Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Yogya Re-visit: Kraton & Dieng

15/5/11: Day 2 : Kraton – Dieng

After breakfast of nasi goreng and sandwich (which comes together with our room package), we started the day with visiting the Kraton. There are 2 kratons actually– of the Yogyakarta and Surakarta sultanate. The Sultanate of Mataram was split in two, i.e. the Yogyakarta and Surakarta sultanate based on the Treaty of Giyanti in 1755 after the decline in power of the Mataram Sultanate and the exploits of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). The Giyanti Treaty mentioned Pangeran Mangkubumi as Sultan of Yogyakarta.

Kraton, originates from the word ke-ratu-an that means the place where the queen/king lives. The Yogya Kraton lies between Tugu as the north border (2 km stretch) and Panggung Krapyak as the south border (5 km stretch), between Code River in the east and Winongo River in the west. From north part to west part of the Palace area, there are North Square, North Siti Hinggil, North Kemandhungan, Srimanganti, Kedhaton, Kemagangan, South Kemandungan, South Siti Hinggil and South Square (the yard that is protected by high walls).

We visited the Pagelaran and Siti Hinggil area of the Kraton. Ticket costs us IDR 3000 per person (RM 1.1) The Sultan only visits the Square, Pagelaran, and Siti Hinggil three times a year, namely during the events of Pisowan Ageng Grebeg Maulud, Sawal and Besar.

Unfortunately, like the Sangiran Museum, the Kraton is not well maintained. There weren't much info and the displays that they did have looked worn down. For the record, the names of the Sultan were displayed.

For more info on the Kraton, go here

Entrance kraton

Sultan info

Inside Kraton

Sellers outside Kraton

We didn't stay long there as we were quite disappointed with the condition. Next in plan was to visit Taman Sari - a recreation garden or a resting house for the Sultan. Outside the gate, we were approached by a trishaw peddler who promoted his trishaw tour which covers 5 stops for only IDR 50K per trishaw. For the guided tour which the trishaw peddler also serves as guide, payment is up to each customer. We agreed to take the tour as it we could go sightseeing from a local point of view, plus it was cheap too!

Trishaws with Kraton guided tour has this flag

Our first stop was the Sultan's residence where its compound serves as a restaurant (Bale Raos restaurant) where you can eat royalty food. It serves the favorite cuisines of Sultan Yogyakarta, from HB VII until HB X. You cannot enter the residence (because I tried to take a peek, but was shoo-ed away :-p I heard some traditional dance music at the background).

Bale Raos resto

Second stop was the Djogjaholic kaos (t-shirt) shops, which are imitations of the original Dagadu t-shirts, which we went to during our first visit. I bought a t-shirt here for IDR85K (RM30) because I didn't buy any last time.

Djogjaholic t-shirt shop

Third and fourth stop was the Batik Processing factory and the Batik Suhardi shop, which we only stopped by very briefly. Didn't plan to buy anything here, so we quickly left.

Batik Suhardi

Final stop was the Taman Sari. It has bathing pools, canals, rooms and an extremerly large swimming pool (if the canals opened). There was also the Sugeng Puppet Handicraft outside the compound, which we dropped by to see the artisans at work carving the wayang kulit design.

Wayang kulit making @ Sugeng Puppet handicraft

The Tamansari complex consist of:

The Sacred Room
A sacred place in the complex in a separate building, which once functioned as a meditation place.

The Bathing Pool
Consists of two bathing pool that are separated by a 2-storey building. From this building the Sultan watched all the women swimming in the outer pool. Then he might ask some of them to accompany him into the inner pool. Mmmm Sultan and his etra-curricular activities :-p

Kenanga or Cemeti Island
This artificial island is a high building used as resting room and reconnaissance (surveillance) place. Only this building will surface when the canals are opened and the water over flows. From a higher place it like lotus floating in the middle of big pool.

Read more about Taman Sari here

Meditation place


While we were on our beca, we had a chit chat with our 'driver' cum guide – Pak Iman. He actually has a degree – he studied at Universitas Mahamdiah Jakarta majoring in Islamic religious studies and civilisation for 6 years. He moonlights as a trishaw peddler while his main job is giving lectures.

