"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Monday, May 25, 2009

"Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow." - Mark Twain


Jogjakarta trip
Day 3 - 30th April - Sangiran
(Part 1)

In Jogjakarta. people have their drinks with ice. This is in contrast to places like Cambodia, where people do not consume the ice at all - cans of drink are placed in ice or ice water, but when they are served to you the glass comes empty. Even fruit juice is given to you without ice. Presumably the consumption of ice means that the ice is safe, even if people don't seem to drink tap water - it isn't served in restaurants, and bottled water is widely available (maybe factories use clean water to make it, or they figure freezing ruptures bacterial membranes).

On a side note, in Jogjakarta room temperature soft drinks seem to be popular.

The previous night, the two of us had shared a 5-pack of Yakult (3 for me, 2 for her) in an attempt to ward off food poisoning. Apparently it worked as neither of us came down with anything this day.

Today I headed to Sangiran, near Solo, to see the last of my World Heritage sites. CWN declined to follow, deciding to nua in Jogja instead. I wasn't expecting much, but didn't have anything to do anyway, so I decided I might as well indulge my fetish.

I set out at 5:50am or so to catch the early train. Since the place is East of Singapore yet is an hour behind, the sun rose very early.

Selling Nasi Gudeg by the roadside.

It was refreshing to be the only tourist up and about so early. Even the touts were slow to annoy me.

Sleeping Becak Guy. This was at 5:58am. The poor guy slept there overnight to get dibs on business, yet I managed to sneak by him without waking him.

"Jamu cap Portret. Nyonya Meneer" - she (and indeed all the Nyonyas featured in this sort of advertisements) looks sullen. Not good for advertising.

When I got to the station at about 6:10am to buy tickets for the 6:30am (or 6:45am) train, I was very annoyed to be told that the ticket counter only opened at 7am (so much for labour being cheap in the Third World!) Strangely, the first train ran at 6am and I didn't see any vending machines so people must've bought their tickets the day before.

Sullenly, I returned to my room and napped for awhile longer. At 7:20am, I was directed to a different ticket counter (which might've been open at 6am - grr).

There was a sign outside the station saying there was a 1,500 Rp charge to enter the station (probably to deter touts and the homeless from entering) but I managed to sneak in via the side entrance. Duh. Well, the doorway I walked through was 'dilarang masuk', but I didn't speak Bahasa, so I didn't care.

Road food. There was strange stuff including (from left to right) what I later found out was chicken guts and poultry heads, so I settled for one of the safe option: lumpia/loempia (spring rolls).

The train carriage. What the timetable in tourist information called "Business Class". I don't want to know what Ekonomi Klass is like (maybe riding on top of the train, like in India).

When I got to Solo station, I found that unlike the cheats at Jogja airport, the taxi stand here had a printout of destinations and prices. It was 85,000 Rp for a one-way trip to Sangiran, and I was quoted 160,000 Rp for a two-way trip, with the guy waiting for me.

I wonder if anyone visits Solo to see Bengawan Solo.

I saw an ad for "Orang Tua". It featured a bald Chinese man with white facial hair, and his cronies.

My minivan taxi was tailgating a motorsikal, and my driver went up behind the rider and almost rammed into him, but he still wouldn't give way. Turns out he was texting. Gah.

Overturned truck with bananas

I saw a minivan, the back of which had the word "bagus" written on it.

Entrance to the museum compound

The museum was quite run-down:

"Home of Java Man"

Barren entrance

The signage of the place was extremely confusing, and the place seemed half-built:

Random shit

A sign pointing "Masuk" lead to this place - an unfinished building.

Dodgy, desolate corridor

Finally, I found the museum. It was divided into two parts. The first had some fossils. Well, most of them were replicas - from what one of the security guards could tell me when I asked (having been tipped off from web reviews), the originals were in a museum in Bandung (presumably the "Geological Museum", which sounds a world away from this one); only the stegodon fossils were original. Naturally, this was not mentioned in the display cases (it only said some human transition fossil skulls were copies). Meh.

I also asked the security guards about the dump that was the museum. Rather, conjecturing that there was an unfinished renovation, I asked "Museum baru?" in an enquiring tone and was told "Augustus". Whether this meant that work had halted last August, was due to resume this August or was to finish this August was not entirely clear, but given that the site seemed to have been abandoned and Third World inefficiency I doubted they would be able to keep to their timetable if it were the latter.

