SPECIAL REGION OF YOGYAKARTA
After 6 weeks of all consuming continuous island hopping through Indonesia, seeing amazing things such as The Nusa Islands and Komodo National Park, Java became a haven in which to take a step back from intense travelling and take some time to relax and enjoy surroundings without time restraints. Starting in Malang, we continued onto Yogyakarta, a bustling capital city within Java’s Special Region of Yogyakarta. Known for cultural heritage and the only royal city in Indonesia still ruled by a monarchy, Yogyakarta is a perfect hub for food and local culture.
Due to the high number of tourists passing through this city, a small number of locals seize the chance to unfortunately scam as many people they possibly can. Be aware of this always. Politely decline and carry on walking; any sign of interest and five minutes later you’ll be in a batik art shop full of illegal sellers making money on art that isn’t even legitimate. If you’re stopped on the street and told that the attraction/market/museum you’re headed to is closed… it’s not.
Honestly, the prince of Singapore isn’t visiting, neither is the president of Indonesia. Visit where you desire to visit and if you’re interested in the art culture, research efficiently into the official batik sellers and visit those ignoring any locals that tell you their cousins step-brothers mum is the wife of a new Vietnamese leader that has taken over the palace that day, meaning it’s closed.
Lots of larger activities that are advertised such as volcano hikes and temple visits are out of the city and usually very expensive. Here is how you can stay local, relax, get a small injection of culture and save some money.
1. Prawirotaman Street
We stayed here on a recommendation and it truly is the best place for the backpacker. Full of bars, restaurants and hostels, Prawirotaman Street is the cool and relaxing street of Yogyakarta.
My favourite place to hang as a veggie was Via Via, which serves amazing raw salads, filling burgers, local cuisine and also freshly baked cakes and cookies from their bakery next door. The food was fresh and accommodated for an array for dietary requirements. Play On has a cool vibe for drinks in the evening, K’meals is great for happy hour and if you love pizza like me, Nanamia Pizzeria is a wonderful authentic Italian with a super extensive menu and delicious tirimasu, Prawirotaman street is also the home of Tempo Gelato, a famous ice cream shop visited by domestic tourists every weekend.
2. Alun Alun Selatan
Now this was a strange adventure, but one I can recommend for sure. At nighttime, after visiting one of the local night markets for dinner, the Alun Alun Selatan becomes a weird festival of lights. Locals wire pedaled cars with neon lights, decorations and sound systems and for as little as 50,000IDR(£2.70, you can pedal these ridiculous cars around the busy square (which is still open to normal traffic.) I was designated driver, which considering I don’t even have a UK driving license, was probably a bad idea. Nonetheless, I blasted ‘Wild Thoughts’ by Rihanna (according to the locals she’s in town next week) and zoomed round the square like a boss.
There are a few local museums that are cheap and perfect for gaining a greater understanding of Indonesian culture. Their content ranges from local instruments, use of puppets and music within performance, typical dress and even typical housing interiors for the traditional Javanese people. The Sonoduboyo Unit 1 museum had little quirks such as watching the local men creating the puppets for evening performances and videos of batik paintings being created.
Museum Monumen Jogja Kimbali is one of the more unique structures we came across in Yogyakarta, a sort of half pyramid half sharpened Star Trek Enteprise, home to the story of Yogyakarta’s battle with the Dutch after the Indonesian people claimed independence in 1945. This memorial commemorates the Indonesian people who died in the battle to take back Yogyakarta from the Dutch Army.
Our guide was lovely, the museum was really inexpensive and it was genuinely interesting.
4. Temples (Borobodur and Prambanan)
Yogyakarta is the closest main city to Borododur and Prambanan temples. These temples are incredibly popular in Java for tourism and therefore very expensive. A normal ticket for an individual temple will cost you 350,000IDR(£19/20) without transport and if you’re hoping to catch sunrise you’ll be looking at 450,000IDR(£23/24).
Borobodur is the largest Buddhist temple in the entire world. It was built entirely without equipment and took an estimated 75 years to build. A walk around is honestly mesmerising. We didn’t have a chance to visit Prambanan but rumours are it’s spectacular for sunset.
My advice would be to buy a combination ticket and visit both of the temples in the same day. Unless you’re desperate to watch sunrise, maybe avoid paying the extra money for that as friends had told us that sunrise can be busy (at Borobodur) and also unpredictable with the weather.
Other locations to visit:
Yogyakarta’s architecture combines Dutch colonial with traditional Javanese and the contrast of these both makes the city a fairground for photographers and explorers. No street looks the same and with plenty of food and bars to try, the options are left open to relax as little or as much as you wish. Don’t forget that if someone tells you the palace is closed due to a visit from Donald Trump, WestLife, or Tupac Shakur, rest assured, it’s probably not.
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