if these walls could talk

The streets of Jogjakarta smelled of whisper in the middle of the day. As I quietly traced its pavements, they turned into more audible sounds and I felt like I was taking crazy pills heightened by my hangover from the last night. The walls seemed to talk.

I walked the stretch of Malioboro until it led me to The Kraton, or Sultan’s Palace, a symbol of ensuring that the harmony between the court and the divine forces of the universe is intact. The courtyards mirror the ocean that surrounds the main pavilion, which in turn represents Mt. Meru, the mountain of the gods.

I have to be honest and thought that the palace lacked charm. I guess I wasn’t just aware of its rich history at that time, and the guides that toured the people were all speaking in their native tongue. So before I drowned and got lost in translation, I made my escape.

As I side-stepped on the winding streets, I guy popped out from nowhere and asked me if I wanted a tour of the city. I said sure and we proceeded to head out. The old buildings towered and I felt compelled to look upward and stare in amazement. Even the run-down dilapidated walls have stories to tell, and children and lovers sitting on the broken windows gathered wind as I overlooked the city.

Jogjakarta is said to be the seat of the sultan, and the surrounding areas served as houses for the palace workers. No house nor building should be built higher than the palace, which is patterned after the cosmos. My guide is one of them descendants of countless generations of faithful to the seat and they have been true to the culture of art. Smoking kretek cigarettes is one of them. Yey!

My guide and I traced the alleys. He lead me to this ominous entrance while a steady sound of music emerged. Young musicians littered the hallway that lead to Sumur Gumuling, the underground mosque that was built in the waterways of the city.

Sumur Gumuling sits in the middle of the well that served as a water passage in the olden days. The five stairs symbolizes the Five Pillars of Islam: unity of god (tawheed), prophecy of mohammad (nabovvat/nubuwwah), resurrection (ma’ad), balance and justice (adl), and spiritual guide (imamat/imamah). The staircase leading to the top symbolizes the pilgrimage to mecca.

The sound of distant singing merged with my voice as I tested the wonderful acoustics of the tunnels…

As we slipped past lawns and backyards, we emerged right inside Taman Sari, or Fragrant Garden, Sultan Hamengkubowono I’s mini water palace where he and his family and hordes of harems took refuge under the blasted heat of the sun.

The main pool for the concubines. The sultan will stand on the balcony and will point to the lady of choice.

The lucky searchie will then be taken to the private pool where they can spend some lovey-dovey time together.

As for me, I’d happily give-in to them voices in my head. I’m pretty sure they were the ones who lulled me to do the unthinkable: to take a picture of myself when no one is looking. Ugh!

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  • lakwatsera de primera

    February 17, 2011 at 4:38 am

    hahaha, bakit naman unthinkable, kung feel mo ba mag-self-portrait, kanya-kanyang trip lang yan :

  • flip'n travels

    February 17, 2011 at 5:03 am

    @lakwatsera: haha! it’s so unfilipino of me na di kayang magpicture pag mag-isa! ewan ko ba? nahihiya talaga ako! sa sobrang kabaragan, di ko napansin mali pala ang spelling ko ng unthinkable! nakita ko lang nung nabasa ko yung comment mo… haha! yan tuloy, napa edit pako! tenchu! >_<

  • Cedric

    February 17, 2011 at 5:39 am

    Very beautifully written. 🙂 On a side note, I wish I were the sultan with a pool of concubines. Hahaha.

  • flip'n travels

    February 17, 2011 at 5:53 am

    @cedric: thanks dude! haha! ikaw na ang pogi, PAK!

  • inka

    February 17, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    I absolutely love your writing style. As for the voices..never fear it happens to me too. And that last picture of yourself is lovely.

  • chyng

    February 17, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    so what’s the reward of being picked by the sultan? walang additional prize? ^_^

  • Laurel

    February 17, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    Lovely photos! I didn’t realize there was such a thing as underground mosques before, sounds intriguing. I could just picture the sultan pointing to the “chosen” girl, it gave me shivers.

  • John in France

    February 17, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    If only these walls could talk – I love this side of travel. Safe travels to Vietnam!

  • jamie - cloud people adventures

    February 18, 2011 at 8:00 am

    seriously considering stealing your writing style. would that be cool with you? you should be a song lyriscist, something similar to the doors vibe. glad i came across you guys and your blog, really digging the uniqueness of the way its compiled. this post is no exception!

  • flip'n travels

    February 21, 2011 at 5:08 am

    @inka: 😀 the voices might revolt if i dont listen… they told me so, haha! thanks inka, you are very sweet!

  • flip'n travels

    February 21, 2011 at 5:10 am

    @ chyng: wala lang teh, naharass ka pa ng mashondang lalaki. pft!

  • flip'n travels

    February 21, 2011 at 5:14 am

    @laurel: yep, it was quite amazing. i remember the guide telling me something about why the structure is like that but i totally forgot! >_<

  • flip'n travels

    February 21, 2011 at 5:14 am

    @john: thanks john! it was a safe trip! 😀

  • flip'n travels

    February 21, 2011 at 5:20 am

    @jamie: teehee! it’s yours to take! 😀 back in college, one of my lit professors told me i’m bi-polar when it comes to writing. never thought of it as something good AND healthy until you guys thought it was nice. thank you very much! 😀 i am inspired…

  • pinoy boy

    February 21, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    your entries about Indonesia make me want to reconsider a trip there. I agree very nicely written.

  • flip'n travels

    February 22, 2011 at 12:36 am

    @pinoy boy: yes, you do want to go to indonesia! 😀 thanks very much!

  • Grace

    February 25, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    Hey how’s Vietnam? It’s been quiet here. Can’t wait to see what have you guys been up to!

  • pinaytraveljunkie

    February 26, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    I miss Yogya! The underground mosque’s creepy-slash-beautiful. We didn’t enter Taman Sari 🙁

  • flip'n travels

    February 28, 2011 at 12:46 am

    @grace: vietnam was amazing! been caught up with work but i’ve recharged my batteries. plus ron’s been emailing me like crazy! can’t wait to tell the rest of indonesia so we can move on with vietnam posts. thank you for checking the site! we appreciate it! 😀

  • flip'n travels

    February 28, 2011 at 12:47 am

    @gay: me too! i got to enter taman sari because my guide and i took the private path where everything leads to everywhere in kraton. really amazing place!

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