I had planned for a "light and easy" day on Day 6 with a trip to SOLO. It will be "light" as I would only carry my camera. It would be "easy" as I will take the train to SOLO. The train is actually a komuter train, much like ours in K.L. but it's called PRAMEX, short for Prambanan Express. PRAMEX runs every 45 mins (I think) Marlioboro - Solo - Marlioboro. Where I lodged in, it was only a 5 mins walk to the station.
The morning crowd was there, commuters going to work. It was just like those occassions when I took the KTM Komuter from Subang Jaya to KL. Only the sceneries were different. The morning was cool. About 20 mins in the train, I could faintly see Mount Merapi on my left in the far distance. Capturing Mt Merapi on my camera was a total disappointment. It would otherwise been an excellent view if visibility was superb. Padi-fields continued to dot the landscape for most of the journey. So, Mount Merapi had eluded me this time.
Recalling back while planning for this trip back home, it was a toss between flying in through SOLO or through JOGJAKARTA. I chose Jogja because the flight was cheaper. It could have been Solo too. Jogja is just about 50kms away from Solo. One wondered why Air Asia chose to fly to both cities.
SOLO had a tint of nostalgia, not because I had visited it before. The nostalgia of SOLO got to be from its classic BENGAWAN SOLO, the keroncong that I hummed and sang in my teenage years. The lyrics goes like this .......
Bengawan Solo....Riwayatmu ini
Sedari dulu jadi... Perhatian insani
Musim kemarau, Tak seberapa airmu
Dimusim hujan air.. Meluap sampai jauh
Mata airmu dari Solo....Terkurung gunung seribu
Air meluap sampai jauh.....Dan akhirnya ke laut
Itu perahu...Riwayatnya dulu
Kaum pedagang selalu... Naik itu perahu
Searching the Wikipedia, I got the following info on Bengawan Solo:
Bengawan Solo is a famous Indonesian song about the Bengawan Solo River, which flows through central and eastern Java, Indonesia and is that island's longest river.
The song describes the legendary river in a poetic and nostalgic way, that it is surrounded by mountains, its sources are near the city of Surakarta, that it ends in the sea, and that the merchant class always makes use of it.
Written in 1940 by Gesang Martohartono, it is in the local kroncong style, a popular folk style with influences from Portuguese. The Japanese, who occupied the country during World War II, brought the song with them to Japan after returning from the war. There, and also in the rest of Asia and later worldwide, the song became very famous.
The song's widespread popularity began soon after its composition, and locally it is strongly associated with the period of war occupation and the society of the times. In 1940 Gesang, then a young, destitute and untrained musician, composed the song on a bamboo flute and began to sing it at local functions and gatherings in his hometown of Surakarta.
It soon became well-known and liked among the local Javanese community; the song then achieved national acclaim after it was broadcast to a wider audience by various radio stations.
The melodies of the song also appealed to both the occupying Japanese soldiers, and the non-Indonesian prisoners (mainly Dutch civilians) in the internment camps. The song was taken back to Japan by the returning soldiers, where it (with the lyrics translated to Japanese) gained great popularity after various singers such as Toshi Matsuda released recorded versions of it which became best-sellers. The song has become almost synonymous with the perception of Indonesian music in Japan.
Solo was formerly known as SURAKARTA. But I guess I don't want to delve too much into the history.
By the way, there are now 2 songs that relate to my 2 cycling trips in Indonesia thus far - Ayam Den Lopeh (Minangkabau) and Bengawan Solo (for the current trip).
I will be doing a 15-day cycling trip to Sulawesi in Jan 2009. I should start searching for the appropriate song for Sulawesi, something Bugis.
Anyway my mission to SOLO was not to discover the river Solo. It was to visit the Kraton, once the palace of the Sultans, now turned into a musuem. There would be lots of history of its glory days. But as I said earlier, I was not on a historical journey. I was just one solo cyclist exploring a small portion of the Nusantara.
I arrived quite early. The Kraton was not crowded. As I entered, there was a certain quietness. I stopped at the first hall with several artifacts. This "DANDANG" caught my eyes. Shaped like a bell, the display explained that its a rice pot, a mighty huge one. It could probably feed 100 people at one serving, me being the 100th person!
Other artifacts filled up the rooms - armours of war, weapons such as bows and arrows, pistols and rifles and spears. But I was in no mood for war. I came in peace.
I prefered to imagine the lifestyle of the Sultans and his royalties. There appeared to be a strong western influence. This horse-carriage for instance would be more apt carrying the Queen of England.
And when I posed in front of it, I could be grossly mistaken as the Javanese stable-boy! The medal on my neck would be for long outstanding service. Hah!
And there was this Roman statue at the entrance to what I termed as the grand hall. It was difficult to relate the relationship between the Roman Empire and the Sultans of Java.
Across this grand hall was another "wakaf". I imagined that this was where the commoners wait, when paying homage to the royalty who could be in waiting at the grand hall. I must emphasise that this was purely my own story and imagination.
For entertainment, there were of course the court musicians and entertainers - mannequins dressed in the Javanese cultural dresses.
I caught the display of a "rebab". I called this the local violin, similar to the design of the rebab found in Kelantan. One wondered whether it was the Kelantanese who ventured this way or the Javanese who ventured the South China Sea and landed somewhere in the east coast of Tanah Melayu.
As I said earlier, I would not delve into history. There were of-course many other artefacts on display. Having toured the Kraton, I had some glimpse and perhaps some understanding of the life-style of the royalties in the early years of Java.
Making my way out of the Kraton, I noticed this traffic-light. It had outlived its usefullness but remained proudly there.
And there was this girl manning a small stall with an equally small dacing. I had to ask what she was waiting to weigh. You won't believe it. She was a small-time goldsmith. She bought gold! Included in her wares were some chemicals she used to measure or test the purity of the gold.
I smiled thinking of my mother's gold she wore on her arms. Perhaps I could stay in Solo for a year with one piece from her gold!
There was also this satay stall selling SATE KAMBING MUDA. I loved both satay and mutton but did not venture to try "young goat satay". Being young would have its virtues, but there would also be its pitfalls.
And Indonesia would always be remembered for its large monuments. This one caught my eyes. Would have been one of the fallen heroes. I zoomed in into the shot. I did not want to go too close. "He" had a gun!
I did not stay too long in Solo. Having toured the Kraton and a little sight-seeing, I took the PRAMEX back to Jogja.
Tomorrow, I would be cycling to Borobudur and wrap up my week's stay in and around Jogajakarta.