Yogyakarta or Jogja for short. The mention of it always pops up images of spectacular temple ruins and the fascinating Mount Merapi volcano for me, so when an opportunity arose to check out the two-day Malioboro Festival loaded with food, art and performances …what else?! I literally jumped at the chance!
Booking my flight was really easy too at AirAsia’s website. Did my check-in after, printed my boarding pass and when the day came I took my own sweet time to the airport. No more check-in hassles at the counter! It was just a drop-off for my check-in baggage and went straight to board the plane.
And yes, I got a Hot Seat. With extra legroom to boot! An announcement came from one of the flight attendants stating that they will be starting a game session soon. Huh? What kind of games, I wondered. Well my curiosity was appeased when the games began. It was a mix of fun activities and Q&A. My favourite was when three Guests were asked to imitate the flight safety demonstration which flight attendants do while the plane taxis before taking off. That prompted loads of laughter from other passengers including yours truly and it was good fun! They were all rewarded with cool prizes for their effort.
When we finally landed, I was surprised to be greeted by two local colleagues, Rian and Richard. The first thing I did was to ask them to take me to a local place famous for anything related to Jogja food—doesn’t matter even if it was a roadside ‘warung’ (food stall). They took me to a place called Soto Kadipiro and as the name suggests it’s famous for ‘Soto Ayam’ (Chicken Soto)—kind of like a clear chicken soup with heavy spices. After that, Richard pulled up at a shop selling ‘Srabi’. It’s similar to what is known as ‘Apom’ in Malaysia, a sweet Indian pancake normally served with sweet coconut milk…only that with ‘Srabi’, there are many varieties including chocolate.
As we were entering Jalan Malioboro, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. Closed it. Rubbed it. Opened it. Yup, they were still there and what looked like two…erm…’Angel of Death’ type statues (yes, with the billowy cloak and hollow face) guarding the entrance to the street. I was more fascinated with the detailing rather than feeling creeped out. You certainly don’t see this in KL!
GETTING COSY WITH JOGJA
The hotel I stayed, Inna Garuda Hotel was just at the entrance of the street and looked really nice and quaint outside. I got my deal through AirAsiaGo.com and never regretted my choice because it was SO convenient to be nearby all the action. If you don’t already know, Jalan Malioboro is the central part of Jogja where almost every shopping, dining and recreational need is met.
As I stepped out onto the pavement, the action hit me with a full force and I was reeling from all the charged energy around me. From ‘Becak’ (trishaw) peddlers persistently trying to sell their services to the incessant bargaining of goods along this lively street, it was simply overwhelming…but exciting!
There were so much to see along the sidewalk, as took in rows of shops selling ‘batik’ products as well as ‘warungs’ that a weary shopper like me would need to re-charge! I was so tempted to hop on one of the horse carts parked by the street, but time doesn’t permit.
THE FESTIVAL – DAY 1
Malioboro Festival was a two-day event from 25-26 June 2011 which complemented the month-long Yogyakarta Arts Festival, predominantly held at Benteng Vredeburg (Vredeburg Fort), a former Dutch fort and centre of military operations. The Arts Festival inside the fort was really colourful with stalls displaying all forms of art, local food, fake tattoos and other cool stuff. Outside at the vibrant green field was the very lively Food Bazaar, which is part of the festival.
I managed to get front-row seats. The lively emcee came in traditional wear, introduced the festival in both Indonesian and Javanese, and kick-started the event by welcoming the first act which is part of the Symphony of Indonesia. The music came from a combo of traditional and modern instruments while a female traditional vocalist started to serenade us with ‘Keroncong’—a music style representing the sound from the Ukelele-type instrument. My colleague, Rian suggested we go to ‘Nasi Gudeg’ road for dinner. Steaming white rice served with ‘Gudeg’, ‘Krecek’ (delicious cow skin in a special sauce) with a selection of meats and vegetables—I can have this all day!
It was jammed packed trying to get into the Alun-Alun Selatan square and what I saw was a ‘blindfold game’ which people from near and far come to play. Apparently, there’s this good Jinn residing between the trees. What happens is that you are blindfolded and if your heart is pure you will manage to go in between the trees on your own. If you accomplish this, you will be rewarded with a very good life. Or so the legend goes.
THE FESTIVAL – DAY 2
Did some shopping and sightseeing while killing time for the finale event of the Malioboro Festival. Canvas masterpieces of finished works by students were displayed for all to admire…I couldn’t stop ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’!
I went back to the festival area and saw that they had a massive stage constructed for the ‘Wayang Kulit’ (Shadow Puppet show) and the Nusantara Stage. The festivities began when the band started playing and a beautiful female vocalist appeared giving renditions of popular Javanese songs. The first round of dancers came out in shimmering gold and was performing a mesmerising traditional dance.
What I loved the most was the finale of the Nusantara dance. All of the dancers were tied together with a large gold cloth and walked in sync with what seemed to be a local artiste in the middle, judging from her very tall headgear, complete with flickering lights. When she started singing, some dancers hid inside the cloth and hoisted her up, making it look like she was in high heaven with the other dancers as her minions in a sea of gold. It was a dazzling scene.
The show ended quite nicely, marking the end of Malioboro Festival. It’s too bad that I have to leave this immensely cultured and enchanting place so soon but I know I can and will come back very soon – mucho thanks to AirAsia!
And that’s all the more reason for you to log onto www.airasia.com with its low fares to get you to Jogja for an exciting weekend. I know I had an awesome trip! The fantastic sights, scrumptious food, fun festival and talented people totally blew me away! Oh, remember to book your stay at the Inna Garuda Hotel for great deals at a fantabulous location!