Saturday, June 19
Solo, Java, Indonesia
I went on a dope-ass bicycle tour to visit several cottage industries in and around Solo. The first stop was at a traditional weaver who spins cotton fabric for the sarong, a skirt-like garment worn by men and women in Indonesia. Second in line was a small batik factory where artisans hand-stamp intricate patterns on sarongs, then wax and dye them. The guide told me these sarongs are sold throughout Indonesia and overseas.
Third up was a place that makes rice crackers. A handful of workers bake, cut and set them out to dry in the sun, then package them up in little bags for markets. Next, we passed through some gorgeous countryside full of vast rice fields, and stopped for a quick break at an irrigation canal, where my guide splashed some water on himself to cool down.
Of course, the highlight of the tour was the gamelan factory in Bekonang village, which is supposedly one of only two in all of Java. I arrived just at the right time to watch a dude repeatedly heat up a large gong inside a pile of red-hot coals, then pull it out with long poles and hand it to someone else who hammered it into shape while two other guys rotated it with huge tongs. Amid all of the insanely burning hot metal surfaces and lapping flames, these men wore only t-shirts and shorts--no shoes or eye protection needed, thank you. I'm sure OSHA would be stoked on that.
In the next room over, the gongs get burnished and affixed to their wooden stands in preparation to be sold. It's kind of weird that this gamelan factory is on the edge of a tiny village right next to some big rice fields. The final stop of the day was at a little place that makes alcohol to be used in hospitals and also doubles as a whiskey-like drink. The tour ended back at Warung Baru, where I ate some vegetable curry and potato curry.