A few weeks ago, we received a surprise email from our former boss, Congressman Ben Chandler, telling us that he was coming to Indonesia! As you may know, Amy and I met while working in Congressman Chandler’s office in Washington, DC. In addition to a marriage, we made lifelong friends and got invaluable experience working for Ben and we were beyond excited when we heard he would be coming here.
The nearest he would be to East Java was Jogjakarta (or Yogyakarta, or Jogja, or Yogya, or…), a city in Central Java that serves as the cultural capital of Java. We had yet to visit Jogja, so we were excited about the trip. We wouldn’t meet Ben until later that afternoon, so we had the morning to explore the city. Jogja has an interesting history, especially in regard to the creation of the Republic of Indonesia. The Jogjakarta province was ruled by a Sultan and when Indonesia gained independence in 1945, Jogja was admitted as part of the country, but with the Sultan still in place.
The Sultan still rules the province and his palace was one of our stops on our morning tour. Or, at least it was supposed to be. In what should have been a 30 minute walk, it took us nearly two hours to arrive at the front of the Sultan’s palace after becoming lost a number of times (caution, the maps don’t accurately reflect distance, location, or actual roads) and continuously hassled by the guys who “just wanted to talk for a minute…oh, and have you seen my brother’s batik shop yet?
We finally made it to the Sultan’s palace, but due to lack of signage, we actually hadn’t. Our Lonely Planet guide warned us of this. Apparently there has been a schism in the Sultan’s family and they split the palace and, I assume, the profits from the tours. One part of the family has an entrance that gets you into the house. The other just takes you around the front where you can see a number of the past Sultans’ carriages and old school Cadillacs. Once we realized that we were contributing to the latter family’s fortunes, we didn’t care. We just wanted to see it and find something to eat.
After lunch, we headed to meet the delegation from Kentucky who were touring Indonesia as part of a State Department exchange on election processes (I think). We joined them for a tour of Prambanan Temple, a Hindu temple site originally constructed in 850 AD. The temple was severely damaged in a 2006 earthquake, but had just reopened and we were able to walk into the temple itself, as long as we were wearing stylish hardhats.
Following the tour of Prambanan, we had a fantastic dinner which viewed the temple from afar, which was just spectacular. This picture does it no justice at all:
After the dinner, we went next door to watch the famous Ramayana dance. The actual Ramayana dance takes place over the course of four nights, which they perform in full every month. However, we weren’t there for those performances (based on the lunar calendar) and we saw an abbreviated version of the story.
Throughout the afternoon and evening we had a wonderful time catching up with Ben, continuously reminding ourselves how utterly strange and fascinating it was that we were seeing him thousands of miles from the state we all call home.