Alun Alun Tour with Via Via

Almost straight after the Jamu tour on Wednesday, I headed out on another tour. I did this one to get a feel for Jogja as it was a walking tour around this area finishing up at the alun alun (square) near the kraton (palace). This tour was with U’un and Harry and again the tour began at the Via Via office.
The walk began by winding through the back lanes of this area and it was fantastic because I got a detailed explanation about all aspects of Jogya life, many of which would be relevant for villages as well as cities. This tour was in Indonesian (you have a choice which language you prefer to have the tour in) which for me meant that U’un could go into greater detail when explaining unique Indonesian aspects of life. We covered so many interesting topics, even though it is barely 24 hours later, I can only remember a few.
Most interesting though, was their constant greeting of “Monggo” to every person we passed who was older. To each person who was greeted, they each returned the greeting. Apparently it dates back to the Dutch period when passing by someone of Dutch nationality. Monggo means essentially ‘excuse me’ and was traditionally said while bending down low with the fingers on your right hand pointing towards the ground. Today it is said with a dipping of the head only.
We walked down a small back road which had strips of tyres across the road. Apparently roads built by the government are not allowed to be altered by the locals so they have devised less permanent yet highly effective methods to slow traffic down in built up areas. The speed humps are called polisi tidur here – sleeping policeman!
We next came to a pos kambling which is were a night watch is maintained each night. They sit in a shelter on a street and there is a timetable ensuring each adult male who lives in the area has a turn. The shift starts at 10pm and finishes early the next morning. To help the men stay awake, in this pos kambling was a locked cupboard in which was a tv, or they play cards and drink coffee. Around 2am, a small group of them do a round of the houses to check all is safe. They also collect any donations that the families have left out for them. This money is added to the district monies and is used for helping families who are experiencing difficulties or used for building maintenance. This area had a very impressive hall so I guess that would need quite a bit of maintenance.
Another building we stopped at was like a health centre for the very young and the elderly. Children up to the age of 5 are monitored and parents are also educated on aspects of child raising as necessary. The visit to the clinic always ends with food which the children love but the aim of the food is to show parents how to prepare a healthy meal for their children and not rely on mie goreng packets! The food also helps the children look forward to their health checks! The elderly are also monitored for age related illnesses eg diabetes, dementia, heart problems etc. They also get something to eat afterwards!
We passed a very small pasar (market) and U’un remarked how the younger generation today prefers to visit Indomart stores (7/11) and sadly prophesied the end of smaller markets. It made me wonder just what changes my children will notice in Indonesia over their life times.
The pasar was across the road from an impressive structure called the ‘Pintu Selatan’ (the Southern Gate) and is one of 2 remaining fort entrances ‘protecting’ the kraton. We were able to climb up stairs to the top and stood their chatting, watching the traffic pass underneath while the sun went down. U’un and Harry told various legends about the original sultan of Jogyakarta. One explained how he built the kraton by marrying the queen of the south seas. In return for marrying him, she helped him build it. She also gave him a pearl for him to eat. He wasn’t sure about it, so instead he gave it to one of his farmers who while not happy about swallowing it, had no choice because it was his sultan’s request. He grew into a giant and now guards the volcano Merapi. The current sultan is the 10th and apparently Jogya is facing an interesting time because he only has 5 daughters! People are speculating whether they will for the first time ever have a Ratu (queen) or maybe the line of succession will pass to the Sultans younger brothers son. Apparently both are highly respected and would fill the role perfectly. Sounds like whatever the Sultan decides, his people will support it. U’un also told me a lovely story about the 9th Sultan. No one is allowed to look directly at the Sultan. Whenever he is near, you must show respect by looking downwards. Consequently in pre-media days, no-one knew what he looked like. He apparently often headed out into the town and countryside to talked anonymously to his people asking about current issues. He would then head home and ensure that if he discovered anything serious that needed attention, he would arrange to have it addressed.
By the time we descended from the Pintu Selatan, it was quite dark and all the car lights and shops lights were coming on. We headed across the alun alun (town square) which is a huge park area with 2 enormous banyon trees in the centre. We then entered the back area of the kraton and sat down to chat more about protocol when near the Sultan. It was fascinating. Things like not looking at the sultan & also not standing up in his presence. A friend of U’un’s recently helped with the catering of a function at the karaton and for the entire time she had to squat and then walk around in the squat position when offering guess drinks! Understandably it was very uncomfortable!
We then headed through the back streets of the houses surrounding the kraton. In these houses live the kraton staff. They actually get a very small wage but in lieu of a decent salary, they get free housing, free electricity and free water! The houses are theirs to improve or repair as they need/desire and will pass onto their children who will also inherit the position of their parents at the kraton too!
We came out back onto the alun alun where by now there were many tourists but what immediately catches your eye are the brightly lit bike carriages which can seat a whole family who hire them and then pedal once around the alun alun. They reminded me of the one we saw in Pangkalan Bun last year that Kelsey thought would make a perfect honeymoon vehicle!
A tradition for Jogja people when they come to the alun alun is to play a game like blind mans bluff. We rented a blindfold for Rp4000 from a man sitting by the edge of the alun alun. The idea is to walk in a straight line wearing a blindfold aiming for between the 2 banyan trees. If you can pass between them both, your wish will come true. U’un blindfolded me and I tried my best to walk in a straight line but I was heading off to the right when U’un told me to stop. Apparently one person they did this with went at right angles and ended up walking into the sellers who have set up in the alun alun! As I was walking I could thankfully hear U’un and Harry apologising to the people I almost walked into!
We then headed over to a lesehan area to rest a while while trying ‘ronde’, a javanese drink made from bread squares, fried nuts and glutinous rice balls covered with a hot ginger liquid. It was absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately for me, lesehan means food and/or drink eaten on a mat on the ground. I have never been able to cross my legs and so sat very uncomfortably on the ground while trying to position my legs and feet politely without offending anyone. When we finally stood up, my back and hips were so sore! Obviously the days of sitting on the floor are over for me now! Thankfully we caught a becak back to my hotel where we parted.

The tour had taken over 3 hours! What a wonderful introduction to life in Jogja! I learned so much!

20130601-045113.jpg U’un & me sitting on the back steps to the kraton. These steps lead to a door which is the southern entrance to the kraton. The main entrance is on the northern side.

20130601-045259.jpg 2 bowls of ‘ronde’ on the lesehan mat. The square shapes are bread and the smaller shapes are crunchy nuts. A strange combination to put in a warm drink/soup but surprisingly it works.

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