Saturday, June 6, 2015

Day 7, Central Java: From royal palace to Ramayana Ballet

After several days spent with long(er) car rides, today was a day on foot around Yogyakarta. Well, almost all on foot. We lingered over a very substantial breakfast at the Phoenix Hotel, with a full array of both western and Asian items and musical accompaniment.

View from our balcony at The Phoenix Hotel
Musical accompaniment for breakfast
Afterward, we set out for the far point of our day, the Kraton (Sultan's palace) by way of becaks, or bicycle cabs. It was kind of fun whizzing down the JL Maliaboro, in and out of the traffic.

We paid our admission and obligatory photo permit fee for the Kraton. The ticket-seller asked where we were from. When we replied, "America," he said, "Ahh, Michelle Obama." Then, he started naming off names of luxury auto brands (not American brands) and seemed disappointed when I told him we had a Toyota.

Almost immediately, the requests for photos began again. This time, all three of us were the subjects.

Turnabout is fair play: Photographing the people taking photos of us!
Eventually, we worked our way toward the back of the palace, where the crowds thinned out and the photo requests stopped. There are a number of buildings throughout the grounds displaying old photos and furnishings, and we spent about an hour wandering through these. The palace also featured a shadow-puppet performance.

Our second destination was the Taman Sari (water palace), the former site of a royal garden. It's a few blocks away and a bit hard to find, and there are people near the entrance who will casually engage you in conversation and escort you to the entrance, expecting to become paid guides. We had to waive several of them off--although eventually we caved in and asked one woman to take us to the "underground" part for a small fee. We never would have found it on our own.

On the way to and from the water palace, we walked through the Pasar Ngasem, or bird market. We probably weren't in the market proper, as we didn't see a whole lot of birds--and really weren't there to see birds anyway. We did stop to watch the end of some kind of graduation celebration for small children and to buy a couple of bottles of cold water from a vendor.

Bird market
This whole area is interesting, with small winding lanes, batik shops, private residences, and plenty of graffiti art on the walls.

From there, we started the long walk back on JL Maliaboro towards our hotel, with a stop in the Pasar Beringharjo--the city's main market. It goes on seemingly forever, with an array of textiles, food items, and other goods for tourists and locals alike. We again had a few requests for photos by giggling women. I've never had (and probably never will have) the pleasure of someone saying "wow" after the chance to take a photo with me.

On the way back to the hotel, we passed some people in costumes who were readying for a procession of some sort, but we were too thirsty to stick around and watch.

Procession about to happen
We took a quick dip in the hotel pool to cool off and then prepared for going to see the Ramayana Ballet at Prambanan in the evening (tickets and transportation arranged by our hotel several days before our arrival).

Allie took a Javanese dance class at UW-Madison, so the opportunity to see this performance was one of the things about which she was most looking forward. The ballet tells the Hindu story of King Rama and Shinta, similar to scenes carved on the Prambanan temples, is about two hours long and performed on the open-air stage with the lit temple in the background--and even some minor pyrotechnics. A troupe of musicians on the gamelan accompany the performance, and some large monitors on the sides of the stage provide context for the movements.

Ramayana Ballet: Dramatic setting with Prambanan temples lit in the background 

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