The storm and heavy downpour had made it impossible for the plane to land in Yogya's Bandara. After circling in the air for over 45 minutes, the flight had to backtrack and stop at Surabaya for over an hour, to refuel and wait for the storm to clear.
I call that crazy weather. The locals, however, regard the rainy Chinese New Year days as a lucky omen. Well, that was what Andi cheerfully told me – and this, after having to wait at the airport an additional 4 hours for me to arrive, having to exchange his good shoes for wet, squeaky flip-flops, and getting drenched as he ran in the rain to get the car.
That rainy night was my first time ever in Prawirotaman and the city of Yogya; and my first solo sojourn abroad. I was very hungry but not keen on walking out too far from the guesthouse. And so I asked the lady at the lobby if I could get some food sent to the room. Hah, unfortunately for me they only served breakfast.
So, I went out to the porch. The elderly guard hurriedly handed me an umbrella. The rain had softened down to a slight drizzle by then.
I walked slowly contemplating what to do next. As I looked across the narrow street. I could see bright lights coming from what appeared to be a cafe opposite the guest house.
I squinted my eyes to read the signage. Money Laundry? Well, not exactly your run-of-the-mill name for an eatery – I thought. From where I was, the place didn't look as dodgy as it sounded. So I decided it was the best bet in that kind of weather and time of night.
I crossed the street and entered the cafe quickly, eager to escape the damp and dark. Its entrance reminded me of the anjung (porch) of a traditional Malay house. Wide and airy, with no walls. 2 poles stood vertically to the left and right of the wooden steps.
The place was brightly lit. Over to the right, a long rectangular table with several high stools stood facing the street. The cafe's wooded interior and distressed pastel colored furniture heightened its rustic vintage look and feel.
Money Laundry was practically deserted except for 3 men sitting casually in the corner. They smoked and chatted loudly in a mixture of English, Indonesian and smatterings of Korean. There were several bottles of the homegrown Bintang Beer (Star Beer) on their table.
A lone waiter-cum-bartender stood at the bar, doing nothing. Several menu booklets lay stacked on the counter. Behind the bar I saw a shelf lined with clear tall glasses, big circular jars; tiny espresso cups and large coffee mugs. Tucked in between the glass jars an unlikely find, a shiny white ceramic maneki-neko (the welcome cat), it’s left paw moving up and down, beckoning at me.
I smiled at the waiter as I sat down at the square table facing him. From beneath his thick mustache, he smiled back. He reached for the menu and quickly walked over to get my order.
The menu items were as equally interesting as the cafe's name. The menu was basically a jumble of nationalities – including even sushi and sashimi as part of the list. And this despite the cafe being not the slightest bit Japanese but for the maneki-neko.
At this place with its quirky strange name, I had a mug of the most delicious cafe americano. And I ordered the cheapest snacks - the garlic bread. It was toasty, salty and tasty.
I kept sneezing as I ate the garlic bread, and wondered why, until I realized later (after finishing almost half of contents) that the rim of the plate had been sprinkled generously with white pepper.