The lamb tagine at Comptoir Libanais in Terminal 4 of Heathrow was very tasty, and probably one of the most expensive meals of the whole trip. The light-hearted feeling of leaving Brexit Britain behind made me smile with the cover of the Economist, where Theresa May empties buckets from a boat that sinks and is titled “Just another week in British politics.” Definitely not another such week for me, though I’m not sure about the shipwreck part. The SAUDIA B777-300er was ready and take-off took place with 25 minutes delay, at 12:55 pm.
From BNI City station my capsule hotel was 3 km away, towards Jakarta’s main square and the Gabir train station, the latter being the reason I chose it. I decided to walk, even though the taxi fare would have been small, and so I had the full experience of:
– Uneven sidewalks with every kind of obstacle, which is exactly what someone with a backpack and an ankle sprain – from basketball – does not need.
– Dead ends and hidden junctions.
– Impossible to cross roads.
– Many, many small motorcycles.
Almost all two-wheeled users wore helmets, though. My first picture of Indonesia gave me the feeling of chaos, a coordinated chaos that somehow works. I will get more of this feeling in the following days.
The train to Yogyakarta, the cultural capital of Java, took another day and on the third morning it was time I visited some sights. Passing through the battered yet scenic Yogyakarta’s narrow streets, I headed to Sultan’s palace or Kraton. The royal kiosks with trapezoidal tops, a trademark of the very elegant Javan architecture, were bathed in the sun. Local guides with broken English were trying to explain to tourists the story of the Sultanate. Since the 18th century, when it split from the neighbouring rival sultanate of Surakarta, the Sultan of Yogyakarta rules until present day. The region is now under special regime under the authority of the President of Indonesia. In the palace’s interior, personal objects of the Sultans are displayed, with a variety of specialized costumes for each member of the palace.
With Indonesians it’s not hard to start conversation, and so sitting under a tree with rich foliage, I learned from a old man with funny teeth and a Metallica t-shirt (quiz, which famous Indonesian is a Metallica fan?) that:
– We call our city Jogja City.
– We are not scared of volcanoes because we have the most active in all of Indonesia and lava runs constantly – but slowly, not falling on our heads.
– Current Sultan has only daughters and who knows what will happen when he dies? (“Time for a female Sultan?” I tried)
– My father was a cook of the Sultan, and his father’s father the same, etc. But myself I am humble driver of the taxi-bikes, called becak.
– There is a “truly authentic” batik – Indonesian wax-resist dyed cloth – shop. Do you want me to take you there?
Respect for all the conversation before coming to that, but I had already bought – an overpriced one unfortunately.