30 Oct - 06 Nov 2013 Surakarta

Southeast Asia 
Republic of Indonesia (CPI = 32/100 and BPI = 7.1/10.0) 
Central Java aka Jawa Tengah
Surakarta aka Solo
Jalan Carangan Baluarti 42
Pondok Dagdan +62271669324
Simple and very clean single room with shared bathroom (Indonesian bak mandi and Western toilet) for IDR 60,000.- or US$ 5.40 per night.
Cosy communal area with a small kitchenette. Hostess with the mostess.
Beer: 620-ml bottles of luke-warm Anker Beer (4.9 % alc./vol.) for IDR 22,500.- or US$ 2.- per large bottle and 330-ml cans of luke-warm Anker Beer for IDR 12,950.- or US$ 1.15 per regular can, both from the Hypermart in the Solo Grand Mall.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Dagdan Homestay in Solo, which we would recommend, and for directions:
S 07° 34.84' E 110° 49.69'

Matt: Spying on Java’s impoverished first royal house in their residence-turned-museum (the 1675 CE, rather neglected and dusty “king’s palace” aka kraton kasunanan) thus trying to spot the Pakubuwono King of Mataram aka susuhunan meditate and commune with the nyai loro kidul in the upper storey of his palace’s 1782 CE cross between a Dutch clock tower and a lighthouse, and (always being the good tourist) supporting the nobility with my “kingly” entrance fee of IDR 15,000.- or US$ 1.30.

Matt: Spying on Java’s well-to-do second royal house in their residence-turned-museum (the 1757 CE, well-maintained and almost homely “prince’s palace” aka puri mangkunegaran) thus trying to spot the Mangkunegaran Prince philosophise about the colour psychology of the Javanese zodiac, and (always being the good tourist) supporting the nobility with my “princely” entrance fee of IDR 18,000.- or US$ 1.60.

Matt: Browsing the 3,000 plus stalls of Pasar Klewer, the largest batik and textile market in Indonesia, and admiring the many beautiful patterns of traditional, non-Chinese batik, Indonesia’s national fabric and a dying technique in which melted wax is applied to the fabric by using the canting (a stylus-like utensil which has a metal cup to hold the melted wax and a tiny spout to apply it and is used to cover the predrawn pattern lines to allow it to be dyed afterwards).

Matt: Exploring the beer-free back lanes of my guesthouse’s conservative Muslim neighbourhood, listening to the khatibs’ lecturing and slobbering monologues from the noise-polluting loudspeakers on top of the many small mosques and madrasahs and feeling a chill down my spine when being greeted with the great Indonesian smile and “as-salam alaykum”, since Surakarta, a wellspring of Javanese culture, has more recently also become a centre for Islamic extremism: the militant preacher and jailed spiritual leader of the terrorist Jemaah Islamiyah movement, Abu Bakar Bashir, and his Al-Mukmin Islamic boarding school, a hub for the planning of the 2002 Bali bombing and the 2003 Jakarta bombing, are close by here; wa alaykumu s-salāmu wa rahmatu l-lāhi wa barakātuh.
“I know a whole generation has been raised on the notion of multi-culturalism; that all civilizations are just different. No! Not always. Sometimes things are better! Rule of law is better than autocracy and theocracy; equality of the sexes, better; protection of minorities, better; free speech, better; free elections, better; free appliances with large purchases, better! - Don't get so tolerant that you tolerate intolerance.”

Matt: Clapping to the brilliant wayang wong troupe at Solo’s Sriwedari Theatre (admission: IDR 3,000.- per person) and enjoying a classical Javanese dance theatrical performance with high-pitched singing, gamelan music and slow-motion, gecko-like stylised dancing, reflecting Javanese court culture (…and the working speed of an average Javanese supermarket checkout girl).

Matt: Window-shopping at Solo’s crammed Pasar Triwindu flea market and browsing through the shelves loaded to the gunwales with antiques, bric-a-brac and mass-produced kitsch: shadow puppets, theatre masks, batik shirts, fridge magnets, Javanese kris, oil paintings, silver spoons - any number of things.

Matt: Celebrating, together with many Solonese clad in traditional costumes with black beskap for men and colourful kebaya for women, the Javanese New Year aka 1st Suro on the 4th of November in the vicinity of the kraton kasunanan and enjoying Javanese and Balinese dances, gamelan music, wayang wong theatre, carnivalesque parades and the traditional cattle “race” of albino buffaloes aka kebo bule which were said to be the favourites of the first king of Surakarta, Pakubuwono II, dating back to the early years of the 18th century.

Matt: Travelling by means of public transport to the starting point (a regular intracity minibus aka angkot from Pasar Klewer's minibus stop to the Tirtonadi bus terminal's minibus stop, c. 5 km, ¾ hours, IDR 3,000.- per person; thereafter with a packed regional bus from the Tirtonadi bus terminal to the Tawangmangu bus terminal, c. 45 km, 1 ½ hours, IDR 12,000.- per person; eventually with a local angkot from the Tawangmangu minibus stop to Cemoro Kandang, c. 8 km, ½ hour, IDR 10,000.- per person) for the hike to the summit of the stratovolcano Gunung Lawu (last eruption: 1885 CE, altitude above sea level: 3,265 m, compulsory search-and-rescue dues: IDR 7,500.- per climber), one of the holiest mountains in Java, teaming up with my good friend and experienced mountaineer Adi from Jakarta, joining hundreds of pilgrims in this last, moonless and pitch-black night of the old Islamic/Javanese year 1434 AJ, enjoying a wonderful sunrise from the summit on the next morning, the 1st Suro, the start of the Javanese new year 1435 AJ, and finishing our strenuous but rewarding round trip after exactly 15 hours back in Cemoro Kandang; many thanks, Adi, for being such an reliable and skilled fellow climber.

Matt: Saying goodbye to noisy and crowded Solo and its charming people (it’s just too many of them and they are always right in your face), taking a regular economy bus from Solo’s Tirtonadi bus terminal to Yogyakarta’s modern Giwangan bus terminal (c. 60 km, 2 ¼ hours, IDR 12,000.- or US$ 1.05 per person) and thereafter the excellent TransJogja a/c city bus 3B (IDR 3,000.- or US$ 0.25 per person) straight to my next digs in the backpacker ghetto on Sosrowijayn Road, Yogyakarta’s anaemic wannabe-copy of Bangkok’s Khao San Road: you touts wake up, here we go.

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 From the 2013 Moral Travel Compass for Our Grand Children's Journey of Life: 
It’s bad to harm animals;
It’s good to hug a tree.
 Keep your bearings!