After the cool climes of Bandung, Souvik & I headed to Yogyakarta, this time with a plan to explore the city on bicycles. On our last visit, the town was overrun with people on account of the wedding of someone in the Sultan’s family and we couldn’t see much.
To my surprise, the hardest task was renting cycles. Apparently, by noon on a dull Saturday, bike hire shops have no cycles to rent, and those that do shut shop for siesta. We were dogged in our determination however, and after a little tantrum on my part, we had 2 rickety sets of wheels.
Stop #1 was Kota Gede, the traditional silver market on the outskirts (about 6 km) from Prawirotaman. Rather disappointing stop, with dhanda manda, not exactly rows of silver craftsmen with their nose to the grindstone, and shop after shop of indifferent displays of some pretty stuff. I wonder why. I wasn’t even tempted to whip out my camera, so we tried to make the most of the situation by cycling off to the Affandi museum via some jalan tikus (that’s little pedestrian lanes, or patli galis as you might call them in India). And the sun – OH! Beat down on us incessantly, so I chose to pour all the ice cold water over my head rather than drink it.
Affandi is one of the foremost artists of Indonesia, and (was) a rather quirky chap, if the impressions of his art and studio are anything to go by. Some of his paintings are quite good, particularly the self-portraits, but I couldn’t see the point of his signature squiggles. The visit gave us a chance to rest in the shade, and revive us for the return ride.
As a reward for the hard work in the sun, we were met by dark clouds on our way home. Backpacks in plastic covers, and we were happy to ride off in the mild rain, so much pleasanter than the afternoon. Didn’t care to do much for the rest of the day, just chilling in the balcony, watching the numerous lizards in the hotel do their thing.
Sunday morning bright and early, we set off to Prambanan temples, around 20 km from Jogja. An uneventful ride right across town, and pretty steady traffic for an early morning. It was delightful to spot a peloton of riders cycling over from Solo. We took plenty of ‘breakfast’ breaks of chocolate, but the pretty scenery showed itself in precisely one location.
The Prambanan temples themselves were an impressive sight. Built some 50 years after Borobudur, this is a surprising structure for a ‘Muslim’ country – Hindu temples dedicated to Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. They also make a fabulous backdrop for the Ramayana ballet that is performed during the dry season. There are shades of Borobudur and also Angkor Wat, but these temples are quite low profile outside the country.
The grounds are lovely, plenty of space and activity for kids, plus tandem cycles available for exploring the area. We ran into a bunch of kids and their schoolteacher who asked to practice speaking English and I obliged. Tickled by their questions of favorite food, favorite movie, and the like.
After spending a couple of hours there, we cycled back. This time, however, there was the onset of ‘ass pains’, our most common affliction on long-distance rides. We took the long (scenic) way back, and twice as many ‘ass-breaks’. The last km was a real struggle. The wooden seats of Via Via cafe were a welcome relief, and our good humor was quickly restored by an indulgent meal.