Friday, 23 January 2015

Jamu, massage and The Foo!?

I was up and out at a reasonable time and met the two Jos up at reception for a lovely breakfast of soggy toast and a bit of fruit! Then we set off back to Via Via for our morning course on all things holistic.

It was yet another hot day and the pool back at the hotel was up and running - finally - so we were all looking forward to having a swim later on that day, after our relaxing Javanese massages.

We met up with the woman at Via Via (sorry her name escapes me) and she took us to Ginggang; the oldest Jamu shop in town.

Jamu is basically a traditional Indonesian herbal medicine that has been used for centuries. It comes in ready made drink form or dried herbs that you would boil up at home and then drink.

Ginggang was started by a woman three generations ago that lived in the Kraton and worked for the Sultana (I'm not talking about the dried grape type). As her herbal treatments were such a success she asked her queen if she would be allowed to offer her services to the people of Jogjy too. The Sultana agreed and gave her the shop.

The premises actually look like a little coffee shop, with tables and chairs set up and a menu of drinks on a board on the wall, but the drinks served here smell much more revolting than coffee (I despise coffee!) and yet people come here to chat and gossip and take their medicine.

We were taken over to the counter and shown some of the ready made packets and what they cured, all available to take home: one stimulated insulin for diabetics, one helped you lose weight, another to gain weight, some dealt with coughs, pregnancy (to keep or lose!), help with hair loss, tiredness, sickness, bad stomach ... The list goes on and on. Then we were handed a packet and told: "This is for The Foo" and with that the woman made the peace sign (with her right hand of course).

"The Foo?" I said. "oh you mean the foot, is it for athletes foot then?" She smiled at us and held her two fingers up again making the peace sign. " No! The Foo! The Foo!" The three of us looked at her quizzically. One of the Jos said "Yes, I think she means 'The foot'" to which our guide responded, "You know, it's the Vurgeena" and promptly pointed to her crotch.

We stood there in silence and just nodded for a bit as we realised it was a 'V' for 'Vurgeena' she was making with her fingers not the international sign for peace. Then one of the Jos pointed out that we had been making 'The Peace' sign in a lot of photographs taken with the locals - oops!

We were taken to the back room and shown how Jamu herbs were boiled together, then made into a paste before being mixed up for drinking - only women working here! Then we returned to the cafe and were given a few cups to try.

The first one was tamarind based and apparently the nicest one - it was revolting, but if it was going to sort my stomach out and make me look youthful it was worth the gagging!

The next one was based on a root herb called Ganglia, it had a milky white hue to it and tasted revolting too - I managed one mouthful. The final one to sample looked black and murky and tasted just as evil! I managed a sip before swilling my mouth out with a glut of water and sucking on a boiled sweet I found at the bottom of my bag!

We left soon after and made our way over to the market - I certainly didn't feel any younger nor did my stomach feel any better, quite the opposite in fact!

There was a lot of pointing at us and talking from the store holders as we walked past them. I like to think it was because the Jamu worked and we were looking stunning and youthful, however, it turned out that we were the talk of the market place because, on entering, Jo (the taller one) and I had sampled a Stinky Bean (yes that's really what it's called), that a woman had peeled for us. Sally had told us days before how much she loved them and to just ignore the name. So we tenuously bit into this rather large looking green bean ... It - Was - Disgusting! (Worse than the Jamu) and we quickly discarded the remainder of the bright green legume, nodded politely, said thank you, smiled and hurried off. But word had got around about the white girls that had dissed the stinky bean!

We approached a stall where there was an abundance of herbs on sale, our guide took us through each one, then showed us a number of ready made sachets - all you do is add water and drink - and then she proceeded to tell us what each one was for ... Again the usual, stomach aches, weight loss/gain, tooth ache etc etc ... Then there were 'The Foo Satchets' for things I couldn't repeat to you for fear you may go into shock, but suffice it to say you could treat your 'foo' for things you would never even think of. But the most interesting treatment involved what looked like small pieces of charcoal, placed in a saucer and lit. Then the smoking Jamu is placed under a special small stool that has a large hole in the seat, after which you would be required to sit over the hole and smoke your foo out! Don't ask me what that's supposed to treat, because I was laughing so much I couldn't hear, but it definitely makes one wonder where the internationally renowned band 'The Foo Fighters' got their name from!?

I would hate for you men to feel left out of all of this, so never fear, there are Jamus for you too. Our guide proudly held up some other sachets and announced: " This is for the dick!" (By this point it was getting really difficult for us to not roll around the floor in hysterics). Apparently to increase stamina and to make it either longer (by 6cm!!), wider or last longer and most importantly the results apparently last forever! (How many of you are now booking a flight out to Indonesia?)

