Anyone who has been to Yogyakarta will undoubtedly insist that it is the best city in Java. For those who have yet to visit, they are usually equally as confident that they will also love it. Two weeks ago I fell into the latter category and was constantly told, “you need to go!” That time has finally come, and after my visit I’ve officially moved to the former category and am here to say that you need to go now, too!
Jogja, which is its more common name, is culturally potent and artistically rich with a side of charm for good measure. There is a good mixture of tourists and locals; not too many tourists to feel overcrowded, but just enough to make you feel like you haven’t abandoned Western civilization. If it so strikes your fancy, you can sit in a cafe and enjoy fresh juice and eggs slathered in hollandaise sauce (which I totally did) while the group of locals next to you indulge in nasi goreng. I love that this city exudes a state of balance without even trying, how history lives within the temple walls, that delicious eateries are plentiful, that live reggae music is played in the bars at night and how kind the locals are. Plus, Jogja supports vegetarianism, local artists and animal welfare (all the humanitarian things that make me swoon), but they do so in a way that isn’t in your face. Most of the time you don’t even know that you are eating organic chocolate or that the bag you just bought helped save the local sea turtles (I am guilty on both counts). But that’s Jogja, confident, yet humble. It’s like they know they’re the best but refuse to let it go to its head.
So what exactly did I cram into my two days in Java’s little gem?
This feast for the eyes wasn’t necessarily bigger than other Hindu temples in SE Asia, but, in my humble opinion, was considerably better. I can’t quite put my finger on it as to why, but for some reason it took the cake. It also helped that it was drizzling rain, which sent all the Indonesians flocking for cover and left it nearly empty for me to explore. I especially enjoyed walking through each of the temples and taking my time looking at the stories depicted within the carvings. To top it off, it’s a UNESCO sight, which is basically just a fancy codeword for “really nice landscaping job.” Next time I visit (and there will definitely be a next time), I’ll pack a lunch and enjoy a picnic with the temples on the horizon.
RATU BOKO TEMPLE
Was a bit disappointed in this one since I heard it was the spot to watch the sunset, but I had a great time anyway. Earlier that day I had met Susan, an awesome girl from New York, and we decided to checkout the sunset at Ratu together. Not only did it end up raining, but they closed the temple grounds five minutes before sunset, so we ended up wildly running around taking pictures in the rain as the security guards tried to usher us out. I kept telling him in Indonesian that he was such a handsome man, hoping to buy a few extra minutes, which worked a little bit. Indonesians love a good ego stroke. In the end we got pictures (though semi-terrible ones, but pictures nonetheless) and we were the last ones out the gate before they locked it behind us. We celebrated our victory with a few large bottles of Bintang beer.
(90k IDR w/ student ID, includes one drink)
TAMAN SARI WATER CASTLE
This was a marvelously dreamy place to find myself on an afternoon. Built and used in the 18th century, it served as a bathing and meditation area for the Royal family. Today, it is slightly decrepit from previous military invasions and earthquakes, but that just adds to it’s charm. There is a lot to explore here and I’m 90% sure I missed the good stuff, oops. There was apparently an “underwater mosque” but a lack of signs made it a bit confusing to walk around, so maybe I’ll attempt to find it next time. Even without seeing this mysterious mosque, I really enjoyed my time here.
(Entrance Fee: 15k IDR)
PALACE OF YOGYAKARTA
I had not planned on seeing this, but sometimes you just don’t have it in you to argue with your persistent trishaw driver so you give in and say, “Yeah, yeah, whatever Mr. Ato, take me wherever.” And my tiny bicycle taxi driver, Mr. Ato, did just that. I had originally decided to skip the palace because it didn’t look amazing (or palatial at all), and after actually going I can say I was absolutely right. It left a lot to be desired.
I did, however, enjoy the unannounced “mini-tour” given to me by a local lady, who I also did not have the fight in me to argue with, so I dutifully followed her around. I swear, sometimes I feel like I’m just reluctantly shuffled around this country. Although hesitant at first, her impromptu tour took me to see the handmade process of making batiks (traditional fabrics), how their treasured theater puppets are made, and she patiently waited while I pet every cat I came into contact with, which equated to about 4 or 5 pit stops. Experiences like this serve as reminders that oftentimes people are just as important as places.
(Entrance fee: 12k IDR, Photo pass: 1k IDR)
Oh, how my heart sings at the sight of a little cafe. My favorite was ViaVia Jogja (in the south ring), which also takes on cultural, social and ecological community projects. Coffee with a side of humanitarianism? I’ll take it! Plus it’s super close to the cutest hotel, Adhistana, which I was tempted to never leave. I also enjoyed Roaster & Bear (in the north ring), which may not be a place out to solve the world’s problems, but it sure cured my coffee craving. Bonus points for serving pumpkin soup.
THE LUCKY BOOMERANG BOOKSHOP
This tiny shop, tucked away in an alley, is a real treat and is owned and ran by the cutest, little old Indonesian woman you ever did see. She even sent a postcard for me, which was a card made of batik fabric that her sister had handmade. Don’t worry, I got a book, too. (Sidenote: Go read A Street Cat Named Bob, I mean, just look at this furry little cutie pie.)
If it’s not apparent through my other posts, let it be known that I get real giddy over some good street art. I believe that it is a creative outlet to show individuality and I can’t get enough of it, especially in Indonesia where it sometimes feels like people are mass-produced little clones that all like the same things. Seriously, if I had $1 for every Indonesian that said their favorite animal was a cat, I could easily finance my travels for the rest of my life and then some.
FOR NEXT TIME:
Next time I continue my love affair with Jogja I will stay for a week at minimum. There are a plethora of outdoor activities in the surrounding area that make for good day trips and I’m excited to explore them all.
- Borobudur Temple for sunrise
- Mount Merapi hike
- Tempo del Gelato (how did I forget this…?)
- Kalibiru Natlional Park outdoor activities and suspension bridges
- Gumuk Pasir Parangkusumo sand dunes
- Parangtritis Beach
- Luweng Sampang swimming canyon
- Umbul Ponggok underwater pictures
In only two days I found myself falling fast and hard for Jogja (and just so you know, two days is NOT enough).If you’re coming to Indonesia, and most likely only going to Bali, then do yourself a favor and add Yogyakarta to your list. Bali is beautiful and respectable in it’s own right, but you don’t get the true experience of Indonesia by going there alone. Don’t just take my word for it, I promise that everyone vehemently adores this place; It’s like the Casanova of cities. I have no doubt that Jogja will steal your heart, too, should you give it the attention it deserves.
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