It’s a strange thing when you leave your boat and you become a regular tourist. Don’t get me wrong, we love a bit of adventure off the boat, exploring cities, going on a road trip. Although Seathan doesn’t enjoy flying (my theory is that it’s a control thing), we had to get there by plane as Jakarta is a long way from Sorong. And not an ideal place to visit by boat. And Yogyakarta you simply can’t reach by boat. We had booked everything last minute (one way flights, last minute hotels) which is not a problem in Indonesia and can easily be done from a smartphone. It’s a great way to travel and, although I was keen to book flights and hotels in advance, Seathan preferred to leave it to the last minute. And I have to admit, I loved the freedom of not knowing where we would end up the next day.
When we arrived in Yogyakarta, locally referred to as “Jogja”, we stayed in Malioboro area, THE tourist street in town. We soon discovered we didn’t like it at all. Pickpockets everywhere, cheap crappy food, souvenir shops, pushy becek drivers. So once we discovered Prawirotaman area, we moved hotels and our entire perception of Yogyakarta changed with it.
Prawirotaman is the hip neighbourhood of town with many good restaurants, cool shops, antiques, artist workshops, a beautiful market and friendly locals (ok, I admit, there still were pushy becek drivers around). We ended up extending our stay with a few more days, relaxed and enjoyed this beautiful city which has so much to offer.
There’s not just Borobudur temple (see previous blog). In fact, there were too many temples for us to see them all. But we did visit the second most famous one: Prambanan. A Hindu temple from the 9th century and equally impressive as Borobudur. But in a different way. Personally, I felt Borodur was more magical, but perhaps that was because we were there at sunrise and Prambanan we visited in the middle of the day.
Pramabanan is beautiful and it’s incredible to think how someone was able to build this enormous complex with 250 temples so many years ago. We had gone to the Ramayana ballet a couple of nights before. This traditional Javanese dance was mesmerisingly beautiful, with gracious movements and symbolic hand gestures. It had taught us the epic Hindu-based love story of Rama and Shinta. We learned a lot more from our guide who pointed out the carvings and explained the symbolism they depicted. Fascinating history and we are all keen to learn more about Hinduism now. I feel a new school project coming along.
Yogyakarta still has a sultan and is a bit of a political anomaly. We visited the Sultan’s water palace, Tamansari, a beautiful place but quite busy with tourists, especially Indonesians. Apparently both Obama and Zuckerberg have recently visited the site and people from all over Indonesia now flock to see this national treasure. We still enjoyed seeing the gardens, swimming pools, baths, underground mosque and the many narrow streets inside the complex.
We found less tourists in Kota Gede, the original old part of town. Inside the ancient walls, there is mosque now and the small streets sourrounding are bustling with local activity. Many silver artist are based in this area and you can buy silver jewellery and artefacts. It was lovely to just wander around and soak up the atmosphere.
But all good things must come to an end and after 8 nights away we felt it was time to head back to Rehua! Time to book some flights and head back to Sorong where our home is waiting for us.