Yogyakarta Day 3: In Which Everything is Watery

On my last day in Yogyakarta, I actually overslept, and missed an e-mail from Dale asking me if I wanted to hang out again that day. So I stuffed my things into my bag, checked out and left my stuff with the concierge so I could do some last-minute touring.

I decided to check out Taman Sari, the water castle, and was shown through the back door by a shifty guide who ran after the bencak I was riding like it would kill him if he didn’t give me a guided tour.

Entrance to the main palace, which had two wings for entertainment– one for dance, another for dining.

The entire structure is basically in ruins, and was once possibly a majestic salmon-colored retreat amid a large lake — which years of evaporation and great drainage systems decimated and made way for what is today a slum area.

The whole complex served as the sultan’s pleasure palace, and conveniently included an underground (once underwater) mosque, where he must have prayed for his soul’s salvation after hedonistic days.

The mosque was musty, but very pretty, with stone toilets and cubby holes for imams, some of whom were female. At the center of the mosque was a small pond with five sets of staircases straddling it. This represented the five pillars of Islam.

I felt like I was walking through a hollowed-out pound cake.

Later, I was led to the sultan’s pool party castle, where I realized the official entrance to Taman Sari was located. There were three pools, slightly smaller than your average tennis court, laid out in a walled courtyard with a royal cabana separating the girls’ pool from the guys’.

I was told the sultan could climb up to the cabana’s tower and spy on those bathing below. The water is now blue in chlorination and not open for public use. A section at the back of the cabana was more intimate and reserved for the sultan’s wives. I asked my guide how many wives he had and he’s like, “Uhhhh…. five?” I was later told the real figure was 40.

On the other side of the courtyard, there is an art gallery where artists routinely swindle Caucasians into buying handmade, hand-chiseled Ramayana puppets made from buffalo hide for more than they are actually worth.

Proof? The seller took me aside and told me that because I was not American, I could buy beautiful Rama and Sita puppets for half the price.

Doesn’t he look like Pinocchio’s dad?

My shifty guide lived up to his shiftiness by taking a detour and leading me to his family’s art gallery, where I was asked to purchase a painting, but I refused and told him to take me back to the entrance. I gave him a Rp 50.000 for his effort and he disappeared in a flash.

Later, I went to the silverworks area, Kota Gede, to look for a kris for my friend Adam, but the crafts were really too expensive. Since I wasn’t really raring for jewelry, I went back to Malioboro and chanced upon Dale while walking up the street.

We decided to eat at a warung, and had bakso (meatball soup), which he liked, and Tehbotol, a brand of bottled iced tea that tastes like chrysanthemum foot, which he claimed he liked.

At this point, it had started raining, so we decided to eat some durian es teler, a milky and soupy concoction that had the consistency of “rotting man.” We named the bits and pieces we ate Bob.

I had barely two hours left to get to the airport and was slightly worried because it was raining so hard, so Dale and I hugged goodbye and wished each other well in future travels.

I made it to the airport in one piece and was told my flight back to Jakarta was delayed. I killed time by reviewing the places I’d been to in just three days and was pretty proud that I’d covered a lot of ground. Not a bad effort for my first time kicking it solo.

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