Sunday, December 24, 2017

INDONESIA - Yogyakarta

October 11 -15, 2017

The train journey from Jakarta to Yogyakarta in Central Java takes about 8 hours. We had booked Eksecutif class, which was comfortable and, in spite of the crowd on the platform, quite spacious.

Though not by any means a bullet train, it travelled reasonably fast, which made good photos of the scenery through the tinted windows rather difficult. For much of the time it was a lush, green landscape of rice fields and coconut palms interspersed with many small towns, and some larger ones where we stopped to load and unload passengers.

When we arrived, we took a taxi to Duta Gardens Hotel, where we had booked accommodation. It seemed a long way from the station, but we discovered that it was only a short, inexpensive ride in a becak to the places we wanted to go.
The hotel was great: a series of up/down en-suite rooms set around a pool. There were more expensive villas too in a separate garden setting, but we were perfectly happy with the more modest accommodation.

We kept extending our stay and so had the opportunity to try several different suites. My favourite was the final one, which was upstairs with a view over the pool from the spacious veranda. With windows on two sides, it was brighter than the lower ones and had a more private outdoor space.

A simple breakfast of eggs, fruit and toast in the airy, open restaurant was included in the price.

The front desk people were very helpful. Apart from cheerfully accommodating our extensions of more nights, they recommended nearby restaurants and arranged visits to the two major temples in the area, Borobodur (Buddhist) and Prambanan (Hindu) for us, including tickets for a Ramayana Ballet performance at Prambanan (see posts above.)

Unlike Jakarta, Yogyakarta still has numerous becak drivers who will take you anywhere for a small sum. Luckily we're not very wide or we wouldn't have squeezed in. Michael just barely had enough head room. A few drivers still pedal manually, but most now have motorized bikes.

We negotiated a ride to the Sultan's palace, which is a must-see in this city. Yogyakarta is one of the few remaining sultanates in the country, partly due to the sultan at the time of independence becoming a senior member of the new government.

The palace is not a single building, but a series of pavilions separated by leafy courtyards.

Decorations in the pavilions were spectacular, from ornately painted and gilded wood carving


... to beautiful stained glass.

One pavilion housed a gamelan orchestra, although no-one was playing the polished brass gongs when we were there.

There was, however, ongoing musical activity, mostly individuals or small groups singing or reciting.
While the woman above was intoning some verses, other performers in traditional dress quietly waited their turn just outside.

Later, in a small courtyard, we came across some men who were adjusting the tone of one of the gongs. They were kind enough to let me ask questions and photograph their work. (Remembering the Bahasa Indonesia that I learned at university helped us a lot as we travelled across the country.)

Another attraction of Yogya is its main shopping street, Malioboro, where you can buy everything from fine batiks to  junk jewellery. The vast array of merchandise caters more to locals than tourists - there are on-line comments from disappointed visitors whose expectations were not met - but we found it fascinating and enjoyed mingling with the crowds and haggling over inexpensive leather goods and batik accessories.

All along the street abutting the busy sidewalks, horse-drawn carts and becaks wait patiently for customers.

During brief but heavy rain showers, the drivers unfold plastic covers and crawl inside to wait them out. Some find better entertainment on the sidewalk.

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