“Who are you again? Where did we first meet?” asked my driver, Wazit, who seemed to have his senses knocked out of him. He has been asking me this question for the nth time after our motorbike accident in the highway midway to our destination – the slopes of Gunung Lawu for the Sukuh Temple. Suddenly my bruises on my left arms, waist and knees seems so minor. Do I continue with my trip to Gunung Lawu?
I really have no concrete plans on my 2nd full day in Solo. The night’s full rest with no alarm to wake me up made me feel rejuvenated. Originally, I was planning to stay in town but during breakfast, I was approached by a man named Wazit who offered his motorbike service to Sukuh and Cetho. He seemed okay and the price was reasonable. I was looking into going there as well so I agreed to tour with him later after lunch. But that morning I wanted to continue my walk and this time at the inner streets of the city towards one of the Kratons (Palace) in Solo – The Surakarta Kraton or Keraton Kasunanan.
I’ve seen the fascinating Batik patterns in many shops when I was wandering the streets of Solo Indonesia. An Indonesian Batik is a cloth traditionally made using a wax-resistant dyeing technique. It is believed the age old tradition of batik making was introduced in Java between 6th and 7th century from India and Sri Lanka. Batik are usually sold in meters (2-2.5m) like tubes or sarong, but these days wit has been widely popular for contemporary use like a polo shirt for formal occasions (akin to Filipino’s barong) or a kebaya, similar to what the female flight attendants of Garuda Airline wear. Interestingly, the Indonesian Batik was also awarded by UNESCO as one of the “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”, this makes it worthwhile to go deeper and inspect how these Indonesian Batik are made.
Walking has been the usual way for me to get oriented with a new place. It gives me a better perspective on a place and familiarize myself with the landmarks near the place where I am staying. It’s also a great way to take a glimpse of the local’s everyday life. Like for Solo (or Surakarta), this city unraveled its unique character by seeing it on foot along the paved pedestrian walk of Jl Slamet Riyadi. The low-rise buildings, the less touristy crowd, a sit-back and relax atmosphere, amiable people and great showing of Javanese culture. After setting down my baggage at Cakra Homestay, I went out for an afternoon walk along Solo’s main avenue.
Following the footsteps of my friends who came to Solo (Surakarta), Indonesia more than a year ago, I decided to stay at the same place they lodged there, Cakra Homestay which came well recommended. I took an ojek (a motorcycle taxi) from the train station to take me to Cakra Homestay. It wasn’t hard to find on a quiet block in the neighborhood When the doors opened, I admired the 200-year old home brimming with Indonesian style and architecture.
It was only my second time to Indonesia and I was really excited since I’ll be traveling independently. I was fortunate enough to travel to Indonesia a month before, prior to my trip. It was an on assignment to cover an event for a magazine in the North of Sulawesi Island. The trip was a great introduction to Indonesia and made me familiarize myself with the airports and transportation. But then again, traveling independently is a different thing, no guides to point the direction. I was traveling to Central Java this time. I’ll be flying from Jakarta to Yogyakarta then a Prameks to Solo. A trip which I would consider as my first venture to Indonesia.
The great glory of travel, to me, is not just what I see that’s new to me in countries visited, but that in almost every one of them I change from an outsider looking in to an insider looking out.
The gentle early morning chill accompanied us as we climbed the ancient stairs of this 8th century monument. Flash lights beam on our path as we made our way on the top of the largest single Buddhist monument in the world, the Borobudur. Like the other great monuments in Southeast Asia like Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Luang Prabang in Laos or Bagan in Myanmar, Borobudur has also been one of my dream destinations. And here I am standing on its upper levels, marvelling at Borobudur under the dawn sky, waiting for the light to reveal your magnificence.
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