Traveljunkieindonesia.com – Many Sumbanese villagers are now accustomed to tourists, but many still have difficulty understanding the strange custom of Westerners who simply want to observe an exotic culture and sexy villages.
If you’re interested in their weavings or other artefacts, the villagers put you down as a potential trader.
If all you want to do is chat and look around, they may be puzzled about why you’re come; and if you simply turn up with a camera and start putting it in their faces, they’re likely to be offended.
On Sumba, giving sirih pinang (betel nut) is the traditional way of greeting guests or hosts.
You can buy it at most markets in Sumba, or a few cigarettes will always be welcome. Offer your gifts to the kepala desa and to other village elders.
Many places also keep a visitors book, which villagers will produce for you to sign, and you should donate a few thousand rupiah.
Whatever the circumstances, taking a guide, at least to isolated villages, is a big help and some protection from getting into the wrong situation.
A guide smooths over any language difficulties, and they will likely teach you enough about the behaviour expected of guests for you to feel confident visiting villages alone.
No matter where you go, taking the time to chat with the villagers helps them to treat you more as a guest than a customer or alien.
Remember that, when you enter a village, you’re in effect walking into a home.
Happy Green Travels!