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Yogyakarta Day 2: Thursday, August 3, 2017

Mendot temple with banyan tree

Mendut Temple with giant banyan tree. This smaller temple for the Sailendra royal family was built on a direct line between Borobudur and Mt. Merapi.

On my second day in Yogyakarta, Indonesia I took tours to the Buddhist sites of Borobudur, Pawon, and Mendut.

Borobudur isn’t the only temple in this region. The Sailendra Dynasty also built smaller family shrines and temples for the royal family, including two that we visited after seeing Borobudur. The first was nearby and is called the Pawon Temple (Candi Pawon). It is under renovation and is small but nicely designed. Other than some relief sculptures, there wasn’t much to see.

Candi Pawon

Candi Pawon, a small temple under renovation near Borobudur.

There were some souvenir stands around this temple, so I looked through them and found a nice small brass model of a stupa. You can take the top off and see the Buddha inside. I also bought some wooden wayang puppets with a base to hold them, and hope that they can be kept safe while traveling.

Wayang puppets

Puppets on sale at the gift shop at Pawon Temple. I bought some wooden puppets and a bronze Buddha stupa.

We traveled another short distance to the Mendut temple. All three temples are in a line, all pointing toward Mt. Merapi. The Mendut Temple was more interesting – a large cubic monument with statues of the Buddha inside and nicely carved reliefs around the outside. What was most impressive was a huge banyan tree next to it with multiple root streamers descending from its branches and a gigantic trunk. It was probably the single largest tree I’ve seen, even bigger in sheer size than a redwood tree. All of this was situated in a green parkland with beautiful lawns.

Giant banyan

Giant banyan tree at Mendut Temple, one of the largest trees I’ve ever seen. People were swinging on the hanging roots like Tarzan. For a sense of scale, look at the people underneath it.

Mendut was built in the early 9th Century and is the oldest of the three aligned temples (with Pawon and Borobudur). According to one inscription, it was built during the reign of King Indra of the Sailendra Dynasty. Lost for hundreds of years in the jungle, it was rediscovered in 1836 and restored between 1897 and 1925. The large statue of a seated Buddha in the central chamber is flanked by other lesser Buddhas, including Avalokitesvara, who is known as Gwan Yin Pu Sa in China.

Mendut temple

Mendut Temple, front view. You climb up the stairs to the central chamber, which is relatively small.

On the way back to the car, a lady insisted that I buy souvenirs and was the most irritatingly persistent person I met in Indonesia. I decided to buy another stupa, this time made of stone, to give as a present. I guess her persistence was rewarded. My driver told me that I could go inside of the monastery that is part of the Mendut temple, so I did.

Buddha of Mendut

A seated Buddha statue inside the chamber of Mendut Temple near Yogyakarta, built in the 9th Century by the Sailendra Kingdom.

It is a modern monastery, no more than a hundred years old at most. The grounds were quiet and peaceful, with several small temples with various statues of the many forms of the Buddha. There were winged angels, a temple with a pathway through it shaped like a giant Buddha head with elephants supporting it, a giant bell and gong, some grotesque figures that seemed to be laughing at each other (“What are you laughing at??”). Some of the Buddhas were sitting in lotus position, some reclining. Some were coated in gold leaf, some white, and some carved from gray volcanic stone. I spent more time there than I should have, but it was very enjoyable and I was about the only person around – the monks were back in the living areas behind the monastery. It was all very photogenic.

Buddha consort panel

Relief panel of Avalokitesvara, the female Buddha of Boundless Mercy, carved on the outer walls of Mendut Temple.

I can’t say I am an expert at how Buddhism is practiced here, whether Mahayana or Theravada. From my previous research and classes, southeast Asia and Indonesia practice the Theravada school, which is closer to the original teachings of Siddhartha in following the Dharma, or Path to Enlightenment, as compared to the form of Buddhism practiced in China and other parts of Asia that emphasizes reaching Enlightenment (Nirvana) through the intervention of boddhisatvas. But sources I’ve read said that Borodudur and Mendut are Mahayana Buddhist sites. It is complicated by the fact that Buddhism has almost died out on Java except for this monastery. Yet people do travel here for festivals, walking from Mendut to Pawon to Borobudur and circumambulating through Borobudur on their way to Enlightenment.

I climbed back into the car and we drove off to find lunch on our way to Mount Merapi.

Gardens of Mendot

The gardens and lawns at Mendut Temple, which are beautifully maintained and serene.

Guardian

Guardian of Mendut Monastery.

Gong

Giant gong bell at Mendut Monastery. It would have been amazing to hear this ring.

Buddha head temple with elephants

Buddha head pathway with elephants.

Golden Buddhas in temple

Buddhas inside a temple at Mendut Monastery.

Gold Buddha in stupa

Golden Buddha at Mendut Monastery. I don’t know why I’m suddenly reminded of Indiana Jones . . .

Standing Buddha-red temple

The Mendut Buddhist Monastery near Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

White seated buddha

White Buddha statue at the Mendut monastery near Yogyakarta.

Seated Buddha with bronze head

Inside the Buddhist monastery at Mendut.

What are you laughing at

What are you laughing at? I’m not sure what these statues are supposed to be doing, but they seem to be having a good time doing it.

 

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Sunrise at Borobudur

Yogyakarta Day 2: Thursday, August 3, 2017

Borobudur panorama-s

A panoramic image of Borobudur, a 9th Century Buddhist temple near Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

 

Borobudur model

A model of Borobudur, a 9th Century Buddhist temple north of Yogyakarta, from which I experienced sunrise on Aug. 3, 2017.

