Like I always say, Indonesia is not just about Bali. There are approximately 13,000 islands waiting to be explored. Even though, of course, some of them are uninhabited, very remote, and located in the far-flung corners of the country with undeveloped infrastructure, which will turn your journey into a real wild adventure. Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting that you go to them. As for myself, despite the fact that Indonesia is my homeland, I have only been to some of the islands, not exactly all like I mentioned before.
But, yes – if you are getting bored of visiting Bali, Jakarta, then Bali again, then you should pay a visit to Yogyakarta.
Where is Yogyakarta and how do you get there?
Yogyakarta is located on island of Java. Serving as a capital city for two years from 1946-1948, Yogyakarta is now known as a city of students or a city of culture. Here, you can find not only hundreds of old buildings, dozens of museums, and thousands of culture-related activities, but also the most enchanting and the biggest Buddhist temple in the world, Borobudur, and some other famous Buddhist temples.
What is interesting to me about Yogyakarta is their pace of life. It’s hard to describe, but it seems that the local people tend to live more peacefully, more slowly, and in a more relaxed way compared to Jakarta or Bali.
The living cost in Yogyakarta is far cheaper than other tourists destinations. Everything is affordable here: food, hotels, transportation, and tickets for the museums (except for Borobudur and Prambanan). Believe me, if you are a cheapskate, Yogyakarta is just a perfect place.
There are a few options that you can try: by car, by bike, or by train. Some adventurous people have even told me (or let’s be honest: some travel snobs have even mocked me) that to travel comfortably by plane or train doesn’t count or isn’t in line with the principal of the journey itself. That is why they chose a bike to reach this town. On this point, I hardly differentiate between being adventurous and being cheap. It seems that guy is the second one: a mixture of a cheapskate and a travel snob. But, yeah, he’s right, you can go to Yogyakarta from Jakarta or another town by motorcycle if you have the time, means, inclination, and patience, because you will spend a longer time on the journey. It is also very dangerous, as you need to compete not only with other bikes and cars, but also trucks! The second option, which I consider an enjoyable, affordable, and cheap way to reach this town, is traveling by rail. However, please don’t imagine our train is as fast as the Japanese Shinkansen or the Maglev in Shanghai. As we embrace the concept of living life at a slow pace and uphold the principle of ‘slowly but sure’, our train, undoubtedly, was designed to meet those requirements. With an average speed around 60-100 km/hour, the distance between Jakarta and Yogyakarta can be covered in about 8 hours. So, while the train is doing its job, you can sleep, listen to music, look at the view through the window, read, or do any other of your favorite activities. Remember that this is not a sleeping train, but don’t worry – executive class has reclining seats. The third option, which I much prefer, is traveling by plane. The price varies depending on the airline you choose. As long as you don’t go in the peak season (Eid al-Fitr (Muslim holiday after Ramadan), New Year, Christmas, etc.), the price will be normal – usually it ranges from 30 to 50 USD for a one-way ticket. For your information, the flight duration is only 1 hour and 25 minutes, so it will save you time if you have a long list of things to do in Indonesia.
All tickets can be purchased on the official sites of the airlines: www.airasia.com, www.sriwijayaair.co.id, www.lionair.co.id, and www.citilink.co.id, or from travel agents sites such as: www.traveloka.com, www.pegipegi.com, and www.tiket.com, where you can also buy train tickets if you can’t open www.kai.id.
Things you can do in Yogyakarta
Watching a dance performance. As a city of culture, Yogyakarta is a perfect venue to enjoy a cultural performance. There are a few choices available, but the most popular one is Sendratari Ramayana in Prambanan (http://visitramayana.com/). However, due to its popularity, a ticket must be purchased in advance. If you don’t get a ticket, Sendratari Ramayana Purawisata is also a good option.
Short reference: Ramayana is an Indian epic poem that narrates the struggle of the divine prince Rama as he tries to rescue his wife, Sinta, from king Ravana. The reason the ballet is more spectacular in Prambanan is because the effects, including fire, music, lights and so forth, are significantly more sophisticated. Don’t forget the atmosphere when you watch the spectacle directly on sites that were built around the 9th century.
Visiting Keraton. Yogyakarta is the one and only city in Indonesia still ruled by a monarchy, or in this case, Sultan (the sultan who is now in power is Sultan Hamengkubuwono X). The sultanate palace itself is not only the seat of the reigning Sultan and his family, but it also appears as a center of javanese culture, where you can find not only museums displaying the royal artifacts, but also enjoy a musical performance in the morning. As it is still used by the Sultan, some rooms or areas are still off-limits to visitors. You can even see his guards (called Abdi Dalem in bahasa Indonesia) sitting or working around the Keraton.
Lounging around Malioboro street and buying some souvenirs. If you are the type of person that can’t go back home from vacation without one or two keepsakes for your friends or relatives, I suggest you visit this street. Here, not only you can find some interesting keychains, but also some affordable street food if you want to taste the real local flavors.
Visiting the museum of Fort Vredeburg, which once served as a colonial fortress and military complex. Nowadays, its function has been transformed into a museum.
Visiting some beaches. Yogyakarta has many beaches spread out through the region. However, please keep in mind that most of them are not so safe for swimming.
Paying a visit to Candi Prambanan and Borobudur. If you are a fan of history and would like to see some ruins in real life, don’t forget to go to the Candi (temple). The entrance fee, however, could bleed you a little dry. For Indonesians, it costs only 2-3 USD, but for foreigners, the package to visit both Candi costs around 50 USD.
Visiting Taman Sari the water palace
Hiring a pedicab and go around the city