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Contrary to what the name suggests, the Gangs of Yogyakarta aren’t hordes of heavily-tattooed Indonesian men roaming the chaotic, trishaw-ladden streets of the city. Gang I and II are in fact two narrow and incredibly artistic alleys just off the busy Malioboro street, in a city that is famous for its art culture and local handicrafts.
They are two small havens from the bustle of a sizeable Indonesian city, the trash, the scams and the constant hassle by touts and street sellers. Instead, they offer cozy cafés, family-owned laundry places and little trinket shops, street food carts and of course, artsy hostel after hostel. Our place, called the Setia Kawan, was painted from top to bottom in colourful designs, sold handmade little books and pouches and operated completely based on the honour system. It’s not hard to imagine, that after a scammy few weeks, this was a nice change.
With work piling up around me and being quite fed up with people left and right trying to extort ridiculous amounts of money from me, I have to admit that I didn’t venture out into Yogyakarta much. Instead, I opted for staying put in the Gang’s and catching up on some writing and design work. I enjoyed watching the birds chirping in their wooden cages, artists sitting crosslegged on the floor and painting colourful scenes on white canvas and spending the money I saved on entirely too much papaya juice and ginger ice tea. But what I loved most about wandering the Gangs was the street art, which can be found on almost every wall.