Posted by: amyswietlik | July 4, 2011

Cobra and Jazz – A Great Last Night in Yogyakarta!

For my last night in Yogyakarta, I went with a group of friends from the home stay where I fist stayed to a restaurant called Kobra Imperial Kitchen. As implied by the name, the restaurant serves cobra, along with other interesting foods such as pigeon, frog, turtle, and sea cucumbers. We went for the cobra!


We order 20 cobra satays and a dish of black-peppered cobra. It was delicious! I would describe the texture as very tender and similar to chicken fat. The taste is a bit smokier but still very mild. The satays were great!



After our adventurous and delicious dinner, we went over to Bentara Budaya for Jazz Mben Senin, or the weekly Monday night jazz jam. I had gone once a few weeks before and really enjoyed the jam so I was happy to go back again.

To my understanding, the jam is run by the musicians in Jazzing Java, a jazz group in the area. They set up a sound system and invite the local musicians to come up and play jazz standards and some pop arrangements. Overall, I was very impressed with the quality of musicianship and knowledge of jazz. I always find it very interesting different culture’s interpretations of jazz. They played common standards like Satin Doll, Billy’s Bounce, some Miles Davis tunes, but would also play American pop music in jazzy arrangements like some Alicia Keys sings and a few others. They were great musicians and if I return to Yogya, I will definitely sit in!

It was a wonderful way to spend my last night in Yogya and I will definitely miss being here. The whole month has been an incredible experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Being able to visit temples, learning how to speak Bahasa Indonesia, playing gamelan with locals, making my own batik, seeing wayang kulit, eating durian and snake, and going cave tubing! I couldn’t ask for anything more!


Posted by: amyswietlik | July 4, 2011

Trying Durian (and I liked it!)

The last item on my list of things I wanted to do during my time in Indonesia was to try the infamous fruit, Durian! The whole month I was here, though, most of my friends kept saying how awful it was and that I wasn’t allowed to try it around them! I never got the guts up to go buy a whole on by myself just for a taste.

However, today, the day before I leave, my friend Amalia’s dad got a durian and offered to share it with me! He really likes them and another one of our friends, Matt, had bought him a ripe one the night before.

We sat outside of my old home stay (outside of course because most people think the smell is so terrible they don’t want it in the house!) and cut open the spiky fruit. I was expecting it to smell like trash or sewer, as some people have described in the past. I was surprised when it really didn’t smell that bad at all.



I took a piece of the fruit to try and in all honesty, it wasn’t bad at all. The texture is very creamy and smooth almost like room-temperature cream cheese. It’s not sweet like other fruits, but more savory and almost tastes like cheese. It was by no means as disgusting as people had made me think it was! I actually enjoyed eating it!



And now my list is complete of all the places I wanted to see and all the things I wanted to do while spending a month in Indonesia! I think I’m just about ready to head home to America now!


Posted by: amyswietlik | July 4, 2011

Kali Suci Cave Tubing!

While I was on then plane from Jakarta to Yogyakarta after first arriving in Indonesia a month ago, I saw a brief article in one of the airline magazines about a place to go cave tubing. I made note of the name and decided to look into it more after I got settled and had made friends. There is a region about two-hours outside of Yogya called Kalisuci Karst that contains over 200 caverns and caves. One location offers cave tubing trips through one of the caves and after looking into and realizing that there may only be three cave tubing places in the world, I decided this was an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up while I was in Indonesia!

I managed to convince three of my friends to come with me out to the middle of nowhere in a rented car for the day to try and find the cave tubing place. I had done a lot of looking online to find information about the activity but really only stumbled across a few brief articles that mentioned a vague location outside of Wonosari and included a few desirable pictures. With the small amount of information I had collected, we led the driver out past the town of Wonosari, at which point we had to start asking the locals in the area where exactly the Kalisuci Caves were. We managed to find the small gravel road and found a guide to walk us down to the area. Just the opening of the cave with the river running through was breath-taking.


We unfortunately found out that a large group had just left before we got there to go through the caves and that apparently we were supposed to have made a reservation online for the tubing. Even after looking around on the internet for hours, I hadn’t found any kind of reservation site. I was starting to feel really bad about dragging my friends two-hours away from Yogya to the middle of the woods.

