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Tales from Yogyakarta


Posted by | charlottec | October 18, 2010 | No Comments

Eschewing Bali in favour of central Java (I have never been one for nightclubs or beaches), I landed at Yogyakarta in the blazing heat of a Saturday lunchtime. Adisucipto holds all the chaotic charm of a provincial airport in this part of the world but the diplomatic formalities passed painlessly. Upon stepping out into the car park, though, I spotted a huge poster of Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand advertising 3 Mobile phones. I travelled halfway around the world to get away from this; it was like being in Rochdale. Only it was marginally warmer!

The taxi ride into town was uneventful as we whizzed past faceless office blocks and the obligatory McDonald’s. The hotel we stayed in (after doing plenty of research before our departure as to the best hotel packages) was a tropical oasis on the edge of the kraton, a beautiful whitewashed palace which formed the focal point of the city. Although I would recommend our hotel, there is actually a lot of discount hotel accomodation, so it’s worth shopping around.

It was a miracle we didn’t get run over in the chaotic traffic but I guess this adds to the charm of the place, which was lively and hectic throughout my six day stay. There were motorcycles and horses everywhere and very few places to get away from them. However, we lost ourselves in the maze of streets around the kraton and observed traditional local life in the process.

The major problem with travelling in SE Asia is the constant hassle you get, particularly from street hawkers. Whilst relatively benign, it is still irritating and Indonesia was no different. Still, I recommend the roadside food vendors, if only for the delicious desserts and sumptuous satay that they offer.

Yogyakarta is the heart of Javanese culture, where the shadow puppet theatre known as wayang is particularly popular. This is accompanied by the ubiquitous ringing of gamelan music, which is charming on day one but by day six you want to cut your ears off. The same was true regarding the Muslim call to prayer, which happened right outside my hotel room at 3.40am every day without fail. I guess this is one of the risks of observing a different culture and, to be fair, the Muslim influence was certainly of interest when juxtaposed with the Hindu and Buddhist history of the district.

Despite these flaws, the temples of Prambanan and Borobudur were definitely worth visiting and the local food was cheap and of a high quality. The locals too were friendly, with some inviting us into their workshops to discover how the local fabric known as batik is made. Ultimately, aside from the niggles, the trip was fantastic and even the heat was not too oppressive. I would definitely recommend trying it for yourself.

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