The museum was fitted with air-conditioning, but the airconditioners were unplugged, and there was no fan. Making things even better, the windows were closed as well. Very aware of these facts, the guards were all sitting outside, with one of them venturing into the museum only to try to sell me an information booklet.

Pig fossils. On reflection, they might not have been replicas - they might not have bothered labelling replicas (notice the "80" on Exhibit #1).

Elephantoides lower jaw and Stegodon Trigonocephalus upper jaw

Their prime exhibit - stegodon trigonocephalus fossils (a proto-elephant). And apparently these are their only real fossils, too.

Buffalo cranium

Hippo Jaw

Assorted bones they somehow didn't identify

Crocodile cranium

Bovidae bits

Femur and ulna of Stegodon Trigonocephalus

Stones and coral

Elephant bits

Finishing the first part of the museum, I was very sweaty.

Strangely, given how important the Sangiran site was, there was no signage pointing to it.

What might've been the site.

I then went into the second part of the museum, which was marginally better presented. And there were ventilation fans set into the ceiling.

Evolution - haram!

The solar system according to Indonesians. This was their most funky display but seemed more aesthetic than educational (for one, the Earth is in the wring orbit). I hope generations of Indonesian schoolchildren don't grow up learning that the Earth is the 8th planet from the sun, in the 9th orbital.

The only promotional picture you ever see of the museum. You can guess why.

The other half of that display.

In all, I unhesitatingly crowned the Sangiran Museum with the title of worst museum I'd ever visited, beating even the Malay Technology Museum in Brunei (at least that had good air-conditioning and the signage was better). Even in Bahasa, the explanatory text was woefully inadequate - it would be worth a visit only if all 3 of these (necessary) conditions were fulfilled:

1) You had nothing else to do
2) You'd rather not space out in or closer to the hotel
3) You wanted to visit a World Heritage site

Indeed, UNESCO agress with me. Here is a report from their 26th session (2002):

"• Lack of a comprehensive management plan to ensure integrated conservation and development of the site.
• Lack of a permanent site management authority to ensure co-ordination between conservation, research and development agencies.
• Poor site presentation and interpretation.
• Low community awareness on the World Heritage values of the property"

Exiting the museum, I was lingering for a while and one local man asked if I wanted to visit the archaeological site, which was about 4km away. He said he would guide me too, besides offering transport. I vaguely considered the possibility that it was a scam, but having nothing else to do, I knocked him down from 75,000 Rp to 50,000 Rp and hopped onto his motorsikal, figuring that deserted country roads would be alright and trusting to his locally-honed skills.

The archaeological site. It's a bowl-shaped area: the top layer is about 56 square kilometers (Wikipedia says 48), the bottom 35 and the former sea area 10.

I was told that the first find was made in 1936 by a German guy (other sources say 1934).

I was told that this marked their last find, in 1997. Why they would erect a flagpost and a structure and then let it be ruined puzzled me. Also, not only was I quite sure they'd made a find in the last 12 years, he said Japanese (and other) students still came yearly in July and August to do digs, so maybe he meant major finds.

Landscape. My guide said that while walking in 1997 he had discovered a homo erectus fossil, washed down by the rain.

The white balls are clay from the river. The layer above them has artefacts 400,000 years old, and below has fossils 750,000 years old.

My guide also picked out some fossil fragments for me. I asked if it was legal to take them out of the country, and he said for small ones it's alright. This seemed reasonable, as blank pottery shards from archaeological digs are treated the same way. So I have some fossil fragments of my own now, yay.

Elephant femur fragment

They found Mastodon, Stegodon and 3 more elphant species here.

Buffalo rib fragment

Rock layers. The black clay is where the river used to be, and the blue clay the sea (the dividing layer has the white clay balls, again). This is also where the stegodon fossils were found.

Proto-human finds dated from 1.8 million to 100,000 years ago.

I thought I noted what these were, but it seems I didn't. I know one (probably the former) is an elephant femur. IIRC the latter is from an elephant tibia.

Cow femur

My guide, Tantur (sp?). The usual communication issues aside (he was still better than almost all Indonesians I met), he was quite knowledgeable. He's been guiding since the 70s.