My second day in Yogyakarta began very early with a 3:00 wake-up call. I had signed up for an all-day tour to sites around the area of Jogja, as it is called, starting with a sunrise tour of Borobudur, an 9th Century Buddhist temple at the base of the central Java mountains.

Borobudur through trees

A view of Borobudur temple through the trees.

I quickly showered and got ready. Down in the lobby, I got some cash out of the ATM machine to cover my expenses for the day. My tour included only the car and driver; I would have to pay admission to each stop. It had seemed the best way to get the combination of places I wanted to visit. As it turned out, I should have gotten some extra for tips and a lunch that was more than expected.

Buddha-mountains-blue sky

One of many Buddha statues carved from volcanic ash at Borobudur Temple near Yogyakarta. The hills to the east are the rim of an ancient caldera, and rise up beyond to Gunung Sumbing, the peak just to the left of the Buddha’s head.

My driver arrived at 3:30 and I loaded into his car. It was pitch dark still, and the streets were deserted. This was the least traffic I saw all the time I was here. We drove north out of Jogja, passing along a road similar to the one I’d traveled on to get to the Meratus Mountains in Borneo. We passed through several smaller towns, and I dozed off, but the jostling of the road kept waking me up. We turned toward the northwest and after about 40 minutes on the road, arrived at the parking lot.

Yogya area google earth

We traveled northwest of Yogyakarta on Highway 14 to Magelung, where Borobudur is located, about a 40 minute trip. To the east of the gray-green dot of Borobudur lie the foothills leading to Gunung Sumbing. Mendot Temple (next blog post) lies on a direct line between Borobudur and Mt. Merapi.

My driver (I have forgotten his name) took my money and paid for the entrance fee, which included a small cloth printed with a batik pattern of the temple stupas. I picked up a flashlight, and he told me he would meet me back at the bottom when I was done. I followed the pathway and the people ahead of me.

Borobudur predawn

Stupas at Borobudur in the pre-dawn light, looking east-southeast.

It was too dark still to see anything, and the weather was a bit drizzly and foggy. We came to a gate and some stairs that led upwards, and I could see some flashlight beams climbing the temple above me. I began to climb too, afraid that there might be too many stairs for my legs to handle. Although they were uneven, with some stairs taller than others, it wasn’t too bad and the cool pre-dawn temperatures made things better. I took my time, because dawn was still a long time away. There were several levels with pathways leading off in both directions but I stayed on the main staircase, figuring that I could explore better when it was light.

Stupas at Borobudur in early light

Dawn approaches at Borobudur.

I reached the top sooner than I thought I would and circled around the large central stupa to find a spot away from everyone else and their lights. It was still drizzling lightly, but as the first light of dawn began to creep around the eastern mountains, I found a quiet place to sit down. I tried to lie down to rest a bit, but someone came around and told us not to sit or lie on the central stupa (I hadn’t seen the signs). I moved to the overhang at the edge of the top ring of smaller stupas and found a nice spot away from others’ lights where I could watch the dawn come on.

Borobudur cross section

A cross section diagram of Borobudur. Built on a natural hill or volcano, the temple is divided into three main sections representing the foot (Kamadhatu), the body (Rupadhatu), and the head (Arupadhatu). Pilgrims begin at the bottom and circumambulate around the levels, working their way up as they view carvings depicting the life of the Buddha, until they reach the central stupa at the top. This journey represents the journey to enlightenment.

Stupas in the mist

The stupas hold statues of the Buddha. Here, a light drizzly mist set in just before sunrise, hiding the hills to the east.

The drizzling intensified, then tapered off and quit. The clouds began to dissipate, and the sky continued to lighten. It is said that Borobudur is spectacular, and I’ve seen photos, but the reality is always so much better. I tried taking some photos and videos but it was still too dark.

Borobudur stupas 2

The stupas are located in a triple ring around the large, central stupa at the top of the complex. A believer will start at the bottom and walk around each ring, seeing carved reliefs depicting the Buddha’s life, and reaching the top level which represents enlightenment or nirvana.

I walked around the central stupa to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. To the direct south the most people were clumped up, but they were beginning to break apart and start exploring as the light grew. I returned to my spot and continued to wait. It was peaceful, and I could almost imagine I was the only person there, enjoying the solitude of this temple. Then someone would walk by with their flashlight on and shine it in my face. But overall it was a tranquil, meditative experience.

Buddha and toes

The tops of some of the bell-shaped stupas have been removed, revealing the Buddha statues within.

Dawn came on and I began to take more photos. The sun was still hidden behind clouds that came and went, but as the morning progressed the clouds burned off to a brilliant blue sky with a few puffy clouds. I took many photos and video clips of me walking along the pathways. I tried to avoid getting people in my shots, but it was difficult. As I descended to lower levels, there were fewer people and I could take photos easier. Some of the stupas, which look like bells with diamond or square holes in them, have been removed. Inside there are statues of the Buddha sitting in lotus position. Most of the stupas are still intact, and there are 72 of them as you can see.

David with central stupe

David Black at Borobudur, with the large central stupa in the background. The smaller stupas, or bell-shaped structures with the lattice designs, each contain a seated Buddha statue and form three rings around the central stupa.

There are nine levels to the temple, including two circular levels at the top. The lower pathways are enclosed in balustrades. They are laid out in a complex pattern that forms a mandala from above. In addition to the Buddhas in the stupas (72 of these), there are other Buddhas sitting in niches (504 Buddhas in all), with 2672 bas relief wall panels depicted events from the Buddha’s life. There are rain spouts shaped like mythical monsters (very similar to the gargoyles of medieval cathedrals in Europe). There are stone lions guarding the stairwells and pathways. And everywhere there are Buddhas and more Buddhas.

