(For my Travel Diary in NOW JAKARTA magazine August 2012)
Goa, India - Jakarta
Having grown up in Australia I am a huge fan of colonial architecture. During the 1970s my first decade in South East Asia, I was lucky enough to see the 18th and 19th century marvels of Jakarta, Malacca, Surabaya, Jogyakarta and Malang before the wrecking balls arrived.
Now I need to travel further afield to satiate my architectural lust for coquettish cornices or sexy stylobates.
India truly delivers in this area — progress having been slow enough to allow a few gems to survive — and no-where more so that Panaji the capital of Goa. Here one still finds taverns and government buildings in all the gorgeous Portuguese colonial colours, pretty much untouched since the 18th century.
There is also a 16th century capital, Old Goa, where the remains of Francis Xavier are buried in a magnificent basilica, Bom Jesus. A gate commemorating the arrival of Vasco da Gama in the 15th century is nearby.
In Panaji one can stay at the budget “Panjim Inn” (“Panjim” the popular colonial name for Panaji) which is next to the magnificent Velha Goa Ceramics boutique in the heart of town; or on the outskirts of town, near the old Portuguese district, in the swank new Taj Vivanta.
Around the corner from the Taj Vivanta is the uber-successful bistro “Mum’s Kitchen”, famous for its Goan specialities such as sausage curry and Pork Vindaloo with Goan bread.
My favourite eating place is the RIVIERA Café, riverside opposite the Soviet era. Mandovi hotel — the mussels and tiger prawn tandoor are to die for.
North and south of Panaji are village after village of quaint Portuguese-Goan domestic architecture and elegant churches.
There’s plenty of fun to be had on the tourist strips too.
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During the period of the British Raj many fine parks and circles were built to accompany the magnificent Anglo-Indian Public buildings — buildings such as the Victoria Terminus, the Prince of Wales Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, plus various architecturally splendid colleges and churches.
10 June 2012: To Galeri Nasional , Jakarta for a retrospective of the paintings of 19th century Indonesian artist Raden Saleh, organized by the Goethe Institute
What a brilliant retrospective, artfully curated by German art historian Werner Klaus, and well-reviewed by Jamie James in the Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303768104577460802152339094.htm.)
I find a lot of Raden Saleh’s academic style art a fad overwrought (Going for Baroque!) but adore his drawings.
For me the detailing of the period costumes and glimpses of architecture of that period are fascinating as there are few other reliable records.
He sure had a showing sense for subject matter.
Since the death of Solo batik maestro and all round aesthete Hardjonagoro Go Tik Swan in 2009 his exquisite Javanese courtyard home has been preserved by his heir, Mas Warno (Kanjeng Harjo Soewarno) and family, as a private museum and special events venue.
The “special events” are generally for close friends and family and serve to keep the staid and stately courtyards of the museum section alive.
The batik artisans are still being kept busy in the back courtyards by Mas Warno and his extended families; are all get roped in, as it were, to make up the numbers/fill in the chorus for certain ceremonies.
For the sungkeman (filial piety/parental blessing) ritual Mas Warno has the arranged the courtyard in the most artistic way.
On arrival I find three kraton palace grandees guarding the sajen/selamatan offerings in the large north pavilion (Solo is proud of itskejawen and Hindu rituals). Behind them are rows of pesantren boys and girls in Muslim garb and behind them, but in front of a row of exquisite 10th century Singasari, East Java Siwaite statues, the batik ladies in colourful floral tunics.
A small Saron Demung gamelan ensemble plays nearby. It is a dreamy and magical scene.
Eventually Mas Warno and his wife move to the head of the main carpet like quiet potentiates, and sit in front of a giant carved woodengunungan sketsel screen from the house collection. Muslim prayers begin.
The cooks are preparing Bistek (beefsteak) Komplit, complete with corrugated chips, carrot circles, peas and a dollop of stick-proof gravy.
After prayers Rajasa buries his head in his grandparents lap, in a nice not a nasty way, and then lunch is served.
We all loll around, over-eating (in Solo there’s always both western and Solonese main courses) before being lead out and back to the reality of busy Jalan Keratonan.
• • •That night we dined at the Diamond Karaoke Hall with the Mangkunegaran crown prince, Gusti Pangeran Parendrakarma, who is busy planning a big classical Javanese dance performance of Matah Ati on 8th – 10th September at his palace.
Put it in your diary because Solo still has the ability to amaze.