Oh how I would love to travel back 250 years in time and visit Taman Sari in it’s heyday. What a glorious place it must have been with its palaces, waterways, pools and pleasure rooms, not least it’s18 water gardens, pavilions and lakes.
This once vast water and garden complex covering several acres, was built between 1758-65 for the Sultanate of Yogyakarta to entertain his female entourage and ogle the young women as they bathed in the pools.
As he watched lasciviously from his tower, selecting ‘wives’ for his carnal pleasures later, his long-suffering Queen swam in her own private pool at the back. Rumour has it that the Portuguese architect who designed the buildings was executed shortly after the project was completed so as to keep hidden the secret of where the pleasures rooms where from his wife and the rest of his court.
Sadly, the Sultan’s pleasure gardens took rather a bashing during Java’s Diponegoro’s war (1825-1830) and then what little remained was further damaged by an earthquake in 1865.
Today, despite there being little left of the original complex, thanks to a major restoration project, the central courtyard is back to it’s original state and the pools are as inviting as ever. As I walked round I couldn’t help but wonder what it must have been like on those sultry evenings all those years ago. The warm evening air thickly scented with the fragrance of frangipani and jasmine, the red-blooded Sultan in his tower spying on the young lovelies, turtle doves cooing in the trees, and the sound of splashing water and shy giggles as each girl wondered if she would be honoured by being chosen to pleasure the Sultan. As for the Queen, as far as I can gather she was forbidden from taking lovers so I guess she must have sloped of home and had to make do with a cup of cocoa and an early night.