We have really enjoyed our time here. Our little hotel just around the corner from the famous Tugu statue was clean, wifi enabled, airconditioned and the two different breakfasts we ate were wonderful. The taste of the chicken soup noodles is still on my lips (or rather the chilli that accompanied it) and I am enjoying a Javanese coffee, black and sweet (that I can assure you hasn’t passed through the bowels of a civet) while I write this.
Helen is displaying great skills in brinkmanship as she hasn’t booked our flight out of Cambodia back to Kuala Lumpur yet. When you travel to countries like Indonesia, you do need to show evidence of a ticket or how you are a going to exit the country. She is waiting for the price to pass through the bell curve peak and she’ll grab the tickets as the fulfilment requirement rises closer to the flight day (we hope).
We had a walking day yesterday and this also highlighted how close the hotel was to some of the main sites in Yogyakarta. We walked down Marlioboro St again on our way to the Keraton or palace grounds. We walked past the Yogyakarta train station and further down the road took a photo opportunity in front of what looked like an entrance to a China Town street. We were delighted when a lovely becak driver offered to take a photograph of the three of us.
I thought this photograph of the old mounted steam engine outside the train station with the becak driver perdalling two ladies in front made for a “climate change” moment captured on film. If you want value for money, ask how far a driver will take you for 50,000 rupiah (about five dollars), jump in and enjoy the ride. If you weigh as much as I do, I would treat the front seat as a business class experience and hire another two becaks for Joe and Helen.
It is the wet season in Indonesia at the moment and intermittent rain was generally light enough to continue our walk, but on a couple of occasions we needed to seek shelter under an awning or veranda… or on one occasion under 3 painted elephant statues.
As we walked down Marlioboro St we noticed that the traffic was rather heavy and slow moving. We soon found out why. There was a peaceful union rally demonstrating for better health services for contract workers.
|From Kraton Jogyakarta – 2014-12-11|
The tolerance of the police force was great and shows how far this nation has come in terms of freedom of speech. As we slowly made our way down the street, the protestors also made their cause known as they walked down the street.
The large open area in front of the palace was filled with ferris wheels, rides and markets selling clothes and children’s gifts. It wasn’t until we were on the way to the airport today (after the visit) that our lovely taxi driver explained to me that it was a month long festival of celebration, like a county or city show that goes for a month. This festival was related to a Muslim event. I had mistakenly thought that the markets had permanently taken over the large clearing in front of the palace.
We toured through the front area of the palace and suggest that the Lonely Planet description of visiting the palace was reasonable accurate. It holds considerable significance both architecturally and historically.
One of the photographs in the palace depicted guards carrying a “gunungan” or mountain shaped like a volcano. Again from our friendly and knowledgeable taxi driver we discovered that these “mountains” were made out of food, displayed to people and then the mountains were eaten. Red eggs and yellow rice is eaten by believers who are convinced that it lengthens life and improves health. A description of the festival involving gunungan is here… it occurs three times a year.
During the same period the palace gamelan is taken to the front of the mosque and played. The adaptions and integration of local customs and culture into mainstream Islam here is the same as I have observed in the Catholic Church adoption of local Tiwi Island traditions into their ceremony.
We also observed this at Borobudur where the story of Buddha was woven into the local stories presenting a slightly different take on Buddhism compared to Chinese Buddhist temples we have seen in China and other Asian countries.
On our way back we passed by an extremely elegant building which said that it was a museum, but the barricades at the entrances suggested it was for someone important… well as it turns out it is one of the palaces for the President of Indonesia and most famously was President Sukarno’s presidential palace for the three years that Yogyakarta was the capital of Indonesia – 1946 – 1949. It is called Gedung Agung.
Opposite was an almost equally impressive building, described as the “Yogyakarta Fortress Museum” is also known as the Vredeburg Fortress Museum.
As we walked back, Helen passed a spot where we had bargained (no, Helen had bargained) for a leather flying helmet. The gentleman had remembered Helen and the price had started at $30 dollars and I was happy to spend $20, but Helen held out until it was $15. After our purchase which I was extremely pleased with, Helen reminded me that we had purchased two helmets with goggles for $9.50 some 3 years ago. I only mention this because I am hopeless when it comes to bargaining, despite speaking the language. When I hear the stories of the five children the shopowner has to raise and my purchase will help him it is hard for me to bargain… so I step back and Helen, the “Bargainator” steps in and like Giovanna who assisted me in Malaysia engages in a kind of gentle verbal waterboarding that wears down the seller until they can take it no more and the sale is made.
After an early dinner we retired early. Our next temple is going to be a temple of fun, Malaysia’s largest indoor theme park, located in Times Square, KL.