David at Borobudur with mountains

David Black at Borobudur in Indonesia. Notice that the stupa next to me has square holes whereas the stupas on the next two levels down have diamond shaped holes. The hills behind me lead up to the crest of Mt. Sumbing.

Borobudur was built around 800 CE by the Sailendra Kingdom of southern Java. It was designed by the poet-architect Gunadharma and took thousands of workers to carve the blocks of andesitic volcanic ash into these shapes. The entire temple is built over a mound of earth, perhaps a natural hill. It has four main stairways to the main compass points and is the largest single Buddhist temple in the world. Used for about 100 years, the temple was abandoned when the seat of government moved elsewhere.

1-Crowds at Borobudur

The area around the central stupa was very crowded with tourists, especially on the southern and eastern sides. We had a light drizzle of rain just at sunrise, which was unfortunate, but then the skies cleared and it was a beautiful, sunny day.

The temple was reclaimed by the jungle and partially buried by volcanic ash flows, until being rediscovered by the British under Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles in 1814. It has been rebuilt and repaired to its former glory, with several major renovations. The largest problem now is the wear of so many tourist feet on the stairs, so they have been partially covered with wood to protect them. I am one of those tourists, and I tried to show this monument all of the respect it deserves.

BUddha and water spout

In addition to the stupa Buddhas, there are many others inside niches and elsewhere around the walls of the lower levels, for 504 Buddhas in all. The grotesque face in bottom right is a gargoyle rain spout. This candi, or temple, is carefully planned so that rainwater will drain through the various levels.

As part of the religious observances here, devotees start at the bottom of the pyramid and walk the pathways in a clockwise fashion, circling around the temple (candi in Indonesian) completely before ascending to the next level. Tales of Siddhartha’s life, his past lives, and his teachings (Dharma) are part of the relief panels seen on the walls. The pilgrim’s journey through Buddha’s life and teachings represents the journey to Enlightenment as the pilgrim ascends through the nine levels and three main sections representing the Feet (Kamadhatu – the bottom casement and hidden foot reliefs – this represents worldly desires), the Body (Rupadhatu – the square section of seven levels with Buddhas sitting in niches representing the World of Forms), and the Head (Arupadhatu – the upper open round platforms with 72 stupas representing the World of Formlessness, where earthly desires and suffering are stripped away). The large central stupa at the top represents enlightenment, and is dedicated to Vairocana, the Great Sun Buddha. It was built with two inner chambers (now empty – the contents have probably been plundered) and had a golden Chattra on top that has been removed.

Buddha mural

Around the walls of the lower levels are carved reliefs depicting scenes from the Buddha’s life. Born Siddharta Gautama, the Buddha lived a life of luxury free from pain or disease until he left his walled palace. He then met a sick man, and old man, and a grieving widow and realized that life if suffering, that suffering comes from desire, and that desire can be eliminated through following the Eight Fold Path to enlightenment. Buddhists visiting this temple start at the lower levels and walk up in a spiral pattern, reviewing the Buddha’s life as they reach the highest level of the temple, representing the head or nirvana (enlightenment).

As the clouds cleared the nearby mountains glowed green and provided a perfect backdrop to the meditating Buddha statues. I took photos of the entire temple – it is truly huge – as I climbed down from the circular platforms to the lower levels. I took photos of the sun’s interplay with stone, air, and clouds. I descended to the lower levels and finally to the casement, taking photos of the whole structure that I can assemble into a panorama.

Ranks of Buddhas

Ranks of Buddhas in the lower levels of Borobudur. The day started cloudy and drizzly, but the clouds cleared out and the sky turned bright blue with brilliant green vegetation around the temple.

I walked back to the ticket area along a pathway lined with red andong flowers and met my driver. This has already been a day worth remembering. The sunrise wasn’t as colorful as some might be, but the blue sky and green mountains, the tranquil temple and the peaceful ambience made this an experience that I will often return to in my memory. Whenever I get stressed out or busy, I can come back here in my mind and meditate as the sun rises over Borobudur.

4-Guardian lion

The stairwells are guarded by stone lions such as this one.

8-Temple and mountains

The south face of Borobudur and mountains to the west. The entire temple sits on a stone casement or bottom level, but inside the core is a natural hill.

Walls of Borobudur in sunlight

The lower levels of Borobudur, bathed in early morning sunlight. Pilgrims start at the bottom and work their way up, but I climbed to the top before dawn with a flashlight, then walked down through the levels. The top area was very crowded (it took some doing to take photos without people in them), but the lower levels were much less crowded and more serene.

Stairway

View through a stairway leading down from the top of Borobudur. This temple was abandoned about 100 years after completion and was largely reclaimed by the jungle, until it was rediscovered by a team under Sir Thomas Raffles in 1814. It was cleared and repaired several times since. Recently, the steps have been covered and reinforced because of cumulative wear from tourists like me.

Hills in the mist

View south from Borobudur in the pre-dawn mist.

Buddha hair detail

Buddha details with the mountains behind. The long ear lobes represent long life and wisdom in Buddhist iconography. This is one of 504 Buddha statues at Borobudur.

Chariot carving

A scene from the life of the Buddha, one of 2672 carved relief panels at Borobudur.

Borobudur corner

A corner of Borobudur as seen from below, standing on the lower casement level. The walls form pathways and rings, laid out in a complex mandala structure.

Red plants

Red andong plants lining the pathway back from Borobudur. These are commonly seen throughout Indonesia. The gardens surrounding Borobudur were beautiful.

