Jogjakarta, a city also known as Yogyakarta & more commonly known as Jogja, is an hours flight east of Jakarta. It is a province of Indonesia and according to the 2010 consensus, has almomst 3.5 milllion people. After the heat and traffic of Jakarta, Jogja is paradise. Hard to believe a recent article I read recently on Facebook claiming that Jogja’s traffic is worse than Jakarta’s!! Maybe if I get the chance to live here one day, I will be able discover the truth for myself!
We arrived to our hotel late afternoon and while most other participants hit Jalan Malioboro to shop, Marg and I headed straight to the laundry!! Instead of having our laundry done in the hotel where one shirt costs Rp25,000, we asked our tour leader for a recommendation and he pointed out a laundry a few metres up the road where the cost is determined by both weight and time. As we were happy to wait 24 hours, my 3 kg of washing cost me Rp30,000 – a little more than the cost of one shirt at the hotel!! The most expensive option was Rp20,000 per kilo if you needed it done in 2 hours! Still cheaper!!
Our dinner on the first evening in Jogja was followed by a talk by Taring Padi, a group of underground artists who formed in 1998 during the political unrest following the fall of Suharto – check out their website and they are also on Facebook. It was fascinating. They outlined how they worked with a village recently to help them organise a protest against a multinational company planning to compulsorily acquire their ricefields for mining. After hours, the community met and creeated huge 2D cardboard puppets, posters, prayer flags which when completed were paraded through the village and ricefields. They also were supported by Greenpeace who filmed from above the creation of a slogan made from enormous rolls of plastic. Taring Padi are particularly well known for the graffiti style woodcut posters they create.
While our time in Jogja with the study tour was again only 2.5 days, we certainly squeezed a lot in, which I largely put down to the fact that the traffic here is more predictable than that in Jakarta.
Our visit to the Kraton ((the Sultan’s Palace) and Taman Sari, the private royal garden, were made all the more enjoyable due to the becak rides transporting us between each.
So lovely sitting in a becak, enjoying a breeze rather than walking in the heat & humidity. As we each had our own becak, it must have made a colourful sight as 35 becaks sailed by, each with a giggling bule (white fella) unable to control their delight. Nothing beats getting around by becak in my book and it is definitely my first choice of public transport when in Jogja.
The palace and the pools, were beautiful and I enjoyed them even more this time, probably because we had a tour guide who personalised the stories and made it more enjoyable and interesting. The first photos looks out towards the private living quarters of the current sultan who is causing a national sensation as he tries to convince his people that his eldest daughter is the most suitable person to hand the reigns to. With 5 daughters & no son, the only other contender is his younger brother.
Taman Sari, the private royal gardens, built in 1757 by the first Sultan of Jogja, is only 2km south of the Kraton yet are no longer used as such as the complex was quite badly damaged in the 2006 earthquake. Taman Sari, meaning Beautiful Park, has many areas. They include areas for resting and relaxing, meditating, meetings and also a hiding space! When I asked where the sultan and his family go for a swim these days, the guide smiled and answered that they now visit local hotels for a swim!
The Batik factory we visited was fascinating too as we could see demonstrations of batik cap (stamp) and batik tulis (by hand). We were able to see people preparing the fabric for dying but unfortunately were not able to seee fabric either being dyed or boiled to remove the wax.
In the shop we had the opportunity to peruse a variety of batik lengths. We bought a couple thinking we could get them made into shirts but apparently, according to the front desk, tailors in Jogja require 2 weeks!! Maybe next time I come to Indonesia, I’ll be able to find a tailor that can sew quicky!
As participants on the study tour have either spent a week in their partner schools or are about to, the organisers arranged a visit to a private school called Oliphant, which contrasts quite significantly in most cases with our partner schools which are largely government schools.
Oliphant began as a child care centre and has grown into a primary school with plans already underway to expand further into secondary. It was a beautiful school with very enthusiastic and motivated leaders. The school is a National school because teachers follow the national Indonesian curriculum. Class sizes were around 10 – 12 and consist mainly of wealthy local children. The feel to the school was very progressive and positive with its brightly coloured walls and funky global themes.
Our last mornig began with a very early start – 3am – to get to Borobudur in time for sunrise. This was something I was very excited about because last time I visited Borobudur, I was told that only guests from the Hotel Borobudur had access to the temple at sunrise. Borobudur is a 9th century Buddhist temple located about 40km northwest of Jogja.
It was still pitch black when we arrived
and gradually it became lighter.
When it was dark, it was as if I was the only person at Borobudur because only a few of us wandered around savouring the peaceful atmosphere. The majority of the visitors sat down facing east with cameras primed ready to capture the sunrise which unfortunately was completely hidden behind cloud cover. The film crew for My Trip, My Adventure starring Denny Sumargo (basket Ball star from Jakarta) began filming once it was obvious that the sunrise had been and gone. That’s him wearing the headband and goofing around for the cameras.
We were also given a brief tour of level 3 which I enjoyed because a few obvious facts were explained. Dotted around and embedded in the rock floor were metal drainage holes to help minimise erosion. Very small and unobtrusive yet so clever. The original drainage areas have suffered severe erosion so tin sheeting has been placed between layers of rock to stop further erosion. Have a look at the individual rocks that have been removed for restoration.
Now look at one of the reliefs and appreciate just what is involved with the carving of each of the above slabs. Each slab is cut to fit perfectly into a giant jigsaw puzzle both diagonally and vertically as well as the outward face displaying a small section of a detailed diorama! What ingenuity and incredible that so little is known about the construction of Borobudur.
To complete the total package of sunrise at Borobudur, we enjoyed a cuppa and traditional cakes (jajan) in the lovely hotel grounds overlooking Borobudur! Very civilised and in total contrast to my 2013 visit!
With our very early start, the day seemed to have more hours in it than usual! From here we visited Mt Merapi, the most active volcano in Indonesia. The buses struggled up the slope quite a way and then we staggered up the rest of the way (with great admiration for the locals who passed us effortlessly while carrying heavy & awkward loads)
where we met the Juru Kunci – the traditional gatekeeper, Pak Asih. The position of gate keeper is one appointed by the Sultan. Pak Asih has only been in the position since his father’s death caused by the 2010 erruption.
The locals who live on Merapi regard the volcano as a friend. Sometimes Merapi is friendly, sometimes Merapi is happy and smiling yet when Merapi is cross, you move away, give it space, time to recover. Merapi benefits the local pepole in so many ways. Not only are the surrounding lands fertile, the volcano provides them with sand for the contruction industry and more recently, the volcano has become a popular tourist destination for both domestic and international travelers. Although hopefully not all domestic toursits wear high heels for their visit. It was hilarious watching one young visitor although unfortunately I missed her descent which was even funnier apparently. In Pak Asih’s compound were a few remnants of the 2010 erruption which sobered us up immediately. This is the remains of his fathers car on the slab of what was his fathers house.
After heading back to the bus it was time for lunch which was lovely yet after 3 breakfasts, hardly necessary! Then we were off to Merapi Farma Herbal to learn how to make Jamu Jahe Wangi (Traditional Fragrant Ginger Herbal Medicine). We were divided up into groups of about 8-10, provided with all the equipment and ingredients as well as a supervisor who kept us on track. The recipe was a simple one with a spectacular and unexpected finish.