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Archive for August, 2010

How many staff can one department store employ?

I’m still counting.

It was one of the funniest and most surreal moments. There I was at the back of the third floor of the department store, ‘Matahari’s’ I think, (great name) and I’m guessing it was lunchtime. I was close to a door marked private and as I stood there the door opened and some girls walked out. With a stupid day pack on my bag, I squeezed myself out of the way. Bad move. I was there, no exaggeration, for the next ten minutes teetering on my toes. From the door came a never ending flow of people in uniform that just wouldn’t stop. I started laughing, a situation made worse by the appearance of the other one. He asked what was so funny, politely letting a couple of people he thought were passing by to do so, only to find his path blocked by a constant stream of shop workers. Seeing the incredulous look on his face made me laugh harder, it was all I could do not to dribble all over the clothes rack. The other one started laughing too, we were wetting ourselves, and still these people wouldn’t stop coming from out the doorway. Hopefully, they didn’t notice, it would be hard to explain what was so funny – ‘er yeah, there’s just loads of you returning from lunch…’

That my brain was thinking it was like Dr Who with Indonesian Retail Cybermen, taking over the world of shopping, till by till, until the very life had been choked from us customers and we’re  slapped with a receipt stamped ‘faulty goods, no return, too busy wetting themselves’  probably wouldn’t have been worth explaining.

Still I amuse myself.

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As many as you can possibly get away with.

By way of example…

*Getting the Jogja Transport Bus – there’s the person who takes your money at the bus stop, the person on the bus who tells you where your bus stop is and the person who drives the bus.

* Getting served at a clothing store – the person who gives you the receipt for the concession where you picked up the item, the person at the till who picks up/or calls for the item that you wish to buy from the person who’s concession it is, the person who puts it through the till and the person who puts it in a bag.

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Art Attack #2 Batik’s neat

the template

Another Yogya cultural endeavour was the possibility of doing a batik course. Indonesia is known particularly for this art technique, using wax to create patterns and pictures on fabric. There was a day-long course being run by the hostel next door but we weren’t keen on it being so long and so signed up for a half day course instead that was a 30 minute journey. Nothing like making life more complicated.

We caught the bus part way there and walked the rest, finding ourselves behind a family who were evidently going to do the same thing and so followed them. Outside the studio were two cages with sweet melodic birds in them, the closest we got to the bird market (another tourist sight, but through a combination of laziness and uncertainty about seeing lots of caged birds we skipped it).We were shown examples of batik and asked to select which ones we wanted to use as a template. There weren’t any that especially grabbed us so we opted for two different women’s profiles that we could hope to pair up on a wall if they were any good.

I’ll say it now, mine wasn’t. After painstakingly tracing the outline in pencil, learning how to go over it with wax (spilling wax everywhere but where it should have been), painting over areas with paraffin, regoing over with wax, dyeing it and drying it and generally poring over it like you might a solicitor’s bill, the butterfly in said picture looked like it had chicken legs – they were meant to be part of its wings.

The other one however, did not spill one drop of wax and his picture was perfect. I hate him.

our efforts mid dye

We also ended up being there all day – so much for plans.

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Traveller Cliche #2

So the sports and guitar shop. They had a range of guitars all retailing for about £10 making the other one’s half baked idea to buy one a full blown traveller cliche reality. He was well made up when walking back to our digs along Jalan Maliboro and past some young guitar dudes, they shouted ‘Yo Guitar Man’ at him. Problem was, he didn’t dare answer back as then he’d have to tell them he can’t actually  play.

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Art attack #1 Silversmiths

that strip of silver became a ring...

Yogya is well known for its silver although its silver district, Kote Gede, didn’t quite live up to my expectations – perhaps I was too fanciful, warren like alleyways with artisans beating silver and displaying all manner of antiquities like some scene from The Mummy, what’s wrong with that? The reality however, was shop after shop selling silver jewellery from cheap glass display cases, most uninspiring. Thanks to our meal at ViaVia though, we’d booked a 3 hour silver course to liven things up a bit. A meet was arranged in Kote Gede outside a hairdressers and at the alloted time, our silver guy came to pick us up, though we were very nearly late as I briefly lost the other one in a nearby music and sports shop – it’s a concept I think could catch on.

We were taken to a small studio and sat at a workbench while our guy described what we’d be doing. We decided to make two silver rings (chosen from the examples given) and were each presented with a short strip of silver. The first job was stamping the inside with an inscription if we wanted; we didn’t go with names, ever practical and cautious (a third of all marriages end in divorce). opting for Jogja 2010. Although, I’ll be surprised that anything I make will last the year.

Next, we heated the metal, hammered it a bit, tried to shape into a ring, hammered and shaped some more before soldering it properly together. The other one was a bit concerned with me handling a small blowtorch but I inflicted no damage on anyone or anything – except for the ring – it had to be rescued by our guy lest it look like some dodgy earring worn by Captain Jack Sparrow.

The rings surprisingly turned out pretty good and my finger hasn’t gone green or anything.

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and Prambanan

Prambanan is another temple site near Yogyakarta  but of Hindu origin. Spread over a huge area, it was built as a dedication to Shiva between the 8th and 10th century and contains around 230+ temples. It’s now a UNESCO site.

Sadly, the earthquake in 2006 destroyed some of the temples which was all too noticeable as we reached the main complex entrance and rows of piles of stone greeted us.  Walking into the main complex, we could look around the outside of most of the structures but no longer go inside all of them as you used to be able to. As our guidebook was circa 1990 something, it described in glorious detail how fabulous they were inside which was a little galling. Ignorance is indeed bliss. Still, the place was stunning.

We also sauntered about a kilometre in the heat of the sun to another temple, Candi Sewu that when we got there was closed because of restoration. Grrrrrrrrrrr.

Inexplicably, though there were a load of sheep hanging around, causing me to clap with delight because I couldn’t quite remember when I’d last seen one and also for the silly photo opportunity. Enough said.

it nearly worked...

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The nicer backpacker area

We’d discovered in our wanderings another sort of backpacker area called Prawirotaman, it being a bit more upmarket with ohh some proper hotels too. I’d been a little cheesed off on first discovery as it had way more restaurants than near us and their menus also looked far tastier. Consequently, I’d made a mental note to visit at a later date and so we did and we went by becak.

We hadn’t been in one yet and were in no mood to schlep the 45 minutes to the restaurants. We bartered with the guy and got a fare for 20,000 (nearly £2) and hopped in. Sounds lame but I hadn’t properly considered the nature of our transport- it was a guy cycling the two of us for about 20 minutes and he was not young and he was sat right behind us. If he  was struggling up an incline you knew and not being in control of a bike was weird, I wanted to pedal faster, especially when it seemed walking would be quicker. It wasn’t the ideal transport for people who are impatient and guilt inclined. We paid him more, thanked him effusively and high tailed it to the restaurant called ViaVia cafe.

It turned out that ViaVia is a small chain apparently set up by travellers though with a local and ethical ethos. Perhaps we’d caught them on a bad night, it was busy and the service was struggling to cope but the food was the best we’d had yet. I had tofu and tempe, which is a type of  fermented soy that’s been eaten in central Java since the 1700’s. It was yum and I was happy. There were also loads of tours and activities advertised including a silver course that caught my eye. That went on the cultural list.

Unfortunately, despite our discomfort, the becak was our best way of getting back and this time it rained,we had a hood but our poor man got soaked. We gave him more money. Won’t be on the becak again.

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