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.

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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Sumur Gumuling, Secret Mosque of Yogyakarta Sultanate

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Our tour guide waited for a moment for Year End Party participants to enjoy king’s bathing pool, empress and their sons and daughters in the past. For a few minutes I imagined some possibilities of what the story would look like in this place on more than two centuries ago, definitely classics looked like colossal cinemas from old kingdoms. For a moment I thoughtfully enjoyed that imagination.

My focus was destroyed by tour guide’s call to continue journey into another part of Taman Sari. “We will see mosque, ladies and gentlemen!“, He said. I just followed with an ordinary feeling. I could only imagine an appearance of Great Mosque of Surakarta Palace, which I visited three months ago. “Oh, this mosque appearance will like that“, I closed my own guess.

For a moment I was in a large and neatly arranged courtyard with a visitor circular path which follow area shape. A magnificent ornate gate proudly stood at one side of this area, large and old trees covered participants from hot weather of Yogyakarta.

Gedhong Gapura Hageng (Gapura Agung), Taman Sari’s main gate.
A small gate to the mosque.

Meanwhile, on opposite side of it, there was a small gate with a door which leading visitors to underground. Ten minutes later, tour guide called group and they began to follow him into gate.

I was at back of them and began to descend stairs to follow the underground tunnel. “What kind of mosque is in underground?“, I kept curiously wondering.

This mosque isn’t what you imagine, it is just a tunnel for worship. Because this mosque was hidden from Dutch colonialm. In ancient times, Dutch colonialism prohibited kingdom members from performing worship“, tour guide explained, which made me directly understood.

To tunnels.
To tunnels.

It was only camouflage of a function as mosque. A brilliant idea from Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono I, the first Sultan of Yogyakarta”, I started to admire this architecture in my mind. The tunnel could be passed without having to walk down your head, designed in such a way which it was sufficient for adults to pass through. During regular intervals, lamps were installed which would certainly helpful when the day turns dark. Tunnel walls were also shown original stone texture without paint, adding to its classic atmosphere.

I continued to explore along tunnel to find the end of this unique architectural masterpiece. I was even more amazed, the tunnel led to an arrangement of four staircases which were additional part of tunnels and also fifth staircase which was protruded from second floor tunnel to form a stage. “This stage was a pulpit for khateeb (Islam preacher) to give sermon, and palace’s family members would pray and sit listening to the sermon from the tunnel“, tour guide stood on pulpit while pointing his finger in several tunnels.

Tunnel as a mosque.
Other side of tunnel.
A pulpit.

Sermon sound would be heard until the end of tunnels because it used tunnel walls to echo the voice of khateeb” he continued.

Wow, I really praised the smart strategy of Sultan to be able to worship in the midst of colonial government’s prohibition. If Dutch colonial had inspected this place, of course, they would never have known if these tunnels actually functioned as a mosque of Yogyakarta Sultanate which was very secretive. They must have only suspected that this tunnels only served as an access between sides in Taman Sari area.

This mosque was nicknamed as SUMUR GUMULING.

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Throwing a flower in Taman Sari

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My eyes were widened when a noise of people group could be heard when they crossed a corridor in front of my room …. Ah, I felt asleep again after Subh prayer a few hours ago. With quick reflexes I jumped into bathroom and washed myself as fast as lightning. After getting dressed, I grabbed my camera and put it in a folding bag. I jogged out of the room to Sahid Jaya Hotel & Convention restaurant.

Arriving at the restaurant, some of event’s participants had cleared their tables and carried their bags to go to bus.

“Hi, Donny. You seem too late to be joining breakfast. You must have slept too well last night, ”Todd greeted me who was in a hurry to put rice and several other side dishes onto plate. Todd was an expats from Australia in my company. He was one of my best friend.

“Oh, yes Todd. Not as bad as I think. I still have 15 minutes to eat my breakfast, ”I replied without seeing Todd’s face at all.

I joined with some friends who were still halfway through their breakfast. Without more talking, I immediately cleared a breakfast menu whicht I took. Just drinking a glass of mineral water, I rushed to a chartered bus no.2 which was ready to leave.

Sahid Jaya Hotel & Convention restaurant.

In the morning, second day in Yogyakarta, Year End Party participants would visit Taman Sari in several small groups, each consisting of approximately fifteen participants and one tour guide will be prepared at tourist destination later.

A few minutes later, bus was moving slowly leaving that four-star hotel. Situation in bus was very lively, but I just silently sat while watching Yogyakarta’ streets which started to get busy. Bus slowly crept along Majapahit Street, heading to Patehan area, which was about ten kilometers away.

Not long after, twenty-five minutes later, bus slowly entered a multi-storey parking lot. After getting off the bus, I realized that bus hadn’t actually arrived at its destination. Bus turned out to have to stop at Ngabean Tourism Parking in Notoprajan area, because roads were narrow and bus couldn’t enter to Taman Sari tourist spot.

