A Taste of Java in Yogyakarta

Nothing excites me more than exploring another country for the first time, so I made sure to include Indonesia in my month-long solo backpacking trip around Southeast Asia.

My first stop was Yogyakarta (often called Jogjakarta or Jogja), a special administrative region in the island of Java.

I arrived on a late afternoon flight from Kuala Lumpur via AirAsia, and took the Trans Jogja bus to EDU Hostel where I stayed for 2 nights. Sure, it wasn’t the best accommodation, but for about $7.00 a night with breakfast, it’s definitely value for money.

The hostel also offers several day tours including, of course, tours to UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Borobudur and Prambanan.

Borobudur looking ‘golden’ shortly after sunrise

Together with 3 Brit girls, we booked the ‘Beautiful Morning at Borobudur’ tour thinking it includes sunrise viewing. We only realized the following day that we got a different tour because it was already past 5:00 am when we were picked up from the hostel lobby by the tour operator. It wasn’t a big deal for me anyway.

Even though the sun had already risen by the time we arrived, we could still feel a cool breeze as we walked along the park leading to the massive temple.

I am always in awe whenever I visit an ancient temple. It’s fascinating how people in the early days managed to build such majestic structures without modern technology and equipment.

Several of the 72 bell-shaped stupas still contain a Buddha. Some even say one can make a wish if you’re able to reach it inside. There’s also a couple exposed Buddhas so tourists may admire the Buddha’s blissful meditative state.

Following Buddhist tradition, the girls and I explored each terrace in a clockwise direction admiring the bas-reliefs similar to Angkor Wat‘s along the way.

I wish I could say there was a certain sense of calm when we reached the circular terrace, but groups of Javanese teenagers hang out in this area. Teenage boys kept approaching the Brit girls asking their names which made them feel uneasy.

In retrospect, we should have hired a guide so we could have a deeper appreciation of the history of the temple. Well, that and to keep the boys at bay. :p

I took a couple of hours rest upon returning to the hostel.

When I was ready to go out and about again, I grabbed a free map from the front desk and explored the vicinity on foot.

I managed to get to Kraton – the main seat of Yogyakarta’s Sultan and his family. It also serves as a museum displaying the sultanate’s artifacts. 

Bakso – Indonesian meatball with bihun (rice vermicelli) and fried wonton

There are several food vendors just outside Kraton so this is where I had lunch.

Looking at the map again, I thought I might as well go to Taman Sari Water Palace. It looks close to Kraton anyway. Well, it’s technically part of the Kraton complex but is more than a kilometer away, and according to the locals I asked, I need to ride a becak (pronounced as be-chak)Well guess what? I ran out of Rupiahs, so I went to find an ATM. I found one not too far from Malioboro, and before I know it, I was already shopping lol. I bought some really good quality and affordable batik tops and kaftans for my mom and aunts. Had I stayed at Whiz Hotel Yogyakarta in Malioboro, I would have been broke from shopping everyday haha!

On my way back to the hostel, I rode a becak and it was actually fun!

When I transferred to Sheraton Mustika on my last 3 days, I took advantage of their complimentary shuttle service to Prambanan which is only 10 minutes away.

Unlike Borobudur, Prambanan is mainly a Hindu temple dedicated to the Trimurti: Brahma, the creator; Vishnu, the preserver; and Shiva, the destroyer.

Out of the 240 original temples, only a number of temples remain. Most of it collapsed during an earthquake in the 16th century.

I was blown away when I first laid eyes on the main set of temples. Never mind that the sun was merciless that day. I took my sweet time in exploring each temple.
Statues of Vishnu and Brahma, respectively

Unfortunately, the main temple of Shiva was closed that day.

Aside from the Trimurti, there are also temples dedicated to their vahana (vehicles) – the bull, Nandi, for Shiva; sacred swan, Hamsa, for Brahma; and Garuda for Vishnu.

The symmetry and intricacy blows my mind
Bas-reliefs depicting Hindu epics, Ramayana and Bhagavata Purana, adorn the panels of the temple.

I’ve seen pictures of Prambanan lit up at night and it looks magical! If only I had more budget, I would have seen a Ramayana Ballet.

Leave a Reply