Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Sultan's Water Palace

At ICRS, Ingrid, Amber's AWESOME counterpart from last year, is in charge of organizing cultural activities for Luce Fellows and anyone else who happens to be staying at the ICRS guest house, including me, Anastasia and Anya. These excursions happen, from what I gather, almost every weekend. Yesterday we were going to go to the Sultan's Palace but when we arrived we found out that it had closed early that day because of Ramadan. So, we modified the plan and went instead to visit the ruins of the Sultan's Water Palace, also known as Taman Sari. This was a place I had been really intrigued by, so I'm glad it turned out to be our first outing.

Completed in 1765, the Taman Sari complex is a huge area adjacent to the regular palace that the royal family used for relaxation, entertainment and even education in the form of lessons for the royal children. The main palace was destroyed in an earthquake in 1865 but the Sultan's private bathing area has been restored. The whole area is pretty much devoted to sensual pleasures. The very first courtyard we entered contained 4 pavilions for gamelan orchestras. Our guide joked that having not one but four orchestras was the original definition of surround sound. Growing in this courtyard were also trees with sawo and kepel fruit. Sawo fruit is eaten by men and is supposed to give them superhero powers at night. Everyone chuckled at this, but our guide was quick to point out that the superhero powers were not confined to the bedroom but to any physical task a man might have to do in the evening. Kepel fruit is eaten by women to help them produce sweet smelling sweat AND it's believed to have anti-conception powers. I suppose this was very useful considering the Sultans had many wives. 

Going down the stairs from the gamelan/fruit courtyard, we entered the bathing area. There were two large pools here- one for the children and one for the Sultan's wives. As the wives bathed below, the Sultan would watch them from his tower and then select the one he fancied sleeping with by throwing down a flower into the pool next to the chosen woman. Then, the wife would join the Sultan for a swim together in the Sultan's private pool behind the tower. We also peeked into the Sultan's bedroom in the tower. Interestingly, sandalwood was burned under the bed to help ward off mosquitoes and keep the Sultan smelling good. 

View of the wives' pool and the tower.

Ingrid and Anya at the Sultan's private pool

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