Day 122: Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Trip Start Sep 21, 2006
Trip End Jun 01, 2007

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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Monday, January 22, 2007

Following an avant-garde concert by the Malaysian Philharmonic, Julie suggested we stay up all night drinking rather than than nap before our 4.30am airport taxi. So, it is a pair of bleary-eyed passengers that board the Air Asia flight to Solo, Indonesia this morning.
I doze for most of the short flight but wake in time to see a wall of volcanic peaks rising above the clouds to the south (Perahu, Sundoro, Sumbing and Merapi). We're heading for the 'ring of fire' hoping to scale some of these peaks and skirt the crater rims without falling in or getting hit by a chunk of molten rock, as happened to a pair of tourists three years ago.
I have arrived in the Southern Hemisphere.
The local bus from Solo to Yogyakarta (or Jogjakarta, depending on which sign you read) is nothing if not entertaining. The bus charges along the road with a horn demanding motorcyclists move aside. A constant stream of vendors hop aboard and drop their snacks, sewing kits, toys and inflatable cushions onto our seats, looking for a sale. By the time the fifth ukelele player boards, the music begins to grate.
Indonesia is a poorer country than Malaysia, with hawkers selling wares from cardboard boxes, and beggars staking out the traffic junctions, but it seems friendlier too, with smiles and (mostly) helpful enquiries. The traditional tiled roofs of homes mimic the volcanic peaks that loom over the region.
Yogya is not the centre of industry I expected. No multinational offices block out the sun. We take a room in the budget -traveller area known as Sosrowijayan. Along adjacent Jl Malioboro arcades sell mostly batik-print clothes to locals and the few tourists around in the rainy season; Tourist numbers are slowly building again since the Bali bombings and the earthquake that killed 6,000 people here just seven months ago; Apparently there was also a tremor yesterday morning. Pony traps and trishaws roll north and south. Roadside foodstalls sell nasi goreng to patrons sat on straw mats while busking guitarists entertain them. A guy promises us a National Day carnival along the street tomorrow climaxing with a free Ramayana ballet at the sultan's palace. Though we're told later that it was a lie, it turned out to be true. His main objective was to lead us to the 'last day' of a batik art exhibition nearby. We went along with the ruse anyway. The work on display was certainly well done. We drank a tea then left. I am tempted to return in two days to see if they have indeed moved on after this 'final day'. I'm not buying it.
I'm a happy vegetarian again. There is plenty of choice in (mostly deep-fried) veggie snacks, lots of bean curd, cassava, sweet breads, plus quality Javan coffee. The curries and salads are spicy and sweet with pineapple, coconut milk and peanut sauce. Generally the city seems relaxed and the people amiable and obliging. I feel comfortable and happy to have moved on.
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