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March 17, 2010 - Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia

Written by GingerBlossom Published in

Yesterday was a national holiday, so I joined the throngs out holiday-making, and hit three of the major sights around Yogya, the Buddhist site of Borobudur, a smoking volcano, and a large 1000 year old Hindu temple to Shiva. Borobudur had a cross sliced picture of humanity that I wished I'd gotten a photo of. It was a gaggle of young head-scarfed girls who wanted their picture taken with a Thai Buddhist monk, photo snapped by a French couple. I ended up in about 4 pictures, people wanted their picture with a foreigner, and turn-about was fair play, one young mom wanted a picture with me and her two boys, I wanted a picture of her, kids, and the gorgeous batik dress she had on. A lot of batik in Yogya is the stamped stuff, you don't see much of the real thing.

At the Hindu temple, there was some kind of dance going on, dancers riding straw horses while sword fighting, with the "dead" bodies on the ground around them. When I sidled in with the other spectators, I stepped on a bottle cap, and gave a little squeak, I thought it was someone's foot. The teen-aged girl next to me grabs my arm, I can see she's got mischief in her eyes, she was probably thinking, "Oh boy, a live one, here's a screamer". I didn't know until moments later that the "dead" become un-dead and spring up and go after the crowd, then sort of convulse and go back to being dead. Some of it maybe wasn't play acting, the convulsions looked too real, it was horrible-wonderful to watch. I asked someone later about the dance, they just laughed and said that it was Yogya's special dance.

Borobudur is supposedly notorious for pick-pockets, but what's weird is on the way out, there's a sign that says "Please check your currency", which, as you pat your wallet pocket, or zip your purse, would give any would-be thief a treasure map marked "X" where the loot's kept.

Yogya is the self-proclaimed cultural center of Indonesia, with the purist form of Indonesian spoken, and a working Sultan in the palace. The people here credit him with the fast relief effort after the earthquake of 2006, within 6 months time the ruined buildings were replaced, no mean feat considering that 80% of Bantul was leveled. The Yogya people are also considered the most soft-spoken and polite people of the country. I will attest that the "becak" or rickshaw peddlers are relatively low-key, and I've only met one batik-hard sell.. One of the most endearing traits here is the way they say yes, which is "ya". But they draw it out, so the "aaah yaaaarh" sounds like a polite pirate's "aarrrggghh".