Pak Iman

By the time we finished the beca tour, we had 1 more hour to kill before checking out from our hotel at 12pm WIB. We stopped by at Pasar Beringharjo to buy batik material for my brother's Batik shirt. By the time we reach our hotel at 12, Tri was already waiting for us!

We were then whisked off to Dieng plateau – our highlight of this trip. We stopped by at Padang Maimbau restaurant for lunch. Then it was approximately 3 hour drive to reach Dieng, but it was definitely worth it! The highland vista was breathtaking! Dieng is 2093m above sea level. It reminded us of the lush greenery of Cameron Highlands, only colder. Waaaay colder. Plus it had just stopped raining, so it was cold and misty. On the way to Dieng, we passed by Wonosobo town, which is quite big.

View otw to Dieng

Welcome to Dieng!

A bus with funny signage : "Sekedar hobi, alih profesi" then there's a picture of motorbike racing below!

We haven't booked a hotel at Dieng prior to our arrival- we planned to find a place only when we reach there. We tried to look for a few – finally we decided on Hotel Asri. It's not a hotel, but more of a backpacker hostel. Room was very basic, bed with blanket and attached bathroom for me and Liza, with no hot water (and it was freezing cold!) and no towel. While the boys took a room each – as it was very small. Tri stayed with us too as it was too far for him to go back to the city and come back the next day. Our room costs IDR 75K, while the boys' room costs IDR 50K. This is totally Lonely Planet territorry I must warn you – very very basic hostel, I even forgot to take a picture of our room.

Hotel Asri

We went searching for dinner in the dead cold of the night – it was freezing! (But I secretly liked it hehe...as we could see vapour forming as we talked )– feels like we were at some European country lol! But someone here couldn't stand the cold, oh poor him, he was trembling :-p We wanted to eat at the stalls to blend in with the locals – but it was not to be – a decent stall that we found was full. In the end, we settled for the Bu Djono Hotel cafe to have dinner. It was warm inside. We had nasi goreng (we kept craving for Nasi Goreng from Lesehan Citra Rasa ), french fries and noodle soup (I can't help but associate cold weather with hot soup). And hot coffee and hot chocolate for drinks. Heavenly!

The stall that is always full!

While ordering our menu, Pak Didik from the Hotel asked us if we wanted to join the Dieng Plateau sunrise tour – which will cover short hiking up Mt Sikunir for sunrise watching, Kawah Warna, Kawah Sikidang and Candi Arjuna for IDR50K (RM18) per person, with our own driver and transport (which was provided by Tri). The tour would start at 4.30am WIB. We agreed to take up the trip and would tell Tri about the arrangement later – which we found out was quite a task – as Tri was already fast asleep – several measures had to be taken to wake him up lol! Thankfully he finally did!

While waiting for our food, Pak Didik gave us some photo albums of the tour and “Buku Pesan-Pesan” in which tour participants wrote down their comments – most of them were satisfied. We wanted to write something down – but somehow the eating made us forget! When we kept on chatting and ordered a second helping of drinks, Pak Didik came by and hinted that the tour tomorrow will start in the wee hours of the morning and that we should get some sleep. I guess he was trying to shoo us away in a subtle way ;)

Buku Pesan-Pesan

We went back to our hotel – woke Tri up, then we defied Pak Didik's advice – we went out again – for a late night drink! We found another stall – Warung Mbak Mien for our lepak session. Went back for rest at almost 11pm WIB. Myself and Liza continued to chat until early morning – and we had only about 3 hours of sleep! And it was freezing cold! Thankfully we managed to endure the coldness. Next day will be another awesome day!


