Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Jogjakarta: The Kraton

Once settled in, we decided to do some jalan-jalan (stolling/walking around) and lihat-lihat (sightseeing/looking around/browsing) adventure, starting with Jogja's kraton, or the palace of the Jogjakarta Sultanate.  It took us a little while to get there, because we were slightly confused about where the entrance was and wanted to avoid what our guidebooks told us was a scam second entrance.  Luckily, when Fran stopped to buy a bottle of water, we gained a fairy godfather who first gave us a warning about people wanting to rip us off and then seemed to pop up just when we needed him most to guide us to the correct entrance.  Thank you, Jogja fairy godfather!  We must have looked particularly guileless and naive for him to put such special effort into safely ushering us to the kraton.

Wandering the mean streets of Jogja surrounding the kraton.
The palace is still in use by Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono, who is now a governor of the Jogjakarta special region.  The sultanate played a special role in fighting against the Dutch colonizers, and Jogjakarta briefly served as the capital of the newly independent Indonesia, all leading to Jogjakarta's status as a special administrative region within Java.  

Entering the sultan's palace.
Lots of beautiful details on the palace buildings.
The palace was pretty interesting- lots of museum-like displays of the history of the sultanate, including photos of him rallying people during the struggle for Indonesia's independence, meeting with heads of state, and making random appearances with groups like the Boy Scouts (random.).  There were paintings of the various sultans over time, including one of the sultan on his circumcision day (when he was 13 years old [ouch]).  Additionally, all of the gifts from various heads-of-state to the sultanate were displayed, along with uniforms, random items such as the sultan's favorite cooking tools, and various tea sets used by the sultanate through the years. 
Our guide informed us that this carving represented a sort of historical calendar with some images representing certain numbers in the Javanese and Western calendars, signifying certain dates (such as the date of Indonesia's independence).  Some of the translation was lost on us.
Music pavilion from the Dutch colonial days.
The sultan's processional vehicle.
Part of the kraton's museum complex.
Some cool architecture at the Kraton.
We also got to see the various parts of the palace, including ceremonial buildings, the residence (where we caught a glimpse of the sultan's tea ceremony making it's way to him!), as well as the kitchens and tea preparation areas.  

The sultan's tea service.
We were somewhat surprised by the scantily clad tea servers...
Also, lucky for us, there was a gamelan performance and puppet show underway during our visit to the kraton.  Before seeing this, I don't think I realized just how massive a gamelan is- it's a huge musical ensemble of several different types of instruments- xylophones, drums, gongs, flutes, string instruments...  pretty impressive.  We couldn't quite understand what was going on at the puppet show, but it was pretty to listen to and funny to watch nonetheless.

We loved this guy and his mini doppelganger, complete with traditional decorative keris knives... gamelan instruments in the background.
Gamelan musicians.
Gamelan, with puppet show in the background.
Backlit puppet show...
The puppets had pretty elaborate outfits on, complete with special batik sarongs.

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