Monday, January 31, 2011

Weekend in Yogya

Ab and I headed out to Yogyakarta shortly after school on Friday in an effort to continue my resolution to see more of the country. Yogya is considered the cultural capital of Indonesia because it is considered to be the backbone of Indonesian batik and is home to the palace of the Sultan (who, similar to European monarchs, only has a symbolic role). Since July I have continually been told that I needed to experience Yogya and it did not disappoint!

We took an overnight train that was suppose to arrive in Yogya around 4:30 am and I initially thought that Yogya was the last stop. Unfortunately, when the train finally stopped at 5:45 and we were informed that we were in Solo, we realized that Yogya was not the last stop :). We were a little bleary-eyed, but we were able to catch a bus to Yogya that only took about an hour. It was a little less than an optimal way to start the day, but at least the train didn't continue further than Solo!

Once we found a place to stay for the night and were able to drop our bags off, we headed to the palace for the Saturday performance of gamelan with wayang kulit puppets. When we arrived, we were told that because there was some sort of festival/fair going on, that the gamelan would not be playing. I was initially tempted to leave so that we wouldn't miss too much out of the day, however, we had an amazing tour guide, Denis, who was extremely knowledgeable about the palace and gave us tons of information on what to do in and around the city, including an awesome place for batik paintings that is only open two mornings a week!

After the palace tour, we went to the batik shop recommended by Denis where we got to see the process of how the paintings are made and peruse through an extensive gallery of many different kinds of batiks. Apparently, many of the best batik painters are associated with this gallery, a number of whom are considered the best in the world. I truly appreciated seeing such a variety of batik styles, including an artist by the name of Arifin, an example of whose work is shown below.

After the batik gallery, we headed out Prambanan and then ate dinner at one of the best restaurants I've ever been to in my life. It is a vegetarian place that is dedicated to using local produce that is grown in sustainable ways. Furthermore, the restaurant advocates 'Slow Food,' or taking plenty of time to enjoy a meal together through conversations, games, or reading a book/magazine from their collection. On top of the mission and atmosphere of the place, the food was outstanding (best pumpkin soup I've ever had in my life).

When we set out to return to our hotel, we were passing by the fair/festival that caused the morning gamelan to be canceled. It was absolutely packed and so we dedicated to see what all the fuss was about. It was very similar to a County or State Fair back home, and had a very festive atmosphere. There were a bunch of carnival-type rides, and so we joined in on the fun by playing bumper cars :)

Overall, it was a great weekend and I can definitively say that Yogya lived up to the hype. I hope that I will be able to get back to the city again soon and do some more of the activities that I didn't have time for yet!

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