I’ve been here once, in 2012. During that time, the places we went to were the most common ones, like Borobudur and Prambanan Temples and Malioboro Street. We also went to the Zero Kilometer Point of the city, which is near the Malioboro Street. I didn’t stay at five-star hotels, but I remember all my accommodations felt like palaces meant for kings.
Today is my second time to step on this ground. It’s 29th July, 2016. The sun shines over a bustling and busy city. I see many changes have occurred since last I was here. Now, I see taller buildings standing high. The streets are more crowded with faces of varying colors and degrees of beauty.
The city seems to be teeming now with more modern and taller buildings, but what I am excited about is meeting people here again. I couldn’t forget the warmth and cheerfulness of everyone I met from my last visit.
My hopes and dreams have been answered. I’m back again as I’ve always wanted.
It is not hard to make friends here. Everyone seems kind, respectful, and helpful. Not to mention learned. Jogjakarta is known as the ‘Students’ City’ or ‘Cultural City’. It may not be incorrect too if I call it the ‘Knowledge City’ or Kota Ilmu. Everyone seems to be fully aware of their own history and their ancestors’ contributions to Indonesia’s nationhood.
Some history and politics
Jogjakarta is a special region in Indonesia. It has His Highness the Sultan sitting as the city governor. This political organization is similar to those of sultanates in Malaysia where Sultans still rule their own states as heads of state, although in Malaysia they don’t function as heads of government.
With the Sultan as its head of state, Jogjakarta is the only region in Indonesia that is still governed by a pre-colonial monarchy. This same monarchy has existed for hundreds of years and survived through Dutch and Japanese invasion.
Jogjakarta is just like other sultanates in the ‘Malay World’ like the Patani, Sulu and Maguindanao. But unlike the three, it didn’t bite the political hooks of colonialists. Maguindanao and Sulu continue to exist until now, but only as faint shadows of their glorious pasts.
Note to self: When I go home, it will be a good point for me to study how the city held up against the colonial Dutch until Indonesia’s de facto independence in 17th August 1945, exactly seventy-one years ago on Malaysia’s Independence month--the same month of my birth and my visit.
Art and culture
Batik is the art of decorating cloth and creating beautiful, intricate patterns using wax and dye. If you go around Jogjakarta, you will find lots of stores selling beautiful batik fabric, dresses, bags, and others.
People here must be very proud of their batik designs. They all look very beautiful. I’ve seen lots of Batik in other places as well, but here they’re bolder and more colorful.
Millions of batik designs are exhibited in the Batik Danar Hadi and Batik Omah Laweyan at Solo or Surakarta. In Jogjakarta, you can see them everywhere including the Ullen Sentalu Museum, a culture and art museum located on top of a hill, and about thirty minutes from the city.
A bunch of local women selling the Salak Madu or the honeyed snake fruit approached us. Salak Madu looks scaly like a snake on the outside, but the inside is very sweet, maybe sweeter than honey. It’s everyone’s favorite fruit in Jogjakarta. Everywhere in the city or even in the countryside you can find people selling or eating Salak Madu. People also sell them along the art streets near the gate to the Buddhist Borobudur Temple, one of the World Heritage Sites in Indonesia together with the Hindu Prambanan Temple.
Nevertheless, I had my time touring around Prambanan Temple in 2012, wondering how it was greatly designed, how it comes in precise measurements. How it was built with such advanced level of engineering that even until now, scientists and archaeologists are still baffled by it.
Sugeng Rawuh was the phrase that welcomed us upon our arrival at Jogjakarta’s city airport. It means ‘welcome’ in Javanese and ‘selamat datang’ in Malay, or in English, ‘You’ve safely arrived’.
At the museum earlier, we found one of the letters of the Sultan addressed to the people. A word struck me there. ‘Dumateng’. While reading the letter, Pak Wido told me what it means in Malay--to or toward. The root word of ‘dumateng’ must have come from the word ‘datang’ which means ‘arrive’ and ‘reach’. It is also similar to the Suluk word ‘dumatung’, which also means ‘to arrive or to reach’.
It’s not surprising to me that the city of Jogjakarta is an integral center of the ‘Wonderful Indonesia’ program. It is the perfect representation of an authentic Malay world. Thus we’re fortunate that despite the difficulty of having to wake up early and jump from one airport terminal to another (a total of five all in all including Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Jogjakarta), we still arrived here.
In a way, I see some connection between Ayodha and the word ‘ayura’, which in Bahasa Suluk means ‘to take care’. In Spanish, there's a word called ‘ayuda’ which means ‘help’. Thus, Jogjakarta flourished when the leaders and people help one another in taking care of the city.
There's many more to talk about. But I can’t just simply capture Jogjakarta in one poem or article. It’s not enough for me to capture all the beauty and wisdom I’ve learned here. I can only thank the good people who invited me to this Familiarization Trip and for letting me truly experience Wonderful Indonesia.
In my next article, I write about Solo, Mount Merapi and the Sisa Hartaku Museum. But before you read that, let me first thank the Indonesian Tourism Ministry, Pak Ruben, Mas Bondan, and the team of event organizers, Mbak Vian, Mas Eka, Pak Wisnu, and Mas Fitri, the team from Indonesia Consulate General, Kota Kinabalu, Pak Wido, Ibu Wulan and Pak Daru. Without them, this whole experience would not have been immensely enjoyable.
I love you, peace. Let's sail together. Layag Sug!
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