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Full Circle

Day 117: Yogyakarta

Yogyakarta, Indonesia 
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Gamelan musician and gongs which help to produce music like 'moonlight and flowing water'.
Michael Palin - Full CircleMarhaban Ya Ramadan - 'Welcome to Ramadan' - reads the white lettering on green banners strung across the Dutch colonial streets of Yogyakarta, the ancient cultural capital of Java. Ramadan means many things, including waking up very early, whether you're a Muslim or not.

As their first meal must be prepared and consumed before sunrise, the day can begin any time after four. Calls to prayer rend the small hours and at ten past four I was woken by what sounded like the start of a revolution but turned out to be a salvo of firecrackers.

Now we're making our way along the Jalan Marlioboro, which is named, not after a cigarette, but after the Duke of Marlborough, a name it must have received during the brief period at the start of the nineteenth century when the British ruled Java. Marlioboro leads down towards the Kraton, the eighteenth century palace of the Sultans of Yogyakarta. It is set within four square walls, each one a kilometre in length, in which there are nine gates, symbolizing, we are told, the nine entrances to the human body. (In the bus afterwards none of us could come up with more than seven. Or eight at most. Not including bullet holes.) None of these gates opens directly onto a courtyard - usually there is a wall facing it. This was intended to confuse evil spirits who might rush headlong in. Nowadays there are more mundane admission controls. A sign beside the brass-studded teak doors depicts two cartoon torsos, one of which is squeezed into a lurid patterned pair of Y-fronts, while the other bulges out of a clinging pair of white shorts. Alongside both is the word 'NO'.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 117
  • Country/sea: Indonesia
  • Place: Yogyakarta
  • Book page no: 170

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