Another 8 hour train journey survived and we arrived in the hustle and bustle of Yogyakarta. After the very quiet towns of Banyuwangi and Probolinggo we were excited to explore the much anticipated Yogyakarta or ‘Jogya’ as it is affectionately known and see what Java’s tourist centre had to offer. Whilst modern in so many ways, Jogya also manages to retain its colourful and traditional atmosphere with hawker stalls, markets and beeping ojeks everywhere you look. It has everything you love about South East Asia and is a great place to spend a few days and soak up some culture;
Here are our top 7 things to do in Yogyakarta;
1. Borobodur & Prambanan
Probably the main draw and what makes Jogya so famous are the these two temples both within an hours drive of the city centre. And, whilst they are terribly expensive and touristy (as you know, not usually our vibe!) they are something which this time simply could not be missed. Borobodur is the biggest Buddhist temple complex in the world and Prambanan one of the biggest Hindu temples and they are both beautifully stunning! There are hundreds of tours which you can take your pick from to take you from Jogya to the temples plus some other tacky stuff – probably another coffee plantation as if you haven’t already seen enough! We were lucky enough to be travelling with another five people so we hired a private driver (70k each), filled a car and had him take, drop and pick us up to the two temples without all the other rubbish! You can purchase a combined ticket for the temples on arrival which costs 32USD As we said, expensive but they really are worth it.
2. Jalan Malioboro
This is the main centre of Jogya and where the city comes alive both in the day and at night. Visit in the day for what feels like the longest street you’ve ever walked! It has endless stalls selling every souvenir you can imagine and enough Jogya logo t-shirts to clothe the whole of Indonesia – just be ready to haggle hard! Running along side the stalls are traditional batik shops and rows and rows of horse and cart and ojek drivers all whistling and vying for your attention! Come night time food stalls line the streets; sit down on the straw mats, taste some of the local delights including the Nasi Goreng with jackfruit and watch the world go by!
At the very end of Jalan Malioboro (if you ever reach it) you will find the Kraton where the sultan still lives. Inside is a huge complex which you can wander around for 12k rupiah. To be honest we found it pretty dull as there is little information to read on what you are seeing and all of the exhibitions are solely written in Malay. We did however get to see some traditional dancing, music and theatre being performed allowing us to soak up some of the culture and history of the city. These performances are on daily between 10am – 12pm so we would recommend going within this time to make the visit worthwhile.
4. Taman Sari (Water Palace)
The best part of the Water Palace is trying to find it! It is buried deep within a village which is like a maze of little houses so do your best not to get lost and try and come out in the right place. The palace itself we found a little underwhelming but climb up to the top balconies and you get a lovely breezy view out across Jogya. Admission is 10k rupiah however we unknowingly went in the back and were never charged!
5. Street food
The best food stalls are found down Sosrowijayan – the main backpacker area which is made up of lots of interlinking back alleys. All the stalls are rolled in on traditional wooden trolleys and serve hot sweet tea from huge copper kettles and steaming food by the plate. Walking down the smoky street you almost feel like youve stepped back in time. Some stalls are there all day long but many roll up early evening and stay until the early hours – they are enjoyed by many a local and tourist alike.
6. Drink a beer on Sosrowijayan
We found this road really to have the most atmosphere; surrounded by small guesthouses and B&B’s with Malioboro and the hawker stalls at one end and some more modern bars at the other. We spent a couple of evenings friends, sipping on Bintang on a rooftop balcony observing the buzz below! What its all about!
7. Street Art
Jogya is known for its vibrant culture and this can be seen in the street art which lines the backstreets. Go for a wander around Sosrowijayan and its alleyways and be amazed at the intricate and often political street art that can be found here.
8. Day trip to Solo (Surakarta)
We had to spend an extra day in Jogya whilst we waited for our train to Jakarta and as we had pretty much explored everything the city had to offer we decided to hop on a train and visit the nearby city of Surakarta or Solo as it is more commonly known. You can take a local commuter train from Yogyakarta train station for 8k rupiah and takes around an hour to get there. Beware, the trains are very hot and sweaty especially if you do as we did and catch the train back at 4pm with all the other commuters – fair to say it was nearly as bad as the tube and a nice, albeit sticky, reminder of why we left London! Solo itself is fairly small and whilst there is not tons to see it was nice for a change of scenery and to wander the streets stopping at the many monuments and markets along the way.
C & J