Greenhost x IWasHere Present Discovering Hidden Gems of Jogjakarta Part 2: Culture

What do you think makes Jogjakarta city so special? The food, the culture, the people, or a combination of all of them? It’s really no wonder that Jogjakarta feels special, because this city offers endless of interesting destinations from historical building, culture, crafts, and even nature. After we got a chance to explore Jogjakarta from its culinary side back in May, we are now back with another series of Hidden Gem Jogja: Culture! Through this series, we wanted to bring you closer to some of the ways people live in Jogjakarta.

Still in partnership with IWasHere, a travelling content community based on user experience, we invited Alexander Thian or more lovingly known as @amrazing, a brain storyteller who started his path from his personal Twitter account. Back in 2010, Alex often spills his heart content into a story on his social media platform. Because of his versatility in word processing, his followers continued to multiply until today. He helped us archive the cultural richness of Jogjakarta into beautiful photos that told stories about its culture during 26th – 29th June 2018.

Tamansari Water Castle, located in Ngasem Street, was our first destination. Tamansari is an architecturally ornate structure built in the 18th-century and it was both a recreation and bathing place for the Sultan of Jogjakarta and all of his relatives. Some people are perhaps already familiar with this place, but only a few know the story behind. The trip took us half a day to walk down the memory lane and traced back the path used by the Sultan when the place was still used as a bathing place of the princesses. During our walk around Tamansari, we were very surprised by the fact our guide told us that the area was once surrounded by a lake! We simply could not imagine how remarkable this secret castle must be in the past - surrounded by water and we could only enter through a hidden underground passage tunnels beneath a lake. Such a must visit cultural gem when you visit Jogjakarta!

After a pleasant journey at Tamansari Water Castle, we decided to continue our trip to Museum Sonobudoyo. But before entering the museum, we took time to stop by at Leather Puppet workshop, which is located near the museum, on the east-side to be exact. When we arrived there, we met Mr. Bidin who was finishing one of the puppets with a hammer in his right hand and a tool used to sculpt called tatah in his left hand. The details of the leather puppets he was making were indeed captivating. It required a combination of concentration, skill, and high sense of art to craft leather puppets. Definitely not an easy thing, Mr. Bidin dedicated his life to puppets, he began crafting leather puppets when he was still in elementary school and until now he has already spent 30 years of his life journey to perfecten the art of leather puppets. Sending our respect and awe to Mr. Bidin!

From there, we only needed to walk for 20 meters to arrive at the entrance of Sonobudoyo Museum, which is located at Trikora Street, opposite to Alun-Alun Utara. Visiting Sonobudoyo Museum is an alternative to see history and cultural artefacts from all over Indonesia. To get in, we only have to pay the entrance ticket for IDR 3,000 for domestic tourist and IDR 5,000 for foreign tourist. One thing that makes this museum different is than upon entering, we will be greeted by a live gamelan orchestra! Accompanied by a museum attendant, Mr. Rendi, we strolled around the museum. He helped us explain the stories behind every relic that was displayed in the museum - from an ancient weapon collection, masks, various kinds of leather and wooden puppets, statues, textiles, curios and old Javanese gamelan instruments. The museum also has cultural artefacts, such as ceramic from the Neolithic Age, statues and bronze articles from the 8th, 9th and 10th century from Central Java temples, and some artefacts from Bali. This museum holds a collection of ancient books related to the Javanese culture. Visiting this museum truly gave new insights about how amazing our ancestors' life was in the past.

To conclude our journey looking for cultural hidden gems, we headed to Krebet Village in Bantul, located about 12 kilometers of the south-side of Jogjakarta, to learn more about one of the cultural products that we find interesting to put on our list. If you usually see the application of batik patterns in various articles made of fabric - ranging from t-shirts, shirts, pants, and bags, in Krebet you could enjoy a different thing: wooden batik. Did you know that even Windy from IWasHere and Alex - who are both well-travelled - have not encountered this before so they were very excited to see the process of making wooden batik!

In Krebet village, almost all of the villagers make wooden batik, which is a combination of sculpture and batik art, as their main livelihood. They put batik patterns on various items such as mask, bangle bracelets, necklaces, animal miniatures, hand mirror, keychains and other things. We decided to come by to Sanggar Peni, one of the oldest wooden batik showrooms in Krebet. We were greeted by Ms. Tri who accompanied us around to show the process of making wooden batik. She was still young but she already fell in love with wooden batik since her early age. To make a beautiful artwork, wooden batik mask for example, it must go through several steps. First, we must draw a pattern on the wooden mask’s surface using a pencil. After that, we begin to thicken it with wax using a canting (a pen-like tool used to draw the batik pattern in wax), then we colour the mask. The next step is called nglorot or removing the wax by putting it in boiling water. After that, then we dry the product under the sun. The last step is finishing process by glazing melamine on top of the surface. The process of making wooden batik certainly requires its own skills. Drawing the pattern is quite difficult because it is made manually, not printed; and of course wooden batik requires a high level of accuracy. For those of you who are curious, you can also learn and try your own wooden batik making experience here. Are you up for the challenge?

All of our priceless experience this day taught us to appreciate all of the process behind our cultural heritage, because it took a long time to create them until it becomes the way of life for people in particular places. We were struck in awe when witnessing their struggle to maintain all the different kinds of cultural richness in Jogjakarta. It also made us appreciate our own culture more and more, and to preserve it for the next decades - if not centuries. Kindly take a look at our Instagram account for other stories behind other cultural hidden gems and we will see you in the next project – Hidden Gems Jogja: Community!