The Javanese Gamelan (Jogja Kraton)

More than a week since the trip ended and only now am I able to do a post on it. 3000+ worth of pictures taken. A great camaraderie forged.

4 days of almost continuous photography with a group of shutterbugs from Alphadslr, from the moment we stepped on the tarmac of the airport at Yogyakarta until our return to Changi Airport. It was a very fruitful trip and went so smoothly that there are already talks of doing another one at a different location. Amazing how people with different personalities can gel so well simply because of a common share of interest.

Basically, Kok Mun handled transportation, Tak Wai the hotel at Borobudur and myself the one in town. Every single destination in our original itinerary was met and even a model shoot at the last minute was organised by our driver, Jodi, on our final day in Yogyakarta. We practically did almost all aspects of photography to say the least. I went equipped with only my Sony kit lens and old Minolta lenses, while the rest were armed with thousands of dollars worth of Carl Zeiss lenses.

Upon arrival in Yogyakarta, we stopped by the famous Ayam Goreng Suharti restaurant for lunch before proceeding to Mendut and subsequently, Manohara Resort Hotel, which was supposed to be the base for our exploration of Borobudur. Top-tier accommodation it’s not but at least we didn’t need to travel far, or so we thought. It turned out our sunrise shoot of Borobudur the next morning was to be from an isolated hilltop location, which we had to wake up early around 4 am for and pillion-ride a group of motorcycle gang through the dark village roads. The unexpected surprise came when we got off at the base of the hill and were told to climb Telomoyo Hill. The whole thing reminded me of the dreaded dawn attack during my military days. With the aid of only 2 torchlights, we made our way up through the dark forested areas. The groans and pantings heard throughout the climb was suffice to indicate that we were ill-prepared. But all that disappeared when we saw the ray of sunlight peeking from behind a cluster of mountains and the ghostly mist engulfing the land below them, with the top of Borobudur appearing and disappearing from time to time. Totally surreal.

Following our descent a few hours later, we headed back to our hotel. Safety didn’t seem to be an issue with a few as we kept shooting the local folks even from the back of the motorcycles.

Borobudur is just a sight to behold. I do appreciate great architecture, irregardless of their originally intended purpose. Walking around the various levels of the UNESCO World Heritage site, every single detail from the carved reliefs on the weathered walls to the numerous stupas at the top were laden with symbolic meanings. On a lighter note, 1 particular stupa had various people climbing it, in all sort of weird positions,  trying to touch the right ring finger of a sitting Buddha for good luck. All thanks goes out to Sir Stamford Raffles for bothering to have this magnificent structure excavated from its volcanic ash grave.

Upon checking out of Manohara Resort Hotel, we headed to Hotel Novotel Yogyakarta, our base for the following 3 days.

On our third day, we woke up early at 3 am and travelled for about one and a half hours to Kali Adem, a mountainous region where we were to shoot our second sunrise from. Within less than an hour upon our arrival, the dark blue starry sky was broken by the first ray of sunlight and revealed before our eyes, the most active volcano in Indonesia, Merapi, with smoke still bellowing out from the top. Words can’t describe the feeling of being in close proximity to such might. We also walked past a ‘river bed’ where molten rock and lava flowed when Merapi last erupted in 2006.

From Kali Adem, we went to Kali Urang, a picturesque area where natural spring water flowed through. With the towering trees around us, I couldn’t help but recall the old ‘Salem High Country’ television advertisements. So similar yet I didn’t have to travel to some faraway country to experience it.

Our packed third day itinerary continued onwards to Prambanan. But not before stopping by a paddy field in Selorejo, where a group of women were busy working on it. Totally unplanned for yet I really love the shots we got at this particular location, especially of 1 old woman who was the most boisterous of the lot and full of character. A few of us later chipped in a couple of Rupiahs for wasting their time being impromptu models for us.

Prambanan has a few temples standing with quite a few still being re-built following the earthquake 3 years ago that toppled them. The place was crowded and I didn’t get many good shots there. However, while exploring the Sewu temples alone, I had a chance encounter with a staff who was helping with the restoration effort and given a personal tour of restricted areas being repaired and also briefed on the building fundamentals of the temples. The crumbled temple pieces strewn all over the area basically resembled loose pieces of a big jigsaw puzzle.

Our next destination was Ratu Boko. An interesting place that deserved more exploration time given our tight schedule. The sunset in front of the place was obviously the star attraction judging by the number of photographers who had already picked their spots by the time we arrived. Not exactly the best sunset I’ve seen compared to other locations in Yogyakarta, but the surrounding structures around the place made for interesting silhouettes.

And when one is in Yogyakarta, watching the Ramayana Ballet is a must. It’s a 4-part art performance that’s beautifully choreographed containing rather touching stories based on the legend of Ramayana. Depending on when one visits, a different story might be told. So after dinner at an adjoining restaurant, we ended our third night in Yogyakarta watching it. Hardly any word was uttered by the characters yet through the make-up and movements, the story unfolded itself and became easily comprehended.

We finally didn’t have to wake up so early on our last day in Yogyakarta. After breakfast, we headed to Imogiri, a cemetery ground for the Javanese royalty. 345 steps up were enough to sap the energy out of us, especially when guided by an elderly man who insisted that we followed diligently behind him through the various parts of the compound. I could barely understand what he said, let alone the rest. The need to change and dress in traditional Javanese garbs was the main reason why we didn’t go into the 3 prominent graves of past rulers. I did catch sight of a few members of the royal family who were gathering inside a restricted area while we there though.

We then returned to our hotel before proceeding for lunch at Iga Bakar, that serves kick ass ribs. Forget about Tony Roma’s, this one is streets ahead better. The following stops were Taman Sari and Parangtritis. The former used to be the Sultan’s water palace, that was unfortunately undergoing renovation to the pool area when we arrived. Parangtritis, on the other hand, is one long beach area with powdery dark brown sand and very strong waves. Definitely not a place for swimming unless one wants to come back in a body bag. Seriously.

Actually, I don’t know why I bother posting this since words don’t do justice to Yogyakarta’s beauty. The hundreds of pictures posted in my Flickr and Facebook accounts are what I will return to whenever I miss Yogyakarta. It’s simply a place every person with Javanese ancestory need to visit to appreciate. I know for sure I need to return someday, for 4 full days are just not enough to cover the region, even if one wakes up to explore before dawn and return close to midnight.

The people are polite and friendly. The food aplenty to tempt one’s tastebud. And yes. We did eat the famous Gudeg.


~ by blackcadillac73 on August 11, 2009.

4 Responses to “The Javanese Gamelan (Jogja Kraton)”

  1. thanks for visiting my country 🙂

  2. Simply beautiful … you’re so lucky.

  3. i wanna a pic on gamelan set .
    does gamelan origins from indonesia ?

  4. Nothing that you can’t Google … created during the Majapahit Empire … so should be Indonesian.

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