Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by viravira on 5 January 2017 • Destination
The man reading newspaper in front of me stood and left when I was about to draw his head. He didn’t know I was drawing him in between my spoons of noodles, veggies and tempe, so he remained headless in my sketchbook. I was having breakfast at Lempuyangan market, near Lempuyangan Guest House where I was staying. It’s an ordinary Javanese market, packed with stalls of food, clothes, kitchenware, spices, and people speaking in Javanese.
“Your drawing is really good!” a woman’s voice came from behind me. “Do you go to ISI*?”
“No, I don’t. But thank you,” I answered briefly, like how I always do to strangers.
“My son goes there. He can paint really well,” the woman said proudly with a friendly smile, followed with a brief conversation about how her son’s lifestyle as an advertising creative worker in Jakarta worries her because of the lack of sleep at the least.
Shortly after, a few more people looked over my drawing and a discussion about how I should replace the head of the man rolled in. I ended up sitting at the small warung longer than I thought, just chit-chatting with the eaters and passersby.
Just as I was stepping out of the building, my eyes caught these colors spread on a wide stall. They were the jajanan pasar (market snack) of many many kinds! An old woman in a pastel green kebaya* sat in the center of the stall rather with poise, confirming that she was the owner of those inviting colorful snacks. After a small chat with her, I learned that she’s been the queen of Lempuyangan market’s snacks for years and years, with important people such as Indonesia’s ex-president’s family as regulars. And naturally I left the market with a few snacks in my shopping bag to munch later.
I’ve never really liked the smell of a traditional market. I just thought it, well, smelled. Natural food ingredients like leaves and meat or fish sometimes mixed with decaying trash from a distant corner, the smell of coolies’ sweat and many other smells, just don’t make up a good perfume. But, visually, a traditional market offers so many to see, as well as options of cheap breakfast, hence my visit.
Before heading back to Lempuyangan Guest House, I took a becak ride to Lempuyangan train station, only about 10 minutes from the market. I went just to see what it was like, having been founded in the 19th century. It was a well-reserved building with a touch of Dutch-Indies architecture style, though there wasn’t much I could wow at. Across the street, rows of food vendors, ojeks and becaks were waiting for customers. I changed my mind about sketching the station because I couldn’t find a comfortable spot to sit with a good view. So off I went walking back to the guest house.
On my way back, I stumbled upon an angkringan on the sidewalk. Angkringan is a famous type of sidewalk diner in Yogyakarta, where they sell rice and side dishes in small portions, and drinks like coffee, tea, lime and water. Three or four men were having bites at this angkringan, some of them were in office attire. They asked me where I was from when seeing me sketch the tea pots, and a small conversation started.
“How come you’re not at the office?” I asked the man sitting next to me, quite nosily, but totally appropriate for Indonesian small talk. “Oh, my work lets me out of the office a lot,” he said, but didn’t seem to want to elaborate what type of work it was. Later when the men took off, the seller lady explained to me without me asking, “They work at the bank. They come here for breakfast every morning after they clocked in at work.” Turns out, it’s a common practice in Yogyakarta, according to her.
I guess that applies in many places, not just Yogyakarta. I remember Jarod in Manado and at the kopitiams on Jalan Juanda in Pekanbaru, the visitors had more or less the same habit of eating and hanging out at diners within working hours like that. I guess maybe it’s in our tropical blood to balance work with social life?
It was almost noon, I really had to go back to the Airbnb because the sun was starting to get its claws out. Normally I walked through the 2-car street, but this time I decided to take a different path by the narrow alleys. I loved walking through the alleys of Kotagede so much just before I moved to Lempuyangan Guest House, I wanted to see the alleys in this vicinity.
There was one that fit only one person, I had fun shooting it on our Instastories. And then there was a wider one with batik motif on the wall. Before I knew it, I was already on the street where the guest house was. I exchanged greetings with warung owners who had noticed me on my way out. The street was quiet, it was school hours so no kid was seen running around.
The street, Jalan Ronodigdayan, was kind of like a maze with t-junctions and one-way sections. But with the help of Google Maps it was quite easy to find my way around.
The area, long long time ago, used to be where the kingdom’s stablemen lived. Another part used to belong, and some still do, to the train employees or retirees, being so close to Lempuyangan train station. The guest house in which I was staying also belongs to a train retiree, that is my friend Zaki’s dad. It’s actually a renovated pavilion next to his house. It doesn’t have a sign that says “Lempuyangan Guest House”, but the house number is seen very clearly.
The 2-storey pavilion has 2 bed rooms downstairs, 1 bathroom downstairs and 1 bathroom upstairs with hot shower. It sleeps at least 4 people, and there is extra charge for extra people. The facility was complete, it would make a great long stay: a full equipped kitchen, living room, dining room, a washing machine, a rooftop to hang dry your clothes, wi-fi connection and air-cons. It was so comfy, one day I totally took my time working with my laptop until I realized it was already noon and I wanted to see more of the city.
I stayed at the guest house for 4 nights. At the second day the wi-fi was off suddenly, and I texted Bu Yanti, Zaki’s aunt who was in charge of service. She immediately had it fixed and I could use the wi-fi like normal again in no time. I’m not sure she speaks English well, but I think you could also text her daughter if there’s anything you need because she understands and speaks English. Zaki’s guest house has had quite a number of international guests. Judging by the comments in the guest book, it seems like the service has been satisfying to all of the guests. *Psst! I wrote on the guest book, too!
Lempuyangan is not a touristy area, but it’s quite near from important spots like Yogyakarta’s main train station, the famous Malioboro street, and it’s so easy to find food around. One of the places where I had dinner two nights in a row was Cak Koting duck, a restaurant that grew from a small warung, only 10-minute walk from Lempuyangan Guest House. The grilled and fried ducks were yummy, and I had good long conversations with my native Jogja friend at the restaurant.
Would I recommend Lempuyangan Guest House to you? Foshizzle! Especially if you’re a bit fed up with all the touristy things, Lempuyangan area is a breath of fresh air. It’s a genuine Yogyakarta experience, which is not always about traditional culture because Yogyakarta is undeniably a developed city, but you can still the warmth of the people and general ambiance.
Lempuyangan Guest House:
Jalan Ronodigdayan 27, Danurejan, Yogyakarta
IDR500,000/night, sleeps at least 4 people.
IDR50,000/night for each extra person.
Becak ride between Lempuyangan market and train station: about IDR10,000 for single passenger.
Becak ride from Lempuyangan Guest House to Wijilan (gudeg restaurants): about IDR20.000 for single passenger.
Taxi ride from Lempuyangan Guest House to Yogyakarta train station: about IDR30,000.
Taxi ride between Lempuyangan Guest House and Kotagede: about IDR35,000.
Go-Jek services are available in Yogyakarta, so if you install the Go-Jek app you’ll get cheaper fares including the Go-Car service (Go-Car is like Uber available in Go-Jek app).
Cak Koting’s menu: about IDR25,000/portion.
Breakfast at Lempuyangan Market: about IDR10,000/portion.