Saturday, December 4, 2010

Solo Tales - On-Foot Adventures, Royal History and Protracted Train Waits

Solo's Kraton and Kasunanan. This photo only courtesy of

I wasn't gonna leave Solo without seeing the Kraton, the royal grounds, owned by the King of Solo, the center piece of which would be the Royal Palace. I walked towards the nearby market and bought a kilo of "balimbing" (carambola, saranate), all ripe and the size as big as my knuckle (6,000 Rp). When I saw those juicy ripe flesh of a jackfruit, I couldn't resist buying 1 kilo (10,000 Rp). It's my fruit day, apparently. Yesterday, it was macopa.

Just across the market is the stately Kraton Grounds entrance. I bought my ticket - 5,000 Rp for the first portion which was something I wouldn't pay money for had I known what was there. The museum portion, worth 13,500 Rp - including camera fee - was a different matter altogether. A young girl named Pipin accompanied me as my guide and jubilant annotator. There was this huge clock tower decked in white and blue, and as you enter the grounds, you are immediately transported back to the old grandeur of Solo. In fact, there were tangible indications of massive riches all around.

Roman statues painted in impeccable white were on display at every post outside. Yes, they were flown in from Rome. And the tour didn't really take long. I was bowled over by the lineage of the kings, who were refered too as BP1 to BP 10, some of them had something like 50 wives and 180 children. It's amazing how greed is translated into the number of wives. Adultery was frowned upon so might as well marry anyone you'd like to shag, right? The family mechanics should be nothing less than dramatic and colorful. Interestingly, these royal grounds aren't taxed by the government out of respect for the kings. Meanwhile, Pipin (my kraton guide) was grappling with her English, she was nonetheless competent, though a tad too young to exert a sense authority.

I wasn't able to do my internet most of the day. Neither was there any wartels available. I needed to call Jakarta just to make sure I had a room waiting for me at Margot. I felt it was imperative. I was starting to feel the strain of this constant mobility, this is starting to wear me out, to be honest. How do other travelers do it, especially when they're taking 16 months to 2 years of non-stop travels?

My train back to Jakarta won't leave Solobalapan until 9:17 in the evening so I had plenty of time to burn. But I didn't feel like making difficult trips today. It turned out for the better. I just walked all day, checking out the shops along Jalan Slamet Riyadi, which was Solo's less-busy EDSA. In the afternoon, I found myself along Gajahmada Street which was a strip of upmarket hotels: Novotel Solo, Ibis, Grand Orchid Hotel and the imposing Hotel Sahid Jaya.

I also found a neglected park at the Bunggawan area, right across Monumen Pers Nasional (which had imposing white dragons at its facade.) By 4:30 PM, they were finally able to fix the aberrant electric grid so I was able to make my call to Jakarta. I saw Wahyu (my ojek driver yesterday) beside the DHL Office and told him I needed a ride to the Solobalapan Station.

Wahyu invited me to visit his house which I turned down. I should have accepted, looking back, but I am not too fond of doing adventures too close to departure times. But I actually had enough time - almost 4 hours! But that flew by fast. Solobalapan boasts of its Executive Lounge, with an AC room, fully carpeted, fitted with comfortable chairs and cable televisions strewn everywhere. I was tempted to doze off from my seat, but was too paranoid to let go of my backpack. I was looking forward to my Bima Train which was an executive seat.

The journey was supposed to take me 8 hours and 30 minutes, arriving in Gambir at 5:30AM. But by 7AM the next day, I knew it would take longer than what's written down my train ticket. We reached Gambir at 8AM. Two hours and thirty minutes is nothing to scoff at, and I just wished train schedules were more accurate. What if I had a plane ride to catch, then I'd have definitely missed it. And despite a comfortable train seat, sleeping on a train with a recliner will never give you the comfort of a bed. People sleep horizontally for a reason. I was so tired I knew I'd have to take a nap upon reaching Margot Hotel. Otherwise, I'd be gallivanting like a zombie.

And yeah, I broke a plate at the train. Some idiot placed his plate at the foot of his chair - and people were bound to step on it. Idiot, didn't I say?

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Night at Jalan Slamet Riyadi, Solo's main avenue.

Slumbering cars. This photo only courtesy of


Trotter said...

Hi Eye! Statues from Rome? What for? ;)
2h30 delay isn't that bad... ;)

Blogtrotter Two is in the Valley of Kings waiting for you!! No photos allowed inside the tombs, sorry… Enjoy and have a great week!

eye in the sky said...

I am getting used to long waits actually, but sometimes you just wished for more accurate schedule. That way, one can allot a proper itinerary; do better planning. This will optimize a trip.

And yes, statues from Rome were flown in to decorate the kraton grounds during the heydays of the kings of Indonesia.

Nisha said...

Being a solo traveller myself, I can understand your views.

Also, even I would not have tried spend time near my departure time.

eye in the sky said...

I have actually done risky travels too close to departure times and I almost missed my flight! it's too risky.

Trotter said...

Hi Eye! I think that an accurate schedule for means of transportation isn't an easy task; you know, even the Swiss complain when their trains run two minutes late... ;)

Blogtrotter Two has started to cruise the Nile for you, but without Poirot!! Some interesting shots available… ;) Enjoy and have a great week!

eye in the sky said...

Trotter, I just believe that part of being in a civilized world is "accuracy" or promptness. Needless to say, my train wait was painless. It was the protracted train ride that bugged me. :->

Siddhartha Joshi said...

You should certainly come down to India and travel in trains :) I have often almost missed connecting train/ flight, thankfully not quite!

Interesting post this is, and nice pictures too.

eye in the sky said...


I have, in fact, one of my dearest friends right now is a Kashmiri I had the pleasure to travel with from Dhaka to Kolkata to Delhi 2 years ago. We decided to see each other again in Kathmandu last November 2009.

Needless to say, I have experienced so many train travels in India - from non-AC sleepers, 3rd class and 2nd class sleepers (1st class seats seems impractical, a few more rupees and it's already worth a plane fare). Unfortunate, I dislike them. I actually enjoy those dusty non-AC bus rides more than my 2nd class train trips. Long story actually. The Kolkata to Delhi ride is long. So is the Chennai to Delhi, and the Delhi to Mumbai.

I almost missed one on my way to Jaisalmer coz I could not find my coach number and seat number. These things could be mind boggling sometimes, but nevertheless fascinating.

Siddhartha Joshi said...

Thats very nice :) Lets hope I also get to visit your country soon, and by the way where are you from?

eye in the sky said...

Proudly Philippines. Hahaha! That is, if you're into Malls! Kidding aside, its a country of 6,700+ islands so travels are on land, on air, on water. You are always welcome, of course!