Selamat pagi Indonesia (2)

Selamat pagi Indonesia (2) 

We went to Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The following is our 3rd and 4th day of our trip.

Day 3 We went on an excursion to see SukuhTemple and Solo (Surajarka).

Successive scenery of fields and local lives passing through our eyes as we drove east along narrow, winding roads of central Java on our way from Solo to Candi Sukuh that is some 30 – 40 km. away.

We felt very nostalgic; countryside such as this has forever vanished from Thailand as manufacturing plants populate the field instead of trees and natural plants.

The view of the valley from the mountain top while we were on our way to the site is majestic.

The entrance fee to the site is small in comparison with the  several hundreds of thousands Rupiah paid to get to see Borobudur or Prambanan.

Sukuh Temple is very old and the structure as well as decorations are very interesting. Yet, visitors are very few so we practically had the whole sites to ourselves.

The main temple with square base of a pyramid and flat top reminded us of Maya’s ruins of Central America.  There are three big flat-top turtles laying haphazardly in front of the  entrance.  If there is one, I would speculate its association with the making of nectar water. But 3 is beyond my knowledge.

At the first structure there is a carving on the stone showing the sexual organ of male ready to insert into the woman’s. That is the  water of life!

We saw stone carvings along the way:  an episode of Shiva and his consort, and a few others.  Figures of Garuda outnumber any other figures, including, of course, the story telling the origin of enmity between Garuda and Naga.  This story is well told in Thai literature too.

The local guides tried to show us the erotic figures.  They are, however, not so erotic compared to those in India.

The city of Surakarta or Solo is bigger than Yogyakarta, but after a leisurely trip to Candi Sukuh we had not much time for any thing else.

We spent some time at a big batik shop in Solo at the recommendation of the lady at the bakery. The shop very much reminded us of Jim Thompson’s in Bangkok; i.e. high end, well presented, quality products with modern as well as traditional designs, silk as well as cotton.  This shop also has a restaurant and a museum section.

Another shop we visited locates near the airport of Yogyakarta, this one promotes itself as the “shop where kings, presidents and prominent people shop”.  I did, too, as well as many other tourists I saw in the shop that evening.

Without “formal” and “proper” education, now I began to see some difference between Solo designs and Yogyakarta designs. Other areas also have their popular patterns.

I began to fall in love with this “fabled cloth of Java”.

Point of observation:

Batik in Indonesia is alive because it is still in practical use by men and women from all walks of life, particularly men.  We saw them wearing batik shirts, from our drivers to officials attending a meeting in the hotel.

Batik shirts are not exclusively for the rich. Batik design can be factory printed, hand painted, block printed, etc. on various quality of fabrics, be it silk, pure cotton, and synthetics of a wide variety of quality and price.

Design patterns on batik depend upon the craftsmen’s imagination and skill.  The end products are highly recognizable, very unique, and surprisingly attractive.  Let’s hope that it will continue to be the national outfit of Indonesia.

Day 4  We kept Jalan Malioboro the shopping street of Yogyakarta for our last day.

We found to our surprise that the street was quite orderly with the lack of petty vendors along the busy road.  Some said that the Sultan in his capacity as the governor of Yogyakarta would ride a horse in a procession in the afternoon.

Fortunately, most shops are opened.

First we went to visit a gallery of a batik teacher/artist as recommended by a man on the street.  There we saw batik being raised to an art form.

One of us get an idea to display her fabric against the light.  The fabric looks lively and translucent that way. Thank you, dear teacher.

We saw a group of school children in school uniform with Indonesian flags in their hands in front of the Government House’s gate.  We learned that the president of Indonesia was here.

Gadri Restro

Too tired to walk to Gadri Restro restaurant behind the palace near the row of batik shops, the policemen on duty help us hire becaks.

Terima kasih, officers.

