Samiran tourist village is home to the Merapi Garden area. (JP/Ganug Nugroho Adi)
Five years ago, Samiran in Selo district, Boyolali regency, Central Java, was just a small village located on the slopes of Mount Merapi and Mount Merbabu, serving as a transit place for climbers.
The locals of Samiran could be found voluntarily hosting hikers who needed a place to stay while waiting for the right time to climb. They never asked for payment for their services, which included accommodation and meals.
Today, the village is no longer the same. Samiran is now home to homestays and supporting tourist facilities such as cafes and flower gardens. It has slowly transformed into a tourist village that boasts a serene and cool ambiance, far from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Under the guidance of the Damandiri Selo Foundation, local residents began turning their houses into homestays beginning in 2016, and Samiran itself officially launched its tourist village program in 2017 by turning 10 houses into homestays.
The houses were completely remodeled into en suite-bedroom homestays equipped with living rooms and terraces. There are currently 13 homestays that are ready to greet visitors.
“Some houses have big bedrooms that can accommodate up to 20 guests a stay,” said Dwiyono, a representative of the foundation.
Visitors pay Rp 150,000 (US$10.56) per room per stay, plus an additional Rp 25,000 per person for three meals a day.
Aside from enjoying television and Wi-Fi, guests can also sip Merapi coffee at the Waroeng Damandiri mini café, which offers Selo specialties such as jadah bakar (grilled sticky rice cake).
Locals say their lives have changed over the past two years as they no longer rely on income only from farming.
“There are always guests coming on weekends, both climbers and tourists,” said Sagiman, 58, the owner of Wijaya homestay.
Sagiman said homestay owners in the village were obliged to give 10 percent of their income to village cooperative Sahabat Damandiri. The money collected is then used to develop tourist facilities in the village.
The owner of Melati homestay, Sri Lestari, 34, said the village was now merrier with visitors, including foreign tourists, especially on weekends and long holidays.
“We enjoy many benefits here. Apart from having our houses refurbished, we also earn additional income,” Sri said.
Tiyono of the Sahabat Mandiri cooperatives monitoring council said an average of 200 tourists visited the village every weekend. Most outsiders come to see Mount Merapi.
Tiyono said 489 people visited in 2017. The following year the number increased to 1,537 and now it is 200 people a week.
“Their visits move the local economy,” he said, adding that the foundation also presented traditional art performances such as Jatilan (trance dance) and Tari Topeng Ireng (black mask dance), dances that the village specializes in.
While in the village and staying at the homestays, visitors can take part in soft or regular treks to Mt. Merapi or Mt. Merbabu, or plan for other outbound activities. Additional activities available include learning how to play the gamelan, learning traditional dances and planting fruits and vegetables.
Visitors also spend their time picking organic vegetables, milking cows, making copper crafts, watching films on Mt. Merapi and enjoying the views from the Mt. Merapi and Mt. Merbabu observation posts.
“We always update the tour packages to make them as attractive as possible,” Tiyono said. (yun/kes)
By: GANUG NUGROHO ADI