An Afternoon in Jogja: Sultan (Who?) Kraton (What?) Surprises All Around

Indonesia’s heart maybe Jakarta but Yogyakarta possesses its soul.  Yogyakarta or “Jogja” as it is more commonly called has many universities and is a cultural center of dance and arts. It is the second most visited area by tourists in the country after Bali.   It is also a district that continues to be governed by a Sultan.  Who knew?

Lovely Detail from the Kraton Grounds

We visited the Sultan’s Kraton which is a busy palace complex where many people  still live and work.  Here is the bustling street as we approached the entrance.

Th sultan and his family now live in private apartments on the complex grounds.

A View Towards the Sultan’s Private Residence

We had a lovely local guide who showed us around.  We were able to see many gifts the sultans had been given from various countries at the time of his coronation.  She was quick to point out the America had not sent a gift.  Hmmm… I may have to talk to Barry about that one.  He studied in Jakarta and should be more clued in.

The current sultan’s father allowed the nascent Indonesian government to lead their rebellion against the Dutch from the palace grounds.  He was apparently very popular.  He also had four main concubines that bore him many children.

The current sultan has tried to bring the monarchy into the modern age by eliminating polygamy. His single wife bore him five children but they are all girls which apparently eliminates them from royal contention. Well baby steps is still some progress I suppose for women rights.  Plus being the male heir has some drawbacks… Our guide pointed out the current sultan’s picture on the day of his circumcision at age 12!

A view of one of the hall’s. It is not clear if this is where above mentioned “snipping” occurred

One of the highlights of the Kraton tour was a performance of traditional Javanese dancer.  There were many drums involved.

The dancers wore beautiful costumes

The children were very captivated by the performance.  Maybe some day you will visit the Kraton and see a talented drummer who stands out just a bit with blue eyes.

Now that would be surprising.

Borobudur: An Ancient Monument to Buddha at a Lively Time

Borobudur-The name sounds mystical, like something taken straight out of a Tolkien book, and when you gaze upon it you can easily imagine the massive structure in a magical world.

Borobudur was completed in the 9th century is claimed to be the world’s largest Buddhist structure.  We hired a guide and driver to explore the temple located about 90 minute drive from Yogyakarta.

Carvings tell of the life of Buddha

An Elegant Waterspout

The monument has become a place of pilgrimage.  The journey for devotees begins at the base and continues through a winding path to the top.  There are ten terraces which represent the life stages one must go through to reach enlightenment. The stairs are steep because as our guide pointed out nirvana is not meant easy to achieve.

The most important occasion observed at Borobudur is Vesak Day, which is sometimes informally called “Buddha’s Birthday,” but actually represents more.  The holiday commemorates the day the religious leader was born, achieved enlightenment and  passed away.  We happened to visit Borobudur the day before Vesak and the monument was abuzz with preparations and travelers.

As one of the few foreign tourists, we once again became photo props.   The children, who were the youngest blonde-hair blue-eyed ones around, had their photo taken with different groups of travelers around almost ever corner we turned.  They handled the attention gracefully but after a while when Sydney tired of the paparazzi she held out the palm of her hand and said a firm “enough”.  Fortunately she is easily bribed and in this one Sydney poses with a “Chupa-Chup” her favorite candy.  I particularly love the woman’s gentle smile.

Aidan appears very content with the beautiful ladies.  I fear he is going it be a handful in his teenage years, even at five he can never say no to a lovely woman’s request.

During a playful moment, Sydney shows off the traditional Batik cloth we were given to wear.  

Aidan smiles as he is attacked by a stone lion.

It is amazing to recall all the wonderful monuments we have visited over the past five months and I marvel at what the children have learned.   A few days ago when Aidan was playing with his trains I overheard him say in his firm Sir Topham Hatt’s voice “No Thomas you cannot do that yet.  You know Christmas is after Buddha’s Birthday.”  I think Borobudur has had a lasting effect on us all.