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Mall rats in Yogjakarta

sunny 38 °C
View Summer 2010 : Deserved liberation on Bushra's travel map.

Mt Bromo – minibus to Probolingo – proper bus from Probolingo (hottest slowest bus ever) – Surabaya – flight to Yogjakarta.

After our mammoth road journeys and little sleep and Julian's jet lag, we decided to treat ourselves and stay a lovely old grand colonial hotel in Surabaya called Hotel Majapahit. Some say that it is Indonesian finest colonial hotel. http://www.hotel-majapahit.com/home
"Located in the heart of Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city and a fabled trading port since the 15th century, the Majapahit has gone by a variety of names over its long history.
1910: built as Oranje Hotel (named after Dutch Royal family) by Lucas Martin Sarkies of the famous Amernian family whose collection of grand hotels included the Raffles in Singapore, the Strand in Rangoon and Eastern and Oriental in Penang.
1936: Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard, attended the opening of a new addition to the front of the hotel. Beside forming the lobby, it also contained a cake and ice cream shop "Hoen Kwee", as well as another the Dutch stationery shop "Van Drop""

I figured, I would lie low, enjoy the hotel and relax before our 6am flight the next morning. Our room had a verandah which overlooked a peaceful courtyard of gardens and our room was opposite the hotel presidential suite. "The largest in the whole of Asia," chirped reception. It was currently occupied by the Swiss President – for a conference in town.

Surabaya itself was a bustling finance district. Not really a tourist spot but interesting all the same for its authenticity.

"Surabaya is believed to have been founded some time towards the end of the thirteenth century. The name is a combination of the words for "shark" and "crocodile", and comes from a legendary battle between the two to establish which was the strongest animal. Statues and depictions of the battle litter the city.

The founding of the city roughly coincides with the expulsion of Mongul-Chinese invaders and the rise of the Hindu Majapahit empire, which ruled the area for around 200 years. After the fall of Majapahit, Surabaya became a sultanate in its own right and spent the next 200 years fighting off the Islamic Mataram, Madura and the Dutch.

The city ultimately fell to Mataram early in the seventeenth century in one of the most bloody battles in Java's history. Mataram weakened over the next 100 years and was ultimately subsumed by the Dutch East Indies Company. The Dutch turned Surabaya into a major trading port and even then based most its navy there.

The city was captured by the Japanese during World War II. Indonesian nationalists forced out the Japanese in 1944. However, the Dutch and their western allies returned in 1945 and tried to re-exert their control over the city. It was the raising of the Dutch flag over what is now the Hotel Majapahit in 1945 that sparked off a series of events that led to the "Battle of Surabaya" and ultimately Indonesian independence on 17 August 1949. The battle itself was preceded by a series of what today would be called terrorist events that culminated in a car bombing that killed the British Brigadier General Mallaby at the Jembatan Merah, or Red Bridge as it's known in English. Today, the decidedly un-photogenic Red Bridge is a standard stop on tours of the city."

Meanwhile Julian decided to go for an evening walk around this busy provincial city. (Check the pics). He brought me back some streetfood – fried fish with chilli sauce wrapped in brown paper. It was absolutely delicious, I ate every part of it even the head and chewed all the bones (that's the Bangladeshi in me !). Julian had gone to The House of Sampoerna cigarette factory cafe as recommended by the Lonely Planet and had eaten a beef noodle dish. He said it wasn't great and the boiled egg with it really didn't taste right but he ate it all the same. We were both absolutely whacked and were asleep by midnight.

At around 2am, I was awakened by the sound of Julian vomiting violently in the bathroom. It was a long night. The alarm was set for 4.30am.

Luckily I was full of energy, so I bundled Julian into a cab and then had to physically drag him around the airport like a dead body as he seemed to have developed narcolepsy to get us through check in and to the gate - poor thing. Actually very very nearly missed the flight!

In Yogyakarta, we had decided to book a very very easy but souless hotel for 2nights – the 4 star Novotel. It's just what we needed. Julian was bedridden with tiredness and sickness. We have become lightweights with our old age. I sat with him for some of the time, but decided to get him some sustinance so ventured out.

Right next door was a shopping mall and a supermarket with lots of interesting items such as Nori Seaweed flavoured crisps and Wasabi Mayonnaise. It was very westernised with Wendy's burgers and a cafe similar to Starbucks. There was a huge arcade on the top floor, a variety of clothes shops on the other floors and a Matahari (department store). Everyone was so friendly.

I also found a spa and one of the customers waiting for her facial, helped translate the options.We also spoke about the World Cup – a popular topic of conversation. We laughed about the Octopus changing the fate of the teams (-:

I managed to while a way a few hours mall ratting before I headed back to look after my poor husband.

He was much better the next day.

We decided not to get a tour to Borobodor incase Julian puked all over the other tourists and instead got a cab there and back with waiting time (4hours) which was only $40.

Borobodur was spectacular. We had seen it second hand on so many 'Things to see before you die' type books and TV programs.

"This pyramid-like structure is built on and around a natural hill. Construction was started sometime around the beginning of the 8th century. In plan, it resembles a tantric mandala with six square terraces supporting three circular ones. Its been called a three dimensional rendering of the Buddhist conception of the cosmos. The square terraces are covered with carved relief's that can be read as an "instruction manual" for attaining enlightenment.

The lowest terrace depicted scenes of the distractions of everyday life. These supposedly carnal scenes were later covered by stone, although some believe this was just a move to shore up the structure when it started to subside. Higher platforms depict scenes from the Buddha's life in rich detail.

The upper round terraces support 72 stone latticework stupas housing Buddha images. The heads of most are sadly missing. From the top, you have a view of the nearby mountains as well as mount Merapi in the distance."

The atmosphere was unbelievable. Photos just don't do it justice at all.

The reliefs were so interesting and beautiful. They held such narrative some with sea creatures, others with angels, some with animals and a lot with trees and folliage.

After this, we decided to check out the other main sites around town – the Kraton : the sultan's palace in the center of Yogya. It's sort of a city within the city. At its center are the sultan's quarters, which are open to the public for guided tours. The bulk of the palace is actually a museum displaying portraits of the previous sultans, family trees and gifts from foreign dignitaries. We also went to see the Water Palace which was pretty cool. The only little downside was that it was so bloody hot. Us British always complain about the weather.

Back at the hotel and after a rest, we headed to the mall. Dr Fish (foot therapy) – an ancient medicinal treatment. I loved it from the first moment the little critters started to nibble our feet. For me it was a bit like sucking on a lemon which I love to do – absolutely overstimulatingly delicious and excrutiating at the same time. Likewise Julian was simultaneosly whimpering and laughing. We contemplated how many carnivorous seacreatures such as piranas it would take to tear off all your flesh.

Posted by Bushra 04:14 Archived in Indonesia Tagged round_the_world

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