Somewhere between busy Jakarta and the resort area of Bali, about midway down the island of Java, is a Yogyakarta, perhaps best known as a launching pad to Borobudur, “The Angkor Wat of Indonesia.” Which is all well and good, but there is of course the here and now, and one of the best places to see it is at a place known as South Square. By day and by night, a whole variety of feasts for the eyes awaits you, despite there not being an ancient ruin in sight.
Birds in the sky, but in cages
South Square is a large, open green space that is mostly composed of some rather parched lawn and a couple of big banyan trees in the middle. The Square is on the south side of the Sultan’s Palace, which is a must visit in and of itself, and full of history. We are not talking about history today. In fact, odds are good that if you go on a weekend day, you will not here much talking at all, but rather loud bird melodies (or squawks, depending on your disposition) and their owners very vocally cheering them on. Seeing these birds in ornate cages, vaulted high into the skies, you may think it was an offering for the gods, but in fact it is a singing competition. Judges walk around and launch microphones to those lofty bird levels to check for volume and lyrical quality. Winners receive prizes such as blenders or irons.
Horses making the rounds
Should you visit “Jogja” (as the locals often refer to it), you will quickly notice horse-drawn carriages plying the streets. Though tourists may of course ride them, they are not for tourists per se. In the “Jogya” of today, swarmed by motorbikes, there is still room for honest to goodness, horse-drawn transport. A good journey to take would be one that started or ended at South Square. It all depends on the journey length, but figure around 30,000 IDR (about 2 USD) for a destination not inordinately far.
When the sun goes down, the vehicles light up
When the sun goes down, the locals come out to eat, chat, and pedal highly adorned, very colorful, shells of classic vehicles around the road that circles South Square. The cars on parade – as there really is no more apt a metaphor – are bedazzling, and sure to bring a smile to your face. Most can carry four passengers, and some more than that, but you’re going to need to pedal. Instead of an engine, there is often a kicking stereo system in its physical place, and instead of a floor beneath your feet, there are pedals to get you participatory. For 10,000 IDR (less than 1 USD), you too, three, or more can do a leisurely pedal around the square, as the fee is per vehicle, not per person.
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A wholesome outing by day or night
The birds, the horses, and the electrical parade are but just a few reasons to visit South Square. There’s so much more that you’ll have to just discover yourself, but suffice it to say that street food and banyan tree legends await you!
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