Selamat pagi Indonesia

Selamat pagi Indonesia

We visited Indonesia October 2012. Most of us have never been to Indonesia before. We have heard a lot about traffic jam in bustling Jakarta.

Thais usually have good feelings toward Indonesia and culturally we knew Indonesia through a Thai classical literature based upon story of Panyi, the famous king of Java. Although we hardly associate the story with the present day Indonesia, we absorb a set of Indonesian words from that story.

Some proper names in Indonesia also sound familiar because we share a common culture from India through the story of Ramayana and religions, both Buddhist and Hindu.

The southern part of Thailand as part of the Malaya peninsular shares a common cultural background with Java, Sumatra, and Malaya. So we are not very surprised to see puppet/shadow shows, batik, and even kebaya — the woman blouse worn by locals, not to mention food ingredients. Of course, there are variations but the theme is the same.

We flied straight to Yogyakarta. The prime intention is to visit Candi Borobudur and Candi Prambanan group of temples. Borobudur is one of the most interesting Buddhist ancient architectural sites, while Prambanan is one of the masterpieces of Hindu architecture; both of them are UNESCO world heritage sites.

Before this trip, my memory of Indonesia was one day in Jakarta in the 1970’s and Bali in the 1980’s. My latest information about Indonesia was through the eyes of an investment fund manager who lists Indonesia as one of the break out nations — the the nation that will make it in the coming years.

His conclusion was based upon at least 2 criteria. One is the political stability that the present president brings to the country. The other is a more even distribution of income, wealth, business activities and political power away from the capital to other cities.

Day 1 We started “city tour” on foot and when it was too hot to walk we took becaks to Kraton (the palace). By chance we saw a dance show. I believed it was an improvisation of Indonesian court dance; we are impressed.


I had expected a more angular movement and quick rhythm but the dance that afternoon was very graceful, the music soft and pleasing; the costume was simply gorgeous.

It rained. The rain did not bother us much. In that spacious palace we saw photos of Indonesian court and events of the past centuries and other objects. I could not take my eyes off all those batiks and jewelry worn by Sultan and women in his court. They were very beautiful. I wish I could see the real pieces instead of the photographs. However we did not have time to look further in other places such as museums. Maybe there is next time.

BALE RAOSJl. Magangan Kulon No.1Kraton Yogyakarta (Close to Pasar Ngasem)

We ordered some Sultan’s favorite dishes at Bale Raos, the restaurant attached to the palace. Lively music brought us there. We practically had the whole restaurant and the garden all to ourselves since it was a very late lunch it should be considered tea time. This restuarant is said to be Javanese style. It should be since we are in Java and in the royal palace of the Sultan himself. What else can it be?

Soon the music stopped. We continued to enjoy the surrounding of this “royal cuisine restaurant”. After a lingering meal we had a quick look at Indonesian crafts in the shop next to the restaurant then returned by becak to our hotel.

Point of observation: We felt so rich. We all were millionaires in Rupiah. Similar to Yen and Lire, there is no decimal units smaller than Rupiah. I mean 100 cents to one $, one Euro, or 100 stangs to one Baht. Rupiah is Rupiah. We exchanged one US$ and received 9,625 Rupiah. All of us together exchanged $400 and got back some 3.8 million Rupiah. If one US$ is only 96 Rupiah, we won’t feel so rich in number.

A trip on the becak from Kraton to our hotel at the end of Malioboro road is 15,000 Rupiah (Indonesian would write down as 15.0 Rupiah). We rented 2 becaks and paid 30,000 Rupiah. The ride on a horse drawn carriage would cost us 70,000 Rupiah. We thought it was expensive. When we had time to rethink later, it was not so expensive as we had thought. The 00 confused us.

Day 2 We went to Borobudur and Prambanan. We decided to hire a car with driver. The GPS can take us there if we chose to drive ourselves. But the cost difference between the 2 options was not much.

The final decision was based on 2 reasons:

The driver spoke English, he could give us some information along the way and it was nice to know some local people.

We should help increase tourist income for the locals. 10,000 or 20,000 Rupiah was not much for us who could afford a plane ticket to Yogyakarta but it meant a lot for some local people. Why be so stringent?

We enjoyed the trip very much. The explanation about these too sites would be redundant since everyone can learn about them through many web sites already. What was fun was when we were given a piece of batik to wrap around us. The gate keepers said it was supposed to be a gesture of worship. What ever it is, it is easy to identify tourists from officials, guards, and others.

All in all, the world heritage sites were well kept. Petty vendors did not bother us as we toured the sites.

We planned to be at Prambanan at sunset. It was so cloudy so the sun set without us seeing the beauty of the setting sun. On the way out we side tracked to inspect a festive arrangement nearby and found out that it was going to be a private party that evening. Party guests should be impressed with such historical site as a back drop.

Points of observation:

Silver work at souvenir shops along the way showed the nice blend of the traditional with the modern design. I still found the traditional silver figurines in the shops just like the ones I have at home. However, I did not have to bargain as hard this time compared to my trip to Bali 25 years ago. This time most shops declared that the goods had fix price, a certain discount was given when we did not come in a group tour with tour guide.

A shop and a restaurant are under the same roof and, I guess, belong to the same owner. Moreover, unlike Thailand where shops and restaurants have glaring lights and signage and are located as close to the road way as possible, in Yogyakarta we did not notice much difference between a shop and a house for residence. A very pleasing scenery indeed.

The land was quite fertile as far as my eyes can see. Many crops are grown in a field side by side. In one patch, rice is grown; another tobacco, yet another maize or sugar cane, and a few other crops. From commercial farming point of view, a small patch may not be suitable for machine, but from social and community point of view it sustains the rural life and rural community. There is a trade off here. Thailand chooses machine assisted farming and harvesting, and rural communities, rural culture, rural cooperation vanishes.

I will write about our next 2 days soon.


October 18, 2012


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