We decided to fly from Bali to Yogyakarta (or Jogja as the locals call it) to save time. East Java looks amazing, but we weren’t going to have time to explore all of Java and Sumatra in one month, so we prioritised central and west Java and Sumatra. The flight was cheap – only £26 each and luckily the grumbling Mount Agung didn’t prevent us from flying.
The hostel we stayed at, Ostic House, was amazing. The beds were comfy, they had free water, tea, coffee, towels and breakfast, but the staff really made it. They were so helpful and friendly. I’d definitely recommend anyone to stay there. The hostel arranged a pick up for us at the airport which saved us a lot of hassle haggling with taxi drivers. However the driver tried to insist on pushing the bag trolley because “it was for men” so I took the trolley off him and ran up the hill to prove a point!
Finding veggie food was easy – there were even a few delicious places within a 10 minute walk from the hostel. Like Canggu, these places focused on sustainable food, no MSG and no palm oil which I think is really promising to see, especially as it wasn’t just tourists eating in these places.
After finding some food on the first night, we stumbled across a square in the old town of Jogja where Indonesian families were eating from various food stalls set up on the grass and driving these bizarre light up pedal cars around the square. Obviously we decided to give it a go!
We hired a car and a driver through our hostel and had an early start to visit Kaliburu National Park, Air Terjun Kedung Pedut (a waterfall) and Borobudur Temple. The trip excluding entrance fees cost us 100,000 IRD / £6 ish each. Once out the city, we drove along small roads, next to rice paddies and jungle to Kalibiru National Park. After a very steep and bumpy ride up the hill, we made it to the top. Being 450m above sea level, the views were amazing. I thought the National Park would involve more trails, but where we got taken to was a just path along the hill with various photo spots overlooking the view. Nevertheless, it was beautiful.
After Kaliburu, we drove to Air Terjun Kedung Pedut – a beautiful waterfall that you could swim and jump into, surrounded by jungle.
After the waterfalls, we headed to Borobudur Temple – the world’s largest Buddhist temple dating back to 750AD which is now a UNESCO site. The temple has nine levels that you can walk around. The first six levels are square and contain beautiful stone carvings depicting various Buddhist stories, and the top three levels are circular and adorned with seventy-two Buddha statues contained in stupas. After exploring the temple and admiring the beautiful views in the rain, we went to the museum in the temple grounds and got shown around the exhibits by a very enthusiastic Indonesian man with rapid, broken English. Luckily Emma somehow managed to understand him and translated for us. The exhibits are labelled in English and the photos and models of the temple are really interesting, especially the process of rebuilding the temple to install drainage systems and prevent it from collapsing – a definite don’t miss.
At all the sights we visited, we were the only, obviously foreign tourists which meant that we got stopped and asked for photos by a lot of people. One group of girls at Borobudur Temple were particularly interested in having a photo with Sam, which made us laugh and Sam probably feel a bit awkward!
On our second day, we wanted to get out and explore ourselves, so we hired some peds from a nearby guesthouse (next to a Fairtrade, organic cafe which was a great coincidence). We started off at Museum Benteng Vredeburg – a former colonial fortress which now houses exhibits of Indonesia’s independence struggle. The museum was really interesting, but we didn’t have time to look around all the exhibits.
Our hostel had told us about a museums nestled at the base of Mount Merapi and we wanted to check it out. Once out of the city, the drive was beautiful – through lush rice paddies and little villages – until the sky went black and the rain poured down. Luckily we had rain coats and weren’t too far from the museum.
The Ullen Sentalu Museum is a privately owned and curated museum containing lots of exhibits about the history and culture of Yogyakarta. Whilst waiting to enter the museum, we had a lot of pictures taken by a large Indonesian tour group who all wanted to have their photo with us. The women were particularly keen to have photos with me and Emma, maybe because we were tall and blonde?! After the endless photos, we were taken around the museum by an Indonesian lady who was lovely but absolutely mad. I can’t describe it well, but let’s just say we were running from room to room, laughing through the rain and getting told a lot of information at a rapid pace. The museum had a whole room dedicated to Batik and we learnt the differences between batik from Jogja and Solo which was really interesting. Because of the rain, we couldn’t appreciate the sculpture garden which was a shame.
We got absolutely soaked on the hour drive back to Jogja but it was so much fun!
In the morning we visited the Kraton (Sultan’s Palace) in the old town. Every morning between 10am – 12pm there are free cultural performances in the grounds. On the morning we were there, there was a Gamelan music performance – traditional music from Java and Bali made up of percussive instruments and singing. The music was great to see, although some of it was out of time. There was one poor bloke at the back that kept getting told off for being too slow which added to performance in a comedic way.
There were some rooms in the palace with photos, batik and ornaments, but the descriptions sadly weren’t all in English.
In the afternoon, we went to the nearby Taman Sari (the Water Palace) – a place where the Sultan and his family could hide, relax and pray. The site contains bathing pools, gardens and an underground mosque and is well worth a visit.
Yogyakarta is a fascinating place to visit, but getting out of the city into nature is a must. I think 3 days is a perfect amount of time to explore, anything less and you’d be missing out.