Day 51, Pt.1: My First Motorcycle Ride

Trip Start May 20, 2008
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37
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Trip End Aug 19, 2008


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Flag of Indonesia  , Java,
Saturday, July 12, 2008

3am Friday morning, my "Argo Elis, Eksekutif Klas" (or something like that) train pulled into the Yogyakarta train station. I woke up to find that my glasses had somehow lost a screw in the middle of the night, setting one of the lenses loose. Not to worry, I found the lenses, and deployed the contacts immediately. The two Spaniards and I set off into the adjacent budget guest house enclave and fended off an army of touts (they're not as annoying here as in Nepal) claiming everything was full. Unfortunately, our mutual suspicions that they were lying to lure us into their Whitehall guest houses were wrong, everything actually was full. We hunted down the LP editor's choice guest house (by far the nicest one in the area) and chilled in their lobby until sunrise. The wonderful owner let the guy's mother nap on the couch while giving us an unlimited supply of tea and coffee. I usually stick to tea, but the sleepless circumstances called for something with extra punch. Also, it seemed inappropriate to drink anything other than local coffee while traveling through the one and only Java, international capital of amazing coffee.

Victor, the 18yr guy, stayed up and accompanied me out on several room hunts around the neighborhood but we had no luck. There was one beacon of false hope, a woman beckoned us into her home, but for "late night services" not a bed, so that was a no-go. When the hour turned reasonable, I called the editor's choice hotel in the other guest house district 20min walk away and victoriously snagged a room. The Spaniards opted to wait and see if our current base camp freed up a spot. The owner offered to give me a lift there for a measly 50 cents, so I naturally accepted. Then I saw what he intended to give me a lift on... his motorcycle! I had never ridden one before, let alone huddled up on the seat's back half with a heavy rucksack wrecking havoc with my balance. The following ten minutes alternated between really, really cool and absolutely terrifying. When he went straight, I was in heaven, but anytime a turn or brake came on I feared the worst. We arrived at the "Duta Homestay" without incident and I thanked the friendly man for his help and the motorcycle experience. It turned out though that my reservation was at the Duta's sister hotel "Delta" on the next street. They were sending a bike over to give me a lift immediately. Motorcycle Ride #2 ensued, followed by my check-in at what looked like a 3 star mini-resort. It had a pool, exercise machines, several lounge rooms, a restaurant, etc etc... all of which were good quality, and all for the wonderful price of $7 a night. It might be the single best deal on a hotel I've ever gotten.

I set down my luggage, and after cleaning myself up set out to explore the city. The Kraton (Sultan's palace) was the first stop, a tranquil if unspectacular little setting in the central old town, and host to many cultural events. No events would be taking place during my time here, dangit. It was a peaceful place to spend an hour or two however, and a good introduction to Yogyakarta's general relaxed vibe. I also made an Instant-Friend(tm) here who after volunteering his guide services onto me, despite my repeated "just to warn you, I've got no money" warnings, showed me the local commission paying artist workshop. There was some good stuff there, and for good prices, but it wasn't souvenir time yet. The Instant Friend's here are more sophisticated than those in Nepal. They'll introduce themselves with "No don't worry, I don't need money" and will proceed to spend so much time with you, and volunteer so much genuinely helpful assistance that you'd be an arse not to tip them by the time they're through. I gave him a dime's worth of rupiah as a token of appreciation and nothing more. By this point I was getting a good feel for the friendliness of Indonesians in general. They're (at least most of the ones I've met) are also a very soft-spoken people, many times I'll have trouble understanding what they're saying not just because of the accent, but also because they're simply not talking loud enough.

Got to catch a train to the next city, so I'm going to cut off here and finish up the Yogya writing next time. Overall impression of it though was that it's a delightful, *unpretentious* (very important asset) lil city that had easy access to two of the most magical monuments I have ever seen, not that I've seen many. Overall it's one of the highlights since May 22nd, if not the highlight.

To be continued...
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Comments

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