Tuesday, January 14, 2014

the batik mafia

Aside from the mouth watering Italian restaurant, AgliOo, where we spent the majority of our time, we couldn't find much to do and wondered what activities other tourists were doing throughout the day to illicit comments on how much they enjoyed Yogyakarta.

"A puppet show at the Royal Palace could be nice," Esther offered.

"Why not," I told her.

The Lonely Planet guidebook she had provided the production times, so we planned on showing up for a portion of one before lunch. It was a bit of a hike to reach the palace, and we were having difficulties finding the entrance.

"It's not so safe to walk on the road with all the traffic, maybe you should come up on this sidewalk," a man next to me suggested.

We made small talk and I asked where the palace entrance was located.

"It's about a half-kilometer straight ahead," he explained. "But right now it's closed for lunch."

Esther and I looked at each other. From what the guidebook stated, we were well within the hours of its being open.

"You can go if you want, but I've worked there for the past four years." He showed us his ID card. "It will open back up at one-thirty this afternoon. That's why I'm not on the palace grounds. Going home for lunch. It's my wife's birthday today. It's mine tomorrow, want to see?"

He pulled out his identification again, showing his date of birth.  We congratulated him. The conversation continued on to activities we could do to fill our time. He was a plethora of knowledge.

"While waiting for the palace to open, you could always go see the indoor market. It's really cheap. Better price than at the shops. And you can also go to the batik school."

Batik, we learned, is wax-resistant dyed fabric. A traditional Indonesian form of art.

We liked the guy, trusted his judgement, so when he offered to hail us a becak for a cheap price to take us to the batik school, we consented.

An hour was spent at the school, learning the techniques used to create the batik. Another hour or more was spent meandering through the city on our way back to the palace.

When we neared the palace gates, becak drivers offered to drive us around. We declined, telling them we were going to the palace.

"Palace closed," they each said.

A man nearby overheard one such interaction, and confirmed their statements.

"It closed at two-thirty," he said. It was nearing three o'clock.

Not knowing who to believe anymore, them or the man we met earlier, we said we'd check it out anyway.

"That's fine, you can check it out. Just watch out for the batik mafia," he warned.

"The batik mafia?"

"Yeah, guys who say the palace is closed, when it's clearly open, and con you into visiting a batik school instead," he explained.

All it took was for him to look at our expressions.

"I take it someone has done that to you already," he asked.

"But he was so nice," we said in disbelief in how well we would have been conned if what he was saying was true.

And he was, we discovered fifteen minutes later while looking at the opening hours on closed palace doors, the nicest mafia conman we had ever met. 

1 comment:

Patti said...

Oh no! He seemed like such a nice guy!