Last weekend I celebrated the big 3-5 so we decided to take our festivities on the road and visit Surakarta. Called Solo by most of the locals, Surakarta is one of the two cultural centers of Java (the other being Yogyakarta). Steeped heavily in tradition, Solo is considerably more conservative than Semarang. So conservative in fact that when Joel ordered mimosas for my birthday brunch the hotel staff was pretty baffled. I don’t think they had ever heard of a mimosa and by the looks of it, they don’t get a lot of day drinkers.
We stayed at the Royal Heritage Surakarta which is in the same group as the Phoenix Hotel, where we stayed for one night when we went to Yogyakarta for Christmas. Adorned with hand-carved masks, statues, puppets and teak furniture, the hotel has a stunning collection of Javanese crafts. Every morning during breakfast they have two men singing and playing traditional gamelan music; a perfect way to start the day.
With only two days in town, we had to prioritize our to-do list, but we somehow ended up at Pasar Triwindu twice. I think that speaks to the true amazingness of this market. I nearly emptied my wallet walking through rows and rows of stalls with every kind of Indonesian antique imaginable.
We also passed multiple shops selling jamu ingredients. I’m familiar with the end product, the contents of the bottles below, but I feel like I had never seen the ‘before’. The store was a buffet of seeds, barks and herbs that are ground to make the earthy concoctions that are then sold on the street.
Solo has two palaces, called kratons, but we only toured one. They had a museum with lots of history of the royal family and multiple halls full of portraits of the sultans, antique carriages, guns, swords and ornaments from ships. Though the kraton is distinctively Javanese, you can definitely see the Dutch influences.
We had heard that Solo is a more reserved community and has much less tourism than Yogyakarta so we anticipated the possibility of people being aloof to two Westerners. But we found the people of Solo to be incredibly friendly and welcoming. People seemed flattered and delighted when I asked them for photos and others were downright elated to get a photo of me.
Having paparazzi style encounters with the local teenage girls coupled with Joel spoiling me with birthday gifts, drinks and antiquing made for the perfect birthday weekend. I’m a lucky lady!