Yogyakarta Day 2: In Which Travel Buddies Eat Game

On my second day in Yogyakarta, I was awoken by a call from reception, saying I should hustle down to have breakfast. Options were a rice meal that came with some sort of liver paste or two croissants.

Jarred me awake, really.

Then I lazed about for a while, enjoying Hotel Whiz’s intermittent Internet connection, before spotting Dale, my American travel buddy for the day, who was on some sort of circuitous tour of Asia and Europe before going back to his homeland. He struck me as a really easygoing, intelligent guy and we hit it off right away.

We hired a car to take us to Borobudur Temple, around a 45-minute drive from the city center. We were in a slightly dilapidated gray sedan and chatted spiritedly at 11 a.m. and tried not to think about how fast our Indonesian driver was going or how often he tailgated or swerved on the road.

After noon, we arrived at the site of Southeast Asia’s “biggest Buddhist temple” (opposing views on what the temple is actually for. It could be Christian, you know.) We took the “international center” route, which came with a heftier ticket price but with free tea and coffee, skipping the long lines for locals. I just wish they’d served cooler drinks rather than hot ones to match the day.

I was none too impressed by the site itself, for a number of factors, including the sheer number of people climbing like destructive ants onto the structure, which I heard from Dale had lain undisturbed for years in a lush jungle but later acceded to wear and tear after it was discovered. I also read that it once had to be taken apart, stone by stone, and built again from the ground up, with more solid foundations.

We had also chosen not to hire a guide, who no doubt would have explained the meaning of the structure’s many carvings in detail, so I missed out on that. Instead, Dale and I decided to look for the funniest carving we saw, some of which were quite carnal, and made up our own stories.

It also rained for part of the time we were there, and though it was quite fun to experience the temple under the shade of a rented umbrella, it made me feel like I just wanted to see the top– essentially the temple’s Nirvana, which was off-limits to people and filled with many giant bell-shaped stone structures– then get out of there as soon as possible.

If you’re of pale skin, like Dale, then you’re bound to be accosted by locals who are just dying to have pictures with a bule (foreigner, specifically White people), have short English lessons or a foreigner’s input on a school report. I hear this gets pretty annoying for some, especially when faced with a swarm of adoring Indonesians, but Dale was quite exuberant, dispensing his brand of democracy and gamely posing for photos with children.

What followed was an aimless tour of the entire complex, including a hike up some stone steps lined with giant heaps of dung, and I was expecting to find a unicorn at the summit, but was instead met with the breathtaking sight of a man exercising with jump rope. Thankfully, there was an equally impressive view of Borobudur to our left.

We went around in circles, trying to find the exit, and had to rebuff some very pushy souvenir sellers hawking items from faux gold Buddha ashtrays to kites. The exit was strategically placed next to rows of souvenir and food stalls. In one such kiosk, we found our reckless driver.

Tembi

Our next stop was Tembi, the restaurant which I’d read served squirrel and sparrow dishes. Thankfully, Dale was of similarly adventurous palate, and we set out to find it with the help of a taxi driver. It was about 20 minutes away from Malioboro, along Jalan Parangtritis, and was quite ethnic and impressive. It’s basically a hotel, cultural center and restaurant.

Though the items we were looking for weren’t on the menu, the waiter informed us he could slaughter some squirrels and sparrows for us, and cook it any way we wanted. I fought the urge to say medium rare.

Black Pepper Squirrel (tasted very tough, like eating rubber, as well as slightly herby and salty. Not bad.)
Curry Sparrow (If you like chewing soft bones and possibly some feathers, you’ll enjoy this.)
Snake Head Soup (Do not be deceived. This actually turned out to be a catfish whose head looks like a snake’s.)
Mie, in this case, really bland noodles with cheese and basil.

After dinner, it started raining, and the staff gladly called us a cab. We hung around the teak foyer for a bit, where some guys were practicing on angklungs (bamboo xylophones) and gamelans and stuff. Having played in an ethnic music orchestra in college, I was raring to try it with them, and fortunately, they agreed to have us sit with them and play about three rounds of the same song.

I felt really happy because jamming with some Indonesians was about as close to cultural immersion as one could get.

Later on in the evening, we decided to grab some drinks and flipped a coin to see whether fate wanted us to sample a bar or a club. Seeing the result, we headed to Bintang Cafe, supposedly one of the more happening bars for expats and tourists in town, but it was as dead as a vacant Mexican hacienda. We grabbed a few Ankers and sampled their weird guacamole (too much tomato, not enough avocado. It takes a lot to mess this thing up, but they managed to).

I don’t know what we were thinking, but we also decided to sample the other side of the coin and headed over to Boshe, also billed as the newest, most happening club in town. Encouraged by the number of cars parked in the lot, we went in and found the three-story warehouse-looking, black-walled, decked-out club packed with six people, not including the 15 or so staff and band members.

It was quite a shame, too, because they had a big production going, with a massive stage and a DJ spinning out songs that got interpreted into swirling graphics on giant flat-screens. We sipped our outrageously expensive drinks and bolted, eschewing the temptation to try the karaoke rooms down at the basement. But not before Dale got some techno time.

We called it a slamming night, and that was that.

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