Day 51, Pt.2: Mister Chah'Ching

Trip Start May 20, 2008
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38
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Trip End Aug 19, 2008


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

Picking up where I left off last time... After a relaxing stroll through the Kraton, I began some aimless wandering around the old town. A voice rang out:

"Hello! I must talk to you because you have white skin."

Turns out he was an innocent English teacher looking for someone to practice with and sat me down under a banyan tree to chat. He makes most of his money by touring the US demonstrating and selling his batik paintings (traditional Javanese cloth & wax artwork), and returns to Indonesia once a year to make even more money teaching his newly sharpened English. The language barrier here is one of the worser ones I've stumbled in to, hardly anyone, even in the bigger cities, can speak a word of English and none of the signs have English subtitles. Indonesian has been a fairly easy language to pick up on however and I'm chugging along just fine with a scatter-shot knowledge of it plus good charade skills. The teacher/artist walked be around town for a bit and showed me this one particularly glorious food stall, serving up fried chicken and peanut-mush-stuff. The pricing was normal, so I knew he wasn't just taking commission. His name was "Cha-ching" btw. I also had my first taste of Jogja Sultan Tea here, though it was far too sweet for my tastes, twas basically honey colored sugar water. Oh well, this is coffee country after all, shouldn't have expected much out of their anti-coffee. Following lunch and many giggles due to Cha-Ching's magical sense of humor (if that's even his real name), I paid a visit to his batik shop, snagged what was clearly the biggest and best one for the reasonable price of twentyish credit card bucks - I'm sure the possibility of making a sale was half Cha-Ching's motivation for befriending me - and parted ways with him. Contact info was also exchanged.

With much of the day still free, I was able to jump ahead of my sightseeing schedule and pay Prambanan Temple a sunset visit. Prambanan is a crumbling but majestic ancient Hindu ruin comprised of several cathedralish spires clustered around each other just off the local highway. Three of the towers had scaffolding around them, partially but not completely ruining the magic. It was still one of the most beautiful sights of the trip thusfar. There are no words to describe the sunsets around here... the tropical location combined with Java's thick smog turns the sun into this gigantic blood-red orb worthy of much poetry. I spent about a half hour snapping pictures of the temples and watching the local population of random raindeers nibble on garbage, and set off on a "TransJogja" bus back to the hotel. The Transonic system is much like the Metro Rapid in LA, sleek modern buses with gizmos that keep green lights from turning red and stopping only at the most major intersections. The bus stops are these little elevated air conditioned pods (read: oases) built on the sidewalk. On the bus, two local college guys started talking with me. One was named Assif, the other called himself Ryan. "Spelled R-y-a-n?" "Yes" "(snicker)" They were from the Aceh Region of Northern Sumatra, a volatile devout Muslim province that's been fighting for independence for the better part of a decade. I asked them if they'd ever traveled outside Indonesia, and while Assif hadn't, Ryan mentioned having spent time studying for a bit in a Saudi Arabian religious institution. My racist bigot half was alarmed by this, but our chatting continued without incident. They asked me where I'd traveled, and I listed off the places one by one including "Israel-ahem-PALESTINE" Sorry fellow Jews for being a minor traitor, but Indonesia has an on & off Al Qaeda problem and I didn't want to cause unnecessary risky offense. That said, nobody here, not even Ryan, seems to know what a Jew is. I've gotten confused blank stares whenever responding to a "what's your religion?" inquiry.

I returned back to the hotel around 8pm and stopped for dinner at the adjacent Via Via Cafe. Just my luck, Fridays were Jazz Night. Awesome. I sat for a while listening to the performance and nibbling on some coconut fried chicken, then disembarked for the Internet cafe where I killed the rest of the night. Nightlife in Yogyakarta ("Jogja") isn't terribly wild, so I didn't miss much.
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