A little dancing, a little protesting

Trip Start Sep 17, 2007
Trip End Oct 08, 2008

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Flag of Indonesia  , Java,
Sunday, June 1, 2008

Yogyakarta is pronounced Jogjakarta, and that's how it's spelled in Indonesia.  I have no idea why we spell it with a Y.  It's also the cultural capital of Java, and an excellent jumping off point for Borobudur. 

Our excursions in Yogya were limited to the Kraton, and there pretty much to the Sultan's palace.  The friendly owner of our hotel informed us that, as it was Sunday, there would be a cultural dance starting at 11 in the palace, and then she told us how to get there.  Very helpful.  We decided to walk the 2 km down the the Kraton after a nice breakfast, even though we thought we might be a little late for the performance.  At breakfast we ran into Jason and Lawrence again.  We'd spent all of the day before on on the bus with them.  Americans from Cali - highly entertaining.  Haven't heard people speaking American lately.  They made the same mistake we did with Ritz crackers that said cheese on them.  We thought they were cheese sandwiches and when the guys opened them they said, "Dude, where's the cheese?"  It was cheese flavored crackers, which you can pass on.  In the evening we got to listen to some rather impressive impromptu rapping or rhyme busting or whatever it's called.  Anyway, they guys were nice, but I think they were a little cooler than us.  We met them again at breakfast and then again in the afternoon. 

It was a very simple walk down to the Kraton.  First we walked through a busy market selling everything from souvenirs to clothes and shoes for the locals.  Then, as we made our way past the Governor's Building we passed a sort of parade in the street and a zillion police officers on the sidewalk of the Governor's Building.  We passed by them and it was like being rockstars again.  Everyone said hello, although police are a little more scary than school kids.  One guy said, "I am police!"  We moved on. 

The Kraton is more of an old neighborhood than a lonely palace, and it begins with a field.  At least, it would be a field if it weren't covered with stalls and buses.  The best way to enter the Kraton palace is to stay to the right of all this field and pass through the white arch, turning left at the first street after it.  Inside the palace there were...walls.  It's not highly recommended to go on weekends, when the palace is quite busy, but we didn't have much of a choice.  And I personally don't think it would have been much worth it without the Sunday performance.  A few crazy masks were hanging over doors, and every now and again there was a dragon, but overall the sultan's palace was quite spartan.  When we walked about after the dancing there wasn't a lot to see except except a museum dedicated to the current sultan's father.  Mainly this consisted of the old sultan's junk, such as kitchenware and a Boy Scout uniform. 

Free cultural performances are always nice, but this one was quite well done and interesting.  There are subtle differences that I noticed between Balinese and Javanese dance, but many of the subtle and robotic motions are quite similar and mesmerising.  The first woman had a very elaborate costume and danced one of those dances where every movement of a finger means something.  Sometimes she hardly moved at all but she was still dancing.  Then a man performed a solo in a crazy red mask.  I particularly like male dancing because it's jolty and somewhat unnatural and looks seriously neat.  Then two women had a duel.  Their pace was much faster than the other woman's solo, but it was still very graceful, not like the men's dance.  Also, the dueling women were wearing different costumes.  One was made up to look more north Asian or something.  Definitely not Javanese.  I thought she looked like a Vulcan.  Men seem to differentiate by wearing masks.  The last performance was a fight between some kind of angel and demon.  Mr. Demon was wearing a mask and Mr. Angel was wearing some interesting make-up.  At first Mr. Demon looked like he was going to win, and they stopped to talk about it for a little while, with the man doing the talking holding up his hand to make sure everyone knew he was the chatty one.  Then Mr. Angel grabbed his magic weapon and managed to defeat Mr. Demon.  At least I think so.  The dance may have abruptly ended. 

There are some other spots to wander in the Kraton, in particular a ruined water palace where the sultans once had secret love lairs, and next to that there's a huge songbird market.  We didn't venture this far south, however, because we didn't want to miss the bus to Borobudur, where we had every intention of staying the night. 

Walking back we discovered that we couldn't go walking by the police this time.  They'd pulled out piles of razor wire and were wearing full riot suits at this point.  But nothing was really happening, at least not yet.  The protesters were simply standing outside the gates of the Governor's Building and airing their grievances.  Here we ran into Jason and Lawrence once more, and we decided to take advantage of the moment and have a photo.  So we now have a photo of the four of us chilling by a protest in Yogya.  And, since we didn't get in trouble for that happy snap I took another, but you can't really see the razor wire or the riot police in it.  Oh well.  Didn't really want to stick around and see it degenerate. 

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