Thursday, 24 July 2008

Postcard from Yogya

The difference between Java and the other islands we've visited is huge. Java, which has half the country's population, has a public transport infrastructure, roads in excellent condition and all the goods you'd expect to find in the West. It's like we're visiting a different country.

We got to Yogya by public buses from Bromo, via Surabaya (10 hours, about 100,000Rp). The journey was very interesting with countless food vendors and amateur musicians coming on board. Andy even had a fresh coffee – and it arrived in a little plastic bag with a straw! The vendors and other passengers were very curious about us, as there were no other Westerners on board. They thought we were hilarious, but we're not sure why...

Once in Yogya, we headed to the mall for some long overdue haircuts. (Need to look smart for the airport). The mall had a very good music shop and old habits die hard. Although Andy's singing was pretty ropey, the staff were able to identify the songs we'd heard along our travels, and we left with four albums. In the mall, there were also some shops with great names (see below).

Six weeks of Nasi Goreng and western staples have left us yearning for something a bit different. The last couple of days we've been sampling street food - meatball soup (not sure what the meatballs are made from, but they're very tasty), fried shrimp cakes, corn on the cob and - a first for Andy - chicken heads.

Borobudur, 42km from Yogya, was very impressive and an easy day trip. Nowadays, the temple is the most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia. Wrapped around a hill side, the temple was built over 1,200 years ago. It is covered in stone carvings depicting Buddhist teachings. At the top, stone stupas with Buddhas inside crown the temple. The volcanic eruption of Gunung Merapi in 1006 AD covered the temple and left it hidden for 800 years. It was only rediscovered in 1815, when farmers working in the area stumbled across some interesting artefacts.

When we reached Nirvana at the top of the temple, our guide encouraged us to reach into one of the stupas and touch the hands and feet of the Buddha. This is thought to bring good luck. (Short-armed Andy was struggling a bit here). We thought that the Buddhas would become damaged if thousands of tourists did this every year. However, this wear and tear is negligible compared to the effects of high-level corruption. Stone blocks with carvings are going missing at an alarming rate from the temple.

Travelling to Borobudur by public transport was fast, painless and cheap (12,500Rp). The alternative is one of the many tours. These take you there, but on the way back you have to make interminable, surprise stops at silver and craft workshops.

Night life here is very good. There was an excellent covers band taking requests and we were happy to oblige. They did a near perfect version of Guns and Roses 'November Rain', and they thoroughly enjoyed playing Deep Purple's 'Smoke on the Water'.


Anonymous said...

Not sure about the chicken head dishes though ..........ughhhhh

Like the blogs though.......

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