Category: Borneo

Markets, Palaces, Ballet and a Change of Guides

May 30. This morning, after an elaborate buffet brunch at the hotel, we meet our guide, Imam, and walk the short distance to the market. The city is pretty much overrun with motor bikes, which dominate the traffic, buzzing in and out.
Miraculously there seem to be few, if any, accidents. Everyone does adhere to the helmet requirement, except small children who are often helmetless at the front of their parents’ bikes.
We walk to and through the busy marketplace, which resembles closely markets we’ve seen the world around. I’m quite happy, though, to be photographing human subjects who do not need to be spotted through binoculars.
From the market, we drive to the Kraton, the walled compound that is the heart of the old part of the city and once the palace of Yogyakarta’s sultans. We are shown around the palace grounds, and told probably more than we need to know about the ten sultans that Jogy has had, by a woman who has been doing the tour for forty years.

The current, tenth, sultan is also the governor of Jogy, which differentiates him and makes him a good deal more powerful than other sultans/kings around the country who are pretty-much figureheads. A problem is about to occur, though, because the sultan has produced only daughters, five of them, who are not eligible to take over. The sultan is trying to change this, but is meeting resistance. 

 From there we move on to the Sono Bodoyo Museum, which has an excellent collection of Javanese masks, textiles and puppets. We also hear some men playing musical instruments. My efforts to photograph them are only somewhat successful, though, because somebody was blocking my view.

Here is one of the guards at the museum.

After the museum, we walk for awhile,  encountering a street barber

We are all done in by the heat and humidity and only want to be driven in our air conditioned car to an air conditioned restaurant.  We actually have an excellent Chinese meal.  After lunch, we visit a place where batik textiles for which “Jogja” is famous are being made.  
The Lewises do some damage in the adjoining store, but Carol and I escape unscathed.  Michael does manage to photograph us, though, beneath a sign that has misspelled our last name
We return to the hotel, where Carol goes down for a massage, and I shower and blog.

We meet the Lewises for drinks, and then are taken out to dinner and the ballet by Imam. Though he was scheduled to be with us for the remainder of our time in Indonesia, tonight is Imam’s last night as our guide. On the ride from the airport to our hotel last night, I was very concerned about our ability to understand Imam. The Lewises were considerably more forgiving, but I convinced them to let me email our travel agent to give her a heads up about a possible problem and to ask her to begin to make contingency plans, should we find that he was not comprehensible today. By late afternoon, I told the others that I thought we had to work much too hard to try to understand Imam and that this made our time stressful and not enjoyable. They agreed.
Our travel agent had already emailed us back, thanking us for alerting her promptly to the potential problem and saying that she would contact the local agency and have them call us to see how our day had gone. I got a call around 3:45 from the head of the local agency and I told him that we were not satisfied with our experience. He was very understanding and, within 45 minutes, called back to say he’d found an excellent replacement, describing her as the only Javanese woman he knew who spoke English with an American accent.  He’d found another guiding job for Imam, so he would not be out anything financially.  I think that this is a good and appropriate result.  We are entitled to expect excellent guides on the high-end  trips that we plan.

Here are a couple images from the ballet concert this evening, which I thought was the longest hour and a half of my life, but Valerie loved and Carol liked elements of.  Michael shared my view but later said that, in retrospect, he was glad that we had gone.  The best that I could say was that I was glad that he was glad that we had gone.

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