 

Becak Drivers

Yogyakarta Day 1: Wednesday, August 2, 2017

 

Motorized becak

This is the motorized becak driver I rented to get from Malioboro Street back to the Hotel Jambuluwuk. Many becak are essentially backwards tricycles – seats supported by two wheels mounted before a single wheel and seat on which the driver sits and pedals. This one was mounted on a motorcycle frame, which made for a faster ride and some fun video. I would have walked, but I was out of water, overheated, and hungry. It only cost about $5.

After walking along Malioboro Street in Yogyakarta for about an hour, I finally decided that I had seen enough for now and was in need of food. I didn’t feel like walking all the way back to the Hotel Jambuluwuk in this heat and I was out of the bottled water I had been carrying, so I hailed a becak driver. This one had the customer seat mounted on a motorcycle, and we took off after I climbed aboard. I took some fun video of us weaving through the streets. Within a few minutes we were back at the hotel.

I drank some bottled water (I was a bit dehydrated) and ate some snacks I had bought at the Alpha Mart. I laid out the purchases I had made – my new garish multicolored leather hat, my artistic batiks, the wooden bicycle and colorful dress – and took photos of them to send to my wife for approval. I rested for a while, then was ready to head out on my next expedition.

Becak driver

This was my second becak driver, this one on a traditional pedaled frame. He took me from the hotel down to the Kraton, which wound up being closed, then to a restaurant for supper. This is a common way for people to get around here – you see becaks all over the city.

This time I wanted to head to the historic Kraton area of Yogyakarta. I had a map and could have walked, but decided to try a pedicab (becak) instead, since it wasn’t very expensive. It didn’t take long to find one, as they park at most intersections or can be hailed as they peddle past. This driver spoke pretty good English and when I explained where I wanted to go, he said the Karaton was most likely closed by now (it was after 5:00) but he knew a place to get some good batik. Of course he did. Everyone here seems to have their connections.

There are times that I have felt guilty as a “wealthy” and decadent American, for example having poor pedicab drivers drive me around the city. I have to keep thinking that this is a normal and accepted way of getting around here, and that the becak drivers choose this as their livelihood. I don’t try to negotiate them down to prices so low that they can’t make a living; $4 for a ride of about one mile is considered a good fare here and it certainly saves me time and sweat. A good thing for both parties. Having me for a fare is certainly better for them than sitting around with no fare at all. I refuse to feel guilty for helping people make a living.

Keraton

The Karaton or administrative center of Yogyakarta. When the Dutch controlled Indonesia, this was the government center for this part of Java, and is still a center of culture, with dances, wayang puppet shows, and gamelon orchestra performances daily. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, it was closed. I didn’t get the chance to return. My becak driver did take me to a batik store he knew, where I bought two nice scarves.

So I climbed aboard and off we went. The city has fairly flat topography with a dip around the river. He had to work a bit to get us up the hill on the other side. We cut across to the road that parallels Malioboro Street, then headed south to a large grassy area and old white colonial style buildings in the heart of the town. As he said, these buildings (the Karaton or old administrative capital) and the museums nearby were closed. We continued on a couple of blocks, then turned west and went down a more narrow road with batik and clothing shops on both sides. We stopped in front of one he said had a good selection and I went in. The front part of the store had clothing that was a bit beyond my price range, but I found some inexpensive yet beautiful scarves in the back. I bought one for my daughter and one for my sister.

Jogja map-s

A map of Yogyakarta. The map I had from the Hotel Jambuluwuk was better, but still not very detailed. The roads are not this straight, except for Malioboro Street itself. After buying the scarves (yellow circle) my becak driver took me to a restaurant (green circle) on the other side of the Karaton where I ate fried chicken (ayam goreng). I then walked (purple lines) up Jalan A. Yani and Malioboro. I stopped at a Dunkin Donuts across the street, then continued on the west side all the way up past the train tracks before realizing I had gone too far, then doubled back, but still missed my road, went back north again until I finally rented another pedicab at the north end of Malioboro St. I should have marked the location of my hotel on my map before I left (located on this map as the red circle).

My driver was waiting for me as I came out – I suppose having a guaranteed fare was better than looking around for one even if he had to wait for me while I shopped. We pumped up the gentle hill back to the Karaton and I told him all I wanted was to find a place to eat, as I was very hungry by now. My snacks had not kept me going very long. He said he knew a good place, so we circled around the grassy area to the east side. A road led due east away from the Karaton, and in less than a block we stopped at an open-air but covered restaurant similar to others I’ve eaten at here in Indonesia. I insisted to my driver that I was done and wanted to walk back to the hotel from here, so he finally left after I paid him.

Malioboro Street 2

Malioboro Street near the Karaton looking north.

I ordered some Ayam Goreng (fried chicken) as that seemed a safe bet. It was inexpensive and not a large portion, but was the best tasting fried chicken I had in Indonesia. I figured I could find some additional snacks along Malioboro Street.

It was twilight as I left the restaurant (evening comes early in the tropics) and the action on Malioboro Street was just ramping up. There were stalls selling a variety of foods (I never did try the gudeng stew that is a specialty here – I didn’t dare eat from the street vendors selling it) but the food, which was out on display in steaming pots, looked very enticing. Then I saw a sign across the road for Dunkin Donuts, so I stopped in and had two of them. I was now good to go.

Food stall

Food stalls along Malioboro Street near the Karaton.

As it grew darker, I walked down the street, sometimes on the sidewalk, somethings further onto the street past the carriage drivers where there was more room, sometimes I entered the shops or stopped to look at the open stalls. There were a lot of tourists, including Indonesians and Europeans or Australians, and it all had the air of a bazaar or fleamarket. I’m not much into shopping, as I have said before, but this was as much a cultural experience as it was shopping, so I just went with the flow and enjoyed it.

