Southeast Asia Tour Diary 3: Jogjakarta – Roadside still life
Wednesday: Traveled to Jogjakarta by travel van, basically a van used for the long haul between Blitar and Jogjakarta . We left Blitar at 9.30ish, but before that we had to say good bye to Lestari, Pepenk, Stella and the rest of the family. It has been a remarkable few days and we are sad to leave but also aware of the privilege of being able to spend this condensed and special period of time here. We woke earlier than usual, to the sounds of the house coming alive, mothers up first, the rooster crows and the the waking sounds of Stella stirring in the room next door.
A final check to make sure everything is packed away correctly, then breakfast – tempeh, rice and sate. The mood is quiet, reflective, and the usual sense of impending departure. And in a flurry it happens, the plan is to transport us across town on scooter to the Travel Van depot. The ride takes about 20 minutes in the early Blitar traffic, once again being propelled and transported as in a school of fish, ducking and weaving into any space available. Pepenk then makes a second trip to deliver our gear. And then it is good bye for real. Its been a remarkable few days and leaving is hard, but we go. Into the van, last goodbyes and off.
We expect to arrive on Jogjakarta around 5.30. The journey is mostly uneventful, the constantly interesting view from the seat makes it hard to sleep. At one point the van is waved over by a large contingent of police on what appears to be a random license inspection of larger transport vehicles. I suddenly became aware of the intimidation of such an exercise, and what would we do if the police found a problem, or made a problem if an instant fine was not paid, as this was a scenario we heard of happening often. Fortunately the driver leaps back in with a sense of satisfaction at getting out of there so quickly. Then we’re back on the road. It’s interesting on this journey to spot the many sites of industry where all those goods that are expensive and ‘exotic’ back home come from. Producing carvings, sculptures, furniture, wooden frames for homes, plaster decorations and much more, all created in very rudimentary and rugged conditions.
Arrival in Jogjakarta is later than planned. We receive a text from Menus, our organiser, he’s already waiting at the station but we still have a hour to go. The show starts 7.30 and it starts to feel like we’re going to cut it fine. We also don’t know what happens after the show now the Bandung show has been cancelled, we have a few options available but need to discuss at the station. We had originally planned to play in Jogja then catch the overnight train, so no accommodation has been planned.
We pull into the station just after 7, much later than planned, and we are told we are playing at 7.30! Planning will have to wait. We are greeted by Menus and friends. A swift and slightly hairy ride, clinging to our gear on the back of a scooter through the busy Jogja traffic to to the venue . We arrive at the show and we’re on next! Rapid change, set up and the one of the organiser asks for only three songs, or twenty minutes, seems crazy to travel such a big distance for this short performance, but we play well. The show is part of a three day festival for indie music in Jogja, in all the rush we have no chance to find out much more about what the festival is about.
It is perhaps one of the most amazing stages I have played on, built at the feet of a massive tree with a thick and expanding root system, several metres wide, with a lighting rig playing with the chaotic shadows within the entangled trunk.
We did get to see the last two acts of the evening, post-rock seems popular, with long mostly instrumental songs. The last band make reference to the golden era of Indonesia augogo music of the 60’s and finish their set by playing a song Dara Puspita, a fantastic Indonesian band from the 60’s. Great!
After we play we finally get an opportunity to make our plans. One of the guys, Ryllian, says we can stay at his house for the night, and will hang out with us the following day. We plan to get the overnight train to Bekasi tomorrow. Once the plan is sorted we leave the university on search of food! We’re recommended and get gudeg, a sweet dish made with jackfruit, a sweet curry in coconut gravy. We’re told Jogja is famous for it sweet recipes, whereas the east cuisine is more spicy.
A brilliant sleep then slow start to the day, in fact it feels like a day off and we make plans to make plans to visit the Cemeti art gallery when the work of Mella Jaarsma is displayed. We were introduced to her work while on KL, she designs elaborate wearable sculptural items of incredible detail and concept. We hoped to meet her but she was away on holiday. After Cemeti we went the ArtJog11 exhibition on the main central art gallery, an incredible collection of contemporary Jogja art. We were aware that we missed a lot of the contextual details, a lot of the work seemed specifically exploring issues relating to modern Indonesia life from political, religious, and consumerist perspectives. That aside, it was still a fantastic show.
We obtained our tickets for the midnight train, returned to Ryllians house to prepare for departure. Off for more food then coffee house then to the train station to leave.
Our extended time in Jogja was a very pleasant. Initially disappointed that the show in Bandung never happened but that sentiment soon faded as our Jogja hosts were very keen to chat and tell stories. A great networking opportunity and some possible seed-planting for next time.
Ryllian wrote a review of the show. You need to be able to read Indonesian, or use an online translate service.