December 20th 1983

posted in: The way back | 0

Temple guide

Being down to our last few rupiah, our first journey had to be to the bank.  It was a km walk along Malloboro, but quite interesting.  Drawing  money was a tortuous business, they don’t even seem to be consistent from bank to bank in Indonesia, some places treating the transaction as a new + unusual form  of business, (+ hence requiring the authorising signature of every man + his dog throughout the place,) others treating it as a matter of course, able to be handled by the counter-clerk.  One would have thought the major bank in Yogya would have come under the latter category, but not so.  We were, however, eventually dealt with, + given a good rate, so no complaints. 

The Post Office was just across the street, so we went there next, + posted off a few accumulated letters.  It was only when we were a few hundred metres on our journey back toward the losmen when we discovered we had left the purse behind.  It only contained a relatively small sum, but we were both struck by the loss – too much has gone missing already in Indonesia.  The chances were so remote of regaining the purse that I almost decided it wasn’t worth going back to look, but Val reckoned we might as well as not, + I was easily persuaded, so we rushed back.  I got there first, having dashed suicidally across a heavy line of moving traffic, + spotting a couple of unsavoury looking characters lounging around the desk we had been using, I was almost tempted to take them firmly by the throat + shake them savagely.  And demand my glasses at the same time.  Until, that is, I spotted our old + dirty purse sitting there forlorn upon the desk.  I fell upon it, + to my amazement it was still full of money.  Without even bothering to count the contents, I span + marched out again – Val was still patiently waiting to cross the street.  She was as amazed as I at our purse’s return – the relief we felt was almost worth having lost it in the first place.

We breakfasted at Superman’s, one of Yogya’s famous eating houses, + conveniently handy to our losmen, but we were bitterly disappointed – the yogurt was warm + runny, the cold drinks weak + watery.  We sightseed (sightsaw?) around town for the rest of the day, which was crazy really, as it was so hot.  But interesting.  Took a becak to the Kraton, the Sultan’s palace, actually a city within the city.  One’s Rp200 entrance fee entitles one to a guide, dressed in traditional style – our old feller spoke good English, tho’ as with nearly all Indonesians, it was still difficult to understand him.  He had lived all his life within the Kraton, + was interesting.  Tho’ in some ways I think I would have preferred to have wandered on my own – the place was so vast, + we were on the move all the time, or giving our attention to him rather than the surroundings.

Our next stop was the old Water Palace, originally a part of the Kraton, but now largely fallen into disrepair.  We had a self-appointed guide for a while, which was good, as he was able to show us some parts of the Castle we wouldn’t otherwise have discovered.  The place is now a maze of houses – hundreds of houses have been built about, around + on the old walls – we couldn’t decide whether they added to or detracted from the charm of the place.  Particularly fascinating was an underground mosque, + leading away from it, a tunnel which went, we were told, all the way to the coast, 15 miles to the south.  Our guide soon revealed his true colours, when he led us to a batik gallery, ostensibly simply to see the artist at work.  There are, apparently, many such people, earning commission on any paintings sold in this way.  We didn’t mind tho’ – we had not the slightest intention of buying any paintings, + in any case wanted to find out about short courses, to learn batik – Val was interested in doing this. So far as we could tell tho’, the people we saw – we were shunted around to various artists, the Water Palace is a particular centre for them – were expensive, + not all that wonderful.  So our guide’s efforts were all in vain.

The water palace

We spent a long time wandering around the area looking for the main entrance to the Palace, partly because we wanted to see the rebuilt section, partly because there was a recognised batik teacher who had his studio right next to the entrance.  He had more to offer than the other people, I would say, but again was devilishly expensive, + his course looked a little too structured + formal.

The Palace was interesting, but a little depressing.  Some efforts had been made to restore it, but former glories were just shadows.  What had formerly been crystal-clear swimming pools with sparkling fountains were now just stagnant fetid puddles.  And the towers which presumably had either housed guards or served as refreshment palaces were now defaced by graffiti, full of rubbish, + housing various guys sleeping in the shade.  With a little more effort + a lot more money the place could be made truly wonderful.  As it is, one’s imagination has to work overtime.

We got a little lost walking back, so expended more energy than we should have done.  So when we finally arrived back, I collapsed in a heap on the bed – we were still staying at the same losmen, tho’ we had moved to a better room – the same size, but with more light + better security.  Val chatted for a while with a couple of Australians who had just arrived, who seemed to be both friendly + interesting to talk + listen to.  In the evening we ate at different establishments.  I have no appetite whatever at the moment, + now it’s even beginning to worry me.  Val has been trying to persuade me to eat for quite a while now (which makes a change from Sydney when she was trying to persuade me to stop.)  So I tried egg + chips at a restaurant down Malloboro, but it wasn’t very wonderful.  Chatted later with Kent, one of the Aussies Val had met earlier, + we got on tremendously well.  He started as a jeweller + is now a sculptor cum builder, so it’s been a change of scale, at the very least.  We talked until gone 11, an astronomical hour according to our current lifestyle.

The sight-seeing was a little depressing, since most of what we saw was pretty decrepit; one has to hope that by now they have realised what they might lose, and have done something about it. As with the vast majority of places we saw on ojur travels, we have not been back. Val’s concern for my lack of appetite was well-founded, as photos show me growing increasingly thin, a combination of a lack of appetite and regular bouts of sickness.

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