Food stall 2

More food at a buffet restaurant on Malioboro St. We had been warned at the Embassy not to eat food from a street vendor, and I had just eaten fried chicken anyway, which I topped off with two Dunkin Donuts across the street.

I found some very colorful (and cheap) shirts for my two younger sons and a wallet for myself as a Christmas present. I took some photos. I passed a Chinese temple. I came to train tracks and crossed them, and eventually ran out of stores. I hadn’t been paying much attention to where I was, so I finally pulled out my map and realized I had gone too far for my street back to the Hotel Jambuluwuk. I must have missed it in the dark. I walked back across the railroad tracks, but didn’t see the cross street I was looking for and decided maybe I hadn’t gone far enough, so I back stepped again – I finally realized that I didn’t exactly know where the entrance to my road back was. I wasn’t really lost, as I knew I was on Malioboro Street (that was obvious) but it is a long street. And my feet were getting very tired.

Malioboro Street 3

Malioboro Street looking north, just after sunset.

I found a group of becak drivers hanging out at the end of the last stores and asked one for a ride back. He knew where my hotel was (great!) but I didn’t have the right change to pay him, so I gave him a 100,000 rupiah bill that I fished out of the reserve pouch that I have velcroed under my pants on my left calf. He got change with another driver, and gave me back two bills. I thought he had taken his fare out already and had given me one 50,000 and one 5,000 bill (we had negotiated for 45,000 or about $4), but he actually gave me back two 50,000 bills. It was difficult to negotiate since his English was sketchy and my Indonesian is even more limited.

Malioboro at night

Malioboro Street at night.

I got aboard, happy for a chance to sit down. He peddled back the way I had come – I had gone much further than I had thought – and turned onto my road back, which I don’t know if I would have ever recognized in the dark as it isn’t a very wide road. We peddled across the bridge and he pumped me up to the road leading to the hotel (Jalan Gajah Mada). We pulled up to the hotel, and he asked for his money. I thought I had already paid him (that he had taken his pay from my 100,000 bill), so I told him I had already paid. It took the help of the doorman at the hotel for us to communicate and for me to realize the fault was mine. I not only paid the driver my negotiated amount but a good tip besides. He was much happier.

Shopping spree 2b

The results of my second outing to Malioboro Street. I bought two T-shirts for my sons, two scarves, and two printed batik style shirts (very inexpensive). The brown tailed cap is the style of hats in Yogyakarta. The wooden bicycle was purchased earlier in the day, along with the colorful leather hat.

This was the only time in Indonesia where I had major trouble with a language barrier, and it was my own pride as an American that got in the way, making assumptions and being too suspicious of someone. I thought he was trying to rip me off. He wasn’t. I learned to be more careful of my money and to pay attention to the bills more. The 50,000 and 5,000 bills are both blue, so they look similar but are for widely different amounts.

It felt good to get back to my room. I left a message at the front desk to give me a wake-up call for 3:00 in the morning, and ate a few of the snacks I’d brought back from my stop at the Alpha Mart earlier. I had a bottle of red Stroberi Fanta that I drank from and left by my bedside, but I must not have put the lid on all the way. Sometime during the night, I bumped the bottle off the nightstand and a small amount of the red pop spilled onto the carpet. It was to be problem, because by the time I discovered it, I wasn’t able to get the stain out.

Jalan Malioboro

Yogyakarta Day 1: Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Malioboro wares

The sidewalk along Malioboro Street. The cars take the center lanes, which are separated from the outer lanes where becak drivers and horse carriages wait for customers. Then at the edge are open air stalls, as you see to the right here, then the main covered sidewalk, then higher cost businesses in the main buildings. For example, Batik Keris is an upscale batik clothing retail store.

On my first afternoon in Yogyakarta, Indonesia I had just finished purchasing some authentic batik art at an artists’ workshop and exhibition just off Malioboro Street. The pieces were removed from their frames and carefully folded. My most important purchases done, I walked back to Malioboro Street and north.

Malioboro Street, or Jalan Malioboro as it is named in Bahasa Indonesia, is something like a long open-air bazaar or shopping mall catering mostly to tourists that runs north of the Kraton, or the old administrative center of the city. Everyone goes here in the evenings, so its a place to see, to shop, to buy, and to be seen.

Malioboro Street has several layers, with becak drivers (pedicabs) and horse carriages waiting for customers, then open-air stalls selling clothing, wood carvings, and everything else you can think of. Then there was the sidewalk, crowded with tourists, and finally the stores inside the buildings themselves.

Malioboro carriage

The horse carriages of Yogyakarta are quite famous, as at the becak drivers (pedicabs). This shows the layout of Malioboro Street: cars and motorized traffic in the middle, horse carriages and becaks in the outer lanes, then open air shops, a sidewalk, and fancier stalls in the buildings. This can be considered as one of the longest open air markets in the world.

I wanted to get some things that would remind me of Yogyakarta but would be for particular people. Mostly I looked at what was available and getting a feel for the prices, so that I could come back later in the evening to buy. I did buy a wooden bicycle that reminded me of the bike I drove for two years in Taiwan as a missionary, except if was lacking the big yellow sign. I’ll have to add that later. It even had the Asian style kick stand that is far superior to American kick stands and the luggage rack at the back. Only the handlebars were different.

I also bought an inexpensive but colorful dress for my wife, but it wound up being too small on top (I really am incompetent at buying women’s clothing and probably shouldn’t try, but I can’t pass up this opportunity).

