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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.

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