Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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Walking Yogya Yogyakarta, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Saturday, 04 June 2011 8:07pm

I spent the day wandering around central Yogyakarta. I've always found it hard to wander aimlessly, so I usually choose a goal and at least pretend that I'm trying to reach it, and generally get pretty lost along the way. The Lonely Planet walking tours are great for that. Even when I'm actively trying, I find them very hard to follow.

I headed down one of the major shopping streets towards the Kraton (the palace of the sultan). Back in Bogor, I got a few calls of "Hello Mister!", but here it's much more intense. Lots of people trying to lead you to batik shops or give you becak (bicycle rickshaw) tours.

I humored one friendly guy and went to check out a "batik exhibition" featuring his wife's work. I got the quick demo of how batik is made (wax resists masking against dyes), an offer of jasmine tea, and the pitch. These guys really need to visit Morocco or Turkey and pick up some tips. I never came remotely close to being tempted to buy any of them and I even liked some of the designs!

A fair number of the people seem genuinely friendly and just interested in making conversation with a foreigner, rather than selling something, which is a nice contrast to some of the places I've traveled (Morocco, Vietnam, the Shanghai tea exhibition scam). Several of the later Hello Misters even warned me against batik exhibitions (unprompted). One gave me tips on how to cross the street, and another gave me directions when I'd been looking at my map for too long.

Eventually, I did find my way to the Kraton, where I got to watch some shadow puppetry and listen to some live gamelan. The collection of artifacts in the museum is rather eclectic (lots of silverware, photos of important ceremonies, old family portraits, batik, palanquins).†Because the main entrance had been thronged by vendor carts, I left through a random gate, which got me thoroughly turned around.

Eventually I started seeing signs to the Taman Sari, the sultan's historic water park, and after asking directions a few times, I found that. It's mostly ruins now, and it's a little hard to tell where they end and the surrounding neighborhood begins. I think the neighborhood has the ruins beat for picturesqueness anyway: little houses surrounded by lush plants trying to escape their pots.

As I walked in a random direction out of the water park, the consensus among the becak pedalers seemed to settle on the Bird Market as my next destination. Who am I to argue? It took a bit of walking and asking directions to figure out where I actually was (on a small street not actually marked on my map), and then a few kilometers more, once I was oriented.†I thought the lizards were really the best part of the Bird Market.

In the interest of having the full experience of the town, I took a becak away from the market. Its chain managed to fall off twice during the journey. It dropped me off in the backpacker section of town, where I had late lunch at a cafe. The cafe (Via Via) is part of a chain, and I'm pretty sure I've eaten at their Honduras location. Small world. I almost stayed in this area, but when I tried to make a reservation over the phone from Jakarta, I couldn't get through. It's probably for the best. The number of becak drivers trying to get you to take a tour is a bit excessive.

I have arranged for a sunrise tour of Borobudur tomorrow, so I'd better get to sleep.