Batik printed skirts

Colorful skirts in printed batik patterns. Many shops sold dresses like these, or T-shirts, or wooden carvings, or leather work (I bought a new wallet for me), or wood work (I bought a wooden bicycle similar to one I rode in Taiwan as a missionary 36 years ago).

Overall I don’t much like to shop, but here was a cultural opportunity to visit one of the longest open-air markets in the world, get to mingle with other tourists and see the colorful shops and carriages, and get some shopping done as well. I planned on returning to Malioboro Street once I had found some supper.

Batik as Art

Yogyakarta Day 1: Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Dragon batik-undistort

A Chinese dragon batik to be displayed as art, done by a master.

On my first afternoon in Yogyakarta, Indonesia I walked from the Hotel Jambuluwuk to Malioboro Street. On the way, two people diverted me to a batik exhibition. Although I was a bit suspicious that so many people wanted to help me find the place, I wanted to buy some authentic batik, not just prints. So off I went.

Batik art 4

Traditional Javanese fold art batik, for sale at the batik exhibition.

The batik workshop was just off of a main road that runs perpendicular to Malioboro Street. It is a school for training batik master artists. It takes four years to complete the program. Examples of student and master works were stacked up along the walls and hanging up everywhere, each in a temporary wooden frame labeled with a letter. The price list depended on the letters, and the pieces I really liked were too expensive for me. I knew I would probably spend more here than for all other souvenirs combined elsewhere, but I had found what I was looking for: true artistic batik, not prints. These are not for clothing but to frame and hang up.

Abstract artist

Batik artist showing an example of his work. His designs are abstract and polychromatic. He also explained the process to us.

There were many styles, such as abstract works with mainly blues and purples, loosely drawn images in oranges, reds, and crimsons which I liked a great deal. Some were realistic, some were stylistic. I finally found the cheapest ones in a corner marked “K” and found a particular style of dotted outlines showing images of Buddhas and Ganeshas from Borobudur and Prambanan. There was a small volcano image done by the orange-crimson stylist that I picked out. I was able to put them up against an LED light to see how the light transmitted through the cloth.

Batik art

Stacks of batik art awaiting sale at the “exhibition.” Prices depended on the status of the artist and size of the batik: student works sold for less than masters’ works, and smaller less than larger. You can see the styles of various artists here – the abstract artist of the previous photo on the bottom right, the folk art style at the bottom middle, and so on. I spent quite a bit of time looking for the least expensive yet attractive batiks that also provided a sense of Yogyakarta.

In a side room people were demonstrating how to do batik to the many tourists there. I was the only American, but there were Australians and Europeans from various places watching. A young man was talking about how batik is done while a woman demonstrated the process. I videotaped what he was saying. He was the artist who did the blue-purple abstract works. After he was done, another artist came up for the next group. He was the master who did the free-style red and crimson works, including the volcano I quite liked. I got some good photos and videos here.

Woman with canting 3

A woman demonstrating the process of batik. She is dipping her canting pen into a pot of melted malam, or batik wax, and tracing the wax along drawn lines on the cloth. Some artists pre-draw intricate patterns, others draw freehand. Some paint dye inside the lines, others create a more general dyed pattern with the wax keeping areas white like a blueprint.

I decided, after quite a bit of searching, to buy three of the student projects with the dotted outlines – two Buddhas, one in shades of magenta with a craquelure finish and one in blues. The other was a yellow-green Ganesha. Then I decide to buy the volcano, which I showed to the artist. He confirmed it was one of his, and even posed holding it up – but he insisted on taking it out of its frame and putting the frame around himself, since he was the greatest work of art. Funny guy. Altogether I spent about $70 U.S. for these four pieces. That’s less than $20 each, which is not bad for original batik art. Perhaps if I had time to search I could have found cheaper stuff, but here I had the added value of meeting the artists themselves. Despite the agents pulling us in to this place, I did not feel ripped off or hustled while there. It saved me time and I got to see some truly beautiful pieces, as you can tell from my photos, which really don’t do them very much justice.

Most valuable artist

A piece of batik that I bought, and the artist who created it. This is a painting of Mt. Merapi, near Yogyakarta. He felt that he was an even greater piece of art, which is why he is framing himself. The piece of the dragon and the horses are also his works.

Shopping spree 1

Altogether I bought four pieces of artistic batik, three by a student that had similar designs – two of buddhas from Borobudur and one of a Ganesha from Prambanan. For these pieces, the student used wax dots to follow outlines, but different areas of cloth were also waxed and dyed separately; the outer areas were also crumbled by had to make a craquelure pattern. The Gunung Merapi piece is on the right. My crazy leather hat is in front. I two other items were bought later, as described in my next post.

Batik art 5

This is a nice piece – I like the play of colors, but it was a bit out of my price range.

Batik art 3

A highly ornate piece where the colors are painted between the lines of wax.

Woman with fan-horses batiks

Two different styles of batik: on the left, the design is pre-drawn on cloth and the wax added to the lines, then the areas between are painted in with dyes like a paint-by-numbers picture. On the left, a free-hand design is drawn with wax, then the entire piece colored in one pass. Sometimes a cross between these two methods is used by waxing over large areas and dyeing others, then alternating.

Flight to Yogyakarta

Yogyakarta Day 1: Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Approaching Yogya

Approaching Yogyakarta on my flight from Jakarta: August 2, 2017

I’m sitting at Gate 16 in Terminal 3 of the Jakarta airport awaiting Garuda Flight 204 to Yogykarta, or Jogja, as people call it. I’ve been right here before, about 12 days ago, when I flew to Banjarmasin with Craig Hendrick.

