Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving
Our second morning in Yogyakarta saw us set off to see the temple ruins that Trip Advisor has marked very close to our hotel but on the other side of the river. Not very surprisingly the map location is incorrect by over 12km however this gave us the opportunity to view a section of our neighborhood that we hadn’t yet explored. We watched a couple of scooter drivers buy bottles of petrol from roadside stall holders and we bought a small gift for our hosts that rescued us from the rain yesterday.
We continued until we reached Malioboro Street and decided to walk along it to see what the hype is about. The arched walkway is clogged with vendors and shoppers so it’s actually quite difficult to walk along there. Also it’s a bit nerve wracking because of pickpockets; a few men pointed at my phone in my pocket and told me to put it in my backpack instead. We are so constantly jostled on that stretch and asked if we want transport or vendors try to lure us into shops where they get a commission that it’s not very pleasant. I did go into an upmarket batik store which was gloriously uncluttered and bought some hand done batik fabric for my mother who is a textile artist.
Outside the presidential palace a middle aged Balinese man struck up a conversation with us and we were wary because we had read that ‘guides’ attach themselves to tourists and then expect payment. It took some time and a bit of mucking around by our children for us to extract ourselves and continue towards the Sultan’s Palace. We continued straight instead of turning into the palace entrance due to a lack of signage but we enjoyed exploring the walled town behind the palace (the Kraton).
The Kraton houses people who traditionally live there for free and in return they perform some service for the Sultan on occasion, e.g. playing a traditional instrument, cooking food for festivals etc. Shortly after entering the Kraton we settled into the prospect of peering down alleyways and into people’s lives rather than viewing the palace. Another middle aged man mysteriously appeared and started chatting and guiding us. His grandfather, farther and he all have lived for free in the Kraton in return for doing guard duties (he is also a school teacher).
He guided us out of the labyrinth and to a batik painting workshop and gallery where we learnt more about the painstaking work behind hand batik. He then left us without asking for money. Next door was a traditional Javanese leather shadow puppet workshop. The artisan showed my daughter how to punch holes in the leather with simple tools and also told us the symbolism behind each aspect of the design. He also gave to our daughter, for free, a comical puppet he had made.
We had a lovely lunch out of the rain at a restaurant that serves the Sultan’s favorite foods. From there we wandered across the square to see the piles of vegetables that are ready to be handed out tomorrow. Tomorrow is the celebration of the birthday of the prophet and villagers have flocked to Yogyakarta ready for this large annual festival. That perhaps explains our popularity as photo subjects and the numbers of school groups in town.
Once again a new middle aged man attached himself to us and spontaneously guided us to the water castle (Taman sari). If it wasn’t for his guidance I doubt that we would have found our way through the labyrinthine alleyways due to the lack of sign posting. The water castle was built in the mid 1700’s for the first Sultan. It suffered some damage in the 2006 earthquake but is still in pretty good condition for ruins.
Next he guided us to an underground mosque which is circular and has excellent acoustics. He ended his tour by taking us to see the Sultan’s swimming pool. This was also built for the 1st sultan who had 12 wives. He would stand at the top of the 3 story tower overlooking the pool and throw a flower down. The wife closest to the flower was chosen to spend that evening with the Sultan (or so said our guide).
We tipped the guide as he loaded us into bicycle rickshaws that took us through the rain and delivered us to a massage clinic where 1/2 hour of oblivion awaited. From there we managed to find our laundry and paid more than double the requested amount ($1.50 for 5kg). The honest laundry man couldn’t understand why we would pay more than asked but finally accepted the money. Next door we delivered the gifts to the family that spontaneously hosted us yesterday.