The guide told us that he would go talk to his boss and see what he could do. He came back and told us we’d have to wait maybe two hours before we could go through the caves. My heart sunk as we had some time restraints for the day and couldn’t stay out there that long. The four of us were sitting on a bench trying to figure out what to do next. Our option was to go to the nearby beach, which still would have been nice, but I had really set my heart on cave tubing.

Just as we were about to get up and head back to our car, after waiting about 30 minutes, a group of the cave tubing guides came back! They motioned to us to come over and out the gear on and that we could go right away! I was ecstatic that it had actually worked out for us!

We quickly out on the life vests, shin guards, and helmets they provide for you and got ready for the adventure!


We headed to the mouth of the cave and entered the water. It was a surreal experience. The caves were not very long so we didn’t need head lamps as you didn’t go long without sunlight but the experience was unforgettable. We went through about three cavernous regions with brief sections in between where you were out in the open in a large, beautiful gully area. We floated down on tubes most of time but there were a few deep areas were you could get out a swim and a couple areas of rapids that you had to get through without the tube.

It was so beautiful and definitely an experience that I will always remember! We were lucky too, that our friend Amalia had a water proof camera so we could take pictures of the trip.







The whole trip through the caves took about two hours and ended with a grueling climb up a steep slope to get out of the valley. It was definitely worth the effort to make the trip out there!

For the sake of future travelers, I am going to post some contact information for the cave tubing areas since it’s not available on a lot of English websites.

Website for booking:
Cell phone numbers (Bahasa Indonesia): 087738794513 – Muslam, 08174122826 – Yanto

Posted by: amyswietlik | July 1, 2011

Ramayana Ballet

One of the tourist attractions that I wanted to make sure to go see while in Yogya is the Ramayana ballet performance held in an outdoor theater overlooking the lit-up Prambanan temples at night. It was quite the experience!

I hired a car to take me to the theater in the evening. I arrived a bit early so I had dinner at the very nice buffet they set up for visitors right next to the theater. I sat at a table with an incredible view of the towering Prambanan temples all lit-up. I took a few pictures but my camera is just not good enough at night to really do the view justice but I can say that it was one of the most breath-taking sights I’ve ever seen.



After dinner and enjoying the view, I went into the theater to see the performance. Of course there was a small gamelan ensemble playing in the entrance area to the theater.


The Ramayana ballet acts out a small portion of the extensive and ancient Indian epic. It is directed towards tourists so they cut out a lot of the dialogue scenes and basically stick to the action parts. A synopsis of the Javanese version of the Ramayana goes basically something like this:

Rama falls in love with Shinta. Shinta is then kidnapped by Rawana. Then Rama and his brother, Laksmana, enlist the help of the monkey armies in getting Shinta back. They kill Rawana and save Shinta. Then Shinta has to prove herself pure to Rama by burning herself at the stake. She survives because of her purity and Rama and Shinta can then be together.

The Monkey army

Shinta and another princess who helps her

Rawana trying to persuade Shinta to marry him after he kidnaps her

The head of the Monkey army, Hanuman, burning a village (side story within epic)

Rama kills Rawana with an arrow and saves Shinta

Posted by: amyswietlik | June 30, 2011


On Thursday morning, June 30, I took another cultural course on Jamu, an Indonesian herbal medicinal practice that is over 1000 years old. Jamu is very popular with the older generations and the knowledge and skills are traditionally passed down within a family. There are a few different forms of Jamu now – the traditional market Jamu, the brewed Jamu served in a restaurant-like setting, and the modern Jamu which is basically packets of herbal powder.

During my course, we visited places where you can get each type of Jamu. We first went to the market, called a pasar, and visited a women who makes her own Jamu. She stays up all night mashing and mixing the herbs for her Jamu paste. The herbs used usually include ginger, tamarind, turmeric, cinnamon, jasmine and various other roots and leaves. After spending all evening making her Jamu mixture she brings them along with a few pots of broth used to mix the herbs into a drink form to the market to sell.

Woman with her various Jamu mixtures

I tried a Jamu mixture for good health and healing from the inside.

This one didn’t taste too bad – sweet but with lots of ginger and herbs. She made this with the pot of sweet honey broth as opposed to the black broth that tastes pretty terrible!