Ngabean Tourism Parking.
In Notoprajan area.

Committee directed participants per group to ride a small tourist vehicle, i.e Daihatsu Luxio, to Taman Sari. I entered one of them and began to crossing narrow road. Seven minutes later, I arrived at Taman Sari parking lot after rode the car for about two kilometers.

A male guide approached us and introduced himself. After getting to know each other witth all members of group,he started slowly walking while giving an explanation about Taman Sari history. Situation was so crowded, so I couldn’t concentrate on listening to guide’s explanation.

Taman Sari’s gate.
Old building in Taman Sari.
Pasiraman Umbul Binangun, the empress’ bathing pool

Taman Sari also was known as Water Palace, because it was often used for bathing the empress and king’s daughter, let me show you the bathing pool“, I heard bits his explanation because I preferred to take some photos of several unique building and must get out from group.

Now I arrived at bathing pool. From many stories which told by a guide, I only heard a important point, of course it was my own version. “Previously the king would stand on top of that multi-storey building while watching concubines who bathing. When the time came, the king would throw a flower at a concubine who attracts his heart, then in the evening the king would get love from the concubine who he has chosen ”. Damn, I only remembered this thing.

Oh No….

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Routine Event: Kanaya Bus Jakarta-Yogyakarta

Shubuh prayer which wasn’t focus, because itwas in a hurry to catch up the departure of chartered fleet, i.e Kanaya Tourism Bus. I had to arrive at my office where located in West Jakarta at half past six in the morning. Then, I rode on a motorbike through the morning streets of capital city which started from my residence in East Jakarta.

Now I have bent my body through the cold wind of street after a few minutes ago, grabbing my 45L backpack which I had prepared from last night. The quite streets made me arrive at office yard in just forty minutes.

Immediately reporting to event committee, I got a box of savory rice with egg  and mineral water for breakfast. Other employees began to arrive, took their food and then joked with others while enjoying it. While I prefered to immerse myself in second floor work desk to complete all equipments which I thought still lack.

Time seemed to flow fast, requiring me to followed committee whistle as a sign that praying together would begin and all employees would be dispatched to Yogyakarta. I hurriedly grabbed my drink bottle and drank it while quickly walking downstairs, standing in a prayer circle and after that I immediately headed for bus number 2 according to procedure which was sent by committee via email a day ago.

Finding my seat for the next ten hours.

After a committee member made attendance, then exactly according to schedule, bus quickly drove to outer ring highway and joy enveloped the atmosphere of the start of trip. I myself just sat on right side seat in enjoying the dawn show at eastern end of the city. I kept enjoying its beauty until the dawn completely disappeared leaving the morning.

Dawn in the city.

It was the first day of third week of December, something I thought really happened …. Traffic jam. Bus which was stuck in traffic began to creep slowly on Cikampek toll road, making situation changed to boring. Some of participants now prefer to close their eyes according to their sleeping habits, cover their faces with blankets, wear black glasses, put on headsets or lean their heads on their friend shoulders, or quite a few who sleep with looked up….open mouths.

Meanwhile, I, who couldn’t fall asleep, prefered to open a novel from a famous writer which I have prepared since yesterday. I read it until bus was able to escape from traffic jams on West Karawang toll road. The bus kept on going and was now entering a new section toll road… Cipali.

In smoothly flow road, a committee seemed to get up from his seat, ready to enliven the situation with a little game and I didn’t know why he pointed at me who was immersed in novel author’s drama. He asked me to come forward and play a word-guessing game with three clues which had to be thrown at other participants without a sound.

I nicely started the game, and in seveeral minutes, all passengers became involved in it. The game was flowing and I returned to my seat and continued reading.

Bus began to entering the end of toll road and exit at Palimanan toll gate, deciding to take in right direction towards southern route of Java Island. Meanwhile, a little game on bus had turned into a boredom-busting amateur karaoke stage.

When lunch time arrived,bus decided to stop at Candisari Restaurant in Kebumen area. I hurriedly got off the bus, quickly took my ablution water to perform Dzuhr and Ashr prayer in a time and then mingled with other participants enjoying buffet lunch.

Saving time on the trip, bus then continued its journey, still passing road congestion which were crowded by vehicles. It crossed Purworejo area, Kulonprogo area and arrived at its destination just before sunset.

I rushed to hotel’s receptionist and immediately entered the room to taking a bath and stretch my muscles to prepare myself to rehearsel for main agenda tomorrow night, because I would be the center of attention by becoming one of the designated three MC.

There was nothing wrong with enjoying for a moment the luxury of Sahid Jaya Hotel & Convention before other agendas woulld come so tightly.

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