Thursday, May 22, 2008

Java Jive '08 Part 9: The Bird, The Pool and the Centre of The Universe

Our final day in Jogjakarta saw us on a city tour which took us to three main tourist spot: The Bird Market, The Water Castle and lastly the Sultan's Palace.

First up was Ngasem, the famous Bird Market. Yes, they sell birds here. All kinds of birds. Actually, in hindsight, I wondered if it was such a good idea to visit a bird market in a country with the highest incident of human bird-flu infection.

The front part of market was also a proper produce market where vegetables, fruits and meat were sold.

There were many types of grains, like rice, corn, wheat and barley, in various colours and grain size. Some were for human consumption, while others were for the birds.

A lot of the stalls at the market were tended to by the womenfolk, most of them rather elderly. The whole scene reminded me of the market in Kota Bahru. Very colourful and very matriachal.

Then, we saw the birds. Live cockatoos, doves, even chickens and ducks can be found here.

These are fighting cocks, all caged up and separated from each other, lest they start killing each other with no one to profit from their duel to the death!

Actually, we found out that the market also doubled as a pet store where one could buy any domesticated (and not so domesticated) animal one wishes, from Persian cats to poisonous cobras.

Awwww....sooo cuuuuttteeee!!!! I was so tempted to buy this bunny rabbit till I remembered we couldn't bring live animals on board the plane. Sigh...

A couple of hundred metres behind the market, nestled amongst the village houses lies the ruins of what was once the royal swimming pool also known as Tamansari.

But first, in order to reach the pool, we had to make our way through a series of underground tunnels.

I was definitely not complaining as it was getting quite hot outside and the sheltered concrete tunnels made for a very cool passage.

As we got back out onto ground level, this huge wall filled with the typical Indonesian style carvings greeted us. It's the front gate to the pool compound.

Also known as the Water Castle, back in the 17th century Tamansari was a recreation garden or a resting house for the Sultan and his erm.. entourage (if you get what I mean. Wink wink.)

Every day, the ladies would go for a swim in the pool, frolicking and generally trying to look graceful and sexy, while the Sultan would peer out from the viewing deck above the pool and decide who shall be keeping him company for that day.

Speaking of Sultans, it was time to visit the palace of the reigning Sultan of Yogyakarta or Kraton which means the royal abode.

Located almost exactly at the centre of the island of Java east to west, the palace is defined as the centre of the world or universe as the Javanese knew it.

We were given a short guided tour into a part of the palace grounds which comprised of a series of pavilions which housed the orchestral instruments, library, and also the meeting hall.

When we arrived, a religious recital was taking place, and this lady was performing the blessings for the Sultan on the occasion of his youngest daughter's impending wedding.

Outside, I chanced upon this funny contraption hanging precariously in one of the gazebos. I am not quite sure what it was, whether it was a very elaborate silk-making machine or a contraption that perhaps Samantha Jones would find useful. ;)

At another corner, the palace officials were having a meeting to discuss a very important business at hand - what to have for lunch later. Bakso or bakmie?

Our final stop on the tour was a visit to the school building where the royals were educated by teachers specially brought in from Holland and England. In one of the rooms hung the 'family tree's of every Sultan that ever reigned the land. The leaves symbolised how many offsprings that particular Sultan had in his lifetime.

Needless to say, this one had a rather quiet household. ;)

Up next: sing along with me ... Begawan... Solo.....

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