Friday, May 27, 2011

Yogya Re-visit : Sangiran & Ramayana Ballet

Ah...this is our 2nd visit to Yogya within 3 months! Sometimes we do crazy things, this is one of them ;)

I'm the guilty person here, I pschyed the gang into going for a short escape from the prison walls that is the office (wow the description!). Poor Liza, she barely had enough rest from her umrah trip, and now she had to endure this, plus, there's some physical exercise involved, which we did not expect. Well we did expect it, but we thought it would be an easier one. What am I on about? Read on to know ;)

Sat 14/5/11

After just a few hours of sleep (ahem, we did a side project the night before, told you we are bunch of crazy people lol!) we met up at KL Sentral 7.30 am to take the bus to LCCT. Lesson learnt from my previous trip – no more taking the bus from 1Utama! So I thought this time I'd be safe from any drama. Boy, was I wrong!

That morning we had our breakfast at McD. The gang put their luggages beside them, except me, I don't know why I did that. I put my luggage slightly at the side, near a bunch of luggages of another group, but within my reach and sight.

After eating heartily our meals, I got up to take my bag, but lo and behold, it was no longer there! I panicked. All sort of things came through my mind, expecting the worse. No valuables were in the bag, just clothes and my camera charger- but of course, the loss would ruin my escapade mood!

So we searched for my luggage at the check in counters. I prayed that I'd find my luggage, and alhamdulillah, at the second check in counter, I saw a familiar luggage from a distance – although it was similar to other bags – black and without taggging – but somehow I was sure it was mine. I darted to the group – and grabbed my bag. But one of the men in the group stopped me – he asked me what I was doing?! He said that it was his bag that I was rummaging through. I told him it was mine and asked him to let me check it first. And it was true – it was totally mine! I immediately saw my comb and Lumix charger! Then I just stormed off without looking back. I didn't know how was his reaction, but at that particular moment, I was just relieved that I was reunited with my bag!

Lesson learnt from here – never leave your luggage out of sight even just for a few seconds – and keep it near you always. Don't put it in a bunch of other groups' luggages – that was careless of me!

After that episode, we went to the departure hall and I calmed myself down. We took off as per schedule and thankfully no more drama unfolded after that ;)

Arrived Solo at 12 noon WIB. It was scorching hot. Again, the line at the immigration counter was long and slow as per our first visit last February. But at least this time they opened 2 counters. We were then whisked away by our trusty guide from our first trip – Trihan. Our first destination was Sangiran – an early man site, which is also a Unesco World Heritage Site, no 593 on the list

Much to our disappointment, the so-called museum was a rundown place. We felt so sorry about the state of the display material, it felt like we were transported to the 80s era. The museum is maintained by the government, so perhaps that's why the place is a bit neglected. Ticket only costs IDR 3000 (RM1) per person and IDR 3000 for parking.

I wonder why it was chosen as a Unesco Heritage Site – or maybe the Heritage site is specifically for the archealogical site – not the museum. We did not visit the excavation site, as it is about 15km away. We were told there were new findings the day before our visit.

Sangiran man

Well, I searched for the answer and here it is:

The Committee decided to inscribe Sangiran site under cultural criteria (iii) to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared and (vi) to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria) as one of the key sites for the understanding of human evolution that admirably illustrates the development of Homo sapiens sapiens from the Lower Pleistocene to the present through the outstanding fossil and artefactual material that it has produced. More on the Sangiran Early Man Site here.

We were then so hungry by then, but we still couldn't find a decent place to tuck in. We found some bread that Razeif brought, so that sustained us for a while. Thanks Razeif! Finally Tri found a Masakan Padang place – Murah Meriah. We had our late lunch here – it was almost 4.30 pm WIB or 5.30 pm Msian time!

Our next destination is the Prambanan Temple Complex to watch the Ramayana Ballet Show which we missed during our first trip because yours truly mislooked the show dates – the day and month was correct – but I looked for year 2010 instead lol! Now we had to come back to watch the show!


The stage

Tix costs us IDR175K per person (or RM 61) We watched the full story version. There's also an episodic version of the dance. We arrived quite early at WIB 6.30pm, although the show would only start at WIB 8pm. The illuminated view of Prambanan Temple at dusk was simply breathtaking. Unfortunately, my trusty old Lumix camera didn't do justice to it – hope The Prince did a better job! My Lumix didn't do justice to the dance performance shots as well.

