Posted by: Mark | February 10, 2008


As part of my ongoing effort to visit places I should have seen five months ago, on Friday I visited Borobodur and Prambanan, perhaps the most heavily touristed places in Java. After meeting at the Circle K on Jalan Kaliurang at about 5am, Sinta, Kiki, Steve, and I, set off on the hour long journey to Borobodur.


Imposing, no?

Built in the 8th and 9th century from about two million bricks, Borobodur is truly one of treasures of Indonesia. Its also pretty amazing that it has stayed together so long, despite being placed in the centre of a island that is constantly falling down. Architecture seems to have gotten worse in the last 1000 years.


Walking in a clockwise direction around each layer of the temple to the top is about 5km.

As I walked around the temple, I enjoyed the carved panels lining the walls, as well as the hundreds of Buddha statues, many headless. Later in the museum, I was to find out that in addition to the panels showing fishing, trading, and singing, others depicted abortions, deaths, laziness, and general peril, according to the English translations.


The top layers contained dozens of these bell-shaped things, referred to a stupas, each containing a very serene looking Buddha.

The view at the top was stunning, with the complex hemmed in on all sides by mountains, including Gunung Merapi. Although it doesnt show up to well in photographs, it looked quite stunning before the clouds moved in.


Australia needs more volcanoes, they really add to the landscape.

Not long after we arrived, about 100 Indonesia students from two English schools in East and West Java arrived to interview (accost) tourists and ask a series of basic questions in English. Oh, and also to take a bunch of photos with them (extra credit?) After swimming against the tide there for a hour, we descended to the rather beautiful parks in the Borobodur complex, and made our way back to the main area.


A great piece of Indonesian history, a boat built by foreigners in the early-90s. It cost an extra 100,000 rupiah to go in!

Indonesia has a habit of putting unrelated museums into parks like this, so after checking out the free ones, Steve and I trekked on to Prambanan alone. On the other side of Jogja, about 1.5 hours from Borobodur, Prambanan is the former temple’s Hindu counterpart.


Another amazing feat of architecture, in stark contrast to some of the abominations you can find in Jakarta.

Unfortunately, because of earthquake damage, we couldnt go into the main temples; barriers had been set up to keep visitors at bay while repairs were going on.


The only decent scaffolding I’ve ever seen in Indonesia. Also, the only one not made from bamboo or rotting logs. It was perhaps the most impressive part of the day.

There are several other temples in various states of ruin with the complex, and getting to them requires an enjoyable meander through fields, which a surprising number of visitors dont even bother to go to. We had the other temples all to ourselves.


Some seemed beyond repair, but there seems to be an ongoing effort to do so.


It’s kind of sad that something so beautiful could be built on land so intent on destroying it.

After making my way home, via Amplaz to get some lunch (Pitta Katsu, weird, but recommended), I noticed something that is quickly becoming routine. Despite an attempt to be SunSmart as a result of last week’s intense painful experience, I managed to get burned in an hilarious manner yet again. Riding a motorcycle in the middle of the day has seared a skin glove onto each of my hands, starting at the cuff of my jacket and ending where my knuckles curl around the handlebars. The left one has a watch tan too. Though the picture doesnt do it justice, rest assured everyone I’ve met over the past two days thinks its absolutely hilarious.


Posted by: Mark | February 5, 2008


In the spirit of getting caught up on past events, here’s a retelling of the Christmas events for the kids at Gereja Kristen Kemah Daud (GKKD). I was roped into helping, then unanimously elected to be Santa Claus. Well, actually, I played Australian Santa Claus, and Adam played Papuan Santa Claus; two is better than one!


The hat and fake hair didnt entirely cover my increasingly unwieldy mane, breaking the whole illusion for me.

The agenda for the day was an art competition, ranging from basic colouring to freehand drawing depending on age, with a Christmas theme. The children, ranging from about 3 to 12, were divided into three groups and worked on their pictures for an hour or so.


Santa Claus “supervised”, scaring a number of innocent children in the process.

After the competition was a rest, then a couple of performances by the kids (surprisingly good). Next, there was a fairly disturbing hour-long sermon by some guy I’d never seen before, a lean, middle-aged chap with a high school quality moustache.


