Suggested song: Candy by Robbie Williams
Setting off in the late forenoon, this time on foot, the somewhat hapless hotel security guard (and owner of the rental scooter) intercepted me, commenting that his brother-in-law’s Batik gallery, located just around the corner, was a considerably more exciting sight than the miserly Sultan’s Palace, also known as the Kraton. Thanking him warmly for this bit of tourist (and consumer) advice, I continued on my way to the palace, nonetheless.
Walking up the busy street on uneven sidewalks and chancing the odd crossing of traffic, the first stop of the day lay ahead: Alun Alun, the southern square delimiting the Kraton of Yogyakarta.
The center of Alun Alun is occupied by two massive Banyan trees. Local legend has it that, should you manage to walk blindfolded from one end of the square to the others, passing through the gap between the trees, whatever wish you have shall be fulfilled. Carelessly not bringing a blindfold and wearing only flip flops on my feet, I decided to forego this little adventure. Also, it might have had unfortunate consequences if I had bumped into the recruits parading in the noon sun at the opposite side of the square. So, I limited myself to a brief chat with some soldiers resting in the shade provided by the western Banyan tree and went off towards the Taman Sari Water Castle.
Taman Sari: The Water Castle
Just a few short minutes later, Taman Sari appeared out of the clutter of side streets, proof that 18th century water palaces are not uniquely European, although this one has a distinctly different quality. Located a little way southwest of the Kraton, it provided the Sultan and his court with royal gardens, but also with a hiding place and a more compact defensive position than the sprawling main palace itself.
Walking through the main gate, I was greeted by a shade and a cool breeze. This is, indeed a place to comfortably lounge and rest from your regal duties, in case you should happen to be an 18th century Javanese Sultan. If not, the 15,000 Rp entrance fee should not set you back too badly.
In exchange for your rupees, you get turquoise pools, caverns and catacombs to explore and a quaint view. Wandering around, even in the midday heat, is serene, with the warmth of the sun in its zenith alternating with the welcome shade of trees and the relaxing coolness of caverns.
But let’s not dwell here too long, the Kraton was still waiting. Although its southern perimeter was not too far away, at Alun Alun, whence I just came, the entrance to the Kraton Museum lay at the northern end. Instead of walking along a major street, I decided to snake my way through the back alleys, glimpsing here and there a bit of Yogya’s domestic life: a wife feeding her ailing husband, children playing, roosters crossing the path and crowing. Plus, I may have met the little scooter’s rugged cousin that sported a more faux-military look.
The Kraton Proper
Released from the alleys, the entrance to Kraton greeted me. From here, Jalan Malioboro ran north towards the railway station, which I planned to walk after returning from the Kraton. So, let’s enter the palace!
The museum entrance was not quite as grand as the great gate. Chiding myself for not having announced my arrival in due time, I made do with the circumstances, purchased a ticket and photo permit, and went in.
The palace itself consists of walled, interconnected court, like a lighter, smaller and admittedly less splendid version of the Forbidden City. In the courtyards, you can find open, pillared reception halls, leafy trees and pavilions. The buildings encircling the courtyards house various, more or less exciting exhibits, such as the Sultan’s Boy Scout uniform. More less than more, I’d say. But it was cheap thrills, at 8,000 Rp, if I remember correctly.
Wandering south through the Kraton, I unexpectedly found the way blocked by a massive locked gate. Checking my internal range estimates and verifying with Google Maps, it turns out that the Kraton Museum only covers the very northern portion of the complex. So, I headed back to the exit, walked around the museum on the outside and found the entrance to the second part of the palace.
Getting another ticket and photo permit — rinse, wash, repeat — for 13,500 Rp, the second part of the palace lay before me, ready to be explored. And, while more expansive than the first, offered more of the same. Ambling through the courtyards for half an hour or so, my thirst for culture was quenched for the day.
Next up was the walk up Jalan Malioboro, the street for all your needs with regard to baubles, t-shirts, footwear and horse drawn carriage rides. I was not really in need for anything of the sort, just enjoying the life-filled street.
At the southern end, marked by a monument to Indonesian independence, Indonesian tourists made me feel like a rockstar again; it took me 20 minutes just to get past the monument, having had to stop, being chatted to and asked to have a picture taken with them. After indulging them, I ambled up, past food stalls, street vendors, carriages and street-facing shops.
Reaching the train tracks at the northern end of Marlioboro, I turned right for coffee (Starbucks again) and supper (Nasi and squid). And now, it’s time for a beer and chillaxing at the pool, before it is off to Jakarta tomorrow morning.
And I leave you with a picture of candy, which is distinctly different from candi!