Walking back from the palace we heard a women singing into a microphone within one of the homes and so we looked to see if it was a cafe, hoping we could come listen
. A man came out of the home and insisted we come and join them. There were about 10 men and women in their late sixties and early to mid seventies, taking turns singing jazz ballads in English and in Indonesian. They were delighted to have us join them! They made me sing and fed us traditional snacks. They wanted to make sure we knew they were old so they kept reminding us "We are old! And when we sing we feel young again." They also wanted to make sure that we knew they sing together every Tuesday morning and if we were ever in Java again to be sure to come sing with them. We spent the first 4 nights at a hotel close to the palace and a short walk to restaurants and it was nice, especially for $25 a night. The last 4 nights in Yogya we decided to stay at the Alamanda Bed and Breakfast, near the outskirts of town, since it was the highest rated accommodations on both booking.com and agoda.com. The Alamanda is further from town but they have their own taxi driver who charges half of what the in-town taxis charge, free gourmet breakfast, personal free and cheap tours and an excellent room with a king size bed, tv, balcony over looking the rice fields, the sunrise and Mt. Merapi, as well as a glorious outdoor shower with a garden and fountain. Our stay was $50 a night and it was well worth it! We got private affordable tours to the volcano's, coffee and tea plantations, city tours and our last day there the chef gave me a private cooking class. Chris and I began to feel like we could retire there. Some places are more expensive then we thought but Yogyakarta is far more affordable then we had imagined
. One of our days in Yogya we hiked to the top of a hill to watch the sunrise over Borobudur and while it was nice, it's currently monsoon season so all the clouds and fog made watching the sunrise brief. Then we went to Borobudur and Prambanan to explore the ancient Hindu and Buddhist fusion temples. At Borobudur a class of English students in their early twenties stopped us and wanted to ask us questions for their English final exam that day. We obliged them, talking to them for maybe a hour and taking photos with them for maybe another hour. Each student needed single and group photos with us, we felt famous. Many families asked to take photos with us throughout our visit to Borobudur and when we hangout in town we noticed few tourists, just the way we like it! Borobudur is very beautiful and supposedly competes to be one of the seven wonders of the world but the owner of Alamanda Bed and Breakfast informed us that most of the tourists they see, especially in the peak season, are from Indonesia and China. Apparently, there are few westerners that visit Yogya and from what we have read online, most of the people that visit Yogya only stay a couple of days on their way to Bali. From our experience, Yogya is a place you can easily stay at least 5 nights. We were going to spend less time in Yogya and then move on to see the active volcano Mt Bromo, but with the lack of visibility due to the rain clouds and fog we decided to skip it and Bali. Bali sounds gorgeous and like Hawaii, expensive. We decided that it would be better to skip Bali and go to Cambodia, since it's more affordable and it's a country we can not miss
Ah here we are. A Sacramento sized historical city called Yogyakarta, in Indonesia. This is a common stop on the way to Bali but instead of going to Bali we thought we would give this city some time. There are two monsoon seasons in Java and we are in the middle of one. This is exactly what I wanted to experience because I love tropical thunderstorms. Everyday around three we have to find shelter from the downpour that comes like clockwork. Hot wet summers are really fun and I feel like a dumb kid when the storm comes.
The city itself is quite difficult to navigate almost as if all establishments change their addresses at night. Sarah and I got lost going to the same area four times, going four different ways on four different days. One night we ended up going outbound on the main highway for over a mile. I still don't understand because we had two maps and two GPSs. It's a total mystery.
We took a break from getting lost all the time to go visit some ancient sites. The sites are temples that represent a merge in Hinduism and Buddhism. We went to one and was confronted by twenty eight students and their teacher. There final project was to approach a westerner to practice their English
. Sarah and I mingled for over and hour taking pictures and signing autographs becuase I am Nicolas Cage apparently.
Yogyakarta is one of the most volcanically active places in the world and we took a tour in order to get the true experience. Where the US would close and rope off areas as dangerous, we are granted the true freedom to skip around three mountains that have been exploding from prehistoric times to... right now. In 2011 one of these monsters took off, killed a few hundred people and damaged many historical sites. We drove over a brand new bridge that replaced the last one which melted away. We took a coffee and tea tour where which we tried the most expensive coffee in the world (kopi Luwak). For those not firmilar it's when this superior coffee bean is fed to a weasel looking cat. They are then followed around until the bean exits the animal's anus. It is collected, cleaned and roasted. Then it is brewed and sold for seventy five dollars a cup. Fortunately, we are at the source so a cup cost is about two and a half dollars.
The food in Indonesia is chicken, eggs, and fried rice mostly but it's also the home of tempeh. Oil is heavy in most dishes making digestion a bit uneasy. There are a few other variations of food here but I would say that Indonesian cuisine is not a major attraction.
We took a tour of the local areas and was fortunate enough to see locals at there family artisan craft. We went to one home where five foot clay pots were being made and another where a man fixes and builds furniture. Other houses contained small food markets with single serving everything. The locals don't think very far in the future so they buy everything they need for a day the morning of, and only what will get through that day. A variety of fruit trees grow within the community so locals just pick when they're hungry. There is one man that runs a grill and cooks for people in the area. The way people live is utilitarian and egalitarian which is quite harmonious. The homes look shanty to the western eye but It was explained that people live to the standards of their needs and rarely understand why one would need to develop suburban planning with corporate mono cultures.
I am reminded of how the redwood trees grow so tall in the Pacific Coast. They compete for sun to survive therefore reaching as tall as necessary. A redwood will not grow as tall if they aren't competing for sunlight. I read that almost all world development has taken place between 20 degrees and 60 degrees north latitude. These areas are the mid latitude temperate zones and in order for life to sustain people needed to be inventive to thrive in inhospitable extremes. Like the redwood these areas would develop higher than in areas of less necessity. It makes sense now that the locals of Java have a lack of motivation to westernize. There groceries grow right outside and so many needs are met naturally. Nevertheless, the TV is really the biggest westernizing influence the Javanese are exposed to and that is showing to be powerfully effective. Now the Javanese are driving home to there single room house with a dirt floor on a brand new motorcycle while talking on their blackberry. Neocolonialism is at work here which is like putting miracle grow on a redwood tree. Chris-
Ever since I learned about gamelan music in Java I wanted to experience it live and at it's birthplace. The gamelan is like a type of orchestra that plays music in interlocking rhythms. Gamelan music is fairly popular within college ethnomusicology courses and it can be heard daily in Yogyakarta. Yogyakarta is the cultural heart of Java and we stayed there for 8 nights soaking it all in. At first the town looked a bit sketchy, well at least compared to our most recent destinations, but after walking around for miles and getting lost in the outskirts of town, we came to realize that this place is generally safe and welcoming. One day we walked to the king's palace to hear a live gamelan play which was fun and interesting but it lacked dancers or puppets so the hypnotic music drove my mind all over the place.