Art & Herbs in Yogyakarta



We loved Yogyakarta so much that we decided to head back there for our last days in Indonesia. Obviously, we stayed at ViaVia once again and did more workshops to expand our knowledge about Indonesian culture.

Wax to the Max!

No worries. This is about batik, a traditional Indonesian art technique to decorate spaces or clothing – not about us waxing Brazilian style.


For this workshop, we could’ve picked a ready-made picture but, on the day we left Temanggung, our host gave us a special present: our names written in Javanese, twisted into a fish shape to illustrate our desire to swim against the tide instead of remaining in safe waters. So even if we are not that good at drawing, we decided to follow our inner nature and create our own pictures.


It took over 5 hours of waxing, painting, rinsing, drying, rewaxing, repainting etc. to finally boil the cotton surface and dry it one last time. Martino’s batik represents the volcanoes we hiked, Sindoro and Ijen. Julie’s represents our trip around Indonesia.


Sex and the Jamu

Along the way, we soon found out that many Indonesians tend to avoid Western medicine, preferring natural remedies to prevent or cure illnesses. Thanks to Fiorentina – a local 21 year-old named after the Italian football team – we learned more about jamu. That is, an ancient blend of herbs and aromatic roots sold in most markets.


With a becak we reached Ginggang, the oldest jamu bar in Jogja dating back to the 1950’s. What a nice alternative to our common pharmacies! Together with water the various herbal and aromatic root mixtures turn into funky cocktails, tailored to the need of each patient.


Luckily, Fiorentina was there to translate the menu for us: when wishing to soothe a soar throat you wouldn’t want to sip a drink aimed at tightening your vagina, would you? Indeed, jamu can solve all sorts of body-related matters yet, surprisingly, many of those are directly tied to sexuality.


Sex is still a taboo in Indonesia, mainly due to the influence of Islam. Most women cover their hair, neck, shoulders and legs; displaying affection in public is highly discouraged, and sex before marriage is forbidden. Thus you can imagine our faces (actually both covered with a freshly made cinnamon and rice mask) when Fio told us that not only can jamu tighten your vagina but it can also dry it (that apparently gives Indonesian men pleasure – we’re still unsure why), it can make your boobies bigger, your penis larger, your erections harder and God knows what other miracles jamu can have you witness.