The Cultural Capital
We stood around at the Airport with the French couple, who we had learnt also had names 😉 Guillaume and Marie, because we were headed in the same direction and splitting a taxi fare made plenty of sense. They had purchased an air ticket to somewhere that they needed to change, or something like that, but someone mentioned that the airline had seemingly gone bankrupt a few years back….??????????? Fuck knows where this went wrong? We were thinking that someone was definitely scammed somewhere.
Anyway we seemed to have thought it was a good idea to look for an office or agent in the city. We caught a cab to our place and Guillaume and Marie walked from there. The taxis were quite strict about only doing a single drop off for the fee paid at the airport. It was not too far for them though.
We dropped our bags off at the reception of our Hostel, which was staffed by the friendliest of staff, all 5 of them that were there at the time. The reception desk was abuzz with activity and smiles all around. It was too early to check-in but that was fine because we wanted to go walk around a bit to see what the area was like.
We walked all the way to a Silver Processing company and invited to have a look around at all the ornaments and jewellery that they make. It is quite a renowned place for silver processing and some of the things in there, especially the old Sail Ships, were incredible.
After that we visited an Art Gallery, which is not like us but we had been told by a local that we had to go and see what Batik artwork was all about. We entered the gallery which was not a fancy place but it was filled with stacks of paintings leaning on the wall. We were given coffee and the “gallery guy” gave us a run-through of how the process works. He apologised because we missed the students who were demonstrating their work earlier that day but did do a good job of explaining how it is done.
So batik is an artwork that uses wax which is applied to a cloth sheet using a small and simple pot and tube-tip pen-looking thing. The wax can be painted on as well but this is a modern twist to the original method. The cloth is then dipped in dye and the waxed parts resist the dye and keep the original colour of the cloth. The cloth is then washed with hot water to remove the wax. This process can be repeated many times to make some amazing looking pieces of art. The planning that has to go into some of the pieces is quite outstanding. It is a traditional Indonesian method that is practised all over the Island of Java, even walking down the street you will see people sitting on their stoeps and doing it.
We were astounded by the technique and what goes into it, so we bought a “painting” that we loved. The best part is you can fold it up like a piece of clothing and put it in your bag so it takes up very little space.
(This is not the piece we bought)
We then returned to the hostel and checked in. We got hold of the Frenchies and made a plan to meet up for dinner. Marie was fantastic at finding out where the good places to eat are… 🙂 Instant Friend in my books!!! Guillaume seemed to be good at picking up the local language, Bahasa Indonesian, so with the both of them around we were bound to have a fantastic time.
The next day was quite a full day. We made our way towards the Sultans Palace and after getting a little lost and directed the wrong way by a local rickshaw driver, we ended up being shown how the puppets, used in the shows around the city and all over Java, were made. Each aspect of the Puppet had specific meaning from the big Bums to the pointy noses. Afterwards we were asked to buy some of the puppet merchandise but declined because they would certainly break during our travels, and they were quite expensive! We spent some of our time walking around the Sultans Palace, which was not that spectacular to us. It was a large and Grand place but the grounds and surrounding buildings were not very interesting. The resident musicians and puppeteers put on a very good show that we watched for a bit, but after a while the translation becomes an issue. The other interesting thing is that the staff prepare the Sultans lunch around midday everyday in monstrous proportions, regardless of whether he is in his residence or not.
We went by ourselves and we knew that Guillaume & Marie would be there in the morning too, so we bumped into them during our walk-about and continued on with them.
We then went to another Batik gallery that was recommended by another local, which was starting to become a trend. This time, however, we actually sat and did a very small amount of wax work with some material and got to see the demonstration, and we bought another painting which I loved!!! Guillaume & Marie also bought one… 🙂
We got commandeered a hundred times by local Javanese people, mainly the school children or varsity students wanting to speak English, although the main purpose was for a selfie. After a few we decided we wanted our own selfies with all these people too. It felt like we were celebrities!
