Jogjakarta is one of the travel paradise of Indonesia. Its close proximity to East Java, home of beautiful volcanoes and beaches, and the famous Bali island with all the amazing surrounding islands made it a must-visit destination. You get to experience the culture and the humility of its locals (Trust me, they are unlike the city people in Jakarta or any other big cities in Indonesia). Plus, you get to go back to the past with Borobudur and Prambanan temples, two of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, just an hour away from the city.
I had my share of fun exploring Jogjakarta. Below is the list of places I visited and experienced there. I have ordered them in sequence from strongly recommended to the least. I understand that nowadays there is no much time for us to travel and you just want to cover as many places of interest as possible with the limited time you have.
Take note, there are two parts of Kraton: Sultan’s residence and the northern gates. VISIT THE SULTAN RESIDENCE. There’s more to see.
2. Taman Sari/Water Castle
It is the recreational venue for the king and his wives and is as old as Kraton itself. Try to visit this place together with Kraton because they are just next to each other. I was told that the original pools were directly filled by underground springs. There are also underground tunnels near the villages for people to go to the prayer chambers. The tunnel that supposedly connects Kraton to the praying chambers collapsed due to age and poor maintenance. If you get to visit, feel the drop in temperature in the chambers. It is so much cooler inside than outside. No air-conditioner.
The 8th century Buddhist temple is full of stories. Rediscovered by the British colonial in the 18th century after its demise in 10th century following a volcano eruption, it is now one of the UNESCO world heritage. Get a tour to show you around. The stories about the place is not to be missed. It is so beautiful. Some people actually visited the temple at dawn to see the sunrise. Some stay for the sunset.
4. Local restaurants
Okay, let’s face it. Traveling without trying out local cuisines sucks. So, this section will be a little longer and focused on what we all love to do: Eat. I tried these restaurants and they are not bad at all. Also listed from the most recommended, here they are:
- Bale Raos: The yogyakarta royal cuisine restaurant. They serve the Sultans’ favourite dishes. So expect fine-dining experience. By that, I mean, expensive and small portioned food. But no doubt, delicious!
- Sekar Kedhaton: I would say similar to Bale Raos, the restaurant is very well-decorated javanese style and very comfortable. The food portion is so much bigger than Bale Raos.
- Ramingten: A famous local restaurant with traditional javanese setting. The restaurant is unique because of it’s owner who is proud of her identity of a transvestite. She became an icon everywhere. Food wise, the restaurant has the widest range of local delicacies with wide price range too. I tried the famous Jogjakarta’s dish, Gudeg, here.
- Yu Djum Gudeg: You probably should try the Gudeg here instead of the one I tried at Ramingten.
- Warung Bu Ageng: A home-cooked food stall. In one plate, you’d get different dishes, just like eating at home. The locals said the dish is like how a Javanese mother would prepare lunch/dinner for their kids.
- Mie Bakso Blangkon: A really big restaurant serving all kinds of Indonesian food. The setting is quite different from conventional restaurants because you get to eat in your own shelter and sit on mats.
- Nasi Padang: This not a restaurant. Nasi Padang is steamed rice with pre-cooked Padang-originated dishes of your choice. I ate one of this from one of the many stalls around the city. Don’t be fooled by the look of the weary wooden tables and chairs in the stalls. The food is worth trying out! Not to be missed.
- Papa Rons Pizza: Tried this. No regret. This is an Indonesian pizza franchise that is similar to Pizza Hut. Cheaper, but still pizza.
5. Malioboro Street
A long stretch of shops at the road side, selling batik and other handicraft for souvenirs. Bargaining is a must (at least 50% from original price offered). If you don’t want to bargain, there is a Mirota Batik at the end of the street that sells exactly what you can find along the streets at fix prices. There are also local street food worth trying. Don’t forget to try riding on the horse carriage. They might be expensive, but why not right?
6. Alun-alun Selatan
The best night spot in Jogjakarta is located at the southern gates of Kraton. People visit this place to try walking through the middle of the two banyan trees in the park. It is said that if you are able to walk in between them blind-folded, you have a good heart. I was suprised to see many people fail the test. Some say the Palace’s ‘guardians’ won’t allow those with bad intentions to succeed doing it.
