Annie Beach recommended Via Via Jogyakarta for their amazing tours so I booked into their guest house which is called Via Via homestay and is only Rp170000 (AUD$17) a night. It is very simple and very pleasant. I have a room with an attached bathroom and the price includes towels, hot water, wifi, breakfast and daily housekeeping if you wish! My room also opens out on to the back pergola area where we have breakfast, which is very convenient. Everywhere the philosophy of Via Via is displayed asking guests to turn off any lights or fans/ac that are not being used, take shorter showers, offering drinking water refills etc.
Just down the road a little is their restaurant and their tour office. The tours include a few typical ones that all tourists look for (Borobudur, Prambanan) but best of all are the cultural ‘tours’. There are several cooking workshops which seem to be constantly popular, there is also a silver jewelry making workshop which was highly recommended on trip advisor. These workshops include a cultural excursion maybe to a market or to a silversmith. The workshop I attended was again due to Annie Beach: the ‘jamu & massage’ workshop. Here is the wikipedia definition of jamu:
Jamu (formerly Djamu) is traditional medicine in Indonesia. It is predominantly herbal medicine made from natural materials, such as parts of plants such as roots, leaves and bark, and fruit.
I guess because most travelers haven’t heard of Jamu, I was the only one doing the course yesterday. Rina was my guide and the entire session was in English. She is guiding for ViaVia to improve her English, so I was happy to help by also talking in English! Although at times we found it easier to check in Indonesian that we were on the same page which was handy.
The tour began with a visit to the local market where she began by stopping at various stalls selling just herbs and spices. She would introduce me to each one asking me how I use it and almost 100% of the time I would only use it in cooking, so it was fascinating to learn alternate uses for them.
We then visited a jamu seller in the market and I was able to order some medicine for myself. Rina encouraged me to try and then assisted with any translations. I asked for something for my cold which was escalating at that point! Badan panas dan sakit tenggorok. (sore throat and temperature) She recommended the batuk (cough) jamu which was a mixture of kencur (lesser galangal) and ginger. It was beautiful. Jamu comes in 2 serves. The first is the ‘medicine’ and the second is the sweetener to wash it all down. Both were served in tiny coconut shells. It was instantly soothing on my throat.
Here is a baby having some jamu.
We then hopped in a becak and headed off for a massage. The masseurs on this tour are all blind and again this demonstrates the philosophy of Via Via – supporting disadvantaged groups in their community. I lay down on the table and was given the most thorough massage I have ever had. She dug her finger into every single muscle and discovered all my sore ones and more! Most I had no idea were tender! The massage lasted an hour and I discovered there is a word for face down and face up which I must try to learn because it would be quite handy if I plan to go back! She also turned me on my side which I have never had to do before! As I said: EVERY muscle was targeted!
While I was having my massage, Rina sat and chatted with the others working there. At first I was surprised that she did hang around. A westerner would have taken the opportunity to maybe go outside to the nearby warung and get a coffee! However Rina said she enjoyed sitting and chatting getting to know them better.
After the massage we headed off to a jamu shop but unfortunately it was closed. There they sell prepackaged jamu from mainly Java and Madura Island but also from other parts of Asia. So we skipped that part and headed straight back to Via Via by becak. I just love traveling by becak! Back at Via Via, Rina began showing me how to make a face mask using glutinous rice and cinnamon and cloves. They were all ground in a mortar and pestle with a little water to make a paste. Rina then brushed it on my face and while we waited for it to dry and harden, she showed me various packets of prepackaged jamu and explained their ingredients and their purpose. The ones for children were mainly to increase their appetite! Parents, it seems. all over the world worry their children aren’t eating enough! The adult ones were mainly for beauty; to make people more attractive. Making the face mask and talking about prepackaged jamu would be a great lesson and would be really doable with mp and up students. Does anyone know if I can bring them back to Australia? I am certainly going to try!
A huge thank you to Annie Beach for recommending Via Via to me! And an equally big thank you to Rina for such an fascinating tour.