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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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and Kaliurang

Another day, another trip,  except I messed this one up.  At my insistence we included Kaliurang in our itinerary as I’d read in our very old, second hand Lonely Planet that it made a good day out from the city, having walks through the forest and lovely scenery. Hmmmm.

On the positive side, it was heartening to see the smoking volcano of Mount Merapi from a few miles away rather than up close, especially as we went to the village of  Kalidem,that had been devastated by lava and superheated clouds of gas in 2006 shortly before the earthquake . Barren land stretched before us while in the depths of the river bed, like ants, people and trucks could be seen squirrelling away the volcanic soil that apparently they can make a mint from (used in construction I think).  The drive to the village and on to Kaliurang was fab, giving us a sense of life outside the city and how just miles from the noisy streets of Yogya, people survive off the land tending rice paddies and growing tobacco.

On the negative side, Kaliurang was like some spooky forgotten spa resort. Granted we were there at 8am but the place was deserted, there were three people in front of us who at least provided some entertainment by taking an inordinate amount of posed photos underneath a waterfall that did nothing more than provide a good splash. We then followed the trail which  led to another good view of the volcano but which was disgustingly littered with crisp packets and water bottles. It wasn’t pleasant and such a shame that no-one seemed to care about the place. I felt sorry for the shops and stalls lining the car park, I can’t imagine that they made much money.

We were all fired up to the tell man at the gate what a pigsty it was but he wasn’t there so we wimped out and just muttered between ourselves about the crime of it all.

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Volcano no no

An idea I’d been nurturing was that in our time in Yogya we might either see if we could get over to Mount Bromo, apparently one of the most stunning sites in Indonesia or stay more local and climb Mount Merapi – both being volcanoes, though the latter is very active and last erupted in 2006. The other one was less keen having climbed a volcano in Guatemala but it got in my head and once something lodges there its hard to give it up.

It was too far to Bromo, 11 hours there and then the climb and back, seemed like a waste of time and we figured we could always do it again as its part of the well travelled route to Bali. Mount Merapi was looking the fave and there were trips that left at 10pm to make to the peak for sunrise, so we made a provisional booking.

Then it rained an awful lot. I realised I’d packed my boots but nothing else of any use to climb in. The only long trousers I had were jeans.I had no long sleeved shirt or a rain jacket. We had no flashlights, nothing. It being Indonesia, we thought we could pick up the stuff cheaply but long trousers for me were proving difficult and the flashlights we bought, gave off some mighty feeble light.

Let’s face it our hearts weren’t in it. We cancelled.

That night it rained. Vindicated. It’s a good feeling.

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Borobudurrrrrrrrr

Getting up at 5.30 on your jollies – I’m getting old, eating out I already prefer starters to pudding, next I’ll be ordering salads, its a slippery slope…

So why the early start? Culture of course. Forty kilometres north west of Yogya is the Buddhist temple of Borobudur (has to be said in the manner of Mordor from LOTR) built they reckon between 750-850 AD though it was forgotten for centuries before being discovered again in the 19th century. I’ve always wondered what it would have been like to be an early explorer of foreign and exotic lands, stumbling upon this or the pyramids or Mayan ruins – it’s just jaw dropping awe. Maybe in centuries to come they’ll discover Thorpe Park and think the same. Maybe.

This temple was wrapped around a hill, and consisted of different levels that it was intended that you walk around (clockwise I think) circling until you reached the top ‘nirvana’ – though sadly for me that didn’t include Jonathan Rhys Meyers, the smell of clean washing and cheese on toast. Just a load of stone bells, officially stupas I think, and some svelte looking buddhas. A load of Indonesian school kids were also there who wanted to practise their english – I hope I didn’t put them off as often people don’t understand me, that’s how me and the other one met.I was saying ‘get off me’, he thought I said ‘get off with me’ – protesting seemed futile seeing as though I was enjoying myself.

After a couple of hours in Borobudur, we were taken to a smaller temple nearby, which was also close to a monastery that we sauntered around. It was beautifully serene though seeing the monks in the lecture theatre surrounded by whiteboards and a power point presentation was slightly jarring but who says that faith can’t progress? Maybe they’ll start doing nativity plays with Joseph phoning ahead to see if he can’t get a place at the inn while the three shepherds check in on foursquare and the three kings bid for better deal on Frankincense from Ebay.

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