Yogyakarta Day 3 & 4: Ramayana Ballet and Malioboro Street

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The three main performers L-R Rama, Sita and Hanuman waiting to take pictures with the audience before the start of the performance. They do this at the intermission too

I was really anticipating the last segment of our two day Yogya sightseeing which was the enactment of the Ramayana. I wanted to see how another culture interprets what is essentially a very special Hindu story and one, which probably every Indian, irrespective of their religion, knows intimately.

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The lit up Prambanan temple which provides a magical backdrop to the performance

Another reason for the performance was the fact that this ballet is performed outdoors in the background of the Prambanan temple which is lit up beautifully. The whole scene looks very ethereal and magical! The enactment of the Ramayana is the Javanese version of the story and the music is the Indonesian gamelan and the whole performance (songs, some dialogues etc) are in Bahasa Indonesia, but they have two screens on either side of the stage with subtitles in English. At points, there are also two emcees, who move the story forward and while one speaks in Bahasa, the other does the same in English. All costumes are also very Indonesian and oh so beautiful…

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Sita and King Janak

The ballet is performed by around 200 odd trained dancers and is based on the stone reliefs in the Prambanan temple which made it especially interesting. The performance is outdoors during the dry season (May-October) and indoors during the wet season (Jan – April, November – December). In the event of sudden downpours in the dry season (it happens), the performance is shifted indoors.

We were there on a Saturday and I had heard that the performance gets filled up fast over the weekend, so I had asked Ibot, whom I was liaising with for this trip, to help me book the tickets. I gave him my preferred seats and he had gotten the ticket office to block the tickets for me. When we went to the ticket office, Yus helped me speak to the person manning the counter and we had our tickets in hand immediately.

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Our class of seats on the left and the VIP seats further down

We booked the second tier class tickets which is called Special class seating. This cost us IDR 275,000 (approximately USD 21). The tickets in this class have seat numbers and though you sit in cement seats, you get a cushion for your back as well as a drink. The top class ticket, called VIP Class Seating is IDR 375,000 (~USD 29) which is actually quite plush seating. Other than the drink I mentioned earlier, they also get a souvenir (though I have no idea what was in it). The seats were also front centre in front of the stage whereas our seats were slightly to the right, but we still had amazing front views of the performance.
We also got to see the whole story performed, though there were some days which were termed episodic. I guess the episodic performances will go into the story more in detail, while the full story will be in bits and pieces so that they can finish it in two hours. The best part of the performance is when Hanuman burns Lanka and they use actual fire in the stage, which was awesome. That part also ends act one and there’s a 15 minute intermission after this.

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Entry of King Ravana

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Sita’s Svayamvar (wedding)

For those who want to know more about the epic that is the Ramayana, please click this Wikipedia link which is quit comprehensive and has further links. There’s a very famous television series on the Ramayana which was aired in the mid-to-late-eighties in India. Here’s a link to see the episodes of that series. The series is in Hindi and I don’t think there are any subtitles.

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The burning of Lanka

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Hanuman devastating Lanka

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When Rama and Sita meet after Rama defeats Ravana

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Another picture which shows Lanka burning

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Rama doubting Sita’s fidelity after their reunion

We got back quite late from the performance and found a mini drama waiting for us at the hotel. One of the two rooms had been locked from inside when we left the room in the morning and so we couldn’t get in. After involving the hotel technicians, they finally got the room open (through the balcony, thank the Lord we were on the ground floor) and we finally went to bed.

The next day, our last full day in Jogya was supposed to be a rest cum shopping day. We decided to hit Malioboro Street after breakfast. The hotel had a shuttle to the street and we took advantage of it. We spent some time walking the street and looking around as well as doing some shopping. After lunch at Pizza Hut (go figure!) we came back for some rest before we hit Ambarrukmo Plaza for more shopping and dinner before we ended our holiday.

Our flight back to Singapore was at 7:30 am and we were out of the hotel by 5:30 am. Like when we arrived, we got the hotel to send us to the airport using their vehicle and the return trip was not hassled. I was actually impressed with Air Asia and if I am flying short haul and regional, this is one option I will definitely consider.

The only parts I didn’t like was the fact they charge you quite a bit for credit card payment (which for people in Singapore is a must as there is no direct payment facility) and they only have 7 kgs as cabin baggage. Compare this to Tiger Airways which we took when we went to Penang last year, we could pay locally at the AXS machine (so avoiding credit card charges, since it is a local airline) and the airline also had 10 kgs cabin baggage allowance.

So this was all about our Yogyakarta trip. It’s taken me quite long to write this, but I hope it’s been worth it! Now to plan our next trip….

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