A Sunday morning tour of Solo

This morning I woke up early to take a tricycle tour of Solo. I'd read on an Internet blog that a trip across town in a tricycle should cost around 3,000 rupiah (about 25 cents US), so I walked from the Alang Alang Cafe up to the nearest street corner and hailed a tricycle. I asked the driver how much to the Puri Mangkunegaran. He said 12,000 rupiah. I assumed he was inflating the price because I was a westerner, so I just said “too much” expecting him to come back with a lower offer. But he just shrugged his shoulders and rode off. I hailed another tricycle and asked the same question – and got the same answer. I said “yeah, that's the foreigner price, what about the local price?” He replied: “same price for everyone, you want to go for 12,000?” “No,” I said, thinking I was still being ripped off. So he rode off as well. I had to wait a while for another tricycle to come along, and this time the driver asked me how much I wanted to pay. I said 3,000 – and he just laughed. “Minimum price 8,000 for short trip, your's is long trip, minimum 12,000.” By this stage I was starting to wonder whether the information I had read on the Internet was wrong – or long out of date. However we bargained for a while and he agreed to take me to the Puri Mangkunegaran for 10,000 rupiah. I settled on that. He said it was because he needed the money but that the price was really “too low”.

Later I felt guilty about having driven him down to 10,000 rupiah (about 90 cents US) because after taking a few more tricycles around the city, I realised that the information on the Internet was indeed wrong. The going price is apparently 8,000 for a short trip (up to 1 km) and 12,000 for a 'long' trip (up to 2 km) – and the ride from the Alang Alang Cafe to the Puri Mangkunegaran was certainly the longest one that I did all morning (at least 2 km). I later checked the Lonely Planet guide book, and that said the price was 7,000 rupiah from the train station to the city centre (a long trip) but that was published two years ago, so I guess inflation has pushed the prices up since then.

So I wasn't being ripped off because I was a foreigner after all. In fact, I didn't see another foreigner the whole morning in Solo, so I guess the practice of ripping off foreigners which is so prevalent in most Malaysian cities and towns hasn't spread to Solo. The tricycle drivers in Solo seem to be very honest. That made me feel even more guilty about having forced the first driver to pedal me halfway across the city for a mere 90 cents. I think if I had seen him again I would have given him an extra dollar to apologise for thinking he was trying to rip me off. The moral of this story: Don't believe everything you read on the Internet and what you do believe, make sure it's up to date!

I took a few photographs from the tricycle as we rode across the city (they were slightly bumpy rides so most of these were shot at 1/2000th sec at ISO800 to avoid blur from the movement):

The city was very quiet even for a Sunday, and there wasn't much traffic around:

We passed the Matahari shopping centre and a couple of other tricycle drivers gave me a wave:

Along some of the streets, vendors were setting up stalls to sell plastic trumpets and horns for the forthcoming New Year celebrations (they like to do it noisily in Indonesia!)

The Puri Mangkunegaran (the palace which is the home of the second royal family) was not very interesting, but as I walked across the field next to it I noticed these four men pushing a trolley and what looked like some drums (that's not the palace in the background – that's the Kavallerie Artillerie):

It wasn't until they got closer to me that I noticed the man on the left had a monkey on a lead. The monkey was riding a small bike and wearing a waistcoat and trousers, so I guess they were on their way to some sort of performance:

After Puri Mangkunegaran. I walked along Jalan Ronggowarsito for a while, and down Jalan A. Dahlan taking 'daily life' photographs along the way. I rested for a while near a restaurant in Jalan Yos Sudarso where we had had dinner the night before. The meal – fish, rice and vegetables – had cost only 9,000 rupiah (about 75 cents US). I wondered why there were no backpackers in Solo, because this would be a very cheap town for them to visit. Maybe it is because of Solo's reputation as a 'bad town' with links to extremist groups like Jemaah Islamiah and the memory of the riots of 1998 when mobs went on a rampage through the city, looting and burning shops. But it's a quiet city right now.

By now it was getting very hot, so I hailed another tricycle to take me to the Mesjid Agung – the largest mosque in Solo. It was only a short trip, and the driver had agreed to take me for 8,000 rupiah, but when we got there he demanded 20,000, and got very angry when I wouldn't pay him more than 8,000. He actually took 10,000 off me because he claimed he didn't have any change for 10,000. So there was at least one 'bad apple' amongst Solo's tricycle drivers.

The next tricycle driver was much more accommodating, agreeing to take me to the Pasar Gede for 8,000 rupiah. That was only about a kilometre away, but he was an old man, and his tricycle wasn't in the best of condition, so I gave him 10,000 when we reached the market.

Pasar Gede is Solo's largest undercover market and had many stalls selling local fruits and vegetables:

I tried some of the local salak palm fruits, which were much tastier than the Malaysian variety:

The market was not just selling produce, but meat, poultry and fish as well, but the lack of refrigeration would make me hesitant to buy anything from those sections:

There was quite a lot of food being prepared on stalls within and around the market too. One stall that had a lot of customers waiting was this one just outside one of the side entrances. I don't know what the man was deep frying (gourds or cassava maybe?) but it looked to be very popular given all the people patiently waiting. Whatever it was, it didn't look very healthy though!

After Pasar Gede I took another tricycle down to one of the modern air-conditioned shopping centres to buy some batik shirts (half the price of shirts in Malaysia). When I had finished there I discovered I had a problem getting back to the Alang Alang Cafe because none of the tricycle drivers had heard of it, and none of them wanted to take me, not knowing where they were going. So instead I decided to take a tricycle to cafe called Rocketz that I had seen along Jalan Slamet Riyadi the previous day where I had an espresso (yes, even Solo has an espresso placethese days!) and a memorable lunch – memorable because halfway through the meal I noticed something moving in my broccoli. It had several small yellow caterpillars wriggling around in it. I wondered how many I had already swallowed!

A trip to the hill temples around Solo

A full house in Solo