indonesia - yogyakarta
Look, no matter what i thought of Yogyakarta (or how the locals refer to it - Yogya) - it is sort of THE stop to get to Borobudur, so there you go - it may be dirty but you are bound to love your stay. And i did, even Borobudur aside - Yogya is a mini version of Jakarta, which i already loved, only here pedestrians have a chance of survival, and thats clearly a plus point :)
The very moment i stepped off the plane i saw spectacular mountains all around, and thats, well - cool. Or volcanos, you never really know here - they love calling volcanos mountains. They love a lot of things around here i dont really get (just yet). Like karaoke, for example. The reason I went to Yogya, was Eid, which is a beautiful experience in a muslim country, especially a place like Yogya. The family i stayed with took it in a rather modern way, playing games, singing and eating lots and lots of delicious food. I didnt get to experience any of those praying traditions, only some eldest blessings that always seem so special. Oh, and ive visited three graveyards. I dont know why, but thats just a place where people like going to during Eid, put some flower heads, take pictures and selfies. Weird, i know, but its always fun to see modern, just as flawed muslims as the rest of us.
Celebrated in a massive, cosy home, where a 75 year old energized grandmother still runs a catering and a wedding planning business, with very cute printed flyers in absolutely horrible English. Now, imagine having dinner in a home of a very successful catering business owner. Yummmmm
Apart from that - they sang. A variation of a "Guess the Melody" was thoughtfully prepared to entertain everyone attending. I didnt get much most of the time but what a laugh it was! People really enjoy singing here, hours and hours of karaoke. Imagine a middle aged guy with no musical talent whatsoever repeating Aerosmith's "I dont wanna miss a thing" and having a blast. That was the very definition of awesome.
And it got even better than that. The next morning we went to Borobudur. I screamed "Holy shit" by accident a couple of times, but after getting those "thisishighlyinappropriate" looks we began to admire sans the swearing. That place is mind-blowing. Its grandiosity is so overwhelming that it leaves you speechless. You are forced to shut up and just take in because it will be impossible to portray the experience in writing anyway. What i mostly loved about the place is that you are allowed to sit there, relax, people-watch, and absorb every moment. It gives you this natural high and i wish i could stay that kind of addict forever but youve got to leave at some point. I guarantee that Borobudur will be one of the most spectacular places you will ever visit, even if, like me, you dont feel particularly spiritual - it will inspire you and positively overwhelm any sceptic.
We got there at 7 am - not many people there at the time, even though it is high season; i guess because the sunrise is far gone and everyone else is just too lazy to get up early. Shame on them because the place is ten times more magical when there is barely anyone there.
I was not surprised that internationals are officially requested to pay more to enter, I have seen Russians try to swing that illegally; here, however, it is as legal as it gets, but hey - you get your own clean entrance, water, coffee, a kind of a breakfast before your long tour.. but dont expect anything to be in English - Im not going to lie though - i did enjoy the absence of it at Borobudur - the Indonesian buzz goes past you and this is your ultimate me-time. No, make that me-on-top-of-the-world-time.
We made an additional stop at Kraton, to see an old Sultan's residence - it is run down and there is nothing to see, except strangely caged roosters, but what can you expect when the entrance costs 5 cents, that doesnt even cover the printed ticket's costs. Sad? Yes, very. Dont go there. Unless you like to see roosters in cages and creepy wooden statues.
Later that night we decided to do something fun. Ok, many, who have seen it might argue about the "fun" part, especially the 6 people who left in the middle of the performance, but i actually enjoy any kind of dance and I was lucky enough to have someone with me to explain the story. So we did some Javanese dance watching - the story of Shinta and Ramayana at the Purawisata ballet. Music without rhythm usually bugs me but here it works, its not distracting from paying attention to the dance. The thing is - it can be dead-boring if you have no clue what the performance is all about. The second thing is that you will not be able to figure out the story from the English spoken introduction - dont hope for it, you just wont get what the guy is trying to say, you have more chances to understand a Scottish fisherman after learning English for a year. So, unless you know the story or someone walks you through it during the dance - dont think youll enjoy it much. And i was lucky. The dance is beautiful, the costumes are amazing - the whole shabang is art. Definitely go watch it if you have a chance, just prepare yourself - it is worth it.
My last day in Yogya began in the Malioboro shopping street/slummish market in the center. I have to say that this trip has been very informative to me, much about Indonesian culture and just as much about myself. I grew up in a village, i am not really a city girl, like most people i love luxury but from day to day it is not a must, really. I am not grossed out by village life, i have no problem with having poverty shoved in my face, but seeing how people cook where they also throw away stuff, piss, wash plates in already oily, dirty, brown water - just no, i cannot do that. I thought i will be easier with it, but after a 40 min walk i was happy to disappear in a big mall sipping my overpriced Kopi Luwak, where it doesnt smell like a mix of baked oil in a toilet.
And then we washed it off by doing something awesome. We went to Kaliurang. One thing about places I have been since Jakarta - it is very very mountainous. The views when you just escape Yogya are so breathtaking that only riding a car up the mountain for a couple of hours is better than most trips i have ever done in my life. There is a volcano that erupted two years ago and it still smells like sulphur (the famous rotten eggs smell), and apparently you can see some of the dead bodies partially covered by lava. I have seen people wearing masks in jeeps going for a rather extreme trip, we, however, accompanied by parents, took it a bit easier, went to a museum, bought some batik, had a pretty decent European meal and looked at the volcano from afar. Curious about the irony in all of this? Here you go - we decided to stay away from the volcano, but in just a couple of hours the volcano near Ende, a trip we will be making at the end of August, had erupted killing 5 people. Fingers crossed it stays quiet until and after then.
The natural disasters didnt end there. There was an earthquake which clearly was a "nothing", but not going to lie - it scared me to death. The shaking woke me up from a fine afternoon nap and i realized that it could be the real deal - so i panicked.
Where is everyone? Should i run outside, should i hide? Luckily after only 40 seconds it stopped, and i found out that it was an earthquake in an East Java sea (5.5 on Richter scale) hundreds of kilometers away.
So there you go - my pretty full (i like to call it package ++) Indonesian experience by the end of week 1, natural disasters included. I am extremely grateful i had the chance to be blown away by Indonesia's cultural center. And that night when i jumped up on a train to continue my wonderful trip and have my first culture shock, i realized that if you have airco and a western toilet in Indonesia - for me, Europe cannot beat this place.