Ka Yus, who has a slightly better moustache than the other guy, presenting trophies to the oldest age group.

Finally it was time to wrap things up, and for a guy with a progressively worsening chest infection dressed as Santa in sweltering heat for four hours, that was a wonderful thing. The evening ended with one final act of group stupidity, in which parents crushed children while attempting to get these gift bags and magazines:


The aforementioned gift bags, ably guarded by Evi, contained approximately $1.20 worth of milk and snacks. Worth fighting for apparently!

All in all, an interesting day. Personally, I nabbed two gift bags. Hopefully I get called up to play the Easter bunny as well!


Wouldn’t be an Indonesian event without a team photo. Also note the ID tags, another Indonesian staple.

Posted by: Mark | February 5, 2008


Despite having lived in Yogyakarta over five months now, I’ve actually seen very little of it. Having returned from Jakarta in the middle of January, I decided that I would dedicate myself to getting around and seeing all the things I planned to before leaving Australia. Finally, on the first day of February, I started doing just that, with a trip to Parangtritis and Imogiri.


Parangtritis beach, essentially unswimmable, but still quite impressive.

Just over an hour south of the city, Parangtritis is a small town mostly facing a beach of the same name. The water is too dangerous for swimming, but the area is a very popular weekend retreat for city dwellers. One oft-repeated bit of folklore is that the Queen of the Sea is particularly volatile, and that as part of a bargain between her and the royal family, each Sultan of Yogyakarta must marry her in a ceremony down by the beach. So, while the current Sultan isnt really into polygamy, he technically has two wives I guess.


Climbing over these surprisingly jagged rocks ripped the heels off both my new sandals. Quality shoemaking indeed!

After a brisk walk across the scalding hot sand, my companions and I had lunch at an empty cafe, then headed off to Imogiri, about thirty minutes from Parangtritis, off the main road.


Java can be much quieter than the roads of Yogya would indicate.

Imogiri is the site where the former Sultans of Yogyakarta and Surakarta, their wives, extended families, and other people of status, national heroes and the like, are buried. To get there, one must ascend 346 stairs…


and don traditional Javanese dress…


Taking photos is not permitted in the tombs, so this description will have to suffice. The main point of interest is that of Sultan Agung Prabu Hanyokrokusumo, the oldest tomb in the complex. The tomb is located in the central wing, and is located inside a dark, boiling hot Javanese-style building. Each door is cut into the side of the wall, approximately one meter by one meter, and the rooms are lit by candle alone. Inside, Javanese men is similar dress pray and solicit donations, clustered around a fairly non-descript Islamic headstone. The room is absolutely sweltering, and definitely a claustrophobic’s nightmare.


As Steve discovered, mango trees at Imogiri are swarming with fire ants. Luckily, going shirtless is acceptable Javanese dress.

The complex itself is quite beautiful, though a little damaged from earthquakes. The newest tombs are better ventilated than the older ones, dating from the 17th century. The biggest of the interior doors are still only about 5ft, and the architecture is beautiful in places.


The descent down leaves one feeling shakey-legged for quite some time. In my case, it lasted to the carpark, for the hour ride back to the city, and all the way to the warung where I recharged my pulsa almost two hours later.

Overall, it was an interesting day, and definitely stoked my desire to visit more of these places. I didnt buy anything to take home, but the scorching hot sun left me with two very painful souvenirs.


Posted by: Mark | December 30, 2007


I’m currently in Jakarta, procrastinating about attending a wedding, and writing this entry. I just got back from Malaysia, and as a bit of filler, I made this list of things I ate that are difficult or impossible for me to get in Yogyakarta, or even Jakarta. I will, however, make a full summary when I get home.

  • Nando’s (quite good)
  • Kenny Roger’s Roasters (incl. Macaroni and Cheese, but not very good)
  • Famosa Chicken Rice Ball (awful!)
  • Carl Jr.’s (this is a tasty burger, Brett)
  • Candy glazed fruits (not filling)
  • Curly fries (apparently not just something from TV/1990s Hungry Jacks)
  • Hot cinnamon donuts (as opposed to stale/mouldy ones with chocolate sprinkles)

More food to come!

