Indonesia with a side of culture
31.01.2012 - 07.02.2012 27 °C
Well I have just got back from a cracking weekend in Jogja (more formally known as Yogyakarta but preferably pronounced in a very bogan accent as “jooogggjjjja”). Actually, I lied. I have not just got back. On account of getting up at 3.30am, 7am and 5.30am three mornings in a row, I was rather tired last night so did not have the energy to write this. But it was totally worth every ounce of lost sleep. As a wise person once said; “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”.
So after trying to do an all-nighter on Friday night (and failing – I caved in for two hours sleep), we arrived in Jogja bright and early at 7am on Saturday morning. And once again, it was literally a breath of fresh air. It felt like we had flown to another country for the weekend – we actually saw sun and blue sky and the grass was so green! – but it fairness, I think Jogja might give a truer representation of what Indonesia is really like, it’s just that living in Jakarta, we are led to believe that that is it. But if Jogja is a representation of the real Indonesia, then it truly is a beautiful country. And for all the ignorant bogans who don’t know anything about Indonesia, Jogja is closer to Bali!
We hit the ground running when we got to Jogja. Water Castle, tick, Sultan’s Palace, tick, silver markets, tick, ride in a becak (three-wheeled bicycle tuk-tuk type thing), tick. We saw batik and puppet making. Totally touristy I know, but it was nice to actually experience some culture that had at least attempted to be preserved. Although I didn’t think the Sultan’s Palace was particularly impressive – he should have just stuck with the Water Castle…
That first day we also made a vain attempt to see one of the renowned temples of the area at sunset, but as luck would have it, we got there before the sunset, but it was already closed. Never mind, we made up for it by unnecessarily blowing some money at the markets that they make you walk through as you exit the temple to try and trap you…well there was no need to trap us!
It turned out for the better though, as Sunday was just such a perfect day. Although the whole thing your meant to do with Borobodur is see it at sunrise (Borobodur by the way is a 9th century Buddhist temple, so it’s a pretty big deal now that Java is predominantly Islam) we decided that there were only so many pre-sunrise get ups one could handle in a weekend, so we slept in until 7am! (And for me personally I’ve seen a few temple sunrises in my time so all was good.) Anyway, it was amazing! Packed with tourists and all that jazz that you’d expect with the most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia, but it was so well maintained, and the beautiful sunny weather just topped things off – we were all excited to actually get sunburnt, being away from the protective UV layer of smog that descends on Jakarta. I must say though, the people coming up and asking for photos and interviews of you was getting a little tiresome, so much so where we had to start saying no just so we could get to see the thing! School kids would come up wanting to interview you about what you thought of Borobodur, and all I could reply was “I don’t know, I haven’t got a chance to see it yet!”
Next stop was Genung Merapi, one of the many volcanoes that looms over the Indonesian landscape. It’s not the kind of one that you can walk up to the crater on a day trip – it’s more like a three hour trek that usually starts at 1am because of the heat – but you can drive up through all the villages on the mountain side, and then walk a bit further to take in the amazing view. It’s last big eruption was in 2010 and it killed something like 153 people, so it was a pretty significant one. It was interesting to see the remains of houses and graveyards and what not that had been left behind, and what people had already rebuilt. For instance, a stall that shows phone credit. Because God knows, you wouldn’t want to run out on your hike to the crater!
Our last stop was Prambanan, where we had met closed gates the day before. It’s a Hindu temple, which is once again significant being on the island of Java, which is dominated by Islam. It’s meant to be ‘the’ spot to go at sunset, which I wasn’t really too fussed about having seen a fair few sunsets in my time as well, but we were lucky that we weren’t let in the day before because the sunset was stunning! (And I’ve got about 300 photos just of that to prove it…)
So yes, that was Jogja. Then the next morning it was up at 5.30am and straight back to reality. But I even got an article written – as Nick Faldo emailed me back! – so at least it was productive.
Hmmm, what else did last week contain… Well obviously I wrote a few stories here and there. One was about the fact that Liverpool have also opened up a football academy here, so I interviewed one of their coaches who also used to be a player for the Liverpool reserves, and I went out to see one of their trainings.
Another story was about a sports marketing seminar, which was run by Inter Milan as they are also thinking of opening up a football academy here. That was interesting enough seeing I love sports marketing, but then at the end I got to interview the CEO and CCO of Inter – crazy! It seemed so normal at the time, but when I got home and thought about it, it was so surreal. That actually is one of the good things about being a Caucasian journalist here – you may have to sit through a five-hour seminar in Bahasa (although luckily this Italian mob decided to speak in English!), but then at the end everyone is keen to talk to you, whether they’re a foreigner or whether they’re a local. Personally I just think they want to ask what the hell you’re doing in Jakarta, seeing there are virtually no bules (white people) here!
On Friday morning I did decide to treat myself and make the most of having mornings off, by going on a shopping expedition to Grand Indonesia. It might sound like a rather uncultured experience but honestly, Jakarta is practically a city of malls, so instead I will say I ‘saw the sights’. Yes I did buy a few things – not too much thankfully – but I figure I can chalk it down to some ‘cultural immersion’. Plus I only went to what I would consider as the ‘big 3’ – Forever 21, Topshop and Zara. Yes I know we have Topshop and Zara at home now, but everyone says they’re no good, so I’m just going to take their word for it!
Anyway, only three more days of the program left now, and because we have formal ceremony stuff and a shindig at the Ambassador’s house on Friday, that means only two days of work left. But they say time flies when you’re having fun…