The Kraton (Sultan’s Palace) and Taman Sari (Sultan’s Water Castle) are both hot tourist destinations in Jogja. Typically Joel and I are lone explorers and politely say “Tidak terima kasih” (No thank you) when approached by the ever eager rogue guides. But we asked directions from someone hanging out near Taman Sari and he was more than happy to give us a private tour for the next hour. Since we didn’t really know where we were headed, we took the bait and to our surprise it turned out to be a good decision.
We had arrived early trying to beat the crowds so the Water Castle wasn’t open yet. Our guide took us through someone’s back yard complete with their family’s drying laundry to this secret spot so we could get a view of two of the pools from overhead. He told us the far pool was for the Sultan’s children and the other was for his forty wives.
Once inside the complex you can go to the opposite side of the tower to see the Sultan’s private pool, the one below.
You can also climb up into the tower and sit on the Sultan’s bed. I think the guide told us some folklore about us sitting there together and it magically giving us a longer relationship or strong marriage, but his English wasn’t great so he may have just been telling me to sit down.
After Taman Sari we walked around the grounds, through some tunnels and to an underground mosque that is apparently the spot for wedding photography. We saw two wedding parties and someone doing what looked like prom photos as well.
There are lots of homes within the Kraton complex and many of the people that live there are employed by the Sultan. We found two men sitting on a porch carving wayang kulit- Indonesian shadow puppets made from water buffalo hide.
After bidding farewell to our guide we made our way to the Kraton. It’s a large, sprawling complex of buildings that still houses the Sultan’s family, museums with artifacts from past sultans and from 9:00-1:00 each day a couple of hundred tourists.
We met a group of school girls just dying for a picture with a handsome, white American so of course Joel obliged. Not to brag, but I had a couple of fans myself.
And after seeing this portrait, I’m now on a mission to get myself a pair of these gold, elfish ear ornaments.