Thursday, June 05, 2008

Indonesia Trip '08 – Day 07 : Kraton & Jazz Night at Café Via Via - Jogja

After our impromptu guided tour around the Water Castle and surrounding areas, we went back to our minivan to go to our next destination which was the Jogja Kraton Complex. One item to point out is that a lot of these tourist destinations are closed on Friday afternoons so visitors should try to plan their travel plans accordingly. We had already spent nearly 2 hours earlier at the Bird Market and Water Castle which left us with only about 2 hours to spend at the Kraton. Fortunately for us, it was sufficient time for us to get through the tour before they closed for the afternoon.

As at Borobudur and to a lesser extent, Prambanan, the parking lots where we parked the minivan to go to the Kraton was filled with touts selling souvenirs. By this time, we were already getting a bit tired of them and promptly ignore all efforts to sell anymore items to us. We already had problems as it is to pack all the items that we have already bought! After successfully maneuvering around the insistent touts, we were shown to the Kraton’s visitor’s entrance where we had to pay an entrance fee and well as a camera fee to bring our cameras in. Unlike the other sights in Jogja, the entrance fee to the Kraton complex included the services of an English speaking guide who would take us to the areas that was opened to the public. I would guess that this was a requirement since the Kraton was still a private residence used by the Sultan (and Provincial Governor) of Jogjakarta.

The Jogja Kraton or officially known as Kraton Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat was the place of residence for all of the Sultans in Jogjakarta’s history. Since it was still in use by the royal family, visitors were recommended to dress modestly while visiting the grounds. We were first brought to the Visitor’s Hall which consisted of 2 open air pavilion where visitors to meet the Sultan were instructed to wait until the Sultan gave permission for them to enter. While tourist did not have to wait for the Sultan’s permission to enter during visiting hours, all guided tours started here as appreciation of a small part of the Jogja court rituals. On the day that we were there, there was a lady reading out loud from what I was told was the book of the Jogja Sultan’s family chronicles. She was reading it in the royal court’s version of Javanese (Jawa Halus) language which does differ from the normal version of Javanese language spoken by commoners. One item to point out here is that one of the Visitor’s Hall was severely damaged during the 2006 Jogja earthquake and is currently being reconstructed.

(Royal chronicle reader at Visitor's Hall - Kraton, Jogja)

(Royal musical equipment at Visitor's Hall - Kraton, Jogja)

After the Visitor’s Hall, we were led by our guide into the inner courtyard of the place complex. There we were shown the Sultan’s private residences as well as the Audience Hall where visitors would get to see the Sultan. Since the Sultan was in residence on the day that we visited, we were not allowed to go to the Residence areas. The Audience Hall was similarly out of bounds for visitors as they were preparing for the Sultan’s daughter’s wedding what was planned in the next few weeks. Our guide told us a bit about life in the court and how people who have retired would come and request that they could server their Sultan as palace workers in addition to families who have been working there for generations. They were the people who keep the palace running smoothly and have done so since the Kraton was first built there.

(Male palace workers in uniforms and in discussion for upcoming ceremonies - Kraton, Jogja)

After the main square, we were led to the Princes quarters which was located in a separate wing of the complex. We were told by our guide that all male heirs after the age of 8 were relocated to this part of their complex from their mother’s residence. They would live there with their brothers and were instructed by palace advisors/mentors on the art of statecraft until they were ready to take over to reins of governance from their sires. Apart from the quarters for the princes and another separate quarters for the designated Heir Apparent, there was also the customary Audience Hall and a special school block. This school block was also opened to the princesses of the royal court and they were instructed in Western style of education by teachers previously brought in from England and the Netherlands. The school block has since then been converted to a small museum showcasing the dowry gifts that the royal family has received over the years as well as documents detailing the royal family tree for each of the reigning Sultans through the family rule. The Prince’s Quarter was the only area that was opened to visitors as it was not in use since the current reigning Sultan did not have any male heirs who would be using that part of the Kraton.

After the informative tour around the Kraton area, we headed back to the homestay to prepare for our Friday prayers. Since we have already visited the sites that were planned in the afternoon, we informed the homestay people that we would be opting to spend the afternoon there instead of going on the tour. Friday prayers were at a nearby mosque and afterwards we found a place nearby that sold a variety of bakso (meatball soup) dishes for lunch. After having lunch and stopping at a nearby mini market to shops for some drinking water for tomorrow’s trip, I went looking for a place to exchange some of my ringgits to rupiahs as I was running out of cash at that point. I was fortunate to find a place nearby that offered rates that was similar to the exchange rates that I got before in KL before going on the trip. Having accomplished that, we returned to our rooms to take a lazy afternoon nap before waking up to cool ourselves in the swimming pool before dinner. We liked the bakso place that we found earlier so much that we ended up going there again for dinner.

To cap off our last night at Jogja, we decided to soak up the international backpacker community vibe in the area that we were staying at and spend some time at one of the cafés there. I had noticed one of the cafés had a weekly jazz night scheduled that night (Fridays) and was told that they don’t have a cover charge to come in. We initially got tables quite close to the speakers but later fortunate enough to get tables further back in the café. We orders some drinks and a platter of fried local tapioca, tofu, tempe and nachos to nibble at before settling in our seats for several rounds of cards. The crowd started to come in soon after and we had a healthy mix of locals and visitors alike in the establishment.

(Signage at Cafe Via Via, Jogja)

(Interior of Cafe Via Via from our table - Jogja)

The band that was playing that night performed quite a selection of jazz tunes that I liked. I was tempted to request them to sing some of the songs that I liked but decided against it as I’ve already tortured my traveling companions with my renditions in the shower earlier that night. We ended up staying for the full gig that night which was close to 2 hours just playing cards, listening to music and soaking up the vibe being around similar travelers like us. It was not as happening as the place that I went to on my last night in Manila last year but it was still enjoyable never the less. Good food, great prices, friendly staff and even friendlier vibe, I would definitely recommend visitors to drop by Via Via Café and Restaurant in Jogja if you find yourself in that part of the world in your travels.

After our enjoyable night at Café Via Via, we walked around the area for a bit before returning to the homestay to repack our bags. We had earlier made plans to charter a car to drive us to our next destination, Solo, the following morning at 10am. We also received a text message earlier in the day to inform us that our morning flight back to KL from Solo was cancelled and we were put on a later flight leaving in the evening instead. The cancellation meant that we had an extra 12 hours in Solo that we did not have any plans for. By the time we were all repacked and ready to rest for the night, we still didn’t know what we would do in Solo when we reach there tomorrow. With no confirmed accommodation and all that extra time to spend in Solo, we were both looking forward to and worried about what would be waiting for us next on this trip.


cute Panda said...

wah..xabis2 lg ker?

Nickxandar said...

Hehehe ... travelogue :p

Ambil masa nak reorganized notes. Anyway bukannya macam ada tempat lain lagi travel nak update kat blog.

Rush Murad said...

i'm suppose to fly to Joga yesterday for the wedding, but last minute ada aral melintang... but my relatives dah pergi semua.... rugi tak dapat join depa.... errrm...

Nickxandar said...

Wah2 ... your family got invited for the royal wedding :)

Rugi gak sebab banyak adat2 kraton yang orang luar jarang dapat tengok masa wedding tu nanti but apa nak buat since dah ada aral.

Have to wait for the youngest to get married :p