Tix counter

But anyway, we were entertained by the dance show – although we were wondering what was going on because there was no narration – nor did we have any brochures telling us the story behind it (although I did take a peek at the French tourist beside me who had a brochure – wonder where she got them. Oh btw, she had on a pair of lovely high cut Nike red floral boots – ah love 'em – wonder where she got that too)

Kasut Nike itu saya suka ^_^

Here's a bit of description of the Ramayana story (searched post-show): Ramayana story presented in this performance is similar to that engraved on Prambanan temple. The long and straining story is summarized in four scenes, namely the kidnapping of Shinta, Anoman's mission to Alengka, the death of Kumbakarna or Rahwana, and the meeting of Rama-Shinta.

The story begins when Prabu Janaka held a contest to determine the would-be husband for Shinta, his daughter that finally was won by Rama Wijaya. The scene is continued with the adventure of Rama, Shinta and Rama's younger brother named Laksamana in Dandaka forest. There, they met Rawana that was eager to posses Shinta since she was considered the reincarnation of goddess Widowati, a woman that he had been seeking for long.

Rama Wijaya and Shinta

In order to attract Shinta's attention, Rahwana changed one of his followers named Marica into a deer. The effort was successful when Shinta was attracted and asked Rama to chase the deer. When Rama did not show up after a while, Laksmana went to find Rama and left Shinta herself by protecting her with a magic circle around her in order that nobody would be able to kidnap her, including Rahwana. The protection failed to keep Shinta in the place since Rahwana succeeded in kidnapping her by changing himself into Durna character.

At the end of the story, Hanoman, the white, powerful monkey succeeded in taking Shinta from Rahwana. When she returned, however, Rama did not trust her anymore. He considered Shinta disgraced. In order to prove her virginity and holiness, Shinta was asked to burn herself. Shinta proved her holiness when she was not burned at all even she became more beautiful. Finally, Rama accepted her as his wife.

The Ramayana story is taken from here


The burning

Since our show ended late, we had asked Tri to phone our hotel – 1001 Malam for late check in. We only arrived at our hotel around WIB 11pm. Although quite lethargic by now, it was quickly gone when we saw the mediterranean-styled facade of the hotel and our lovely decorated rooms. We instantly felt cosy :)1001 Malam Hotel costs IDR 391.5K (RM 138) per room per night, which includes tax and it comes with breakfast

Our cosy room :)

We then head to our favourite Lesehan haunt – Citra Rasa at Jalan Malioboro – this was our third visit! We already knew the food there is good – so let's just go with a safe choice ;) We had nasi gudeg ayam, sup ayam, gurame bakar and nasi goreng istimewa. Nasi goreng istimewa tasted the best that night so we ordered a second helping! Then came Liza's favourite Pengamen – whom she requested her mandatory songs – by Keris Patih and Samsons. The Pengamen probably recognized us by now ;)

Nasi Goreng yg sedap!

Liza's fave Pengamen - nama dia Sutriso. Fave song: Demi Cinta by Keris Patih

His notebook :)

After a hearty meal and entertaiment by the street musicians, we head back to our hotel and hit the sack. Tomorrow would be another busy day!


Sunday, May 08, 2011

Gruff Rhys, MAP @ Publika, 6/5/2011

Warning: Sweetnest overloaded! Read if you can handle all the saccharine ;)

This was the cutest gig I've ever attended. Baffled? Read on..

Gruff Rhys (pronounced Grif Ris) was the sweetest ever ^_^

I've always liked Super Furry Animals' (SFA) quirky music, so when I heard that BFM's 33 RPM is bringing in SFA's frontman Gruff Rhys to Malaysia, I knew I had to go! Tix only costs RM63, it was dirt cheap for an international act! (despite an obscure one though).


