Tuesday, September 21, 2010

BEWARE The Queen of the Deep...and other tales...

A couple of weeks ago I decided to go out looking for surf, because it had been too long since I was last in the water. As you may know, Indonesia has some great waves. Unfortunately most of the famous sites like Nias and G-land seem to be too far from Jogja. So I decided to seek out something a little more local. There is a beach about 25 kilometers (1) south of here that many of the locals go to. I'd been there before and the waves looked decent. So I asked around among my friends. "Does anyone surf Parangtritis?" I asked.

"Oh no...it's much to dangerous", they said. "There are very strong currents and many people drown there". As a general rule, it's a good idea to trust the local knowledge of the water, and so I decided to look elsewhere. As it turns out, there's more than the current that makes Parangtritis dangerous: the Queen of the Deep Nyai Roro Kidah. I've included a picture of her, and no, I didn't take this picture myself.

Apparantly Queen Roro is pretty feisty. Every year the Sultan (2) of Jogjakarta brings an offering to the beach and sets it afloat to keep her happy. According to legend, Queen Roro was once married to the king of the Mataram kingdom. However. a jealous rival cast a spell on her, causing her majestic beauty to fade and wither. She fled the kingdom in shame and threw herself into the ocean, where she was saved and given a castle beneath the sea and her beauty restored. Here she rules over all the creatures of the sea. The legends say that the Sultan of Jogjakarta is supposed to marry the queen, which gives him power over the land. But swimmers beware...if she or one or her minions catches you in the water you will be taken to her underwater world, never to be seen again! Sometimes she even comes ashore for her victims. There's a way to protect yourself though (on land, at least): don't wear the color green, as this is the color her long lost love will wear when he comes back for her. If she sees you wearing green, she may drag you to her watery realm.

I did finally find some surf, but I'll save that for another post...

Another great story that is told through dance and wayang (traditional puppet shows; the picture shows an example of a wayang kulit shadow puppet) is the Ramayana. This is an ancient Hindu story. Hinduism is one of the world's major religions, practiced by almost a billion people. Though it originates in India (3), Hinduism spread to Indonesia more than 1500 years ago and was the official religion of some of the early Javanese kingdoms. The Ramayana tells the story of Prince Rama, whose wife is kidnapped by the evil demon-king Ravana, who takes her back to his island of Langka. Prince Rama embarks upon a journey to rescue his wife, aided by his magical friend Hanuman, a giant white monkey that can change his shape and size. The story tells about their journey and their battle against the evil armies of Langka. It's a really great adventure, and you can see and read about many different versions of the Ramayana from all over the world. When you come to Jogja make sure you catch the dance performance of the Ramayana in front of the ancient Hindu temple complex of Prambanan.

That's all for now...I'm off to sleep to dream about magical monkeys and undersea kingdoms! While you wait for the next post, why don't you have a look at the following questions. Then you can watch the flash-animation story of Queen Roro I borrowed from youtube. Although it's in Indonesian, you can get the idea of the story while listening to some traditional Javanese music. Can you make up your own text of the story? What do you think is going on?

1. Kilometers are the unit of distance used in most of the world outside of the US. There are approximately 1.61 kilometers in a mile, and one kilometer is approximately .62 miles. Can you figure out how many miles 25 kilometers (km) is?

2. The Sultan is the ruler of Jogjakarta. The Sultan comes from a royal family, and Jogjakarta is the only place in Indonesia where the Sultan actually has political power. The Special Province of Jogjakarta is his domain, and he also serves as governor of the province.

3. Can you find India on a map? What can you find out about Hinduism?

4. Do you know any stories from Hawai'i like these?


  1. Where did you find the surf ??? As I will live in Yogya for the next year I am really interested in it. Maybe you can help me!!

  2. Hi there. First of all, you're going to have a great time in Yogya. I went surfing at Pacitan, which is the birthplace of president SBY. It took me about 3 hours on a rented motorbike to get there. It's a nice bay with lots of waves. You really need to take your own board, though. When I was there I rented one from the "beach boys", but it looked like it had been made locally. It was about 6-7ft, 4 inches thick, made from a heavy material. It weighed about 25 pounds and had no leash. I really should've made a post about the experience. So even though I caught some waves, I had to swim after the board every time I bailed, which was tiring. I was riding 3-5 ft waves that pretty much break all the way across, so a lot of riding in the wash. But I think the conditions could get better. While I was there one other foreigner showed up with his own longboard, and he did okay. The kids there have some old beater shortboards, which I assume were left by surfers. THey also told me that in the evening there's a good short board break close to the mouth of the bay. I was only there for 3 hours or so so I didn't explore much, but the bay is pretty big and there looked to be several breaks.
    Have fun!