store a large amount of water within a short period of time. And they survive for another year, or two, or three.” – No specific topic. It was just a casual conversation. But we just love how the excitement and the spirit were poured out during the talk. 



“They are slow-growing plants. Very slow! And they are supposed to grow slow. But that’s the beauty of it. You have to be patient. If they grow too fast, it’s not good.” – I mean, another life lesson! It’s like showing patience and pure love while taking care of your own baby. 

There were many and many interesting discussions that occurred. However, we realized this article would not be enough to cover all the stories and all the excitement we experienced. In short, it was magical for us knowing in another part of the world there is someone who does things just like we do. Someone who is also emotionally connected to what they are doing. Cok has been into gardening since the age of six and now he is almost 74. It is amazing because his work simply teaches us and motivates us in many aspects, especially for Taman Hayat in its early stage of the journey. We know this is only the beginning for us and we look forward to welcoming 2018. It was really an honor to meet Cok personally!








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Taman Hayat In Collaboration With YATS Colony, Yogyakarta

During the first visit to YATS Colony, we love the hotel instantly. Its cheerful ambiance affected us greatly; our hearts were filled with joy and comfort. In this opportunity, we’d like to thank YATS Colony for the opportunity given. It was such a privilege for Taman Hayat (along with the other four crafters Dus Duk Duk, Needle Works Studios, Rajut Kejut, and Mita Larasati) to contribute and to be part of YATS Colony’s first birthday bash. Each crafter was entrusted with a mission to give a personalized touch full of energy in every room, of course, according to each expertise. 


The event was held in December 6 – 8, 2017 while the installation lasted until December 19, 2017. Unfortunately, Monica and Indra were unable to join the fun due to conflicting schedules of #SurelyGreenIsGood trip to Europe; however rest assured everyone because we had Dimitri, Kharis, and Rizky in our support system. Teamwork was everything and they did a wonderful job in organizing and arranging all the needs for the installation. Kudos to everyone! 

We want to inspire urban citizens to live in harmony between an artificial concrete wall and an organic environment by showcasing a collection of the world’s bizarre living organisms, combined with the cheerful nature of YATS Colony. Each plant was curated based on its distinct living process to thrive in its natural habitats. Due to the variety of their origins (from South America to South Africa), each plant has a special look and characteristic. They were also thoughtfully combined with pottery especially handcrafted by Kharis Riza and we ensured the pottery matched the personality of each living creature. Because we believe, God delights in every detail.

Once again, we’d like to thank YATS Colony for being very welcoming and Lambok Sinaga for the awesome pictures. We are also grateful for any new friendship made.   

Text: Monica Fernandez
Photography: Lambok Sinaga

Address: YATS Colony Jalan Patangpuluhan No.23, Patangpuluhan, Wirobrajan, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta 55251, Indonesia

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