There are some things in life that are certain – death, taxes and in Indonesia you can add another – getting frustrated and scared with Indonesian travel. My trip from Jakarta to Yogyakarta (also know as Yogya) was an over night bus and was supposed to be a on a luxury coach with reclining seats and AC. What is frustrating about traveling in Indonesia is that you really don’t know what type of transport you are going to get until it turns up! The bus turned out to be a small van / car with some amazingly hard seats, but maybe it was going to get us there quicker I thought. Unfortunately my seat was right next to the driver; the other 4 Indonesian passengers had the luxury of not have full view of the journey. The scarey thing was that the driver, a young chap seemed either to have a death wish or he was late for something as he wove in and out of traffic at 100mph, chain smoking and believing that he was really faster than anyone else on the road. He was overtaking on blind bends, barging mopeds and other cars of the road, undertaking and using his horn more than his indicator. I had to close my eyes and every few minutes asked him to calm down to which he either didn’t understand or didn’t care. As the seat was rock solid and the roads are full of potholes not much sleep was had and I had to endure 10hours of hell. Luckily most of the traffic died down by 3am and we arrived in Yogya by 7am the next morning, 2 hours ahead of schedule.
Yogya is deemed to be the cultural capital of Java, a bit like Ubud is to Bali. A city that boasts around 3 million people turned out to be none of the busy, hectic, polluted city you would expect and turned out to be very relaxed. I booked into a very pleasant guest house called Bladock which even boasted a swimming pool which was ideal as the afternoons were roasting. Yogya is a good half way point for my next adventures which would take me to Borobodur, Bromo and Ijen – but more on those later. The next day after much earned sleep and rest I ventured to Krakaton (the Sultans palace) on rickshaw, a pleasant and tranquil way around the city. There are a number of Sultans around Java that hold minimal power but help in looking after the people and the community.
The palace is allow key semi tourist attraction with a number of formal open air rooms and courtyards and numerous rooms displaying many artifacts of the Sultans collection as well as gifts from countries around the world. An hour later and the tour was completed and I was back on the rickshaw apparently on my way back to the hotel. The driver had other ideas though and whisked me off to the next tourist attraction just around the corner. I short ride later and I met up with his brother who was going to show me round the Tamin Sari complex – for a small fee of course. The complex is a series of structures, canals, pools and small palaces which were built for the Sultan. Unfortunately most of which were destroyed in earthquakes in 2003 but the swimming pool remained in tact and was the grandest swimming pool I had visited in my travels so far. As it was mid afternoon and it as baking the tour was a quick one, plus there wasn’t really much to see I headed on back to the guest house to cool off in the pool.
The next day was my last in Yogya and Yogya was turning out to be not as cultural as I expected especially as I visited the last of the attractions it had to offer. The bird market is deemed an attraction but I couldn’t see much attraction in it. The market is a series of alleyways boasting small shops selling mostly birds but also any every other know type of animal known in Indonesia. It is a riot of smells (mostly bad ones) and noise of the animals and shopkeepers selling there wears. It is one of the oldest markets in Indonesia and is a sorry show of the lack of animal welfare they have in these parts of the world. Animals for sale include Komodo Dragons, fruit bats, cats, dogs, squirrels, otters and snakes to name a few. All of these animals were kept in small cages with no water and many were kept in direct sunlight. I felt so sorry for many of them and even my discussions with the shopkeepers about their conditions fell on deaf ears and many of them laughing at me. A large part of the market is dedicated to songbirds that they hold in great respect and price. Many of the birds are used in contests and can earn the owner vast sums of money and good song bird will set you back around £200.
I left the market felling disappointed with the cruelty shown to the animals and wondered way this was listed as a tourist destination when westerners have a higher regard for animal welfare. I just hope that things will change for these animals. That night I enjoyed a few beers with a fellow traveler and watched the Liverpool Man U derby and went to bed pleased with the result for Liverpool. I had the first of 3 very early 3am starts as my travels took me onto some wonderful destinations – Borobodur (the largest Hindu Temple in SE Asia), Mount Bromo (Jaw dropping scenery around some volcanoes) and Ijen (volcanic sulphur mines). The early starts for the sunrise were going to be worth it.