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August 29, 2005

The Sultan's Palace

DAY: 76
LOCATION: Pulau (island) Panjang (Sumbawa)
LATITUDE : S 08 degs, 26.77'
LONGITUDE: E 116 degs, 53.49'

Before leaving the town of Sumbawa Besar we had a chance to visit the Dalam Loka, or old Sultan's Palace. Built in 1885 by Sultan Jalashuddin it was the hub of the Sultanate capital of Sumbawa that itself was controlled by the East Javanese Majapahit Empire from the 14th century onwards. The region of Sumbawa was well placed on the trade route between Java and both the sandalwood producers to the east in Timor and the Spice Islands to the north, and as such enjoyed considerable strategic importance and wealth.

The Hindu Rajas from Javanese origin were replaced in the 17th century by the Makassarese of Sulawesi, converting the people from their animist religion to Islam. The Dutch East India had a limited stay here before being ousted by the Japanese in World War II, whose rule constituted a bitter period of the region's history. After the Japanese defeat Sumbawa became a part of the modern Republic of Indonesia, and although the Sultan's were no longer recognised by the central government, some of their ancestors maintain prestige as well as well the old Palace.

The barn-like wooden structure we saw is all that is left. We tried to find someone to give us a tour but the guide was apparently asleep. Probably not a bad thing. The place looked on the verge of collapse, held upright only by a network of blue polypropylene ropes attached to nearby palm trees. Nice carving on the wood that we could see through the railings though.

Tonight finds us camped in a tiny opening in an otherwise impenetrable mangrove lined south coast of Pulau Panjang, the last island belonging to Sumbawa before we cross to Lombok tomorrow morning. As we've found before, camping close to mangroves means being at the mercy of every biting insect known to mankind (and a good many that aren't), and tonight was no exception: mosquitos, sandflies, deerflies, orange biting ants, large biting flies/small biting flies - you name it, we've been bitten by it. Oh, the joys of camping in the tropics...

The crossing tomorrow will involve traversing Selat Alas, a fairly narrow strait of 8 odd miles that we hope to do in a quick 'dash' over slack(ish) water at around 1000am local time. It will be a dress rehearsal for the Big Daddy of them all, Selat Lombok between Lombok and Bali that we'll be tackling in around 3-days time. We're both quite apprehensive about that one. It's 20-odd miles against a predominantly southerly tidal stream (with the SE monsoonal pattern) with riptides and whirlpools on both sides thrown in as standard features. Tomorrow will, I think, give us a little idea of what to expect.

Posted on August 29, 2005 1:13 PM