A Year of Living Dangerously

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Ballet under the light of the full moon

So after the whirlwind trip to Nias, I went directly to Yogyakarta (pronounced joke – ja – kar – ta) for the weekend. Through the Lonely Planet guide I have for Indonesia (thanks to Nenns!), I booked an adorable little “home-stay” – like a cheap little family run motel, but in a house. It was about $15 a night (which is actually a lot for most home stays), but it had air-conditioned rooms, western style showers, old antique furniture, and loads of charm.

Link to photos for the weekend: http://www.clarkcolor.com/share/p=196251122297169232/l=54677346/cobrandOid=1003

The two nice girls that ran the front desk didn’t speak English, which was awesome for me. I had to work with them to plan my entire weekend, all in bahasa! They organized getting me a car and driver on both Saturday and Sunday, as well as a ticket to the ballet on Saturday night.

While Jakarta is the hub for business in Indonesia, Yogya (short for Yogyakarta, pronounced joke – ja) is considered the cultural hub. Specifically, it is home to the batik industry and art. Batik is made either from silk or cotton and it is painted on with bright colors. Different types of wax are used to stop or control the dye from affecting certain areas during the rounds of dyeing. The result is a painting or beautiful pattern. (see picture of me with a hand-painted batik I bought).

Friday, I went to the bird market and explored many of the batik shops on the main drag. The bird market in Yogya is famous for having an incredible variety of birds, including illegal ones. If you ask nicely and show that you are not police, they are sometimes willing to let you see baby eagles and such. I didn’t try asking. I was alone and a little shy and this was my first stop on my first trip alone in Indonesia. But I did see a lot of beautiful tropical birds.

The batik shops on the main drag had batik in all different sizes and shapes. I was just looking and browsing, staring at everything. There was so much, I had no clue where to even start. There were a few shops with some beautiful 3-piece, silk, hand-painted sarong sets. I kind of watched as one of the shop ladies helped a customer and saw how the different pieces were draped on a person. SO beautiful. I thought about getting one, but where would I actually wear it? C-function?

After spending the afternoon shopping, I used my guide book to pick out a café for dinner and man did I make a good choice. The food was okay, but the wall décor was just extraordinary. See pictures. One of the waiters, seeing how interested I was in all of the art, brought me around the corner to an art studio – the owner’s art studio.

The owner is a young man, maybe 25, obviously extremely talented and has enough entrepreneurial nature to be making a good living off of it. He does oils, batik, and tattoos. In addition, he owns the restaurant and has a small home stay.

He had one particular batik that I would have bent over backwards to have. Unfortunately, he liked it too and was unwilling to sell that one. It is the picture of the 3 masks in my photo album.

Dinner was lovely and I crashed hard.

Saturday, I started with exploring the Kraton – which is the sultan’s palace. Yogya still has a Sultan and the Sultan is the Governor of the Province of Yogya. It is the only hereditary title left in Indonesia. It was interesting and beautiful and very palace-like. After the palace, I visited Taman Sari, which is the bathing pools of the Sultan and also very beautiful. I expected to see Greek gods and goddesses lounging around eating grapes. See pictures, I bet you can pick the place out. A little more shopping and lunch and then I went back to the hotel and took a long nap.

That evening I went to the Ramayana ballet. Rama and Sinta are the Romeo and Juliet of Indonesian folklore, except it has a happy ending. The full ballet is performed over 4 nights and only done under the light of the full moon (so only offered once a month). I saw the second part. ABSOLUTELY amazing. And SOOOOOO beautiful. Behind the stage was the famous Prambanen temple, which is the biggest Hindu temple on Java. The light of the moon lit up the temple behind the performers. It was really quite extraordinary.

Sunday morning, I went to Borobudur, which is the largest Buddhist temple in Indonesia and possibly the largest in the world. It is huge and very cool. It was built between 750 and 850 A.D. and then was abandoned soon after. It wasn’t re-discovered until the 18th century by a Dutch explorer. It was covered by volcanic ash for a long time. It has beautiful stories carved into the sides and hundreds of statues of Buddha.

Many Indonesians stopped me and asked to take my picture. Felt like a movie star, but I hear the picture thing is normal for westerners in Indonesia.

After Borobudur, I had a time for lunch and a little more wandering around Yogya before I had to fly back to Jakarta. It was a beautiful and relaxing weekend as a typical tourist.

Now back to the chaos of the non-profit world…