If spending two weekends in Solo in two months will tell you anything, I think it says we enjoy this little city. It feels little when thinking of it in comparison to other Javanese cities like Jakarta, but with a population of half a million, Solo is nothing to shake a stick at.
Our first trip to Solo was for my birthday in March; we stayed at the beautiful Royal Heritage Surakarta Hotel and loved every minute of it. But there were other interesting hotels in Solo that we wanted to explore and we thought our last long weekend of the school year was a perfect time. We found the Rumah Turi Eco Hotel online boasting their reputation as ‘the first eco-friendly boutique resort in Solo’ and we scooped up the last room on Booking.com. Unfortunately, someone got their wires crossed and when we arrived to check in there was no room waiting for us, despite the confirmation email I had in hand stating otherwise. It was a rough blow after holiday traffic had stretched our two hour trip to four. The hotel apologized and found us another room in town (presumably the last one available anywhere due to the holiday) and even gave us a ride to the new hotel. However the last room in town wasn’t anything to write home about so we stayed there only one night.
For the remainder of the trip we were able to snag a room at Roemahkoe Heritage Hotel. Roemahkoe embodies everything that Joel and I love in a getaway, so much Javanese character, beautiful art and culture and of course, live gamelan music.
The hotel’s location was fantastic, situated in the heart of the Laweyan Batik Village. The maze of winding alleyways took us on a journey discovering countless batik stores and workshops. I had no trouble picking up a couple of souvenirs for myself including a fan that I made use of immediately.
In typical Javanese fashion, the streets were lined with friendly faces and tons of kids who wanted to have their picture taken, especially the ones that can pop a sick wheelie on their bike. The vibrant buildings around the city do their share of beckoning for portraits as well with their eye-catching architecture, traditional murals, brightly colored doors and tiles. Solo is as busy as the signature patterns on their batiks with few places for the eyes and imagination to rest.
On our first trip we only managed to make it to one of the two palaces in town (yes, it’s a city with two royal palaces!), so we made a point to see the second palace or kraton this weekend. The photo ops were few and far between as they don’t allow photography of many of the artifacts and the buildings can be very dark. In my opinion, the placement of the taxidermy tiger was all wrong, being located in a dark area where photos were off limits. If I ever get the job as kraton decorator, I’d definitely move him into a covered, but well lit area on the porch in hopes of some royal tiger photos going viral.
The history and culture of Solo give it a really soulful vibe. Spending our holiday bumming around one of Java’s biggest cultural hot spots was a perfect long weekend escape. Next up on our travel schedule is the good ‘ol USA. We have just over a month until we go to North Carolina to visit family and get reunited with my dog, then on to Seattle to get married. I can honestly say that our travels in Indonesia have been hard to beat, but I think seeing family after almost a year abroad will be the best trip yet.