After trying some of the traditional, fresh-made Jamu, we walked around to some other stalls in the market and my guide taught me about different kinds of herbs and some of their mystical uses in society. I learned about lemon grass and it’s uses to repel Mosquitos, a very bitter root that is eaten so that the bitterness comes out in the sweat and repels Mosquitos, and a seed that soothes your mouth and throat when you chew it. I wish I could remember all the names of the roots and herbs but there were so many!

Learning about roots and herbs at the market

Next we went to the place where they brew the Jamu herbs and serve them as a hot drink. They have herb mixtures for every ailment from diabetes and gout to weight gain and loss to headaches and sensuality. I tried the women’s vitality Jamu which is supposed to give you more energy and strength. This time tone broth was the dark liquid and did not taste very good! At least I got to wash it down with the sweet honey liquid.

The shelves of dried herb mixtures that you can buy and brew at home. I bought the one that’s supposed to help with arthritis! However, to get the full benefits of Jamu, you’re supposed to drink it every day.

Women’s vitality Jamu (black) and a sweet drink to wash it down with

Finally, we went to a small store that sold the modern Jamu which is basically a package of powder that you add to water similar to some of the herbal energy mixes they sell in convenient stores in the U.S. Most of these “modern” forms of Jamu are for uses in the bedroom so I won’t go into detail about them and didn’t take any pictures of the packages!

It was quite interesting to learn about their traditional herbal remedies and mixtures and getting s chance to see what people believe in and the strong mystical influences from ancient societies. I’m glad I got to try the Jamu and it definitely made me feel good that day and my skin looked great! I wouldn’t mind having a cup of it everyday – now I just have to find someone who makes Jamu in Arizona!

Posted by: amyswietlik | June 30, 2011

Wayang Wong

During my time here in Yogya, there are quite a few art and music festivals going on and I’m trying to find and get to as many as I possibly can. On Wednesday, June 29, I attended a Wayang Wong performance at a local university. Wayang Wong is a traditional dance form similar to Wayang Kulit shadow puppetry in the sense that the dancers act out parts of the Ramayana or Mahabharata epics and are accompanied by gamelan as well.

The group that I saw perform on that night of the festival was an excellent group. Their costumes were beautiful and their choreography was well-rehearsed. They even added a comedic interpretation to their performance of one of the famous fight scenes between two characters by adding a pet dog character that would just get in the way during the fight and do silly things like lick the opponent and accidentally tripping his master.

The group performed for about an hour and a half and was able to take quite a bit of video that I wish I could share in this blog. One of the reasons I videoed the performance was to capture the sounds of the gamelan and the lead drummer as they accompany the interactions of the dancers. The microphone on the drum was turned up fairly loud so it was easy to hear his role accompanying people walking, strikes against each other during a fight, and other sound effects. Being able to hear the drum clearly really adds to the performance and allows you to appreciate the role between the musicians and the dancers on both a rehearsed level and on an improvisatory level.


Posted by: amyswietlik | June 30, 2011

Kali Code City Walk

One of the reasons I decided to travel to just central Java and not visit many other areas or islands in Indonesia, other than just the ease when traveling by myself to not have to go a lot of places, was because I enjoy learning and experiencing the culture. I feel like staying in Yogyakarta longer has allowed me to learn my way around more and to be able to experience things other than just the main tourist attractions.

On Wednesday evening, June 29, I went on a guided city walk along the Code river which runs through Yogya. The walk focused on learning more about the ways people live, work, and spend their free time. Kali Code is a very populated area because of the uses and benefits of living near the river. The neighborhood used to be pretty run down and known for crime but about 20 years ago, a single priest came to the area and put a lot of effort into improving the living conditions. Walls were built along the banks of the river to help with the frequent problem of flooding. Concrete and other housing materials were provided so residents could actually have a stable house instead of sheet metal and cardboard. All the attention and effort in the area caused crime rates to drop as well. It is still a lower class neighborhood but in general, is now in much better shape than it was 20 years ago.


Alongside the river

My guide taught me about a lot of the plants and fruits that grow in the area and what they are good for, such as lemon grass and keeping away Mosquitos. We saw the different ways the river is used, particularly now since the eruption of the Merapi volcano last year, there is an abundance of sand in the river that people collect and sell by the truckload. We saw some of the raw goods being assembled to become sandals and other items to sell in the local markets. Finally, we sat and enjoyed some local snacks and satay at a little food cart.

