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The dawn broke to reveal a carpet of rice, houses roofed similar to Maning Kabau style and then at 7, big city Yogyakarta appearing suddenly, apparently not so big. Normally pronounced and referred to as "Jogja", if Jakarta was Indonesia's heart then Yogyakarta was its soul, a historical and cultural focal point from whence ancient empires had evolved and Indonesia's independence movement was also conceived. After crashing out at a supercheap Losmen delightfully close to the station, I woke to belatedly hit the sights, expecting to be scuppered again due to infernally short opening hours. The continuation of Yogya's main shopping street was nothing to the gargantuan proportions of Jakarta, and though I should have been happy for its amenable size, it was a patience sapping exercise checking out uniformly whitewashed colonial vestiges whilst being relentlessly hit upon by Becak and Ojek drivers and the odd tout cum guide. Answering back in vaguely accomplished Bahasa probably helped stave them off, but I did have to resort to blanking mode occasionally such were their periodic excesses. Yogya's real attraction lay in its convenient location for visiting 2 outlying temple complexes, one of them Borobudur being Indonesia's number 1 attraction. The place was discernibly touristy with sadly more white faces than the capital, and bullshit such as dickhead conveying horsedrawn carriages, Dunkin Donuts and the hard sell tactics of Batik ware vendors. A local artform, its intricate patterns were variously worn or painted, and it was on a par with the overwrought antics of Istanbul's carpet sellers that they would try to scam you, cajole you, anything to convince you that you couldnt possibly survive without buying a crazy Nelson Mandela shirt. The museums had proved closed sure enough, yet I thankfully managed to concoct a passable afternoon with first of all the unexpectedly open Dutch fort, Benteng Vredeburg, then a jaunt out to the inspirationally named Istana Air (Water Castle).


Now housing a museum illustrating local history by means of many dioramas, the fort itself was a pretty benign looking affair, the walls too low and thin to have been much of a deterrant to determined aggressors I imagined, and the internal buildings merely resembled large red tiled chalets. Its pristine whitewash, gardens and odd corner pillbox added character though, and I was left wondering how the pillbox had clearly been peppered with bulletholes fired from within the compound. First off there was a depiction of the arrest of local boy hero Diponegoro here in 1830, finally scuppering his 5 year resistance campaign, and then it was related that the important Budi Utomo (1908) and Mohammadiyah (1912) movements were founded here. There was a notable sugar cane workers strike here in 1920, and then the "Taman Siswa" (Students Park) home grown educational system was also born here in 1922. Also held here was the second conference of the youth organisation called "Jong Java" (Young Java), which pledged to unite the youth nationwide in 1928. After the Japanese invasion in 1942 they sought to exploit anti-colonial resentment under a "Greater Asia" slogan, and Japanisation occured with the formation of PETA (Pembela Tanah Air). Upon the Japanese surrender the locals seized the printing presses to ensure reporting of the Proclamation of Independence, halls were also seized for meetings and broadcasts. Amazingly, these were subsequently bombed by the RAF in support of the Dutch agenda the "Second Aggression", and the nationalist government retreated to here from Jakarta in January 1946. Yogyakarta also saw the foundation of the Republican Air Force and Indonesia's first independent university. The next series of dioramas now fell inexplicably devoid of translation, but were all clearly about acts of aggression by and towards the Dutch. An Australian registered Dakota of which I had already seen photos of its crash scene in Bukittingi was shot down here by a Dutch fighter in 1947, though ostensibly a Red Cross flight it was assumed to be helping the nationalist cause. The final revelation was that with UN arbitration and then the later Inter Indonesian Conference of 1949, independence was then re-affirmed here 4 years to the day from its initial proclamation.

After quite a trek the Water Castle also materialised miraculously open, evidently over-restored and yet still an appealling oddity of overstated entrance portals. The allover cream paintjob added to the impression of a wedding cake overindulgence, and indeed that is what it had originally been. Outbuildings variously adorned with welcoming sun faces and fanged lionesque figures led onto a courtyard dominated by an aesthetically pleasing pool studded with columns, overlooked by a squarish tower from whence the Sultan might ogle his harem of wives cavorting in his personal paradise.

Posted by andyhay 00:00 Archived in Indonesia

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