Archipelago diaries |

In the Heart of Java, Yogyakarta and Solo Offer a Wealth of Cultural Experiences

Archipelago Diaries | 10 April 2019

Yogyakarta is a bustling town of some half a million people and the most popular tourist destination on Java, largely thanks to its proximity to the temples of Borobudur and Prambanan. The town is a hub of art and education, offers some good shopping and has a wide range of tourism spots.

Prambanan or Rara Jonggrang is a 9th-century Hindu temple compound in Special Region of Yogyakarta. iStock/NOW!JAKARTA

With its huge urban centre complete with malls, fast-food chains and traffic jams, it maintains its cultural roots especially in  batik, gamelan and ritual.

Filled with street art, galleries, coffee shops and abundant cultural attractions, it’s a destination worth exploring over and again - from a multitude of angles.

Easily accessed by air or road, a weekend - or longer - here is a treat. Stroll through the living museum of The Kraton or The Keraton (Sultan’s Palace), spend time at Alun Alun, or maybe watch silversmiths produce  jewellery at Kotagede, there’s something for everyone here. And if you’re into retail therapy -  splurge at Malioboro road.

There are scenic beaches and stunning landscape too. Parangtritis, Indrayanti, Pok Tunggal, Siung, Krakal, and Jogan are some of the famous beaches in town.

Breathtaking points such as Puncak Becici, Pinus Pengger, and Jurang Tembelan are among the treasures of Yogyakarta.

Malioboro Street, a zero point in Yogyakarta.

No trip is complete without a culinary foray. Here, there’s Gudeg, a stewed jackfruit dish cooked in coconut. Then there’s Bakpia, a pastry similar to moon cakes. Jamu, a traditional Indonesian herbal drink believed to be the salve for any ailment, is particularly delicious here.

As for Batik,  Yogyakarta has a signature batik pattern that are usually made with a bright white background. Some of the motifs include Parang Kusumo, Kawung and Truntum, each of which has significant meaning.

There is also Batik Tulis, Batik Cap, Batik Print and the mixed result of the techniques. The most expensive is the Batik Tulis, which are made of 100 per cent  hand painted ornaments.

Wayang is also an amazing art heritage known from Yogyakarta. There are the Wayang Kulit or leather puppet, played on a shadow puppet show by the dalang or puppet master through a screen lit by lights. Wayang Orang is the life-size performances depicting the same philosophical messages from ancient stories and is presented by men and women in elaborate traditional costume.

Adventure seekers will enjoy exploring Mount Merapi and the volcano there, right by a beautiful village. Rock climbing can be done in Siung beach, while cave tubing is a major attraction in Goa Pindul, and you can try to visit Jomblang cave for an extraordinary caving experience.

Yogyakarta is indeed a city with numerous attractions to enjoy. All of this and many more to explore has brought Yogyakarta as the second most visited destination in Indonesia after Bali.

Borobudur Temple, Magelang, Central Java is one hours travel from downtown Yogyakarta.

Borobudur Temple is an absolute must when in Yogyakarta. The largest Buddhist temple in the world, visitors should take in the view from the top of this temple believed to be constructed in 800A.D. Beat the crowds and the heat by visiting the temple at sunrise. Local guides are on hand to  help visitors understand the relief walls around the temple.

One of the largest Hindu temples in south-east Asia, Prambanan Temple was also believed to be the testimony of love from a powerful young man named Bandung Bondowoso to Princess Roro Jonggrang. The temple itself was built in the 10th century as an tribute to Shiva.  There are different ticket prices for Indonesian and  foreign visitors.

Sunsets are spectacular from Prambanan. After a visit at the end of the day, experience the Ramayana Ballet Show, based on the Hindu epic. Easily reached from the temple, the show starts at 19:30 and performance are in an outdoor theater stage.

