Having a full stomach is important; having a full head is even more important
Text: Samuel Mulia Photos: Samuel Mulia
There’s no doubt that culinary adventures are highly tempting and often become the reason for a trip. I recall an interview that entertainer Sarah Sechan once gave, in which she divulged that she looks forward to sampling new foods as much as the trip itself when she travels. The headline for the interview, which appeared in a magazine, told it all: “Travelling to Eat”. I couldn’t agree more. Something is just amiss when good food does not accompany travel. Solo, the ancient capital of Central Java, is a well-known gastronomic destination. I have been to the city on a number of occasions and have never been bored with its culinary offerings. How could I be? I love eating, and a trip to Solo is like going to the heaven of a thousand tastes.
Solo offers a multitude of tantalizing offerings, and if I visited the city too often I might finds myself a frequent customer of a medical establishment called Prodia (to help me with my ample tummy). Just the other morning, as I arrived at my friend’s house in Solo, breakfast (if you can call it that) was already served. If hotels serve a welcome drink, then my friend’s house serves a welcome meal. This welcome meal consisted of cabuk rambak, a kind of ketupat (rice dumpling) with sesame chilli, and kerupuk karak, made from rice. This type of breakfast is as Solonese as it gets, although if you fancy another go at these dishes come dinnertime, they are available.
So, after a couple of visits to this relatively sleepy town (compared to Jakarta), I started to think, do I really want to only fill my stomach but not my head (read: knowledge)? This thought came back to me after a friend asked if I knew the difference between Yogyakarta batik and Solo batik, after he had listened to my spirited story of one of my visits to this historical city. I couldn’t answer him, and, being a fashion connoisseur, I was embarrassed by this lack of knowledge, although my friend probably did not intend to insult me. I, a dedicated follower of fashion, could not answer this simple question.
I had forgotten that fashion is not only about watching pretty models strut down the catwalk, reading reports from the fashion centres of Paris, Milan and New York, or knowing the latest colour fad or trendiest silhouette. But if I want to call myself an observer, then I should be able to see Solo as a whole and observe it comprehensively, not only a small part of it. That deep feeling of shame motivated me to open my eyes to the full 360 degrees of travelling; to travel not only to enjoy the wonderful culinary offerings but also to view the entire spectrum of my travels, from the history of the place to the stories of its past to all of its cultural heritage. I wanted to understand the underlying differences between a tourist and a traveller. Travellers have an advantage in life, because they strive to continuously fill their soul with knowledge, although that process may come in the form of a vacation. The old adage, “life’s a lesson”, can be no more truer than this.