Tanjungsari, the Tofu Village in Borobudur

As you take this name ‘Borobudur’, the vital keywords which cross through your mind must be the mystic ancient temple, buddha, history, monument, world heritage site etc. Many tourists who already visited the Javanese province might also tell you just the stories of this magnificent monument which is also a UNESCO site. There is no doubt that the temple has all excellence to steal the major attention of visitors.

But only if the ‘explorer’ in you can not stay calm without checking the surroundings you may just discover this ‘other side’ of Borobudur. Three to four kilometers away from the main temple, there is a picturesque village, called ‘Tanjungsari’. It is also popular as ‘Tofu village’ because of the scattered tofu or tahu-making old workshops. Public transport or a cab is an almost-impossible option to reach there. Probably a bi-cycle or a bike and a local map can be the saviors. We took an extra step ahead. Instead of renting a bike we ‘rented’ the bike shop owner himself! That was one of those funny travel-moments which still make us laugh. The guy got puzzled when we approached him, saying ‘we don’t want your bike, we want you to take us there’! It was a lesson from all our past trips, local’s help is a ‘must’ to explore a non-touristy place when you do not know the language.

So after a minute of negotiation, the friendly owner got ready to give us a ride. His friends encouraged him on his new job! 😉

Tanjungsari is a beautiful Indonesian village, surrounded by the Menoreh Hills and green landscapes.  Our newly appointed guide happily took us to the first workshop. It was owned by a middle aged person ‘Sumbi’.  The sign board was half broken and the exterior of the workshop was not at all interesting. It looked like another village home. But after getting inside we found an old, Javanese workshop full of traditional utensils and no automatic machines. Only one worker was there. He greeted his new visitors with a big, hearty smile. There you see the universal innocence of a village culture!

Directional light from the wooden roof and walls had already given an amazing rustic look to the in-house workshop. The entire setting automatically triggered our hands to take out the gears.

The tofu-worker explained us the traditional process of making tofu, the white and healthy blocks, we often include in our daily diet.

Soya beans are soaked overnight in water to soften and ground into a coarse paste

It is then simmered in hot water until foamed up and strained through white clothes inside wooden blocks.

Straining soya paste with an iron utensil again and again is a tedious job

After pressing down with wooden heavy blocks, the tofu bar takes a perfect shape

Tofu bars are shifted to the traditional wooden racks for settling

Working constantly beside an ever steaming tofu tub really seems a challenge in the hot and humid weather of Borobodur.

The owner of the workshop

We visited few more such workshops and all still continue the old, local process of tofu-making. Some in house workshops are run by the various members of same family. The art of tofu-making is thus passed through generations.

The youngest member of the family curiously observes the technique 🙂


Manual process instead of a motor to pull the water 🙂
Here the tofu straining process is little different than the earlier workshop. They stir the watery tofu with hand in ancient yin-yang pattern.

Tofu bar is cut into pieces before frying on an old, wooden oven. The lady was using a mask to avoid the smoke


A workshop member poses with his Javanese cigarette

Since ages, Tofu is an extremely popular food in South East Asian’s daily meals. Hence these workshops, although still manual, do not face much crunch in demand. They send batches of fresh or fried tofus to the local market. In an era of artificial intelligence and automation, there are still few parts, left in the world, which remind you about some old movie-scenes. This place was definitely one of them and I will specially remember Tanjungsari because of the picturesque traditional workshops and the friendly people out there. ‘Slow travel’ always offers something special that is often missed by usual tourists.

This article also appeared in Airasia’s travel smith’s page.

My other photo stories can be found here

In search of a lost Empire- Hampi

It was winter 2014 and I was on full travel spree due to the pleasant weather. How about Hampi? We heard that it is a paradise for history buffs and bag packers.

After our usual research on some documentaries we packed our bags and ventured out for the lost capital of Vijayanagara Empire. A glorious and rich dynasty that ruled southern India for 200 years. Little did we know that we would end up visiting this UNESCO world heritage site two more times later. Given a chance I can probably visit the place ten more times again!

It was just a one night-bus-journey from Hyderabad where we were working. One can reach more quickly from Bangalore. Hampi always had fascinated me because of its magnificent history and iconic temples and a splendid water tank.  I read about them since school. But upon reaching we realized, Hampi is more than that and even after 3 visits we could not completely explore Hampi!

If you have time you do not need a cab to reach from one ruin to another. Just get a map from Hampi Bazar, cover all the places on foot or on a rented cycle! 600 years old or older ruins are all over the place. Hampi still retains its ancient essence, intense enough to make us keep the cameras aside and sit quietly somewhere.

Every time we stayed in a rooftop room at a small guest house. Virupaksha temple would be behind us with lots of ruins and ridges along north horizon and majestic Hemakuta hill on south.  Did I ever imagine myself in the midst of such wonderful ambiance?

