Yogyakarta, the cultural capital of Indonesia
Bisnis KelasWhen we finally find the hidden train station of Bandung, we have to find the right train and cabin. We are travelling "Bisnis Kelas", so we have reserved seats. "Ekonomi" is not available on this train, but there is also "Executif", with airco and some more luxury. We will have to do with the few fans hanging on the ceiling.
The train is moving through the beautiful surroundings of West and Central Java. On the outskirts of the southern mountain range are the rice paddies waiting to be planted or harvested. The volcanic soil here is so fertile that the production of rice is not bound to the seasons, and the rice fields can be planted and harvested one after another. Every rice fields can be harvested 3 times per year.
On the train station in Yogyakarta (or Yogya in short) we are immediately approached by hotel touts. We shake them off, since we think to know where we are heading for. The area south of the train station has many guesthouses, but we are not able to explore those without the help of some guys, obviously getting commission from the hotels. But in the end, they lead us to a good guesthouse, so we are not complaining.
BatikWe would like to take it slow in Yogya, but that appears to be difficult. Everybody is trying to sell us tours, transport, and especially batik paintings. After an explanation of this technique, we watch a few of them and to be fair, they are very nice. But they are expensive, although there is the possibility to negotiate. We are forced to mention a fair price, although we are not interested in buying. When we do mention a price (stupid enough) we are stalked for several days to buy the painting for that price. But we insist in not buying it.
The KratonOn Monday we are visiting the Kraton (palace) in Yogyakarta city. It consists of a large terrain with different pavilions with a number of exhibitions. In one of the pavilions, the traditional gammalan music is played.
Also remarkable is the complete collection of a certain sultan, complete with plastic spoons right from the mall. And, of course, the portraits of the different generations of sultans. The buildings themselves are not very special, with the exception of the building where the current sultan lives, but we are not allowed to enter that one.
The Water PalaceBehind the Kraton complex is the Water Palace of Yogyakarta. It mainly consists of a number of baths with subterranean corridors to them. There used to be water around the complex as well. Nowadays, the complex is a maze of alleys and houses where people are living.
Bird MarketBack from the water palace we walk through the bird market. A nice man points out the different exotic birds and other animals. We know he will eventually want to sell us something, but it is interesting so we let him guide us. We see large bats, different types of squirrel, wild cats, iguanas, owls, and a five year old boy walking with a giant snake. After that, we get a tour along a gallery with batik paintings before we say goodbye to our guide.
BorobudurFor the next day we book a tour to the temple complexes near Yogyakarta. We do not book the early tour, so we miss out on the sun rise but can sleep a little longer. When we arrive at Borobudur, it is still quiet. Here are also few tourists, as everywhere in Indonesia after nine eleven.
The Borobudur is in fact one large Buddhist temple, situated on a hill and consisting of 6 platforms. The first 4 platforms are decorated with reliefs. The upper 2 platforms are full with bell-shaped cages with Buddha statues in them. Touching the hand of such a Buddha statue gives you a good karma, and so does walking three round around the central stupa on top of the complex. After enjoying the view from the top platform, we are ready to move on the Prambanan.
PrambananPrambanan is a complex of Hindu temples. The original complex consists of a central tower dedicated to Shiva, two smaller ones dedicated to Brahma and Vishnu, and several small ones for their carriers. Towards every cardinal direction, each tower has a niche with a statue of the god, his wife, children, or reincarnations. Around the towers, on a platform, are the famous Hindu stories depicted in reliefs.
Besides the main complex, there are several other temples in the surroundings. We walk to three of those although we are almost the only tourists doing this. The first two temples are much smaller, and need a renovation. The third is quite large, and renovation is already taking place. The complex is surrounded by fences, but since there is nobody around, we pass those. The temple looks a lot like the temples we saw at Angkor Wat, with some extra statues and decorations. Most remarkable are the two statues at the entrance to the temple. Unfortunately, we have no time to explore the other temples around Prambanan.
Pasar Malam BesarOur last full day in Yogyakarta we only have an evening program. Every evening, there is a Pasar Malam Besar, a large (Besar) evening (Malam) market (Pasar). Besides the stalls selling all kinds of goods, it also consists of a fair. Different merry-go-rounds and ferris wheels, driven by diesel motors next to them. But also a few large barrels in which motorbikes are circling almost horizontally. And there is a snake show, but the paintings and pictures on the walls do not suggest a very animal friendly show, so we skip that one.
At 10 PM it is time to leave for the Merapi volcano. A minivan takes us close to the best viewing point of this active volcano, the last piece we have to climb ourselves. From the parking lot we can already see an orange glow on top of the mountain. And as we get closer, we see that the mountain is spitting fire every few minutes. Some orange lave appears on top, which is flowing down at first, but after cooling down it start rolling and falling apart. It is a beautiful sight and when we arrive at the viewpoint we can also hear the thunder of the mountain. Very impressive, we stare at the mountain for over an hour before we go back to the minivan.
After five days we leave Yogyakarta. It is a nice city, with lots of places of interest in and around it. The backpacker area around the train station is nice and relaxed, apart from the batik salesmen. The tourist industry is suffering from the events of nine eleven. That's a pity, since there is no sign of hostility towards westerners here.
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