I held onto some reptiles in the middle of the street, it is not something I would recommend but when a large Albino Python gets thrown around your neck you just kind of go with it, the monitor lizard was also very docile, which we saw when we walked away was because all of these animals are kept in cold water, which pretty much makes them not want to do anything. Sad.
We then had the privilege of meeting The Free-Flight Community. They are a group of parrot and parakeet bird owners who take their birds into the park and fly them like falcons! They use a whistle instead of day old chickens, but the idea is similar. We figured, by watching the one guy blowing his whistle frantically into the tree and climbing a wall, that it takes time and patience just like Falconry. It was surprising and also amazing.
It was a fun day and we had a ball with the Frenchies. To finish off we wondered around the one park which is home to the Mystical and Magical trees. Eko, remember our Uber driver, had told us about this place before we left Bali.
So the way it works is – there are these 2 trees that are about 20m apart. You simply have to stand about 100m or so to the North, put a blindfold on and then walk through the middle of the trees. Apparently if you can do it then you are Pure of Heart. Seems easy enough, but its not! We watched lots of people trying and failing in a hugely amusing fashion. Marie tried first and was heading way left straight for a vendors barbecue fire so we had to stop her before she had even reached the trees. Guillaume also veered off to the left side but not quite as badly. Jolene started quite well for the first 10m or so and then almost did a 90 degree turn to the right, but we let her go for quite a while.
Then…… lets just say, at least there was one pure heart amongst us!!!! 😉
If I remember correctly we ended up at the same restaurant for dinner as the previous night, ViaVia, eating Italian. Guillaume and Marie had shared their culture with us and were such an amazing couple. They loved wine and good food so we loved them!!! They were young and easy going, and fun being around. We would not have had such a good time in Jogja without them and I like to think that our lives were made better by meeting them. They were there for 3 or 4 days and we realy loved their companionship and friendship. We cannot wait to meet up with them again, whether it be in France or SA, or anywhere for that matter!
We went to the Water Palace the next morning and it was about 1000 times better than the Sultans Palace. It is basically the place where the Sultans wives used to stay a long time ago. The story goes that when the Sultan wanted to choose which wife to lay with that night, they would all get into the large pools and then the Sultan would stand in the tower and throw a flower down. Whichever wife it hits he will sleep with that night… Interesting.
The grounds are not in use today except for tourists to see. There are cool buildings and tunnels and stairwells and towers.
Then we made our way to one of the Major attractions in the area – Prambanan Hindu temple.
The place was magical. It was the most impressive temple that we had seen up to this point, and we had seen a lot. There were renovations taking place when we viewed it and there were so many piles of stone bricks piled up that were getting examined and marked by people so that they could remember where to put them all. It was like an enormous Lego worksite. The main temple was mainly assembled with a few touch ups being done, but whilst standing in the middle it took us back in time. It is amazing what people accomplished back when they had none the technology of today, albeit the technology was mostly replaced by man-power. The detail of the carvings on the walls and the architecture was mind boggling too!
We walked around for many hours although a lot of the time was taken by answering the questions from mass groups of school students. At around 2pm a huge number of kids ascended on the Temple with one goal, to get an English-speaking tourist to answer their standard questions… problem was that there were not many of us. We were approached by a group and asked questions like – “What is your name”, “where are you from”, How long are you staying in Indonesia”, “What is your favourite food”, “Do you like this temple”, and “can you speak any Bahasa Indonesian”. This was followed by a mandatory selfie! It was great and for a while we felt like we were famous. We answered a few of the groups questions and then slowly started to realise that the crowd around us was just growing. Finally after an hour of this we had to apologise to some groups and pass on answering any more questions, because we would have been stuck there until the security kicked us out. We also had the surrounding temples to see still.
It was a long day of walking and that night we were witness to a beautiful electrical storm. I have never seen lightning strike that continuously in my life. There was no rain and most of the lightning was concealed in the clouds but the clouds were constantly lit up for ages!