Steaming cone

An active volcano in central Java, one of 125 in Indonesia that are part of the Ring of Fire.

I set my alarm for 4:30 this morning, got up and showered, got dressed and finished packing. I decided to leave my black shoes behind, as they are pretty much worn out and I haven’t really been wearing them much on this trip anyway. I spent last evening repacking, putting everything I wouldn’t need over the next five days (including all of the gifts I’ve bought) into my blue IHC bag and TGC bag and keeping my clean clothes and toiletries in the red bag. My intent is to find a storage locker at the airport, as my research says there are, and only taking my camera bag, computer bag, and red bag to Jogja.

Merapi and neighbor

Gunung Merapi (on right) and Gunung Merbabu from the air on my flight to Yogyakarta from Jakarta. Merapi last erupted in 2010, killing over 300 people.

But it didn’t work out that way. I met Nikki Moylan downstairs at 5:30, as we have arranged to share a cab to the airport. We checked out of our rooms, then ate a quick breakfast accompanied by Jennifer. The cab was waiting for us and we had a quick, non-traffic ride to the airport. I was dropped off first at Terminal 3 and got a luggage cart, went through the first security checkpoint, and checked in at the Garuda Economy Class counter. When I asked the agent where the storage lockers were, she told me that they don’t have them in this new terminal, only the old terminals. So much for research. So I had to bring all my bags with me after all and pay at the overweight baggage counter. Again.

Merapi volcanoes

Volcanoes near Yogykarta. In the foreground are Gunung Merapi (bottom left) and Gunung Merbabu. Beyond are Gunung Sumbing and Gunung Sindoro. Yogykarta lies off the image to the left, and Borobudur is in the valley between the two sets of volcanoes. This image was created using data from the USGS Earth Explorer website.

I waited at the same gate (16) that Craig and I waited at on our flight to Banjarmasin. I was writing up this post and was so intent on it that I almost missed the final boarding announcement, so I had to jump up and run through the boarding pass checkpoint at the gate. Once on the airplane I settled back and tried to find something to watch on my hour flight to Jogja.

Merapi and Merbabu

Mt. Merapi and Mt. Merbabu from GoogleEarth.

We took off over rice fields and turned toward the mountains that form the central spine of Java. As we flew along this ridge, the peaks of the volcanoes poked up through the cloud layer. Some had smoke plumes rising from their summits. There are about 125 active volcanoes in Indonesia as part of the Ring of Fire around the rim of the Pacific Ocean. The Philippines Plate is pushing into the Indo-Australian Plate, creating a subduction zone noted for its explosive volcanoes, severe earthquakes, and deadly tsunami. It is an Earth Science teacher’s dream come true to get to see this.

Central Java from air

Central Java from the air

I decided to listen to music from the selection on the in-flight screen, and started listening to the Best of Bad Company album, which rocked me all the way in to Yogyakarta. As we approached and lowed ourselves toward the city, green rice fields, streams, and trees became more obvious with beautiful clouds above and mountain peaks rearing their smoky black crowns.

Over Yogya

Approaching Yogyakarta.

We landed and I deplaned and walked across the tarmac to the Yogyakarta airport terminal, which is quite small for the number of flights it handles. It was crowded inside. I found a luggage cart and waited by the carousel until my bags came through, right after each other. There was a desk to arrange taxis into the city, so I asked them to help and a porter wheeled my bags through the crowds, through an underground walkway, to the curb where he hailed a taxi for me. We loaded up my bags and he drove me into the city to my hotel.

I am staying at the Hotel Jambuluwuk Malioboro, chosen because it has good ratings and is within walking distance (20 minutes or so) of the main shopping center, Malioboro Street. Outside the hotel is a large billboard advertising cigarettes with the required government anti-cigarette campaign on the bottom, which certainly sent mixed messages. But at least the billboard provided a good landmark to find my hotel with.

Yogya airport

The airport in Yogyakarta. It could use an expansion, because it is too small for the number of people traveling through it.

Jambuluwuk lobby

The lobby of the Hotel Jambuluwuk Malioboro, where I stayed for three nights.

I checked in and found my room on the top floor. It is a nice room with a small bathroom but nicely appointed. The carpets are a bit worn, but otherwise nice. I dropped off my bags and unpacked a few items. It requires a keycard in the slot like other hotels here to activate the lights and air conditioning, and I worked out the controls and got the room cooled down. Since it was barely noon and I was hungry, I ventured out to find at least a snack. I asked at the desk how to get to Malioboro Street – they said to go left, then left again at the first intersection and walk along that street until I crossed a river, then beyond to Malioboro. I didn’t take the first left and soon found a Alpha Mart store, where I got some Pulpy juice, a Happy Cow, and some other snacks to tide me over until I could find supper.

Yogya from hotel room

Yogyakarta from my hotel room. I had a good view of the city and could hear muezzins from several mosques at once.

It seems strange to be entirely on my own now, after having been driven and pampered for three weeks. Even with a map of the city from the front desk, I am likely to get lost. But the day was still young and I felt like exploring, so I backtracked, took the correct turn, and continued on until I crossed the river. Noon prayers were being called, so I paused and recorded some video and audio. There weren’t really any good sidewalks to cross the bridge, so I had to dodge around stalls selling red and white bunting that were in the way.

Yogya near river

Crossing a bridge from my hotel to Malioboro Street.

I stopped at a store selling batik and looked at the wares, but didn’t really like anything. I continued on another two blocks and came to Malioboro Street at last – obviously so because of the many shops, horse drawn carriages, becak drivers (pedicabs), and tourists thronging the street. I am not much of a shopper, but decided to try to get everything I needed here if possible in one afternoon and evening.

