Malioboro is like the boardwalk that knows only one thing: batik. As with other similar markets in Turkey and Indonesia, the supply side of the equation is so overwhelmingly large that demand has no chance of ever catching up.
Our place is called “La Javanaise”. It’s a home stay, meaning that it’s not a hotel; the owners rent out rooms in their home. This one is nice. It’s a three level concrete building, with a lovely open terrace on the top floor where I now sit and write this. The accommodations are rather 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 looks fairly normal from up here, but once you get to ground floor, you realize that the whole place is an ant hill. The houses are packed in tetris style, and the only way to reach them is a labyrinthine system of alleys so narrow that two people don’t fit shoulder to shoulder. The night we arrived, as we followed our host through a seemingly endless string of twists and turns, we realized this is not something we’d ever do at home, yet here we were, putting our fate in the hands of a guy we’ve met 45 seconds ago. The alley could have ended up at the sausage factory for all we knew.
It turns out that the neighborhood is lovely. There is an eclectic mix of home stays and regular houses, eateries, restaurants, shops, travel agents, batik art stores, and so on. One can briefly get lost here, and that’s not a bad thing at all.
Andrew is sick, the Dunkin Donuts ice coffee got him. So I head out solo tonight, looking for backpacker camaraderie.
Lucifer, the bar on one end of the street into which our anthill spills has live music. Nice band, with a short chubby guy singing energetically, high-heeled eye candy lackadaisically swaying behind him and providing superfluous doo-wop. He clearly got his singing chops in karaoke bars. 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 internet tells me this name is supposed to mean something, but I still find it bizarre. The crowd here is chill, mostly locals trying to achieve the 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 bottles wink at me seducingly, 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.
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.
I head home crunching and slurping.