Exploring the City of Yogyakarta

Trip Start Jul 01, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Indonesia  , Java,
Wednesday, July 9, 2008

July 9th, 2008

My homecoming was a huge step forward in my journey of re-self-discovery. I have always thought in order to continue on it's necessary to go relearn our roots. It's homage to our past because whether we like it or not it had greatly influenced the present and will do the same for the future. In the end, I have a greater understanding of myself. So I urge everyone to learn about your heritage, your parents' or grandparents' pasts, and your origin. Though I wanted to spend more time with my family, I wanted to travel my home country so I left Jakarta by train and arrived in Yogyakarta a couple of days ago. I told them that I would return sometime next month and spend several days with them before heading out to China. I asked the kids what they wanted to do next time and they told me that they wanted me to take them to the mall. At first I was hesitant but I remembered that unlike back home going to the mall is a rare occasion so I agreed. Here the mall is super huge, 7 stories high with hundreds of store. It's ironic to have a mall that big when the majority of the population can't afford to buy anything in it.

Candi Borobudur not far away from here is perhaps the biggest attraction in Yogyakarta. This Buddhist monument is a must see in Southeast Asia. I booked a transport to take me there in the morning mainly because it gets crowded later in the day and the best time to take photo is before sunrise as the morning midst still hangs below the horizon. If you wonder how design of Borobudur, it's like a mandala or the tattoo on my left forearm. When I got to the site the sun was almost up and I knew I only had minutes. It was an incredible sight and the light was just breathtaking but it quickly ended. Inside each stupa is a statue of the Buddha sitting in a meditative state. It is believed that men should reach in and touch his hand and woman should touch his feet and make a wish and it would come true. Another great site that I visited is a Hindu temple called Prambanan. Unfortunately, a 5.6 earthquake heavily damaged this temple in 2006. Only two temples were opened and many are still under repair. The outer bass-reliefs of the temple illustrated the legend of Ramayana. Later that night I returned to Prambanan temple but this time to watch the Ramayana Ballet. This is a must because it is set up in an outdoor theatre with the temples in the background as a backdrop. I paid 200,000 rupiah $20 to seat in the very front so I could get closer enough to take photos. In the end I had to use the highest film speed on my camera, which is 6400 (on 1D MKIII the noise is relatively low) and used my 70-200 f/4 IS with 1.4x extender (for those photo geeks). Similar to the story of Troy, Ramayana is a story of how a king kidnapped the queen of another king and they had a big war over it; big surprise men fight for women and/or land. The hero of this legend is my all time favorite, Hanuman, who is a white monkey warrior. He was burned alive but manages to escape and his dance is very acrobatic. There were about 30 dancers and the ballet is accompanied by traditional "gendingan" music. I must have taken at least 200 photos of the ballet.

As a city I prefer Yogyakarta than Jakarta because it's not as crowded and cleaner. Also, the city still maintains a strong sense of its tradition and culture. The Kraton, which is the sultan's old palace, is still a main attraction in this city. Malioboro Street is the busiest area in this city. The street is overflowed with street vendors selling their goods. Walking on the sidewalk is fighting through traffic of people and your own temptation to shop for cheap batik (hand printed fabric), Dagadu clothes, arts & crafts, etc. I was wearing my dog tags chain that I got here eight years ago. I had it engraved with my name and on the bottom "living to feel alive" and on the other side "In search of true happiness." At night the city comes alive as food vendors set up shop on the sidewalk and sell delicious food attracting many local and tourists. As you sit on the ground enjoying your food many street entertainers would come to strum their guitar and sing you a song, this is called "ngamen." As I was eating my dinner, one of them came up to me and asked me for a request, I told him to sing me "Hey Jude" by the Beatles. Though he forgot some of the words he sang his heart out. The local delicacy that the city is known for is called "nasi gudeg," which is rice served with young jackfruit and spices often served with egg or chicken. I haven't eaten this for many years and it's almost impossible to find it back home. What's also apparent about this city for first time arrivals are three wheeled pedal taxi called "becak" that seems to had invaded every side street and corners of this city. As I was walking to the Sultan's palace, I saw this old gentleman pushing his becak. Though, my destination is within a walking distance I decided to ask him if he could take me there in his becak. We started talking and by this time my Indonesian is almost fluent again =). I found out that his name is Pak Ponjiwo, (Pak means sir because he is still my elder and deserve my respect). He is 73 years old and he has been doing this job since 1972. He is a very funny guy. He told me that he'd been married 3 times. The first two wives were too beautiful and his third wife is not as pretty but knows how to cook. He has two sons and they all have their own family and that he had a grandson but he died within a week after birth. He asked me how old I was and if I was married and I said no. And he asked me if I have a girlfriend and I laughed I told him that I am having way too much fun to be tied down. He chuckled but then told me that he was married by age 19. I asked me if he would ever retire for doing this kind of work. He said if his body were able he would continue to do it. I felt bad because I know he was struggling as he pedaled his becak and I wanted to get out but I realize that it would insult him even more. I know that he is the kind of guy that takes pride in what he does. He even offered his banana though I politely declined and made sure that I am doing okay. I admire him for that because though by our standard his line of work is not respected, he works hard and still does his job to the best of his ability. I asked him how much he would make a day and he told me 50,000 rupiah or $5. He dropped me off near my hostel and thanked him for his kindness and gave him 50,000 rupiah and a little more for his lunch.

I checked out this morning for Mount Bromo, which is an active volcano in East Java. I will climb to the top of the crater so let's just hope it does not erupt. Also from there I will head out to Kawah Ijen, which is also crater known for it's sulfur and workers would climb up to carry 80kg of sulfur rocks without proper equipment. Many of them develop lung problems. One of my favorite photographers James Nachtwey did a documentary on this. Anyway, until next time.
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yaya24682006 on

Hi, my name is yaya. I am study about heritage sites for Borobudur and Prambanan right now.
I was wondering before you went to Indonesia Borobudr and Pambanan, where your information comes from was. And where were your information in your blog came from? Were you used the wikitravel or other web site to search your information about Borobudur and Prambanan?

And what were you looking for or experience in those two heritage? What's the most attract you in Borobudur and Prambanan?

I really need your information! Thank you for your apply!!!


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