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roaming the world and enjoying the scenery...

Yogyakarta

That’s pronounced “Joag Jakarta” by the way, with a long “O.” I’m not really sure why it is spelled that way, but that’s how the locals do it, so that’s the way it’s being blogged, darn it.

After our New Year’s pool party adventure, we took a day to get our heads screwed on straight and then headed into Central Java. Yogyakarta is called Indonesia’s cultural capital, and we wanted to spend a few days seeing what the fuss was all about.

After a bit of an adventure getting to the airport on time (our driver didn’t show up on time, and neither did the taxi we called), we found out that our plane was delayed (of course). So all our early morning freaking out had been for nothing. But, at least we got to take a picture with our crazily growing morning glory – check out the pictures from the start of the year and now:

The morning glory on August 8, 2011 The morning glory on January 2, 2012

Once we got into town, our cultural experiences started up. Susan took the time to research and learn about all the cool things we saw, so I’ll let her travelogue take it from here:

We flew into Yogyakarta early in the morning and went out right away to explore the ‘cultural heart of Java’.   Yogyakarta has been – and continues to be ‘ruled’ by – a Sultan.  As a city, it was established by Prince Mangkumbi in 1755.  According to our Lonely Planet, and confirmed by our tour guide at the Kraton, the area had always been resistant to Dutch colonial rule and locals worked hard to establish independence after WWII.

Lychees were in season! Smiles at the morning veggie market. Check out the silver tooth!

We walked around the Kraton, in the center of Old Yogya, which is still the home of the Sultan.  We walked there from our hotel, stopping at the Taman Sari on the way.  The Taman Sari is the Sultan’s pleasure palace and pool area. It was built built between 1758 an 1765.  As we discovered over our week in Central Java, everything built here must at some point be destroyed by an earthquake or volcanic eruption – and this was the case with the Taman Sari, as well.   It was extensively damaged by an earthquake in 1865 and the majority still lies in ruins.  The main pools and lounging pavilions have been restored and provide shade and respite from the Java sun.

Dragon stairs at the Tamansari (Water Palace)

Entrance to the inner courtyard at the Tamansari (Water Palace)Rooftops at the Tamansari (Water Palace)Family by the pool at the Tamansari (Water Palace)

Buddha bellies at the KratonThe Kraton itself has also been damaged by earthquakes (the most recent in 2006), but it has always been repaired given it is the home of the Sultan.  The Kraton is a huge walled city where 25,000 people still live and work.  According to some estimates, up to 1,000 people are employed by the Sultan.   The living areas for the people who still reside here look much like the rest of Yogya – small homes, shops opening onto the streets,  bamboo cages with chickens, cats running around (no dogs – Muslim area!!), tons of pedi-cabs, laundry lines…  The Palace itself is a set of smaller pavillions and buildings.  All the pavilions are open air with deep, high roofs to prevent rain from bothering those on the inside.  The entire perimeter held drop-down bamboo shades to provide shade as the sun marched across the sky over the course of the day.

Tourists are not allowed to enter the actual home of the Sultan.  He still lives there, but was in Jakarta when we visited.  He has five daughters, three who now live overseas in England, USA, and Australia, and two that still reside in Indonesia.  Because he has no son, his brother will become Sultan when he dies.  Our tour guide mentioned briefly that there was much talk among the locals about whether a Sultan was ‘necessary‘ any more given Indonesia is now a democratic society and official are suppose to be elected.   The Sultan’s home has a very western feel to it – no surprise given it was constructed when the Dutch were ‘colonizing’ much of Java.  Our tour guide was very informative and dropped tidbits of information about modern Java into her conversation about the past.  She mentioned one Sultan had 25 wives and more than 80 children.  She also mentioned that Indonesia now had family planning and the best families were one husband, one wife and two children.

Becak cabs - pronounced "bay-chock" - lined up in Yogya. In Jakarta becaks are like Indian rickshaws, but here they are bicycle poweredBecak driver working in the rain

 Our usual choice of transport was by foot, but there were bicycle cab options as well. These becaks are human-powered, as opposed to the India-style rickshaw becaks we have in Jakarta. We actually found them to be a bit of a pain, because 1) they fit 3 people max, so we always had to take 2, 2) They were unmetered and hence we always had to bargain even to get a tourist price, and 3) their ubiquity meant that when we wanted a regular cab, they were tough to come by!

Applying wax drops to an unfinished piece of batik. Susan bought a 2-meter long piece of cloth to be made into pillow cases and such.

We also had the chance to see batik being made, in the traditional “by hand” style. First, a design is drawn on cloth in pencil, which is then covered with wax (pictured). The cloth is dipped in dye, and then boiled to remove the wax – everything covered by the wax is still the original color. A second layer of wax is applied to some of the uncolored areas, a second dipping takes place, and there you have the traditional 3-colored batik. Fascinating to see performed, and amazing to think about the amount of time it takes to cover both sides of a piece of cloth! Susan bought a section of fabric that she intends to have made into a pillow case here.

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