Indonesia – Yogyakarta, Sultan’s palace, water castle & underground mosque


Getting my cultural hat back on, I proceeded to go to the palace first thing in the morning. I was told there was a special show on at Kraton which only happens at the weekend, and it starts at 10am. I thought it would be dancing but turns out it is shadow puppets, they probably switch it up each weekend.

To get there, my hostel kindly drove me there as I had got up early to go but a girl who wanted to join made us all wait until 10am which was when the show was starting. It was ok though because it was just a long 3 hour story all in Indonesian and hardly any movement with the puppets. To get in you have to pay 13,500rp which includes the fee for camera equipment. There is also a free guide service (we thought we’d have to pay..) which is so worth while. When you buy your ticket make sure you ask for a guide! We had the most hilarious woman showing us around who told us her family had worked for the sultan for many years. There were even pictures of her grandparents on the walls showing the behind the scenes work that happens at the palace.

I learnt that the current Sultan has no connection with running the country anymore as they now have a president rather than a prime minister. Sultan number 10, I think it’s 10, only has one wife and 5 daughters. So his predecessor will either be his eldest daughter or one of his brothers. We were shown many pictures of the family, and all of the daughters marriages, our guide found it hilarious that daughter number 3 was really fat and couldn’t be carried by her husband and father at the ceremony.

The sultan’s father, who now come to think of it may be number 10, had 4 wives and many children. It seemed to be a popular trend among the Sultans to have multiple wives and some even had up to 70 children, which is just madness. There were family trees drawn up and some were just so impressive with the amount of people part of it.

I really enjoyed the tour, and so glad I did it because I actually understood what I was looking at. Plus it was free!

Afterwards we went to the water tower which cost 12,000rp entry and we paid 50,000rp for a guide. To split between four of us, it wasn’t a bad deal although the guide we had was really trying to rush us through and he spoke so fast none of us could really understand him. I think he got a bit annoyed when we were taking our time to look at everything and take pictures.

I found the water castle really pretty, and could only imagine what it looked like when it was first built. We were told that one pool was for the concubines who are actually maids.. one pool was for the children and then there was a separate pool for the Sultan and his wife(ves). Apparently, the Sultan would stand on the balcony and throw a flower into the concubine pool and they would fight to get it as they could then go into the Sultan’s pool. I really questioned this story as the “balcony” was a window above a terrace and the flower would never have reached the pool.

There use to be a garden surrounding the castle but when there was an earthquake and the castle collapsed, they expanded the city and sold the garden for housing.

After the castle we were taken to the mosque which was found through some windy paths and come cute houses. I enjoyed the walk through the city as everything is in such close quarters and the houses are all low rises.

The mosque was really amazing, it use to be under water which would have made the temperature really cool inside. It still is pretty cool in temperature and in ranking. The lower floor was for women and the upper for men, there’s this amazing set of stairs in the middle where four flights come together in the centre and then one leads up to the top.

That evening I headed back to the palace to try and place a game where you are blindfolded, spun around and then you have to try to walk between two pillars and if you succeed then you have a “good heart”. Unfortunately it had rained during the afternoon so it was completely flooded. Around the square there are some food stalls and most entertaining were the light cars. These were pimped out cars where the inside had almost been scrapped and to move you have to pedal. Inside each car is a dvd player blasting out pop song videos, and the car itself is decorated with lights.

For food, I found a stall where there was grilled sweetcorn, horray for vegetables, and some other delights all written in Indonesian. We decided to try some random things from the menu and what we received was a toasted sandwich which was filled with chocolate sprinkles, and covered in grated cheese, and another toasted sandwich filled with cheese and covered in condensed milk. It was pretty surreal watching the light cars pass by blaring out Ariana Grande, with the call to prayer playing in the background while eating a cheese and chocolate sandwich.

I also found a chicken satay stall, and another stall where I had some fried fish and rice. All delicious and incredibly cheap. Like seriously, 12,000rp for fish and rice! I was satisfied and full this evening. It’s been a great culture day.


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