Just before I left, a local boy ran up and took a picture with me with his handphone. I'm guessing they don't get many tourists.

On our way back to the museum, we stopped at a field for more fossil finds. The field used to be the seabed, so there were some ancient fossils there.

Fertile soil

Shells. 5-10 million years old.


Field and ditch


Field from above

After returning, I considered the likelihood that I had been scammed. For one, on the way to the site, I had seen signs pointing to the archaeological site. Also, if it had been a scam, they would also have had to seed the sites with "fossils", which would be a nuisance, especially for the shells (since the sea isn't near). Furthermore the guide seemed to know what he was talking about, and didn't contradict himself. So if it was a scam it was a good (and relatively cheap) one.

World Heritage plaques. It's the site, not the museum, that is special, so I don't know what they're there for.

After we returned, my guide tried to talk me into buying a Mastodon tooth. I was quoted a ridiculous price of 1 million Rp or something.

I settled for one of these. I was told that this was for massaging the upper body while watching TV, but I know a 5 inch marble dildo when I see one. Some people might use it while watching TV, but I (and Indonesian women) know better! Yet, the marble must be quite harsh on their unmentionables - no wonder they need the Jamu Stick!

For the unenlightened:

Tongkat Madura - Madura Stick

"The Jamu herbal stick has been widely used in Indonesian traditional medicine for more than three centuries. It is prescribed for the noble woman who faces intense competitive pressure among the courtesans to retain the favor of the head of the household. The formula is closely guarded and handed down from the family line. Today, it is an effective natural remedy for the many discomforts of the modern woman...

1. The Jamu Herbal Stick will Stimulate and intensity mutual excitement during intercourse.

2. Eliminate vaginal "white discharges" (leucorrhoea) and banishes vaginal odor.

3. Provide relief from internal irritation in the vagina that causes discomfort.

4. Develops a woman's full sexual potential, because the medicinal herbs will reduce excessive vaginal discharge, providing maximum sexual pleasure for both participants

The Madura Stick has been used hundreds of years by the women of Madura Islands. It is safe and very effective...

In Indonesia, they've passed on for generations the belief that Jamu eliminates the odor from female genitals, as well as makes the vaginal muscles tighter. It's said that Indonesian princesses of olden times used to use it when they wanted to get royalty to fall in love with them."...

Japanese women who've used the saucy soap are more than happy with its effects.

"I used some without telling my hubby and even I was shocked by the wonderful change it brought about in me," a 34-year-old housewife tells Shukan Post. "Thanks to the soap, just recently it's been like we've become honeymooners all over again."

Even younger women are happier, as a 21-year-old OL attests.

"Frankly speaking, sex with my boyfriend had been a little unsatisfying. But, after I started using this soap, the pleasure I got was raised to a new level," she says. "I feel closer to my boyfriend than ever before now and that's really satisfying."...

The Jamu Herbal Stick will ensure that one's feminity is not compromised after pregnancy and advancing age.

[ Loose and insensitive vaginal muscles ]
The herbal essence of the Jamu Herbal Stick, when inserted into the vagina, is absorbed by the skin in the vagina, stimulating hormonal balance and strengthening the vaginal muscles. This enhances sexual sensations by the tightening of the vaginal walls. It restores the feeling of youth and vitality during intercourse as she provides her male partner with greater sensations and satisfaction. In this, confidence is restored in a woman as she demonstrates her virginal sexuality to her partner."

We know that all this is true because it's from a story in the Shukan Post, and seems to have been excerpted from the old Manichi Waiwai column.

Other sites attest to the Jamu Stick's effectiveness:

- Jamu Products ("Black Madura Jamu stick, keeps your husband loyal.")
- Body & Mind Shop Ltd :: Jamu Herbal Stick Vaginal Soap ("Printed ENGLISH words Jamu Herbal Stick on the white box. Those with Chinese Text on the Box/Manual are fakes!")

(Incidentally, CWN told me that Jamu was a lot more than the stick - it's a whole herbal tradition. The Jamu Stick must be something to con Japanese tourists with)

While I was having an Es Jeruk, another local guy came up and asked me if I wanted to visit the site. He seemed disappointed when I said I'd already been there. I wonder how many people go there during peak season (July and August).
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