Apparently there was a competition between the Buddhist and the Hindus in the 8th century. Prambanan, a Hindu temple, was founded a ruin by the Dutch. Only through great efforts by archaeologists and other disciplines can they reconstruct the temple to its original shape just like solving a puzzle, but with 70-100kg rocks. Still, hundreds of temples are yet to be reconstructed. Beautiful complex to be explored during the sunset!
8. Kopi Jos
Our taxi driver opposed this drink for health reasons. But trying it once won’t hurt. It is coffee with extra ingredient: a dip of red, hot charcoal in the coffee. According to the locals, the coffee tastes better that way.
Ngangkring or eat angkringan food while sitting on tikar (mat) by the road side is how Jogjakarta people do it. Angkringan refers to food of small portions (Nasi Kucing) as cheap as Rp 3,000 ($0.30), consumed at the road side. Pretty relaxing place to hangout, actually. Some angkringan serves Kopi jos.
10. Jogja Souvernirs
These are the places to get T-shirt unique to Jogjakarta.
- Dagadu: You can find creatively designed souvenirs from mugs, key chains and printed T-shirts.
- Jogja T-shirt (with free factory tour): The tour shows you how they print drawings and writtings on their T-shirts. The shirts that they sell are mainly those with iconic landmarks/views in Jogjakarta.
- Winoto Sastro (with free factory tour): How do they make batik? Take a look around the factory. The employers are really friendly and do not mind to have their pictures taken while working on the beautiful master pieces. You can find all types of batik here, from the cheapest to the most expensive. I bought batik pencil cases for my friends from the shop.
11. Lava tour Lava tour brings you around the valleys of Mount Merapi where you can see what is left of the villages that got consumed by the hot clouds when the volcano erupted. You get to see the bunker which was not effective as the temperature inside got too high during the eruption. Riding in topless jeep, you’ll get to see water springs and around the beautiful nature just at the foot of the volcano.
Well, I didn’t get to climb Merapi because of its closure after an accident that happened at the crater. Probably hiking an active volcano is not the safest activity. Fortunately, there is an ancient volcano just an hour drive from Jogjakarta. It is located near Ngelanggeran village. The hike is basic and safe. Within just an hour or so, with clear routes and even alternative easier ones for those who got tired of hiking high slopes, you would reach the summit. The view is incredible! You could also visit Embung, the reservoir that looks like a giant swimming pool from the top of the mountain.
13. Water Rafting
Elo river, an hour drive from Jogjakarta is a great start for water rafting beginner. There are different difficulty levels you can choose from, but the beginner level is good enough to get the feel of water rafting. Plus, you could enjoy the view of the surrounding forest; people washing clothes and even kids taking a bath in nearby villages. No previous experience needed. You could even wear slippers.
There are many beaches to be explored, including Parang Tritis beach which is near the final resting place of the Kings. But the one I visited was Indrayanti beach. According to the locals, the beach is the cleanest. It has a mini look-out with amazing view of the Indian ocean.
16. Explore Local Malls
Sometimes we just need similar environment and eat the food we have back home. These are the typical shopping malls you could find anywhere else with international franchises. The ones that I visited are
- Ambarrukmo Plaza (commonly known as Amplaz), and
- Malioboro Mall.
There is also Jogja City Mall which is quite far from the central, but is the biggest.
17. Taman Budaya
There are occasional exhibitions that you might find interesting. I went to an art exhibition, ArtJog, and I loved it.
18. Watch movies for $3
If you have time, you can always boast about this experience back home. The cinemas are clean and standard. But super cheap, unlike the $11.50 cinemas in Singapore. If you are traveling and there is a movie that you’ve been dying to watch, watch it here. There is a movie cineplex in Jogja City Mall and Ambarrukmo Plaza (Amplaz).
That is all on my list! Hopefully you enjoy reading this post. More coming up about Jogjakarta in the following Sundays! Do you think I missed any other fun activities in Jogjakarta? Comment below!