Fun Things To Do in Yogyakarta
Guest post by Vira and Mumun.
So little time, so much to see! I’m talking about D.I. Yogyakarta, a special province in Central Java, Indonesia. It’s special since it decided to join the republic voluntarily. I’ve been there for a couple of times, yet there are still so many things I’ve yet to explore. Despite the active Mount Merapi that got us warned about safety around Yogyakarta, which is now in safer condition already, there are still a lot of things you can do within the city located quite a distance from the erupted area. Here are my takes on three of my favorite things to do in Yogyakarta:
The market hall holds maybe thousands of stalls that sell batik, food, raw materials for cooking, raw cloths to modern clothes, and so many others. It is a market, of course! Some cloths don’t seem new, the faded colors gave it away. But if you have the eye and patience for it, you might get some neat stuff. Snacks are scattered on the sides of the market, food like satay, fries, and upstairs you can even shop for daily food ingredients.
It’s a batik and crafts center, located across the Beringharjo Market on Malioboro Street. The prices in this store is slightly above the stuff that you find on the streets, but they do have more selected items. I’ve always liked to shop here whenever I visit Yogyakarta for any purpose. Let me give you a heads up: in high seasons and in the weekends Mirota is usually jam-packed with visitors.
Market Along Malioboro Street
Who doesn’t love cheap stuff? Well, that’s what you’ll find here. This sidewalk market is composed of endless row of stalls – which are made of only tables and hanger poles. Most of the goods sold such as t-shirts, batik products, and other traditional mass products like rattan purses and silver jewelries. It can be your choice to enjoy the street ambience, rather than entering the Beringharjo market. Mind you, these are really cheap stuff, I got myself a tie-dye t-shirt for only IDR 15,000 (USD1.70), so don’t expect too high of quality, but do expect uniqueness.
Sited at 2A Nogosari Kidul Street, this is a house turned into a shop and is located among houses in what seems to be a nice neighborhood. A row of becak (trishaws) are parked in front of it, ready at your service to take you to whichever houses, which are actually shops you want to have a peek in. They have various types of goods, from clothes to tablecloths. The prices range from ten thousands rupiah to hundreds of thousands, mostly depending on the batik material and complexity of the pattern.
Aranda’s Silver shop is at 30 Kemasan Street, Kotagede. As a lot of other silver shops in Kotagede, it has rows of jewelry on display. Oh and they actually sell other decorative ornaments as well, like statues or miniatures of horse carriages, all made of silver.
2. Arts & Cultures
Ullen Sentalu Museum
It is a Javanese art and cultural museum. They’ve got lotsa pictures of the Javanese royals, paintings and crafts with historical themes (some are considered as mystical), old musical instruments like gamelan, and a collection of sacred handmade batik, which the princesses had to fast for days before making them. The architecture of the museum is awesome, structured with stonewalls and the building is labyrinth-like. The main building is built on a lower level, it’s like you’re going into a cave. There’s also stairs and narrow pathways with fences connecting the buildings. Too bad they don’t allow visitors to take pictures at all in the museum. The entrance fee when I visited this museum was Rp 25,000 (USD2.80)/person, including a complimentary drink once we got out of the museum.
This museum/gallery displays so many works of the late Affandi, one of the most prominent Indonesian artists, mostly known for his expressive abstract paintings. It’s located on Laksda Adi Sucipto street. Gallery 1 only displays Affandi’s works, while Gallery 2 displays creation of other artists, and there’s also a Gallery 3 which I failed to peek in to. Across Gallery 1, there’s a café where you could hang out for a sip of coffee or two, or the Indonesians’ most favorite bottled drink called Teh Botol Sosro. Next to the café, stood a caravan-like bamboo building that now functions as mushalla, a prayer room for Moslems. It was initially built by Affandi for his private room with his first wife who passed away before he did. Aww… aren’t artists romantic..?
Although it’s actually located in Magelang area, Borobudur Temple is the one thing that most tourists look forward to seeing when visiting Yogyakarta. Once was in the 7 Wonders of the World, Borobudur is still a wonder on how people in the 9th century could have built this humongous Buddhist temple and scrupulously carved relieves on its walls, depicting the Ramayana story. The last time I visited Borobudur, only an hour drive from Yogyakarta, was about a decade ago. I’m quite sure there’s not much changes in the building itself, but in these last few years I’ve heard that there have been some traditional ballet shows held at the fore of the temple, involving amazing light shows and everything. Make sure you’re in time for the shows before deciding when you’re visiting Yogyakarta.
Prambanan is another great site, built by and for the Hindus in the 9th (some say 10th) century. It’s a compound of temples, greater than Borobudur by heights, and located about 17 km from the centre of Yogyakarta city. Believe it or not, there’s a myth that this “1,000 temples” was made in only one night by Bandung Bondowoso and his genies in order to make the beautiful Roro Jonggrang to marry her, but then failed only because Roro Jonggrang faked the sunrise that deadline day. Drama! A simple ‘no’ is never enough?!
3. Culinary Treats
Lesehan is when you eat while sitting on the matted floor, usually with your legs crossed, and food is served on a low table kinda like a Japanese table. Though applied all across the country, this is a very typical way of Jogjanese (Jogja is short for Yogyakarta) diners. I dined several times in some of the lesehan diners on Malioboro Street. The food prices can be unreasonably marked up unless you make sure about the prices before ordering anything. The most famous lesehan diner is Terang Bulan, but you can pick just any one you want. They mostly serve similar menu, including grilled or fried chicken, dove, duck, and the special Jogja menu like gudeg and pecel lele. Eating can be disturbed by street musicians playing – mostly – popular hit songs and wouldn’t go unless you give them money or show a hand sign saying ‘no, thank you’. However, if you’re curious to hear what Indonesian songs are like, then have them play a little longer, while you can pay a little more.
