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JOGJAAA (and Solo)

Friday, November 16, 2012

My trip to Yogyakarta (Jogja) and Solo with my host family started like many a journey has in America - with my face mashed up against the chilled window of a car, my butt in pain from sitting on it in the same position too long.

After about eight hours of intense driving, during which we spent a terrifying amount of time in the wrong lane trying to pass slower drivers, we arrived in the city that's famous in Indonesia for it's traditional culture, and famous in the world for it's proximity to the largest Buddhist temple in the world. Jogja!!

Our first day started with a tour of the king's palace, and a peek into a complex of pools where rulers from long ago would watch sit and watch their concubines dance. (The girls were all competing to be chosen to spend a night with the king.) We even got to see where they prepared themselves and stored their makeup.

A parade in the king's palace

Some of the king's guards in batik - very Javanese 

At the palace
The 'water garden' as it's called, where the mistresses of ancient kings would perform

We continued our walk up through a residential area, where the families of the palace guards live. I was told that the people who live within the palace feel very blessed: they have jobs, they don't have to pay taxes, and they're honored to serve their king. The pace of life in this city is much more relaxed than in Surabaya.

Jogja and Solo are actually special administrative regions, because they are ruled by royal families, so they aren't under the control of federal government. Unlike the monarchies in Europe, the kings here do still have power! On the tour of the palace we also saw some rubble left over from a massive earthquake a few years ago, and an ancient underground mosque.

Walking through the residential area - the two men are from Paris and were on the same tour with us. Traveling is so fabulous in that you can meet people from entirely different corners of the world, but still have an instant bond with them. 

Stairs to the underground mosque... just a wee bit claustrophobic.

Some of the rubble from the earthquake

After our tour of the palace we went on our way to Borobudur, the World Heritage site and biggest Buddhist temple in the world. It was originally built in the 9th century by the Javanese, using simple tools and egg whites acting as concrete, and then abandoned in the 14th century with the arrival of Islam. Then Borobudur was rediscovered in 1814 by an English ruler in Java and underwent several restorations afterward. There are something like 500 statues of Buddha (a lot of them headless) and over 4,000 reliefs on the walls. Thank you to Wikipedia for this information, hehe.

Except for the part where we had to pay much more for me to get in because I'm foreign ($10 US while the Indonesians paid around $3), the experience I had at Borobudur can only be cliche-ishly described as 'magical'. I love visiting ancient sites, and imagining myself walking in the footsteps of people who lived hundreds of years before me. It honestly just blows my mind. In the tradition of this blog, enjoy a picspam! I think Indonesia is slowly turning me into a more fabulous photographer.

Inside the little cap thing (called a stupa) is a statue of Buddha. If you can lean in through the hole and touch the statue, you're a lucky person. I could!

Close to Borobudur was a smaller Buddhist temple that we randomly stopped at. On the steps I could smell something familiar and dear to my heart... incense! That stuff just makes me happy. Inside there were some breathtaking statues and a small altar in front of them. I lit some incense as an offering to the gods; it's only the polite thing to do, especially when my life, as of late, has been so full of blessings. Gotta give props to whoever's up there makin' it all happen.

After that, my host family and I went shopping on Jogja's most famous street, Malioboro. In both Jogja and Solo, batik is plentiful and cheap, so we bought a lot of it. We also saw bule banyak - a lot of white people! After being around Indonesians for so long it was a shock being reminded that there really are other people in the world who look like me. Every time we saw a foreigner I ogled just as much as any Indonesian would. Crazy what a month and a half abroad can do to you, eh?

The next day we visited an old Dutch fort and a diorama museum. Theeeenn.... off to Solo! The drive is only a few hours but the vibe in Solo is different. Apparently there's a rift in the royal family so the city isn't as well cared for as Jogja, but I personally liked Solo just the same. We visited the king's palace, a museum of the royal family, and went shopping again. Shopping is like my new hobby. The malls and markets here are amazing compared to Boise, where there's only one mall full of football memorabilia and knick-knack stores, and the various '-marts' are your best bet for affordable clothes.

Inside the Solo king's palace

A tower where a mystical ghost princess lives. It's said that she comes out to dance when ever there's a show for the king but only special people can see her.

A palace maid in traditional Javanese dress
After staying overnight in a real five-star hotel (very swanky, and connected to a mall) and looking around a bit in the batik market on Sunday morning, we started the long drive back to Surabaya. The traffic heading into the city was crazy because so many people were returning to work after spending the weekend with their families in the village. It was also the Sunday after a large Muslim holiday, Eid Al-Adha, so I'm sure that didn't help - the journey took maybe ten very long, boring hours. But, it was definitely worth it. 

So, a big big BIG thank you to my host family for being epically epic and showing me all the sights of these two magnificent cities, and thank you to anyone we encountered there who showed us the true kindness and hospitality of the Javanese. I hope I can go back someday and really discover the hidden gems nestled away there, just like I am in Surabaya. And of course, thanks to my readers who are so understanding and patient with me being the silly blogger that I am. Makasih ya!

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I'm Sara, the freckled bule, one out of eight of the coolest people in the world. I spent a year in Indonesia as a KL/YES Abroad student but now I live in Boise, Idaho. Welcome to my bloggity blog.


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