The panoramic view of Virupaksha temple and surroundings from Hemakuta hill


The stretch from Achyutaraya Temple to Virupaksha temple

Hampi is not yet crowded by modern hotels or ‘fun-only’ tourists, rather you can find Indian as well as foreign bag packers, groups of students on educational tour, few homely guest houses, some flea markets and little Tattoo studios. Catching a phone signal was tough and the nearest city with all amenities was 12kms away! Well, that is what we liked most! Would you ever mind running away from your daily worries of urban life?

Hampi is mystic, ancient and pure with all its raw beauty! As you sit on the steps of Pushkarini (rectangular pond) you can actually imagine how the ancient Chalukyans used to float on coracles. There is a small temple right in the middle of every pushkarini. The ruins of flower markets are still there around the sacred pond. We visited the famous Lotus Mahal which has an inbuilt AC mechanism. Then covered the Narasimha temple, elephant stables, queen’s bath, underground shiva temple, stunning Vittala campus and many more architectural splendors. Vittala temple can impress anybody instantly with its photogenic shrine, musical pillars, sprawling campus and the beautiful gateway towers. It is an iconic landmark of Hampi. During our third visit, we saw it already under renovation and prayed from heart that the temple should not lose its original charm!

A morning view around Vittala temple


Inside Vittala temple


Lotus Mahal was designed like a lotus bud. It was used for recreational activities for the royal ladies of Vijayanagara

Pushkarini, the sacred tank

Diwali light decorations inside Virupaksha temple

I still remember my first morning at Hampi. Probably some mornings are so strangely charming that leave a strong impression in you about the place for long. Brimming with excitement we climbed the Hemakuta hill. The chilly wind, the Sunrise behind the Matunga hill, morning chant and resonating bells from Virupaksha temple, everything seemed so amazing on the hill. You can just sit there for hours without saying a word! That’s where we met Vittal also; a little local boy, selling Hampi post cards as he got a day off from school. We shared a cake for breakfast and the kid merrily showed us the shortest way to reach at the bank of river Tungabhadra.

Fueling myself at a breakfast shop beside the river
Sipping your morning cup of tea at Hemakuta Hill is a luxurious experience









As you cross the river, that is another different world. There you enter from history to the mythical era of Hindu epic Ramayana. Many believe that Hampi is the ancient Kishkindhya. There are places like Anjaneya Hill which is believed to be the birth place of Hindu Lord Hanuman, Pampa Sarovar where Lord Rama met his devotee Sabari, Rishimukh hill where Rama and Hanuman met each other etc. All I can advise here is just to refresh your knowledge about Ramayana before visiting this site and your experience would be unforgettable. I am neither a religious person nor advising you to be one. But connecting the dots from the mythical events, was awe-inspiring indeed!

Bird’s eye view of Hampi from Anjaneya Hill
The priest, speaking in the backdrop of Rishimukh hill

During our last trip, we were searching for a mountain which is believed to be the Rishimukh hill. As we walked past the Tunga Bhadra river, met a priest, taking his morning dip. He only showed us that we are already in front of  the hill. It is nevertheless a humbling experience to stand before a mythical mountain. Further talking to the priest revealed that he has changed his jobs and places several times just for the sake of experience. Would you believe that the priest once worked as a cook for some Indian army team at border!

Meeting unknown people sometimes gives you a unique kind of joy! On our way to Achyutaraya, we met a stone artist. I also tried my hands in chiseling out some God’s face.

Be it little Vittal or this artist or the priest, when we hear about their daily lives, struggle and amazing experiences, somehow I remember those more than whatever I hear during a family gathering or a kitty party! You may call it as ‘disorder’ in my brain algorithm but I am happy with it  🙂

Except the people, ruins, history and mythology, Hampi has another thing in its Pandora’s box. The mesmerizing sunset spots. There are numerous places like Matunga hill, Malavanta hill, Hemakuta hill where we enjoyed the vivid sunset in every trip and still can not decide which one was better. Sometimes, same place offered us different look and perception. Rock climbers would definitely prefer Matunga hill while usual travelers might want to avoid due to the steep pathway.

So here goes few sunset shots for you to decide 🙂 while I take a break. Because ‘Hampi’ is not yet completely explored and probably that always leaves a smile on our faces. Because we can go back again to see some more!

You can leave your perception about Hampi in the comment. Tell me if you know a secret, sacred, peaceful spot that can be covered in our next trip 🙂

Malavanta Hill where Lord Rama had stayed at Kishkindhya before his journey to Lanka


Sunset from the Hemakuta hill


Sunset from Hemakuta Hill
A traveler practicing sunset yoga