Published: November 12th 2008November 11th 2008
In the artshop
Lea, Mr Sudheer and Artap
I am so behind on these blogs that to talk now about Yogyakarta (pronounced: Jogjakarta) when it is so far removed from my present state of mind is turning out to be a hard task indeed.
All I have now are images of a time gone. Sweet memories that I can fondly recall at will. My most endearing are the faces of the friends I made. Local people, specifically Batik artists who took me into their homes and shared with me their stories and the ocassional (expensive due to the inordinately high taxes imposed on spirits) bottle of wine. I first encountered Artap while out wandering the attractive backstreets of Yogyakarta, which provided not only a refreshing refuge from the heat and pollution of the main roads but was equally kinder to the eyes. Here you would see children playing in doorways, cycling on their little bikes led by parents, the contented faces of old men and women sitting on the steps of their homes and hawkers plying their trade without the usual agression.
On that particular day I was out looking for food and caught the attention of Artap who pointed me in the direction of The Superman
going for a ride
me and Artap on his motorbike
restaurant (no relation to the superhero or the film). He aptly joined me after my meal and in doing so notice the pain that I was in. Unable to use my right hand because it had somehow weakened and the tendons strained he gently took my arm and proceeded to care for it. He gave me a thorough massage which made me flinch with the pain and later applied a turmeric paste over the entire limb. It helped. All the while we were sharing a beer or two and talking about all things random. Later, I was introduced to the other artists, Lea and Mr Sudheer in the art co-operative. With them I spent my time whiling away my days while the other travellers set about exploring the tourist sites.
The only tour I went on was to see the ancient Hindu temples, Prambanan built in around the tenth century or thereabounce. An impressive site upon which stands in the centre of the compound a stunning creation soaring 47 metres into the sky made of stone into which the most simplest and beautiful carvings are engraved. The temples are situated some 17 -20 km outside the city to which
I was taken to by motorbike. While the ride was hot and dusty the serenity of the scene that you behold on entering the complex makes the difficulty of the journey worthwhile. My only disappointment was that I was unable to visit the Shiva temple which along with the Brahma temple is cordoned off due to safety reasons following an earthquake in 2006. If I am honest I was absolutely gutted because I had only visited this site for the prime reason of seeing Shiva and for the chance of being able to meditate in the hallow enclosure.
The failure of being unable to see the Shiva temple manifested into a pining regret and during my time there I skulked around the other temples ocassionally looking toward the soaring structure of the Shiva temple with angst in my belly. I was even seriously considering ducking under the rope and sneaking in. Of course I didn't.
What is remarkable about this structure and of course Borobudur, a Buddhist temple also in Yogyakarta is that they are both loved and preserved in country that is predominantly Muslim and even more astounding is the fact that Muslims are not shy of
visiting either site. That is the beauty of Java where all religions sit happily and peacefully together. In fact it is the only Muslim country where the locals are approachable and inviting. Islam, from what I could see, was not strictly enforced and ladies who wore the headscarf do so of their own volition. The friends that I made, the Batik artists, all Muslim smoke, drank and lived their life to the full preferring not to follow but lead.
While Java is a relatively small island and Jakarta a teeming city, Yogyakarta is a much quieter affair and predominately an artistic city of batik art, shadow puppets and dance amongs other things and at its centre is the Kraton or Sultan's palace. However like all of Java it is also polluted with the roads teeming with vehicles of all description and it is only after leaving the metropolises far behind that repose and clean air can be found.
On another level what I found surprising in terms of entertainment was the lack of bars on first sight. My first night there was a quiet affair tired as I was from the arduous train journey from Jakarta as the
carriage I was in carried a defunct air conditioning unit and only two windows were able to be opened and even then only slightly. The view from the carriage however was quite a sight. And as we neared Yogyakarta the landscape came alive with greenery in the form of rice fields, mountains, cute little hamlets and flowing rivers. Just writing this now I can see the startling green as vividly as I did the day of the journey.
Disappointed and a little lonely I was unsure of what to do in the evenings but the universe once again came to my aid in the form of Russell and Charlie who booked into my hotel. And at Artap's artshop I met other friends while other days I would sit outside his shop and just enjoy the moment talking to random strangers and breathing in my beautiful life.
There are more photos below