Going Solo (to use the obvious title)
Trip Start Oct 31, 2009
52Trip End Feb 25, 2010
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Where I stayed
Solo has two palaces - due to some schism in the royal family in the past. The first palace by the alun-alun (town square) - sits behind impressive white walls, but inside is almost as simple as the Yogya palace. The only impressive feature is a tall clock tower, with a roof not unlike a pointed local hat.
By now the day is very hot and humid - so we take a horse and cart to the other palace - yes despite the modernity of modern Java most cities still have horses and carts to supplement air conditioned taxis. The ride through the city is fun, the bells on the horse (well more a skinny pony) jangle as we bounce through the streets.
The second palace is much more impressive - and the mandatory guide is entertaining and informative. The ceiling of the main audience hall is brightly painted in different colours representing different types of luck - protection from disease, famine etc. Behind this is a small museum, we see tiny intricate golden dolls house toys for the royal children. Also a golden dance costume for a sacred dance that can only be performed by women who 1. fast for 3 days; 2. are royal; and 3. are virgins. Also, possibly to ensure a supply of sacred dancers, we see male and female chastity belts - neither look particularly comfortable.
Beyond the palaces there are lots and lots of batik shops - selling some nice stuff, and some of the loudest shirts imaginable - and pretty much everything in-between. Some of the shops are so densely packed with intricate and brightly patterned shirts your eyes go funny as you walk through them.