Me and you and a cat named Lou

If there’s one thing you have to do in Java, it’s indulge in a cup of coffee –

And I decided to try coffee luwak, or civet coffee as it’s called in English.

Civet coffee is the foie gras of Asia … some people are willing to pay up to £60 for a cup, while others think it’s a cruel practice and should be outlawed.

I was assured that the civets that had predigested my coffee (to put it politely)  were free range and lived in the coffee plantations, foraging freely and not kept in cages and force-fed coffee beans.  But they would say that, wouldn’t they?

The civets I saw all seemed very tame and happy. People think they’re a type of cat, but they are actually a totally different species, although they seem very docile, just like cats.  They aren’t kept in cages; they  just doze away in the sunshine and each coffee luwak house has its own civets as pets to show the visitors –

And I bonded instantly with this one –

Do you know what this is?

It’s civet poo … full of coffee beans that are full-flavoured but much less acidic than coffee beans that haven’t been harvested from the faeces of a small mammal.

I tried the coffee –

– and it was very good.  Would I pay £60 a cup for it?  No, it wasn’t that good.  I willingly forked out £2.50  for a small cup, but balked at paying £20 for a small packet to take home and treat my friends to coffee luwak.  So … sorry folks, if you want a cup of civet poo coffee, you’ll have to come to Java and buy your own.

Java is also famous for shadow puppets, so I went to a workshop where they were making them for a performance at the Sultan’s palace on Sunday.

The puppet maker explained that they make them out of the leather from sacred buffaloes kept at temples for religious purposes –

– because the problem with working buffaloes is that farmers hit them with sticks which damages the hide.

He was keen to show me the tools he uses to make the puppets –

– which are all crafted from motorbike wheel spokes.

It takes a week to make one puppet –

– and when you I look at the detail, you can see why –

I had to leave before the performance (work getting in the way of pleasure, yet again) so the puppet maker gave me an impromptu performance, holding a fabric screen up underneath a ceiling light –

– I now have another skill on my wish list … to become a shadow puppeteer.

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The Triangle of Life

I’ve seen The Lion King, so I’m up to speed on the Circle of Life but, never having lived in an earthquake zone, the Triangle of Life was new to me.  Luckily my hotel room in Yogyakarta, Java last weekend had a very helpful guide –

Unfortunately there was no large chair or sofa in my room, so I was wondering whether I’d have time to dash to Ikea and buy one in the event of an earthquake warning, but then I turned over the page –

and was relieved to learn that there is also a Triangle of Life next to the bed or … in extremis, I could prostrate myself in the corridor next to the lift – presumably once I’d realised there was no time to get to Ikea after all, but had locked myself out in my rush to equip myself with a Triangle of Life.

After reading all that, I felt very grateful that Malaysia has no earthquakes and no volcanoes either – its neighbour, Indonesia, has taken one for the team, and has both in spades.

In January alone, 44 earthquakes were recorded in Indonesia, and there are 127 active volcanoes.  I booked a trip to visit a volcano near Yogyakarta called Mount Merapi, and then found out that it is one of the most active of all, and has been named a decade volcano because of its nasty habit of erupting every ten years or so.  The last minor eruption was on May 11 this year, but they’ll be due for another biggie quite soon.

I have to say that it was an extremely uncomfortable experience, being jolted along extremely dusty roads in a knackered old jeep, which the driver stopped and started by pulling wires that were dangling down under the dashboard.

The fine gritty volcanic ash and soil gets everywhere –

and the whole landscape is bleak in the extreme –

There’s a museum showing some of the casualties of the last major eruption in 2010 when nearly 400 people died –

So next, I decided to go the the Sultan’s Palace for an altogether less depressing visit  –

This is the entrance to the Sultan’s baths, where he and his wives and his 150 children would go for a dip in strictly segregated areas –

I had a few problems in the Palace because, unlike Malaysia, English is not the lingua franca in Indonesia, so I was often left guessing what everything on display actually meant.

This portrait of the Sultan –

– was obviously painted while he was going through his elvish phase.

And this poor woman seems to have issues –

– I’m just not too sure what they are.

But I did understand, after overhearing a tour guide who was taking a group around, that the Sultan had to choreograph a dance as part of his coronation.  I felt that this made it sound more like a game show than a solemn ceremony, but here is a photo of the performance of his dance –

The palace guards might look a bit sissy in their long skirts –

but they all have a lethal-looking knife tucked into the back –

which they don’t have to leave behind in the armoury when they go home in the evening –

I travelled around in a pedal-powered tuk-tuk

– which was moderately terrifying as he puffed and wheezed his way through major junctions and down the wrong side of dual carriageways with cars and lorries hurtling towards me.

But I have to admit that they look much more picturesque than taxis –

– and I did make it back to the hotel in one piece every evening.

 

 

 

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