I've been here for one month, and this weekend I'm getting my first opportunity to act like a tourist. I’ve wanted to go to Yogyakarta (affectionately referred to as "Jogja") ever since I got to Indonesia because it’s considered the “cultural hub” of Java. On Thursday, Prof. Saldi's sister-in-law, Zhauri, suprised me with bus tickets to go there for the weekend. We packed our bags and hopped on a mini-bus Friday night, and arrived in Jogja at her cousin’s house on Saturday afternoon (it was a 19-hour ride, if you were wondering). We immediately showered and brushed our teeth (we looked rough), and then we went straight to Borobudur, which was another 2-hour drive. Borobudur is a 9th-Century Buddhist temple, and it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the 1980’s. I don’t know what to say about it other than the fact that it is AMAZING.
Evening crept up on us as we made our way to Alun-Alun Kidul, which is a park in the city center. At night it is filled with people socializing on bamboo mats, drinking hot ginger beverages, and eating food from street vendors. Musicians with acoustic guitars serenade the crowd in the hopes of earning a few bucks, while children blow bubbles and chase illuminated flying toys. Two massive banyan trees stand side-by-side in the center of the square, and, as we sipped our ronde, my friends told me that the mythical trees will grant one wish to any person that can walk between them blindfolded. The game is called masangin. As instructed, I started at the high ground, closed my eyes, and walked forward with conviction. Unbeknownst to me, I veered sharply to the left and Zhauri had to stop me before I ran into a pole. Countless people attempted masangin, but I only saw one succeed. It’s much harder than it looks. Before we headed home for some much needed rest, we rented one of the decorative four-person bicycles called odong-odong, and cruised around the square.
The next day went by quickly because we had to catch the bus to Jakarta. Luckily, we had time to see Taman Sari, which is the former royal garden of the Sultanate of Yogyakarta, and we were able to do a bit of batik shopping. At 3:00pm, I dragged my feet to the bus station wishing that I could have stayed longer in Yogyakarta.