This restaurant is said to belong to a relative of the Sultan. We chose to have our lunch at the open – terraced part of the restaurant. While waiting for lunch I ventured to look around inside the mansion to find that Gadri Resto is a restuarant, a living museum and the house where the owner still actually lives — all in one.  Visitors can wander from the museum room to the guest’s bedroom, I guess,  then to the living room and a space where we saw a group of traditional musical instruments.

A man in charge of the premise showed me some batiks and some pictures and answered a lot of my questions.  He kindly show me how a batik kain panjang piece is worn.  A man wears it with deep pleats (3 or more pleats depending on the size of a person) and wraps round his body with right over left.  A woman wears it with 9 small pleats in front and wraps with left over right.

Now I can see the difference he told me in all pictures whereas before this information such detail escape my observation completely.

Beyond the living room we found the open space with garden and many tables where a buffet lunch was served. Many Indonesian women in Indonesian outfits were leaving. Obviously, the party was just over.

If you want to see more of this house go to this website:

Gadri Resto Prince Joyokusumo’s house

While we had lunch on the terrace, we could watch a women applying wax on to the cotton fabric.  A batik piece was in the making.  We could buy these pieces too. I got the price of one piece of kain panjang already but by the time we finished lunch I decided on another one while the friendly man was no where to be seen. Then a waiter tried to convince me to buy from an outside shop upon his recommendation.  He said the piece I wanted was a bit dirty and more expensive than at the outside shop.

As I wanted to buy at the palace so that the fabric has “story”, he insisted I bought at his recommended shop. I do not know whether he had good intention or wanted to earn commission.  Since our interest went in opposite directions, we walked away emptied hand but our pockets are still full with Rupiah.

To our surprise, the old becaks were waiting for us.  They drove us to a big batik shop at a far corner of the palace.  This shop has a wide selections of batiks from various part of Indonesia and of various quality and price to suit every one.

We found that our becak drivers did not do this to get commission, only to get customers for the next ride without having to go around trying to find a new customer. We thank him with a tip he did not ask for.

Terima kasih, dear becak.

We learned at 16.00 p.m. that there was no procession but we found a row of people sitting with food in front of them.

What, why, how, and to whom popped in our head, no way to get explanation except being an eye witness.

Each tray of food had rice piled up like a mountain with flat top in the middle surrounded by other food.

Some one explained that it was a ceremony to wish the Sultan good will on his new term of office as governor.  After a prayer the food was offered to bystanders who wait to get a portion of it, some for good luck, some to fill their empty stomach. The distribution was surprisingly orderly compared to the recent Chinese tradition of giving food for the ghost and the hungry a few weeks ago in Bangkok.

A friend kept reminding me that my comparison is unfair. I should compare Bangkok with Jakarta not Yogyakarta that is a provincial city.  Well, I am not that serious about my comparison, it is just to give you a relative picture.

After collecting fabrics that we bought at several shops along the way, we returned to the hotel.  That evening, we had our last meal in Yogyakarta at a Chinese restuarant.

All in all we were very happy with this trip. Almost every one we met was friendly and helpful. A trip for me is good or bad depending largely on the companions and the people we met along the way.

Both of these are very satisfactory.

P.S. It was a shear co-incidence that the first meal in Thailand all of us had separately was rice with chicken basil leaves (Khao pad kaprow) and Thai omelet.

There is no food like Thai food!

PPS: Yes, I forgot points of observation for my last 2 days.  Here they are:

  1. Culture of Indonesia is Javanese, not Islamic. We Thai should not mistakenly bundle all persons with Islamic faith with Arabic culture.
  2. Indonesian paintings used to be quite popular in Thailand at one time.  We should not forget the artistic nature of some people of Indonesia as expressed through painting, batiks, silver craft, etc. This makes up a rich culture.
  3. The friendliness, the education, the young work force are positive factors for Indonesian economic growth.

The challenge for any nation is how to preserve and cherish national identity in the midst of rapidly changing world that forces a western standard on all of us .

Selamat tinggal, Indonesia. Sampai jumpa lagi.


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