I had been Googling “where cool people hang out in Yogyakarta” prior to stopping over the small town, to no avail.
I only share this bit of retarded information in order to highlight just how clueless and utterly uncool I had been at that point (Trip Adviser and Lonely Planet told me pretty much the same thing- restaurants, cafes- which are great, mind you. But I wanted to specifically know where the local indie bands, the local artists, the local skaters, etc, were). Upon confessing this to my new friend Anom that one night in Jogja Town, he burst out laughing. “Who does that? Who Googles Where are the cool people?” My pathetic ass, apparently. But I am getting ahead of my story here.
First, how I found my “welcome to Yogyakarta”.
I’ll start by telling you that Yogyakarta (fondly called Jogja) is essentially a small, laid- back town in Java, Indonesia. It’s been pegged as the “Center of Javanese Art and Culture” for no lack of good reasons. Museums dot the small town as do Art schools, renowned Universities, and colorful graffiti. Its reputation was immediately validated as I walked around the town center, where I found art pieces (sculptures big and small) all over side walks and mostly young folks walking around with DSLR’s, wearing artsy vintage t-shirts.
I’d already walked all over Jalan Malioboro (where the city’s commerce is), rode some becaks (read as beh-chak; a trishaw) to and from Batik studios for my parents’ wall, and was on my way to the South of Jogja to hang out at interesting cafes there, when I spotted this guy in a Hawaiian- print shirt from my becak. He was trailing motorbikes and cars on his skateboard and seamlessly cruising past everybody else. Seconds later, I realized that his friends- also on skateboards- had joined him on the road. With only a moment of hesitation, I asked the becak driver to “follow them!”
I found everybody near the city square, some of them doing tricks by the side walk while most were cheering on someone on a makeshift stage. Someone handed me a flyer and a sticker which simply said:
Apparently I had landed myself into the mother ship of all things skate- related in Jogja. This was the biggest event of the skating year, all over the world- Go Skate Day.
I didn’t know how big skateboarding was in YK until I saw this crowd. I first met Zul (from the Balai Kota/ BALKOT Crew, one of the organizers of the day’s event), who told me that this year’s Skate Day was more significant than those in the past. Despite the huge population of skate boarders in Jogja, there has been a lack of skating facilities around town to play in, apparently. This year’s Go Skate Day had all the skaters cheering on the presence of a representative from their local government, who spoke about future provisions for “the creative and aggressive set of skateboarders in Yogyakarta…” And you could really feel the sense of urgency in their cheers when he said this. I do hope they get their skate park soon.
My new friend mentioned that everybody was moving to Balai Kota after the speeches, farther east of Jogja, to continue with the festivities. Balai Kota, a public road, was partially closed to hold competitions, music, and the whole skate party, basically. I wanted to tag along, but I didn’t have a skateboard to cruise with. I was open to walking all the way, but was informed that it was a 20- minute bus ride from where we currently were. Ho boy. He gave me directions though, and I bet he didn’t think I would actually show up after they’d all left me.
With zero knowledge of the Javanese language, zero knowledge of the city’s layout, zero knowledge of anybody at Balai Kota save for one guy named “Zul”… I trailed the skating party by bus.
It is such a high every time I find random opportunities for adventure. My mother would probably have killed me if she knew what I was doing right then (“Just be extra careful… I know it should be safe, but remember what happened to East Timor… Now don’t go exploring far places by yourself…”). Boy did I feel bad ass.
I reached Balai Kota near dusk and couldn’t see much because I left my glasses at the hotel. A smarter person would spot the first taxi in sight and go home at that point.
I moved from one sub-group to another, asking if they knew a guy named “Zul”. No one knew him even after my third round.
I finally spotted him when I decided to go to the epicenter of the whole thing- where the ramp, the DJ, the organizers were. Now that was smart thinking.
I ended up staying until very late at Balai Kota. I met a whole lot of very friendly, very cool people… designers, musicians, skaters of course. I spent the whole night drinking kahlua (not Kahlua, but a local mix) on the streets with them amidst hilarious and insightful conversations on music, art, skate, the Javanese way of life, and basically, my personal welcome to Yogyakarta.
A huge “Terima Kasih!” to the very cool guys of Balai Kota Crew… Zul, Awang, Roger, Raymond, Dhika (of the future “Tune Up” Boards, haha), Amon (of hardcore band First Time), Andi (founder of all things skate around YK), Adie, Danu, Japank (all three from the melodic punk band Morning Horny), etc.
I will be back. Oh yes!
P.S. Title borrowed from Jerry Dimas’ short skate film, “Welcome to YK” (2012)
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