Gruff Rhys poster

A trivia - see my blog profile picture of a pink lion? Well that's Gruff Rhys' Candylion. So you see, I've always had a soft spot for SFA / Gruff ;)

Well back to cute. Cute because when Gruff came on stage, he saw the room was packed with everybody standing. So he asked everyone to sit down, then asked if it was enough space for everyone to enjoy the showcase. Being me, I was right in front, at the 2nd row actually, and was just a few inches away from him ;)

Another aspect of cuteness is due to his playful remarks along the show ;)

Crowd waiting before show

It was an intimate acoustic show, the room was small, and Gruff was very interactive with us. He brought along all sorts of gadget, one could never imagine these could be used as musical instruments / rhythm section (as Gruff himself puts it) to accompany him! Well this role was played by Trevor the metronome (I only knew that this is a tool to help musicians keep in beat - thanks bro! - he told me that)

A metronome

Other gadgets include a turntable, an illuminated keyboard (which inspired the song Sensations In The Dark). Ah, I have to tell you this - during the introduction of Sensations In The Dark, he asked his producer - Dan to switch off the lights - when asking this, he also said that "This is a dangerous situation" - because it was pitch dark! He actually just wanted to demonstrate how the keys to his keyboards illuminate when he presses them lol!

His turntable

His illuminate in the dark keyboard

He also introduced us to his trusty acoustic guitar which he says he "plays it upside down" as a joke with his siblings. No name though. He also demonstrated that an extension of his guitar is just a stick on - he took off the part and revealed double sided tapes used to stick it. That extension was just "to make the guitar more aerodynamic" and give "more confidence" to perform for "a more enjoyable concert experience"!
Damn funny, we couldn't stop laughing at his banter!

Talking about his guitar

This is the extension part to make the guitar more "aerodynamic" lol!

More banter

He only brought along a producer - Dan, and he did the guitar tuning himself

Some other banter from him:

*During the encore, being someone who just loves music, he brought out some local records (piring hitam) from a plastic bag (we reckon he went shopping at Amcorp Mall's store which sells old records), and said "Let's try to play one". He randomly picked Rafeah Buang's Hati-Ku Kau Churi EP and asked "Do you know the lady?" We responded "Rafeah Buang"

Then he played it to us, then asked "What's the song about?" We said "It's about love!" He just smiled ;)

That Rafeah Buang record: Hati-Ku Kau Churi EP (1971)

During the introduction to one of the songs - forgot which one - "This is a tribute to Phil Collins. He is the first ever solo artiste to ever split up" LOL! Now how can one person split up? Only bands split!

During introduction for The Court of King Arthur - he said "This song is inspired by archaelogy"

He said "Terima Kasih" a few times. That brought a thunderous applause from us :D

Before the start of another song (again forgot which one), he taught us a few lines of the lyrics to it and asked us to "karaoke with it". And at the start of the song, please give a big round of applause like when Jimi Hendrix (I think he mentioned Jimi, if I'm not mistaken) was playing LOL!

He brought along placards as cue cards for us with words like:
"The End"

"The Terror of Cosmic Loneliness" (his collaborative album with Tony Da Gatorra)

Some of his placards

Effect pedals

Overall, he played 18 songs.

The setlist:
1. Singing A Song
2. Vitamin K
3. Sophie Softly
4. Shark Ridden Waters
5. Cryndod Yn Dy Lais
6. Cycle of Violence
7. If We Were Words, We Would Rhyme
8. Lonesome Words
9. Gyrru Gyrru Gyrru
10. The Court Of King Arthur
11. Sensations In The Dark
12. Conservation Conversation
13. Candylion
14. Rubble Rubble
15. Gwn Mi Wn

*Played Rafeah Buang's Hati-Ku Kau Churi
16. Shark Ridden Waters (this time he played the record, but added some live singing and playing on top of it)
17. In A HouseWith No Mirrors (You'll Never Get Old)
18. Singing A Song

His setlist

The End. See there Trevor the metronome in orange colour

Gruff Rhys solo showcase was opened by 2 local acts - BFM Zack Yusof's Free Deserters (not bad) and Couple.

More report on the gig here and here