42 - Trannies And A Postal Jam (Yogyakarta, Indonesia)


A little bit of ho-hum for this slightly glum chum. Kingdom in the middle. Cabbie gestalt and a sassy assault.

by Mr. Nos T. O’maniac



I ARRIVED IN YOGYAKARTA AND TOOK A LOVER. Well, no, but that makes for a better intro, does it not? Alas, such is not the case. No lovers taken. Yogya is a mere hour and forty-five minutes from Solo (Surakarta), so the trip was brief… a refreshing change. The road inevitably wears you down. Important to break things up and avoid frying your circuit board. My candle burns at both ends… and all that shit.

My Yogya memories are spotty at best. Looking back, I should’ve taken more interest, but I guess I wasn’t feeling the vibe. The city is ruled by a monarchy, an anomaly in Indonesia. For its contribution during the revolution against the Dutch colonials, it remained under royal rule as a “thank you” by the newly formed republic. It’s the capital of the Special Region of Yogyakarta, governed by the Sultanate. Think unelected governor.

Yogya does have a distinct feel no doubt attributable to its status as a hub of Javanese arts and culture. This includes batik textiles, ballet, and wayang puppetry to name a few. It’s not surprising it would also be an educational hub. Dozens of schools and universities are based there, and its student population is considerable.

I visited the Kraton Palace Complex and the Taman Sari Water Castle. Kraton is the current seat of the Sultanate monarchy and includes the royal living quarters. The compound is vast and encompasses a museum and numerous performance venues. The Taman Sari is the former royal garden to the Sultanate. The bathing complex is the only well-preserved area and is listed as a World Heritage Site. It all sounds grandiose, but to be honest neither really tickled my fancy. Again, perhaps the mood didn’t strike. I couldn’t even be bothered to snap a single photo of either. 

I do, however, remember the becak drivers (bicycle taxis). An aggressive bunch. They really want to give you a ride often making their case for five or six blocks before relenting. Sometimes ya just wanna to walk, ya know? Well, they don’t know, ya know? They dislike “no” for an answer, and personal space is an unfamiliar concept. The reason is simple: A ride ain’t just a ride. It’s also a sales pitch for one of the kazillion batik shops they represent. Get in and you’ll likely be whisked away to batik nirvana, possibly against your will. They work in squads. I told one guy I was Canadian and ten minutes later in a different area an ojek driver (motorcycle taxi) I hadn’t met shouted, “Hey, Canadian!” and offered me a lift. Equal parts annoying and impressive. 

While I was eating lunch at a Lonely Planet recommendation, the Transvestite Trio entered and began a quaint little song and dance number. I like random. This was it. You can’t look away. Folks tried their darnedest, but this only made the trio double their efforts, focusing their Blue Steel with laser precision. Watching tourists try to ignore the onslaught is worth the “inconvenience” and requested rupiahs. 

I’m sure customers get annoyed, but I’m not sure how. It’s fucking hilarious, made all the more so by the futility of resistance. The provocation in their stare made me delightfully uncomfortable, like a baby zebra near a pack of lions. At this point in my sojourn I felt like a tranny magnet (see previous post here). They kept finding me. No complaints. It’s good to be loved.

More random (with a touch of bizarre) awaited at the post office. Batik paintings and textiles are art forms I grew fonder of by the day. I really wanted to purchase some but had no baggage space and zero motivation to carry them around even if I did. What about the mail, you ask? Seemed like a hassle but I dug deep and ventured to the post office in Yogya to investigate. I deemed shipping costs too prohibitive, but my journey wasn’t in vain. My reward was terrible lounge music accentuated by terrible acoustics. Naturally, I lingered for a jam or two. A post office with live entertainment? Yes. Let’s go postal.