In Yogyakarta we stay in the backpacker district. It’s close to the train station and Malioboro street, a long and sticky tourist trap where demand for batik could never catch up to the supply.
Our place is called “La Javanaise”. It’s a homestay, meaning that it’s not a hotel; the owners rent out rooms in their home. This one is nice, a three-level concrete building with a lovely open terrace on the top floor where I now sit and write this. The accommodations are spartan, but the backpackers wouldn’t have it any other way. For about $12 a night, it’s a bargain.
From the terrace, I have a great view of the whole neighborhood. It’s an anthill with houses packed Tetris style, connected by a labyrinthine system of alleys so narrow that two people wouldn't fit shoulder to shoulder. It is an eclectic mix of houses, eateries, restaurants, shops, travel agents, batik art stores, and so on. One would be happy to get lost here.
Andrew is sick, the Dunkin Donuts ice coffee got him. So I head out solo tonight, looking for backpacker camaraderie.
Lucifer, the bar at the end of our street has live music. Nice band, with a short chubby guy singing energetically. He’s clearly a graduate of the karaoke conservatory. Behind him, high-heeled eye candy provides superfluous doo-wop while swaying lackadaisically. The music is so loud that patrons are reduced to a stupor; conversation is futile.
I mosey over to the other offering, at the opposite end of the street, a place called Oxen Free. The crowd here is chill, mostly locals trying to achieve a state of cool. A couple of backpackers add color; one girl’s green hair fluoresces violently in the dimness. There is a DJ playing forgettable music and the bar is stocked exclusively with the Indonesian beer called Bintang (it means “Star”). The red stars on the labels wink at me seductively, but I’m not tempted. A lady of indeterminate age leans in conspiratorially. They offer mixed drinks also – she whispers – but they are not on display. That’s even less tempting and I retreat politely.
I continue my walk, but the town seems to have run out of steam. Or maybe I’m in the wrong place, or at the wrong time. There is nothing else to be found, except for an ice cream cone. It’s the lowly convenience store variety, but a good consolation prize.
Through the warmth of the night, I head home crunching and slurping.