Ice Durian fruit

A stand selling iced durian fruit. The “ES” is pronounced “ice.” The smell will knock you over . . .

I smelled something unpleasant and discovered I was standing next to a cart selling durian fruit drinks. You can smell it just walking past. As I took a photo of it, a man approached me and asked if I was interested in batik. He said he knew of a place a few blocks further on that was having a batik art exposition and that this was the last day. I was interested; all the batik I saw here was simply printed, not hand drawn, and I wanted to buy some of the real thing. As we were talking, I spotted an unusual hat make of leather dyed many colors – tan, aqua, pink, and black. It actually fitted, so I had to buy it. It was about $8 U.S., or 100,000 rupiah. I put it on and wore it to keep off the hot sun. The man drew me a map, and said it was easy to find.

Atmosfear footwear

I passed this store on my way to Malioboro Street. I rather doubt this brand would catch on in America. I can’t imagine why . . .

As I walked across Malioboro Street and on down the road, a lady approached me and asked where I was going. When I told her I was going to the batik exposition, she said she lived near there and would show me the way. I was getting a bit suspicious of all this unsolicited help, but walked with her anyway. It wasn’t as if she were taking me into some small alley. I realize now that this batik workshop hires people to act as collectors of tourists, funneling them into the store to drum up more business. Pretty smart tactic, and since I wanted to see real batik anyway, it was good for me too. And there was no indication that this was the last day – it seemed to be an ongoing thing.

Little boys on bridge

Young boys in traditional clothing crossing the bridge to Malioboro Street.

I found the workshop and went inside. Since there wasn’t any big sign, it was a good thing they had these agents out scouring the streets for potential customers.

Bridge to Malioboro

Crossing the bridge from the Jambuluk Hotel to Malioboro Street. The air in Yogyakarta was much clearer than Jakarta.

Jakarta Day 9: Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Group shot on hotel stairs-s

The Teachers for Global Classrooms 2017 Indonesia cohort. This was our last activity together before going our separate ways.

Waiting in batik 2

The group waiting for our tour bus wearing our best batik.

With our final session completed, we had one more event together: our final dinner. We dressed in our finest batik and took photos on the stairs in the hotel lobby. Then we boarded the bus and drove out of the city to a restaurant called Talaga Sampireun. It was my last experience with Jakarta traffic. At one point, the bus was stalled in a traffic jam and men with packages of snacks on their heads were walking between the cars selling them, then running to the side when the traffic started to move.

Batik clothing

Waiting for the bus wearing our batik.

The sign for the restaurant promised that it would be a “culinary experience by a lake.” It was laid out as a series of huts surrounding ponds with coi fish and was a very nice place. We took photos and talked, and the food arrived. It was delicious, and my favorite was the honey grilled shrimp on skewers.

Mid road salesman

Selling snacks to cars stuck in traffic. Entrepreneurs will pop up wherever there’s an opportunity, and Indonesia is no exception.

There were geckos climbing the walls, the first I had seen in Indonesia. I took a few photos of them. We were reluctant to leave, knowing this was the last time we would all be together. We had shared a mutual experience of learning and teaching in Indonesia even though we were in different cities, and this bonded us together.

Talaga sampireun

Our tour bus and the Talaga Sampireun restaurant sign. We had to travel for an hour to the outskirts of Jakarta to get to this place, which was a beautiful departure from other places we’d visited. It promised to be “a culinary experience by a lake.”

Some of us were extending our trips and had early departures the next day; those that were going home tomorrow would be leaving the Jakarta airport at 10:00 pm, so they were going to see the old city of Jakarta on their way out. I had wanted to get my experiences in Yogyakarta and Bali started, and the wording on the itinerary originally sent to us made the excursion tomorrow sound optional. It actually wasn’t, but my arrangements were already made. I have enjoyed Jakarta, but I want to see even more of Indonesia and am eager to get going with the limited time I have left here.

Restaurant pathway

Pathway to the restaurant rooms, which were built as separate huts overlooking ponds with koi fish. It was very quiet and peaceful here.

We said our last goodbyes in the lobby. I arranged for a taxi to take me and Nikki Moylan to the airport, as she had a flight around the same time as me. Her husband was joining her in the morning. I spent the rest of the evening repacking my bags, including the stuff I had left at the concierge desk while in Banjarmasin. I was hoping to put at least one bag into a locker at the airport and leave it there for the next five days, so I packed accordingly.

Doug and Mike-s

Doug, Mike, and Sarah at the restaurant as we have our final meal together.

And so the official part of my voyage here has ended. I will be entirely on my own now, to see how well I can survive by myself in Indonesia. I am almost out of the snacks I brought from America which have helped me in the evenings when I’ve been too tired to go find a meal. Now I’ll have to survive on Indonesian food and my limited Bahasa Indonesia knowledge. What will I learn in the final five days of my journey? I’ll report on that through more blog posts and in my final reflections once I am home.

Huts and lillypond

The restaurant consisted of separate huts around walkways and lilly ponds.

Come here little fishie

At the restaurant, feeding the koi fish.

Jennifer Nikki Ursula

Jennifer, Nikki, and Ursula at the restaurant.

Glow globes at sunset

Glow globes over the water at sunset.

Glow globes at night

Glow globes at night.

Sitting at table 2

Our group at the restaurant waiting for the main courses to arrive. It was served family style, from central plates, and included delicious honey prawns.

Geckos

Geckos on a pillar at the restaurant. This was the only time I saw them in Indonesia, and they were all over the place, perhaps because of the lilly ponds.

Group freestyle-s

Group shot at the restaurant. Freestyle!