It’s a short plane hop from the malls of Kuala Lumpur to Yogyakarta, but it feels like a heck of a long jump.
Yogyakarta’s airport was a lesson in the art of compact: the entire arrivals hall – immigration, customs, luggage collection and the visa office – fitted in to a room that felt significantly smaller than our lounge back in London. Outside was rather quaint – covered walkways, cafes and gardens.
Our arrival immediately highlighted the differences between Malaysia and Indonesia. In Malaysia, airport taxis operate based on vouchers you pick up from inside the arrivals hall. In Indonesia, it’s much more of a “grabbers, keepers” philosophy from the moment you poke your head out of the door. We were the ones being grabbed. It wasn’t a great start. One of the few things guaranteed to get me riled is hassle from taxi drivers; I find it intrusive and I loath the inevitable rip-off fare that follows.
Nevertheless, we were herded by our new best friend to his (admittedly air-conditioned) taxi and taken to our hotel – Hotel Rengganis – a vision in Kermit green decor. Upon arrival, we discovered my first significant travel fail of the trip. All our travel adapters were round pin. Our room, like all Indonesian rooms, was not. I had discarded about eight suitable travel adapters prior to departure because they were labelled “continental” and, apparently, travel adapters don’t follow the same labeling system as breakfasts. Who knew?
Craig headed for reception while I waited. Five minutes past. Ten minutes. I did a lap of the hotel. Another lap. Another lap in the opposite direction. Had he left? Was my inability to distinguish travel adapters the final straw and was he now, in fact, headed for a safe passage to Bangkok while cackling about “freedom, sweet freedom”?
And then a scooter pulled up, with my beaming husband on the back. A friendly local had driven him to the nearest supermarket that sold travel adapters (both international and continental) and he was returning victorious from his first scooter experience. Triumphant, we headed out for dinner.
The following morning, we decided to head into Yogyakarta itself for the slightly inflated cyclo fare of £1 to visit the Sultan Palace. For an additional donation, we hired a lovely local guide.
This was a good decision, as the palace is primarily still a functioning royal residence and not that well kitted out for visitors. I was glad she was there to tell us about the staff who worked there, bring to life the collections of photos, clothing and other assorted paraphernalia, and to explain the tea ceremonies which take place daily regardless as to whether the sultan is in residence or not.
We were trudging home along the dusty main roads of Yogyakarta (pronounced “jog-jakarta”, it turns out) when Craig ducked into an alleyway. Suddenly, we were transported into a haven. There were no cyclo drivers hassling us, but just peaceful, cool walkways and locals sitting on doorsteps chatting. No cars either – just small paths wide enough for two to walk side by side. It turns out we had walked into the extended Kraton complex, which surrounds the palace and was traditionally home to palace employees.
We walked, enjoying the tranquil labyrinth and stumbled into a Batik shop, where we succumbed and treated ourselves to some local artwork (apparently you can tell true Batik from printed, mass-produced stuff depending on whether the pattern is equally visible on both sides due to the wax techniques used to create the pattern) before braving the dusty main streets again.
Following the success of our intrepid wandering, we headed out for dinner. Feeling adventurous, I ordered Lele Goreng, or fried catfish to you and me. I envisioned a nice fillet of catfish, perhaps a bit similar to the smoked mackerel from Sainsburys. What I got was, quite literally, an entire catfish, whiskers and all. Did you know that, when deep fried, catfish whiskers become a rather fetching handlebar moustache? It was certainly the most dapper meal I have eaten in a long time.