A jasmine flower used in teas and all sorts of things here

Satay at the food cart

The whole walk was a wonderful experience just getting away from the hustle and bustle of the main roads and being in the actual neighborhoods to greet people and enjoy the culture.

Overlooking the river area

Posted by: amyswietlik | June 30, 2011

Affandi Museum

I went to a local art museum of the Indonesian artist, Affandi. It was a beautiful museum of his artwork which definitely has Van Gogh-esque characteristics in terms of the brush strokes and expressionistic interpretation of his subjects. I could not take pictures of the actual paintings unfortunately, but you can see some of them here and read more about Affandi:

The whole complex of the museum was very unique and beautiful and I was able to take quite a few pictures of the premises. Please pardon my attempts at being artistic! The aura of the whole place just put me in a creative mood!

Very cool wood carving on an outside wall near Affandi’s grave

Balinese lion statue

Statue of Affandi in the courtyard area

A cool staircase

Bird of Paradise plant

Another spiral staircase

The Affandi museum building with a banana leaf roof

Very cool Mosaic pool


Posted by: amyswietlik | June 26, 2011

Solo Batik Carnival

The 2011 Solo Batik Carnival was held on Saturday, June 25. I attended with my friend I was staying with in Wonogiri, Anom, along with her daughter and brother. We were able to get VIP seating in the risers because Anom’s family helped plan the event. Since we were sitting in the VIP section, they let us come down onto the street before the parade started to take pictures with the large carnival signs on the ground. And yes, I was wearing batik!


It was an incredible parade of costumes featuring unique batik designs in various colors and themes. There were so many photographers on the street trying to take pictures of the performers and their costumes that it was difficult to get decent pictures with my camera. They don’t necessarily do the costumes justice but at least you can get an idea of what the event entailed!





Posted by: amyswietlik | June 26, 2011

A Week of Gamelan Lessons

I received the great opportunity from my friend, Anom, to take gamelan lessons with her uncle for a week while I was in Wonogiri. Her uncle has taught gamelan at various universities in Solo and now teaches at an arts high school in Wonogiri. We met Monday through Friday for two hours each morning. Even though I have played in the gamelan ensemble at Arizona State University for 4 semesters and know a bit about gamelan in general, I am by no means a master so the chance to take some private lessons was something I couldn’t pass up. During the week, we worked on learning more about three instruments: saron panerus (also called peking), bonang barung, and kendhang. I learned a lot during the week and definitely expanded my knowledge and experience.

In terms of the gamelan ensemble, the three instruments that I played this week I would probably rate as Level 3 in the ensemble. Level 1 would be the gongs and the u darling structure of the ensemble, kind of like a bass line. Level 2 would be the balungan, or melody, instruments that play the simple, skeleton melody of the piece upon which other instruments elaborate. These are the sarons and slenthem. Level 3 would include the three instruments I played as they elaborate on the melody slightly. The saron panerus in a general sense, doubles every tone of the melody. The bonang barung alternates between the two pitches of the melody and the kendhang is a drum that keeps the time and directs the tempo changes and form of the pieces. Level 4 would include bonang panerus, gender, and gambang. These instruments elaborate more freely upon the melody and require more advanced techniques and understanding of structure. Finally, Level 5 are the very advanced instruments including the rebab fiddle, siter, and the suling flute. For more information and pictures of all these instruments, visit this website:

I had played saron panerus and bonang barung before back at ASU but it really helped to take lessons and learn more about the instruments and their roles in the ensemble. Learning some of the drumming patterns was also very beneficial because that is one of the areas of the ensemble that I don’t know much about but it plays such an important role in controlling tempos and leading transitions.

Learning kendhang

We worked on a few new balungans and also a few that I had played before. Bapak was very patient with me and we quickly figured out how to work around the language barrier. Using visuals by writing the parts out on a white board and also having him demonstrate on the instruments for me turned out to work well and was obviously better than verbal explanations in this case!

Me and my teacher

The week culminated with a final gamelan gathering at Bapak’s house where we played through all the pieces I had learned and I even got to drum and lead the group on a song. I stumbled over my parts a few times because it’s quite a bit different practicing all week with just me and the drum and then adding 15 other people on all the other instruments! Everyone was very nice anyways and I think they just appreciated the fact that I was trying to learn about their music and culture. It was a wonderful experience and exactly what I had hoped for!

Playing bonang barung at the jam on Friday night

A great picture of me playing kendhang with everyone

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