Yogyakarta is so famous with this dish, that it’s even named the City of Gudeg. It’s made from young jack fruit among other things, boiled with palm sugar and coconut milk, and added with spices that include garlic, shallot, coriander seed, galangal, bay leaves, and teak leaves. It’s usually served with white rice, opor chicken, hard-boiled egg, tempeh, and a stew made of crispy beef skins. If you go to Wijilan Street, you’ll see a row of gudeg diners. The one that gets the most buzz is Gudeg Yu Jum. I had brunch there once, and I found it delicious, but I also loved another gudeg from the Gudeg Bu Is, which you can get on Pelekung Wijilan Pandean Street. If they were competing with each other, I’d say it’s a tie.
In one of my visits to Yogyakarta, my friends and I needed to regain energy between batik shopping and then silver shopping. Accidentally we saw this middle-upper class restaurant called Sekar Kedhaton on our way to Kotagede. Then we had our cab wait about an hour for us having lunch there. It’s visited a lot by groups of foreign tourists that come by buses and minibuses on tours. Good news for you is that the waitresses talk quite good English. We walked out satisfied costumers because the food tasted good, the restaurant was nicely decorated – a combination of old Javanese and Dutch style, the staff were friendly, and the prices made sense (total price for a lunch for 4 of us ladies was IDR 250,000/USD28).
My friend Windy’s aunt took us for a breakfast one day at Soto Kadipiro, on Wates Street. The menu was chicken soto (soup-like dish), mainly consisted of shredded chicken and rice vermicelli, and you can also plunge your steamed rice in it or prepare it in a separate plate. What made the diner interesting for me was not the food – chicken soto is always just an okay to me, never been my first choice of food, but it’s apparently one of the favorite dishes throughout Indonesia – but the decorations. Visual esthetics always intrigues me. They’ve got pictures of wayang (Indonesian puppetry), vintage stuff like bottles, photos of the first president of Indonesia Republic showing so much respect to his mother and other oldie photos, and then there’s a sign that says “Please smoke cigarette as much as you like”. (That’s wrong, I know, but smoking is harshly part of the Indonesian culture. However, you wouldn’t see a sign like this anywhere else.)
Having lunch at Gadri Resto on Rotowijayan street was another culinary treat that intrigued me more because of the esthetic factor of the restaurant. I studied visual art design in school hence this restaurant caught my eye. It’s actually the house of Prince Joyokusumo of the Yogyakarta sultanate, the little brother of the ruling sultan in present time, Sri Sultan Hamengku Bowono X. Never been in a royal house other than the Keraton before, but there is a first for everything. The front porch was turned into a restaurant with a little spot in the corner by the cash register dedicated as a batik workshop. You can also pop inside to see the antique Javanese decorated house. The family still lives there but activities mostly roam in the back part. The serving took a while, we had to reconfirm with the waitress whether our orders have been cooked or not. Turns out that there’s been a mix-up in our order. Oh well! I had Blawon Rice, consisted of rice, boiled egg, deep fried chicken, meat, salad, and a prawn cracker. But to be fair, the food was far from disappointing.
Kafe Via Via
I always go to this place whenever I’m in Jogja. And I’m glad that my friends liked it too, and we were satisfied with our meals there. They provide local, western, and a bit of Chinese food and beverage, also free wi fi connection. Visitors are both local and international. What my friends and I had were es dawet (sweet beverage with ice that’s basically made of coconut milk, palm sugar, and rice powder jelly), Banana lassi, java coffee, fried tempeh, various pasta, sausages, and garlic bread, all for IDR 157,500 (USD18) for a dinner of four. Well, prices can go up and down (well, mostly up), but overall the food in Yogyakarta (or any aspect of living, for that matter) tends to be cheap if you compare it to, say, Bali.
Bakpia Kurnia Sari
In the last morning of our holiday in Jogja, we picked up bakpia that we ordered the day before, at Bakpia Kurnia Sari at 91 C Glagahsari Street, in the Umbulharjo area. What is bakpia, you wonder? Bakpia is a small round-shaped pastry, usually stuffed with mung beans, but in the past couple of years it also comes in other fillings like chocolate, durian, and cheese. My favorite was the one with cheese filling. In the shop, they also sell other kinds of Javanese special food, like Krasian and Yangko. The bakpia itself cost IDR 18,000 (USD2) / box of 5 pieces (this was in mid 2009). There are a lot of places that sell bakpia, and some are the bakpia pathok kind, which has softer wrap. I’m sure there are others who have explored Yogyakarta more thoroughly and stay there longer than I have. And I’m not done with this region with so many interesting places, myths, arts, good food, and scenic nature. I was even supposed to go back there again a few months ago when unfortunately they had to close down the airport due to safety reason concerning the Merapi situation. So, another visit to Yogyakarta by the Indohoy team (it’s either me, Vira, or Mumun) is to be expected soon. Until then, have a great time exploring Yogyakarta on your own, hopefully with some help from our references here.
Guest bloggers Vira Tanka ( Saphira Tanka Zoelfikar) on the left and Mumun (Murni Amalia Ridha) are from Jakarta, Indonesia. Vira previously worked in TV industry, currently a freelance writer and translator. Mumun on the other hand is working in the mining industry as an environmental officer. She enjoys her job partly because she gets to see the remote places of Indonesia; areas that you can’t access publicly. They can be contacted through Facebook Indohoy Travelguide.