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!