Batik, Birds and Mount Merapi…

Batik, Birds and Mount Merapi…

After a seaside break in Pangandaran it was time for another city – Yogyakarta in Central Java, about eight hours drive away near the foothills of Mount Merapi. ‘Yogya’ is renowned for being typically Javanese and is the centre of art and culture so we decided to spend our full day there exploring the city.

The morning after we arrived began with a quick dip in the hotel pool – may as well make the most of these amenities when they’re there! We then took a walk down nearby Malioboro Road, the city’s main shopping street. The pavements here are bursting with rickshaws and stalls selling art, clothing, jewellery and snack food – if you’re on the hunt for souvenirs in Yogyakarta then you’ll be spoilt for choice down this street.

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We walked the entire length of Malioboro Road before we ended up at the Sultan’s Palace, also known as the Kraton. Yogyakarta is one of the only cities in Java still ruled by Sultans and the palace is still lived in by the current Sultan. Visitors can have a tour of the public areas for 5,000 rupiah (this includes a guide) or opt for a more thorough peak inside for 12,500 rupiahs. To be honest, the palace grounds aren’t the most impressive – in fact the pathway to the main courtyard resembles a waste ground and the buildings themselves look pretty run down. It wasn’t possible to see inside the private gates of the palace as these are closed to tourists and only open on Islamic holidays, so the 5,000 rupiahs only really gives you access to the Coronation and Concert Halls. Every Saturday and Sunday an arts and music show is put on in the concert hall, but we were there on a Friday so didn’t get the opportunity to see that!

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After the Sultan’s Palace we took a rickshaw to the Government run Arts Centre, where local Batik art is made. The manager explained to us the time-consuming process of creating Batik art and we were able to watch some students at work. Batik is made from either silk or cotton. The patterns and pictures are drawn onto the fabric with pencil and wax is then applied to the areas that the artist does not want dyed. The fabric is then dipped in colour and once dry, the wax is peeled off and applied to other areas. The fabric can then be dipped again into another colour and the process is repeated until complete. Some large wall paintings can take up to five weeks to finish!

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The arts centre wasn’t far from Malioboro Road so we walked back and went into the massive Beringharjo Centre – an inside market halfway down the street. The market covers 3 floors and is absolutely jammed packed with clothing, spices and fresh produce. It’s a local’s market so we didn’t get any hassle from traders as we wandered around – in fact everyone was so friendly they let us take photos of them at work.

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Our last stop for the day was the ‘Bird Market’ – a place that we had been warned may not be the nicest of places to visit, but could provide some interesting photos. We took another rickshaw as it’s about 3 km out of town at the Dongkelan Market.  As soon as we arrived we knew we’d be in for a shock. The market is dominated by huge metal cages and wooden bird boxes. Inside them are hundreds of birds, owls, bats, ducks and other winged animals, but the most disturbing items for sale were the dogs, cats and rabbits that were crammed into tiny cages. The yelping and whining from the puppies was awful to hear and they weren’t even given any water.

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We were also rather disturbed to see a cage full of chicks which for some reason had all been dyed bright colours. These weren’t quite the photographic opportunities we were after – animal rights obviously isn’t a priority in Indonesia!

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The rest of our day was spent in the glitzy Malioboro Plaza at the top of the street, where we looked around the many Western-influenced shops, cafes and restaurants and stocked up on bus supplies in the big underground supermarket. We had an early start planned for the next day as we were off to our final Javanese destination – the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park – home to the famous (and currently erupting volcano!) Mount Bromo.

Before we left for Bromo however, we had a fantastic glimpse at Mount Merapi through the clouds. It towers over the city and we could only imagine just how scary it must have been for Yogyakarta residents to see it erupt in the distance as it did a few weeks ago.

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We hoped that we would be more fortunate than them when we arrive at Bromo…


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