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Indonesia: Yogyakarta

The Sultan's Palace
The entrance to the Sultan's Palace

Yogyakarta is a famous tourist centre for a number of reasons, but the most impressive – after batik, for which the city is very well known, but which has been exported enough not to be uniquely Yogyakartan any more – are the temples and buildings in the surrounding area. I spent a whole day exploring the Sultan's Palace, watching some Javanese dancing and examining the batik shops, but this was just a stepping-stone on the way to the two serious sights of the area: Borobudur and Prambanan.

Cycling in Yogyakarta

The other 'cultural' event that we managed to experience in Yogyakarta – putting aside our junk-food visits – was a bicycle trip round the local villages and farms. For a tourist tour it was pretty damn good; Tim, Bjorn, myself, and our local guide headed off on the most astoundingly painful bicycles for a bone-rattling and arse-bruising trip into the paddy fields, and I have to say I learned a lot. Try the following, none of which I knew before cycling round Yogya. I mean, I didn't even know how rice grew until I took this tour...

Batik being made
Batik being made in the backstreets

It wasn't a bad haul for a day's cycling. We also invaded a school and thrilled a classroom of children with our strange ways – which wasn't scheduled: Tim and Bjorn just rode into the school and wandered into a classroom – and we saw peanut farms, corn fields, sugar cane, soya bean plants, teak trees, banana trees... and plenty of other weird and wonderful parts of the Indonesian countryside that you wouldn't spot from a speeding bus.

Fort Vredeburg

Fort Vredeburg
The tidy barracks of Fort Vredeburg

The other venue of note in Yogyakarta is Fort Vredeburg in the middle of town. This Dutch colonial fort is pleasant enough for its classic architecture, but more interesting are the three rooms of dioramas depicting the history of the independence movement (a diorama, I discovered, is the name given to a model of an event in time, such as the signing of an important document, or the invasion of a building).

1 Our relationship is probably best summed up by the fact that Tim and Bjorn said they'd buy me two large beers each if I shaved off my beard, so I did. Fickle, vacuous and college-boy stoopid it might have been, but I thoroughly enjoyed getting heartily drunk on my last night in Bali, at someone else's expense. It seems that if I run out of money, I can always count on my facial hair to bail me out...

2 My computer had died, and Acorn were kindly sending me a replacement, but it turned out that they couldn't send it to the Post Restante in Yogyakarta as the parcel company refused to send it to anywhere that didn't have a phone number. I would have to wait until Singapore to receive the replacement, which was hard to handle for such a technology addict.