There were so many herbs and spices on sale in the massive market, that my brain was about to explode with all the information, so it was lucky that our next stop was at the massage school, for a lovely Javanese massage. Though I have to admit, I wasn't feeling too comfortable when we were told there were only male masseurs, however the two Jos sounded fine about it and I was too embarrassed to be the only one refusing. Then I remembered it was a massage school for blind students, who are supposed to be exceptional as they use their natural instinct to work out what areas need specific attention, purely by touch and I relaxed and looked forward to having my sore back and shoulders ironed out.

We were shown in to our respective curtained cubicles and I striped down to my pants, laid face down on the bed and waited.

A young man came in and nervously muttered something to me in Indonesian then proceeded to work on the back of my legs. 

I have never experienced so much pain, not since the Thai massage I had in Thailand two years ago, after which I thought I was never going to be able to walk again. 

But I was British and us Brits don't complain, so I laid there grimacing and biting down on the mattress (hope it was clean) as the Indonesian masseuse used his finger tips and pressed hard down into every pressure point along the back of my leg. It hurt so much I thought I was going to throw up!

Thank goodness for Jo, (the shorter one), bless her for not adhering to the British stereotype and shouting out: "Ow, ow, no, please, less pressure, ouch!" Obviously her masseuse didn't understand a word of English and our guide had to rush over and translate.

Immediately I cried out, "Argh, please, me too". The young man immediately lessened the pressure on my thigh and I relaxed again, but he forgot by the time he got to the other leg!

And so I grimaced and writhed through an hour of pain inflicted on me by a blind masseuse who seemed completely unaware of the agony I was suffering, whilst I didn't want to hurt his feelings by saying anything. I even tipped him at the end as I hobbled out of the school, not quite sure if I was actually feeling anymore relaxed at all and wondering if maybe I needed a Jamu!

Finally we were back at Via Via to try out one of the face masks. Our guide mixed one up into a paste and the three of us sat at a table in the middle of the cafe painting it on each other and no one batted an eye as we sat there eating tea and cake whilst this gloopy white concoction dried on our faces!

Twenty minutes later we removed aforementioned masks, admired each other's glowing skins and looked up to see TC arriving just as the heavens opened outside and the rain chucked down.

Oh well, the only thing to do was to have more cake and wait for the bad weather to pass!

An hour or so later, having had tea and lunch (in that order) we joined the rest of the sad looking tourists staring for.ornly out of the shop front windows along the street at the rain still pelting down outside, the four of us agreed that we would just have to brave the river that was now flowing down the dirt cobbled road outside and hurry back to the hotel in order to get ready for our jewellery class that evening. (And I wanted to see how many bruises had come up over my body from the massage!)

We got back to the hotel soon after the rain stopped and I thought about going for a swim, but the pool was closed again for maintenance and TC suggested watching another episode of The Killing and how could I refuse?!

Later on that evening Jo, Jo, TC and myself piled into a taxi and made our way off towards the Silver District for our lesson in jewellery making. We arrived slightly late - the cab driver got a bit lost - and walked in to find three other girls already hammering away. So we politely said hello and looked at the various designs to choose from.

I decided to make a pair of interesting earrings and whilst trying to avoid the thoughts about the lack of health and safety, I set about my mission and cut and shaped some small sheets of silver, hammered in the pattern then soldered on the 'pointy bits that go through the ear lobe piercings' (that is the technical term!?) all without protective hat, gloves or goggles! TC however, refused point blank to do the soldering for fear she would set herself on fire, so our teacher had to do that bit for her and this was after she showed concern that she may leave the work shop deaf from the loud hammering by the Australian girl working away next to her.

Two hours later we all left (in the pouring rain) wearing our new home made shiny silver jewellery with pride.

Dinner that evening was going to be short and sweet as we were off at 5am and on a long train journey the following morning and after a quick unilateral agreement we headed off for a western style restaurant knowing that the next few days would be nothing more than rice and noodles.

My stomach was a grumbling, the Jamu finally decided to kick in, so I opted for a bowl of chicken soup (yes with noodles) which was perfect, but nothing ever comes close to my mums!

And so by 9:30 I was nicely tucked up in bed and drifting off into a well deserved sleep ... That is until an hour later when a group of French tourists outside our room decided it would be ok to have a gathering and loud conversation!

Generally as many of you may know, I am not very assertive, but I was livid! We had to be up at 4:30! So before TC had time to march out, (you may remember from India, that despite her size she can be a bit of a Rottweiler), I lept out of bed and marched outside and politely asked them to speak quietly 'because' we had to be up early. (Sally had told us that apparently if you want someone to do something for you always use the word 'because' in the sentence and they will oblige). 

The French group nodded and obliged.

I returned to our room, where TC was lying in her bed and still seething "I hope you told them if it wasn't for us, they'd be speaking German!" She said.

I explained to her that they probably wouldn't have been as obliging if I had and we drifted off to sleep ...

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