Day 215: We Just Want To Walk

Sat. 16th March 2013

Monument for IndependenceAs it is our last full day on Yogyakarta (Jogja) and we want to walk around the centre and see the Kraton, which is the Sultans Palace. The problem is we stand out by quite some way as tourists and the locals are very keen that we should have a lift in their bicitaxis and/or buy some batik. It is back to keeping a happy smile and a friendly “no thank you”, which usually does the trick – for about three paces to the next one!

Crowds head for the alun-alunWe head down the main road of shops walking between the stalls and ponder just how may T-shirts are on sale as each stall is piled high with hundreds mostly advertising the town but with many variations on the spelling Yogya, Jogja, Djogdja etc. The road gives way to a huge open area called alun-alun, which seems to be setting up for some local event with many more stalls, loud music and a motorbike display.

The correct entrance to the Kraton On the other side is a sign to Kraton, where we are trying to get to. Luckily the Lonely Planet guide points out there are two entrances and to make sure you go the one by the big clock. We were nearly caught out by the wrong entrance which would have taken us into a hard sell batik market, but the price was Music for the puppet showwrong and we were offered a free guide which set alarm bells going.

Retracing our steps and taking the next road took us to the correct entrance, through the throng of helpful locals trying to tell you what to do and where to go. It is hard work at times to keep your wits about you and achieve your goal.

Puppeteer and puppetsInside the palace grounds was quite peaceful after the throng outside and we sat for a minute or two watching the puppet show which was being performed inside. There are performances every morning and we were not lucky enough to visit on a Sunday when there is traditional dancing. The puppets and musicians were worth watching to see the intricate designs of all the puppets and to see all the different instruments they play. About five minutes is long enough to appreciate all this as the story being told in the local language is very involved and incomprehensible unless you know the story.

Big replica stamp of the Sultan and Lord Baden PowellThe palace itself covers quite a large area and the Sultan is still in residence in part of it. Other rooms have been converted into museums with displays of photographs and belongings of previous Sultans and their guests. None of the labels are in English but we could follow the photos and recognised the Scout uniform and the picture of a stamp showing Lord Baden Powell which did not need any annotation.

His and Her Dragons above the entranceThe highlight is the reception hall, the Bangsal Kenana, which translates to Golden Pavilion. It has a huge marble floor and Dutch decoration, including carved teak columns and would be very impressive full of guests in traditional dress. We saw the main sights according to our guidebook but there were no signs to show which way we should go. We stopped to admire one of the entrances with male and female dragons (to indicate the separate entrances for men and women) and the helpful guide took our photo for us, before showing us through a restaurant to a big shop and said we could see a display of batik making. Aaarrgghhh!

Bathing poolsWe quickly made our exit and headed for the Taman Sari, the Sultan’s personal park of pools, waterways and palaces, which was used for swimming and relaxing. We were reticent to accept the free guide in case he whisked us off to a hard sell batik store, but the friendly local insisted it was included in our 50p entrance ticket and he gave us a very interesting tour worthy of a tip. His grandfather used to work for the sultan and part of the grounds is now a rabbit warren of houses where they live rent free. There are three pools, one for the concubines, one for the forty wives and a private one for the Sultan and his chosen wife of the day!

Underground mosque with five stairwaysOur guide also took us through the alleyways to a meditation area, sadly neglected after being damaged in the 1865 and 2006 earthquakes. He also showed us the underground mosque where the men used the upper floor and the ladies the lower floor Finally he returned us to the entrance through an underground tunnel. We would never have found our way around without help. It is such a shame that one gets so cynical that you cannot always take people at face value, so it was great to find a genuine chap. Having just read Dave’s post for yesterday, I see he has similar thoughts on the locals and their selling techniques.

It was a hot sticky walk back to find some lunch and it was not until we were close to our hotel did we find a place we fancied. The walk was sapping and on reflection we should have taken a bicycle taxi to save our legs. Walking in the hot humid conditions is not as easy as at home. Perhaps one day we’ll learn!

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