Posted by: Mark | December 14, 2007


Today was the closing ceremony for the foreign student department. Lots of them are going home now. It seemed a bit of a waste though, considering I’ll be here for another seven months. I did eat potatoes, macaroni salad and shredded mystery meat though. Tonight, there is a barbecue just for the Australians. I’m hanging out for some potato salad.

Also, I got a alumni card and lapel pin declaring me a graduate of UGM. Not true, but I am quite proud. Only took three and half months, that’s got to be some sort of record.

Posted by: Mark | December 6, 2007


Ways in which my driving will change after returning from Indonesia:

  • Habitually stop for speedbumps every ten seconds.
  • Feel intense fear travelling above 60km p/h
  • Will not check mirrors; that’s the responsbility of the people behind me.
  • Legimate places to drive: street, sidewalk, shopfront, canal, football pitch.
  • Start to manuveur car Fred Flinstone-style.
  • Indicator will become the arm of whoever is in the passenger seat.
  • Horn will serve as: warning device, indicator, overtaking signal, headlight, radio, conversation starter, musical instrument.
Posted by: Mark | November 23, 2007


I think I got a mild case of conjuctivitis. But, seeing as everything is available over the counter here, I’m self-medicating. Maybe if they wrote “Not for sale without a prescription” in Bahasa Indonesia instead of English, it would have a greater chance of working.

Also, after consulting Wikipedia, I’ve been telling people I have “Madras Eye”.

Posted by: Mark | November 16, 2007


Yesterday, in my Perbandingan Politik lecture, the dosen arrived 30 minutes late, then proceeded to rip into the whole class about the introductions to their semester essays, handed in six weeks ago, by the way. This took us to the hour mark, whereupon he asked my name, then instructed me to write a seven page essay by next week, which will be presented to the class, in Indonesian. I have to make handouts, comparing the political party system in Australia and Indonesia, as well as the electoral system, and poll my fellow white people for their elections predictions. Did I mention its all in Indonesian? Of the class of 68 people, three have been chosen at random, and me on the basis of nationality, to write these papers, and present them over the coming four weeks. Oh, there are only four weeks of lectures left too. What do the other 64 people do? Who knows, there is no statement of assessment.

Anyway, it doesnt seem to matter, I have access to Wikipedia. I’m pretty sure that’s classed as the library at this uni. Printing all these handouts is going to cost me an arm and a leg though.

Posted by: Mark | November 14, 2007


So, I’ve decided I want to stay a little longer than anticipated. Just until July-ish, no worries. I’m currently in the process of finding comparable classes, so I can get it all squared away before the Australian holiday break. I should be able to get it done, though it isn’t like a uni assignment, so I cant just knock it out the night before.

Oh yeah, for my Indonesian Political Power class, I got my first assessed piece of work. It’s going to be tough; a two page paper about any actor in the Indonesian political system. Oh yeah, and we have to do it in groups of eight. University is hilarious here. My Javanese lecturer fell over in class the other day, twice, once while ridiculing a Japanese guy for not being able to pronounce “kulo”. My Comparative Politics lecturer murmurs quietly into a turned-off microphone, and no one has the heart nor the interest to tell him. This is when he actually decides to come to class; three times out of a possible nine. I go to one of the three best universities in a country of 240 million people. It sure doesn’t feel like it!

One last point: it’s interesting that Indonesia has several months each year of nigh on daily rain, and they’ve had the foresight to build storm drains and deep gutters all over the place, though they don’t seem to recognize the need to stop filling them with leaves and rubbish. Twice this week I’ve had to walk home with kids swimming past me in flood waters. My shoes are getting really wet.

Oh, I bought a hot and cold water dispenser; it’s the best thing I’ve ever bought in Indonesia. I’ve been eating a lot of Pop Mie. Now I just need two pictures, one of SBY and another of Jusuf Kalla, to hang at the top of my wall. Other than that, my room still looks like a prison cell. That borders a chicken farm.

Posted by: Mark | October 30, 2007


The wet season is starting, apparently a little late. Walking home yesterday afternoon, I was the only person I saw with an umbrella. Judging from the laughing, I must have looked quite the dandy.

I’m going to pick up the thongs I had made in Jakarta. Made of real leather! Goat, I think.

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