In Yogyakarta, the Sultan himself rules the province as governor. Built in 1757, the Kraton or the Palace serves as a home for the Sultan and his family.  A genuine form of old Javanese culture and architecture from this grand complex. Intricate designs from halls to floors, bright gold painted ceilings, symmetric floor designs, a classic display of fine luxurious architecture. On some parts of the palace, you will see Western influenced designs as well. Display of personal collections of current Sultan Hamengku Buwono X can also be found in the Kraton. 

The shopping hub of  Malioboro offers retail therapy like no other spot here. From bags and shirts to treasured souvenirs, this is the place to visit. There are plenty of food options here too!

The street is within walking distance from Stasiun Tugu (Tugu Railway Station). Another option is hiring a becak (pedicab) or the ubiquitous four-wheeled horse-drawn carts called “Andong”.  

 


SOLO

Absorb yourself in history with a becak ride through the old city. Historically, Solo has been a centre of power in Central Java. In 1745 the Mataram court was transferred here from Kota Gede, and, since then, the city has built on its reputation as a cultural hub. From Solonese dance, wayang puppetry through to hand-crafted batik Solo remains a city that prides itself on its artistic traditions of elegance and refinement.

Sultanate Palace.

The old mosque (Masjid Agung Kraton Surakarta) is one of the most famous landmarks in Solo.

Pasar Triwindu is the antique/flea market of Solo. The market is located in the city centre and is heaven for people who are interested in antiques (Javanese daggers, leather puppets, decorations, etc).

If you are in search of classic batik then you need to visit Laweyan Batik Village. This village is famous for its history – in the past a lot of wealthy batik businessmen lived here. Visiting Laweyan feels a tiny bit like you are stepping back into the past. You can walk through the small alleys, see old spots/buildings that are very attractive and do a bit of boutique shopping. Laweyan is a place where one can learn to make batik.

You can visit Mangkunegaran Palace (Pura Mangkunegaran) and Kasunanan Palace (Keraton Surakarta Hadiningrat). I didn’t have the chance to visit Mangkunegaran Palace, and only visited Kasunanan Palace. The Palace grounds cover a large area. It’s a nice place to visit and the environment is very relaxing. However, the museum is falling apart and in desperate need of renovation.

Cengklik reservoir is located in Boyolali. It is to the west of Adi Sumarmo airport of Solo. The reservoir is a perfect place for sunset lovers and people who love photography. You can take great photos of the reservoir at sunset with a view of Mount Merapi and Merbabu in the background.

Solo is well known for its food! Some of the highlights that you should try include the Nasi Liwet, Serabi Solo and Buntel satay. There are many restaurants around town serving these dishes but a more touristy place with good food is Nasi Liwet Wongso Lemu which is around Keprabon. Though it is busy with tourists, and locals say it’s a bit expensive, it is tasty!

If you happen to be in the city on the weekend then visit the famous Saturday Night Market Ngarsopuro. The market is famous for its food. Locals also really like to hang out here. Besides the food, you can also find souvenirs, crafts and some clothing stalls at the market.

 


Recommended Hotels


El Royale Yogyakarta

Located in the center of Malioboro's economic and tourism growth, El Royale Hotel Yogyakarta Malioboro is 30 minutes from Adisucipto International Airport, and 5 minutes from Tugu Tugu Station and Malioboro. This hotel is perfect for its strategic location. http://el-hotels.com/


Yogyakarta Marriott Hotel

Relax in rooms and suites featuring five-star amenities, downtown views and contemporary décor infused with classic Javanese design elements. www.marriott.com


Royal Ambarrukmo

The imperial legend lives on at Royal Ambarrukmo Yogyakarta. What once served as the Yogyakarta Royal palace and gardens stand today as one of the city’s finest 5-star luxury hotels. A prestigious sanctuary for the discerning business and holiday traveller, the award-winning hotel offers a gateway to a grander era with architecture, charm and charisma befitting its regal heritage. www.royalambarrukmo.com


Alila Solo

A plush urban retreat setting a new standard in luxury accommodation, Alila Solo is a premiere choice for travelers seeking a hotel solo has to offer. www.alilahotels.com/solo