The next morning we climbed out of bed crap-early and scooted ourselves towards the other big attraction in the area – Borobudur Buddhist Temple. We were trying to make it up to the viewing hill for sunrise. A lot of people go there to see the sun rise up over the Temple, as did Guillaume and Marie because they had booked accommodation for the night in the town close to Borobudur… smart peeps! We were going to try meet them there but after arriving at the entrance of the Temple only moments before the sun was about to pop up and after being approached by a few guys on scooters, offering to take us to the hill that was 10 minutes away for a fee that we were not willing to pay, we decided to go to another spot. We double backed to some rice fields that we had driven past, which had the Papak volcano in the background, and sat on the side of the road. The sunrise was spectacular. The mountain and the rice fields made for some of the best photos and the surroundings were just amazing.
Finally we entered Borobudur once it had opened and we saw Guillaume and Marie there so we joined them. The circular formation of the temple and all the buildings and Stupas in it was quite a spectacle. It was astounding the amount of Buddha’s in the place and the detail that had gone into carving each one. Again it had such an impact on us, to think that this was built so long ago. We did come to the conclusion that Prambanan was our favorite of the two though.
Funnily enough, as we were walking on one of the higher levels, we walked around a small Stupa and bumped into 2 familiar faces. It was Sunil and Everett, the Americans that we had met in Bali up at the twin lakes. We knew they were in Jogja around the same time as us and although this was one of the main attractions, it is a vast place and it was quite a stroke of luck that they were there at that exact time! We chatted about our plans and also made some plans to meet up with them later as they were heading off to Jakarta the next day before Everett had to make his way back home. We walked around a bit more and took a whole bunch of selfies, I then did some Yoga pose, because it seemed like it was appropriate. Then we found some photo opportunity that would replace Buddhas head for ours because so many of the Buddhas were missing their heads, which was probably not that appropriate.
Then we started to see some groups of school students, so we legged it, although we were caught by one or two of the groups…
We made our way to the viewing hill to go see what we had missed out on that morning, and I am happy to say that we thought our place was better. The hill does look over Borobudur but it is so far away that the whole “grand” picture that we had in our mind was wrong. I got my years worth of exercise because I ran up and down the hill buying water and going to the toilet, also because Guillaume and Marie were supposed to be meeting us there and after we waited at the top for a while we were worried that they were waiting for us at the bottom… It was an odd situation and when I finally made it to the top (Again) I found them there with Jo. They had obviously passed us whilst we were in the toilet or on the one viewing deck near the bottom. They also then continued past the peak view to go see the Chicken Church, which is a Church…. in the shape of a Chicken! The view is stunning and the sunrise must have been beautiful, but with what we envisioned of the sun rising up over the temple, we felt that we would have been a little disappointed.
And then the heavens looked like they were about to open up so we said our fond farewells to the Frenchies, Guillaume and Marie, and made a dash for Jogja.
We met up with Sunil and Everett at a restaurant in the city. It had a large Buffet setting and you just selected whatever you wanted and paid at the counter. There was also a large bakery in the restaurant that all the pastry-lovers could not resist. I just wondered around looking at all the stuff thinking what a waste of time and energy must have gone into making all this… (Sorry, not a pastry fan). I am quite sure that not everything that was bought was actually eaten, but I am not here to judge… 😉
Now I have to admit that memory fades me a bit but the next day had no photographic evidence of any activity. I do recall a rainy day and I believe we spent it watching series and relaxing at Oscars place. So I am going to hazard a guess and say that this was the day that we did sweet F-all… and we deserved it…
That evening we went out for some drinks and a game of pool with Ana, one of our dormmates. She is a Mexican, from Chihuahua, who has been working in the states for the past 4 years as an engineer. She was so cool, and a million tons of energy all bundled up in a small frame. She was power travelling… bouncing around all over the show in a fraction of the time we were planning. I think she was planning on going to almost as many places as we were, but in a third of the time. After spending a short time with her we realized that if anyone could do it, she could!!! She had come into our dorm the a few days before this and introduced herself, followed by questions about our plans for the area and was trying to work out how and what to see in the 2 or 3 days she had in Jogja. She was then planning on heading for Bali, so we gave her Eko’s contact number so that she could get around as easily and quickly as possible.
