Pasar Ngasem: Agrotechnologist from Switzerland

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My imagination of past stretch around Pulo Kenanga has ended. My thinking wass wild enough to imagine the beauty of lake stretch which juts out to the north. The lake in the past looked deep when you look at its bottom which had become a stretch of residential architecture down there. I didn’t know why the lake dried up during its time, so that the bottom stretch of lake was used by people of Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat Sultanate as a new economic center, namely Pasar Ngasem (Ngasem Market).

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s go down to Pasar Ngasem. The market is more than two centuries old. We will learn the economic history of Sultanate there! ”, our tour guide started to lead the group down Pulo Kenanga. I immediately finished my last glance on each side of Pulo Kenanga. I moved down at the tail of tour group.

My steps headed north, not far, only around two hundred meters and in five minutes I arrived at Pasar Ngasem. Inside the market, the committee had provided a lunch menu in the form of boxed rice which were neatly arranged on a clean and roofed market hallway so as to reduce heat of the sun which was already at its peak.

Pasar Ngasem inside.

When the participants were busy picking up their boxed rice, I was still engrossed in walking around Pasar Ngasem Plaza which functions as a performance area. In the form of a semicircular concrete platform with a short podium surrounding it.

I watched a foreigner sitting on the podium and enjoying the situation. I purposely approached him to talking:

Me: “Hi, sir. Where are you come from?

He: “Hi… Hello. Switzerland

Me: “I’m Donny from Jakarta. How about Taman Sari. Is that good?

He: “Hi. I’m Armend. Yeaaa..It’s great. It just need a little touch more to make it more classic. Tapi disini panas juga (but it’s hot in here too)“.

Me: “Hahahah…. You can speak Bahasa Indonesia. This is a surprise

He: “Yes, Donny. Surely. I had worked in Cianjur for a year. I little learns

Me: “Yeaa, it’s certainly cooler there. Dibidang apa Anda bekerja? (What field do you work in?)

He: “Agrotechnology“.

Me: “Wow… Cool. Sendirian ke Jogja? (are you going alone to Jogja?

He: “I have a family… .That”, he pointed to his father, mother and younger sister on a side of market who were busy walking around.

The two of us ended up having a conversation that was so exciting until a voice from the end of plaza called me “Donny, let’s have lunch soon, we will leave the market“, shouted a group member reminding me. Finally I said goodbye to Armend and immediately joined the group to enjoy lunch.

Pasar Ngasem gate.

That afternoon there was very little selling activity in the market. Most of the items sold were daily necessities. Even though I know that this was the biggest bird market in Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat Sultanate. But now the bird trader have been relocated to Pasar Satwa dan Tanaman Hias Yogyakarta (PASTY).

Now this market had played a key role in assisting the existence of Taman Sari cultural heritage. Half of Pasar Ngasem area had been transformed into an area of ​​arts and cultural performances and part of it was still used for traditional trade.

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Boating in Pulo Kenanga

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A secret architectural show at Sumur Gumuling was over….

Come on, ladies and gentlemen, we are leaving for the island!“, our tour guide clearly uttered nonsense words. Where was there island on dry land like this? “Where is the sea?“, I still denied full of wonder.

Walking out through stairs at the end of Sumur Gumuling tunnels, I positioned myself at the back end of group, also pushed my self to surface. Arriving at ground level, the guide casually walked to east while focusing on answering several questions from group members who were very enthusiastic about learning the history of Yogyakarta Sultanate. While I myself was plagued by a busy, it wasn’t important to catch some iconic corners with my mirrorless camera lens.

In the past, the land where we were standing on was the bottom of a lake, ladies and gentlemen“, the guide started throwing a clue which made me play with my imagination. “If I’m currently at the bottom of lake, it means that the island is the higher part of where I stand, and the high part must be very easy to see from here“, it turned out I was still as smart as ever …

I rotate my view on 360 degrees, made a quick looking. “That’s it!”, my observation was fixed on a tall building with thick walls in the style of colonial architecture. And the building was right in the direction which I walked.

In the past, kings and their families often boating above us while enjoying beautiful colors of fishes which swim in a clear lake“, the guide explained again. For me, it was common for kings to have worldly pleasures like that, I didn’t really respond to it. I just thought, how could this place combine to special architecture spots at that time, starting from a bath of royal family, a underground mosque and now an artificial island on the highest part of Taman Sari contour.

There it is!“, the guide pointed his finger at a building which I had guessed through imagination. “Pulo Cemeti“, he smiled to all members of group which he was carrying. “Let’s go up!“, He led the group up stair to entering that sturdy old building. When most of  group members were running happily upstairs, I was still in the lower courtyard and looking at Pulo Cemeti, imagining its original form and royal family activities in it in ancient times.

I arrived right at its building door when the entire group was still busy with selfies. Now I look down, imagining the height of water surface and the activity of boating in the middle of lake and followed by colorful fishes along paddling of boat.

Because many Kenanga flowers were planted around this building, public also often refers to this site as Pulo Kenanga. Oh yes, this building is more than a quarter century old, you know ”, the guide enriched information for tour group.

For then, I sat in a giant wind window and still admired the splendor of Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono I’s work. These thick walls were of course the influence of great architectural culture of Dutch colonial era, which made this site able to survive today.

Also known as Gedhong Kenanga. Because this building area appears to be floating on water during its heyday, it’s often referred to as the water castle”, the guide explained for the last time. The Yogyakarta Sultanate indeed left monumental works like this one. If its site management were made exclusive, surely all parts of Taman Sari would be a matter of pride for Yogyakarta Sultanate.

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