After a breakfast of eggs, toast, and jam at the open-air dining area, we set out to the Kraton at around 9:30 with Hanya aboard the Avanza. I read at Lonely Planet about the scam involving two separate entrances of the Kraton due to a schism within the royal family with the lower-priced entrance only allowing access to a small section of the Kraton; I never did find out if it was still in place as we were dropped of at the main entrance (I was looking for a big clock which LP cited as marking the real main entrance) which charged Rp 15,000 which convinced me that it was the right entrance.
A gracious middle-aged lady in a sarong accompanied us around the kraton grounds explaining the uses of the different pavilions and structures in the spacious and leafy compound. She was a little funny as she would sometimes crack jokes. Pointing to a picture of newly-married couple she said that they were seated on chairs as the groom, the young prince, couldn’t carry his commoner wife as tradition dictates as she was too fat. Indeed, the woman was huge! The guide further explained that if the marriage is between people both belonging to royalty, then the bride and groom walked with hands together.
A lot of the structures had European finishings such as Italian marble and Belgian stained-glass windows. A large pavilion also housed gifts given by foreign dignitaries to the sultan.
We settled at the large pavilion housing the gamelan to listen to a performance. The musicians were all very nice and didn’t mind me taking pictures. The woman at the large gong was particularly very accommodating, even allowing me to take a picture of her score. It looked just like the scores we were using when we were studying the gamelan at UP.
Our next stop was at the royal swimming pools named Taman Sari. It was just close to the Kraton but it was located along a maze of narrow streets. Getting off the van, we were accosted by rows of souvenir stalls and men offering us to bring us to batik workshops which we politely declined.
I’m sure during its heyday the pools were really nice and clean. Today they’re a little on the grotty side and the crowds detracted from the otherwise serene atmosphere it was supposed to have. Plus there was the guy who kept offering us a batik workshop and when I said “tidak” he offered a wayang kulit workshop.
Exiting the Tamn Sari requires that you pas through a seemingly endless maze of streets lined with batik and wayang kulit shops. I dropped by one of the puppet shops which had two guys concentratedly working on some puppets out front. The small store had both wayang kulit and wayang golek with the really good ones with fine craftsmanship running up to almost a million rupiah! I settled for two wayang golek which I got for Rp 700 for both. The shopkeeper who was also one of the two making the wayang kulit outside then told me he would show me a masterpiece of wayang kulit. He took a puppet from a glass case and told me to stand and look at the door. He stood at the open door way and what he held up to the light was a puppet so finely made that light shone through hundreds of tiny holds punctured on the puppet’s body. It seemed to shimmer in the light. It was so finely and delicately made. He said it was a masterpiece of his brother who is a winner in wayang kulit making competitions. The cost of that masterpice? 2 million rupiah!
Wayang golek all preciously wrapped-up, we turned the corner and found ourselves back in front of the Taman Sari where good ol’ Hanya was waiting for us.
Next stop was lunch before the long ride to Borobodur.