We took the scooter out the next day and followed my maps app, Maps-Me. We pinned a few attractions and headed out to see what they were all about. We saw a stunning viewpoint that overlooked a reasonably large river. It was a small scale fruit farm that a local lady showed us around and we bought some of the local fruit. There were also wooden cabins that accommodated school campers and groups that looked like they were doing team-building activities. It looked like a place that locals went to picnic and take selfies! We visited a cave which was apparently where the Sultan would go and pray at some stage. It was a tight squeeze to get into the prayer chamber and it was quite small when inside. Our local guide seconded as our personal photographer!
At the same place there was also a waterfall which was a fantastic place to swim… but we got shouted at and told to hire life-jackets before jumping in. At the local eateries we learnt that the fires that looked like they were fueled by coconuts were actually heating up the young coconuts for drinking… They were amazing, and they stayed hot forever. We also found that there was so much liquid in them that they actually filled you up! It was a healthy drink and meal all bundled up in one nut!
The next morning we were issued with face masks at the accommodation and told that one of the rooms was going to be fumigated for bed bugs and other creepy-crawlies. It was a scheduled routine that took place every couple of weeks and the owner, Oscar, explained that he had a contract in place with the company that was doing it. He had a very good point in saying that he would rather maintain the standard as opposed to have to deal with outbreaks of the little critters.
We had spoken with Oscar the day before and because we were staying there for 8 days he invited us to go along with him and a few other guests on a day out in the city.
That afternoon we were joined by 3 other girls, so Oscar and I were the only boys. He chauffeured us around and I accompanied him in the front. We were booked into a very nice Spa for a fantastic Massage! I opted for the firm, full body massage which included the lady walking all over my back. At one point I was sure my body was going to break but it felt as though I was reborn afterwards!
We had an enormous late lunch consisting of the local favourite, Nasi Padang. This was a variety of dishes that were laid out on the table in front of you and endless supplies of rice. You just picked and served whatever you wanted, with choices like Fried whole fish, Beef Rendang, vegetables, chicked, seafood and a ton more. At the end you just paid for whatever you had eaten.
We finished off the day with a movie at the Cinemax styled theatre. We were waited on and ordered snacks and drinks as we pleased, although we were still extremely full from the late lunch. We did have to have popcorn though, because you cannot go to the movies and not have popcorn and a soda!
We headed off into the countryside the next day to explore the viewpoints, waterfalls and a beach. We ended up on long, windy roads that led to nowhere and then back. The rustic coastline was absolutely amazing and for some parts reminded me a bit of Kei Mouth, back home. We even managed to get some beach time in at the very secluded beach that was stunning, but not the best for swimming. It was nestled in between cliff faces and there were only a handful of locals there taking photos for photo shoots or Facebook. To get there we had to walk through some farm lands that had little goat pens and coconut plantations.
We scootered through local villages which were well equipped with satellite dishes all over their rooftops and marvelled at the lifestyle of the people in this beautiful countryside.
The waterfall we found was a little disappointing but I have to blame the one waterfall in Bali, none could stand up to its beauty for the rest of our SE Asia trip.
That evening we pulled off at a restaurant and viewpoint that overlooked the city of Jogja. It was so perfectly located and it was quite astounding to see the city at night with all the lights!!!
We had been extremely busy in Jogja and spent our time with some really good people. It was sad to be leaving such a culturally rich and beautiful part of Indonesia, but we had spent the right amount of time there and we felt that we had achieved and experienced enough to say goodbye.