Firestarter

My first impressions of Jogjakarta (or Yogyakarta depending on who you ask) were ‘they have cool graffiti here’ and ‘man there are a lot of pet birds’. There’s apparently a bird market here but I failed to find it. I think the map at my hotel was out of date as I hear it moved a few years ago.

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Jogja is the top tourist spot on Java due to its proximity to  Prambanan and Borobudur temples. I failed to see both. I have gotten over my temple overload by now, so I did try to see them, but circumstances and weather patterns were against me. I also failed to see the famous Ramayana ballet, but after sitting through the Legong dance in Ubud I’m not overly fussed about that. Just about the only guidebook approved thing I saw was a free shadow puppet show at the sultan’s palace. It didn’t come with explanation so I have no idea what was supposed to be happening, but I love how pointlessly colourful the puppets are, given that none of that decoration is seen by the audience.

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I flew to Jogja from Bali and found myself sitting next to Claire from Taiwan on the flight. I think about the best thing I did was allowing myself to be drawn into conversation instead of closing my eyes immediately after take off as is my usual habit on planes! Claire was staying with 2 local student couch surfing hosts, Bentar and Mira, who offered me a lift into town from the airport. We then meet back up the next day and they introduced us to several of their friends and I ended up spending much of the next few days hanging out with Claire and about 10 locals.  Along with being super friendly these guys were unbelievably generous, driving us round all day and buying us food without even letting me pay for parking! I was even given a free pair of sunglasses by Mira’s sister Adi when I mentioned that I had lost mine!

We spent our first day driving around the sights of central Jogja, including the Kraton (sultan’s palace), the water palace and the underground mosque. The water palace was my favourite, partly because it looked lovely – and hugely inviting on a hot day – and partly because it has a perving tower and a private sex pool. Heh.

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The big pool is where the sultan swims and the smaller pool is for the ladies. The sultan can then go up the tower behind his pool to gaze at the latest lovelies in peace before deciding ‘mmm, yes, that one, bring her to me’. There is a conveniently private pool on the other side of the tower after the royal decision making is done. It’s good to be king.

We had intended to go to Prambanan for the sunset, but we were late in setting out and the skies were beginning to look a bit miserable so we went to the nearby Rata Boku temple instead (smaller and considerably cheaper, so better value given that we only had about half an hour before closing time)

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This photo should give you an impression of how much success we had with our sunset viewing plan…

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Getting very damp indeed. I seem to be following the monsoon this year. Oh well. I’m sure it’s a nice temple when it’s sunny, and there also some meditation caves out back dedicated to fertility where you can sort of maybe if you squint a bit make out some carved genitalia above the entrance. So hey, I’m happy if there’s something to snigger at.

Jogja is also in the vicinity of one of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes, Mount Merapi (the mountain that MAKES FIRE!, the most unimaginative and yet brilliant name ever). I was vaguely planning to climb it, but no one else fancied the 14 hour overnight trip so I would have been paying a stupid amount for a private tour – instead I hired a guy on a motorbike to drive me to the nearby village for a quick hour’s hike to the southern viewpoint. Merapi’s last big lava eruption was in 2010, which tragically killed over 300 people in the surrounding villages.  It was actually erupting when I visited, but only trapped water vapour this time. I like to think it was just burping to celebrate my arrival.

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A note if you’re planning to visit – go early! I set off at 6 and got to the viewpoint about 7, and by the time I was climbing back down from the viewpoint the volcano was totally invisible in the mist.

So, this was the point where I was planning to catch the bus to Borobudur.  After heading home I went out to buy my next train ticket and it stated pissing it down with rain again. I thought ‘OK, I’ll go rest in my hotel room for half an hour and wait for the rain to stop’. Will somehow that turned into accidentally falling asleep for 4 hours. Clearly the early start and the hike tired me out more than I thought.

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Ah well, I still got a great end to the day being picked up for a trip to the local fairground (set up to celebrate Mohammed’s birthday apparently, which is wierd because I thought Muslims didn’t celebrate birthdays?) The girls were all cool as cucumbers on the rides, while the boys (looking at you, Ghulam) were screaming and begging for it to stop. Bunch of wusses. I’ve told them they have to come to England and experience a proper funfair. I think the waltzer may break them.

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