We came across Waterville, WA in our search for cooler sleeping arrangements after the AC went out in the RV. The flawlessly vintage Waterville Hotel was just too adorable to pass up. It saved us from a sweaty 100 degree night in the RV and it also provided us with an interesting look into small town life.
On our trip through Eastern Washington we passed through dozens of small towns, some prosperous and others not so much. Joel majored in Urban Studies so he’s rightly fascinated by what makes one town flourish while others fail. I’m sure there’s a multitude of historical and geographical evidence that we could uncover to get to the bottom of why Waterville is so desolate. But we instead chose to simply enjoy the night we had there by strolling through downtown taking in the Mayberry-like wholesomeness. If you’re ever driving though Eastern Washington searching for a blast from the past, I highly recommend cruising through Waterville.
Yogyakarta, or Jogja as it’s affectionately called, is a city that gets better with every visit. A center for culture and arts, it’s brimming with meticulously curated boutiques and delectable, innovative restaurants. With street-side angklung musicians filling the air with traditional music, the old-world Indonesian charm is mesmerizing. My guide is definitely swayed towards my favorite neighborhood: Prawirotaman. It’s probably not the local’s number one area, but I can’t get enough of the amazing cafes and art spaces that are popping up right and left on this strip. This is just a short list of favorites I’ve found during my frequent trips to this magnificent city.
My picks for hotels are only the places that I have stayed and enjoyed personally. However there are dozens and dozens of hotels in every price point all with their own style and charm.
The Phoenix Hotel– Jl Jendral Sudirman No. 9 This opulent, colonial style hotel is a splurge by Indonesian standards, but starting around $75USD per night, it’s still a steal compared to Western rates. The expansive breakfast buffet and awesome happy hour specials made the Phoenix well worth the price.
Indies Heritage Hotel– Jl Prawirotaman III No.3 Colonial style on a budget! A newer option close to the action of Prawirotaman. We enjoyed a beautiful room, a balcony overlooking the pool and stellar service from the Indies staff.
Greenhost Hotel– Jl Prawirotaman III No.629 We loved our stay at this lush modern gem. Greenhost boasts not only a rooftop garden, but a hydroponic, botanical overhang that envelopes the railings of each floor giving the concrete facade a real jungalow vibe.
Mediterranea– Jl. Tirtodipuran No.24A It would be impossible for me to come up with enough compliments to adequately express my love for Mediterranea. Their duck breast entree is one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten! They’ve also added a breakfast menu, so you can come enjoy three meals a day at this charming cafe.
Move On– Jl. Prawirotaman No.4-10 A new coffeehouse restaurant that popped up in the past couple of months. We stopped by on our last visit and we were impressed not only with the food, but also the draft beer that fills up from the bottom of the glass. Crazy!
Milas– Jl Prawirotaman 4 No. 127B Haven for vegetarians (like my husband)! This was one of the first restaurants we visited in Jogja. They have a nice variety of Western and Indonesian veggie offerings and a store filled with local handicrafts.
Kedai Kebun– Jl Tirtodipuran No.3 This restaurant and art space is another great choice for vegetarians or their omnivore friends. With a gallery and small shop located in the same space, there are a myriad of reasons to put Kedai Kebun on your list.
Editor’s note, I need to include that one thing Jogja is known for is really known for is the street food, but that’s not my area of expertise. As I’ve mentioned my husband is a vegetarian and so much Indonesian street food revolves around meat- mie ayam (noodles with chicken), soto ayam (chicken soup), bakso (meatballs). I realize our choice of high brow dining might turn off some readers, but it’s what we’ve found that meshes best with our vegetarian preferences.
Genetika Concept Store– Jl Prawirotaman III No.629 Located inside Greenhost hotel, this boutique is a design-lovers dream featuring home goods and accessories all locally crafted. This is my must-stop-shop for flair, especially by Brombie!
Affairs– Jl Candrakirana No.14 When we first visited they were a clothing and accessories boutique on an unattractive strip of the north ring road, but now they’re transitioning into artisanal shoes from their cosy new headquarters near the Galleria Mall. Either way their keen eye for design makes them a winner in my book.
Lemari Lila– Jl. D.I Pandjaitan no.45 I stumbled across this boutique, but had to walk by twice before I even saw it. It’s a tiny little galley shop, but filled with colorful, locally crafted clothing and accessories.
Antiques on Jl Prawirotaman and Jl Tirtodipuran- Technically the same street, but changes names at the interection with Jl Parangtritis. These two blocks are packed with antique stores full of fascinating Indonesia crafts. Being a touristy area, the prices were a bit higher than other places we visited (like Pasar Triwindu in Solo) but it’s still a great way to spend an afternoon.
Kraton & Tamansari The Kraton (Sultan’s Palace) and Tamansari (Sultan’s Water Castle) are iconic Jogja attractions. They are the pinnacle of refined Javanese culture and history (though the people of Jogja’s eternal rival, Surakarta, will argue with me on this one). While the sense of history at the Kraton is palpable, the many restrictions remind you that these are still very much active palaces. The Sultan could be behind any door.
Fort Vredeburg Museum If by chance you also have a history-lover in your family, Vredeburg is a great stop. This museum details the plight of the Indonesian people to gain freedom from the Dutch and it tells the story with dioramas! And c’mon, who doesn’t love a good diorama? Of special interest to my husband was the focus on what a chaotic, confusing and pivotal place Yogyakarta was in the closing months of WWII.
Borobudur & Gereja AyamThe world’s largest Buddhist temple and a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, Borobudur is the most visited site in Indonesia (not Bali). Visiting this ornately-carved hulking monolith rising out of the lush, green rice paddies and jungles of Central Java is truly a sight to behold, it is somehow both delicate and physically imposing. Our trip there was hot and crowded, but regardless it’s still a must-see. Not knowing how close we were at the time, we missed Gereja Ayam (the Chicken Church!). A fun attraction that’s much less known outside Indonesia and just a couple of kilometers from Borobudur, so if you’ve hired a driver, hit it up on the same trip!
PrambananAnother UNESCO World Heritage Centre, the soaring temples of Prambanan that make up this ancient Hindu complex located between Jojga and Solo. You will be funneled towards the main site and then towards the exit but there is a little (oft-overlooked tram) that will take you to the tertiary sites. At about $.70 for the tram ride… totally worth it. It also hosts regular performances of the Ramayana Ballet which is still on my Jogja-to-do list.
Live Music at Asmara Art & Coffee ShopJl Tirtodipuran No.22 One of my favorite nights in Jogja was stumbling across a live band at this little cafe bar. Cheap beer, great band, super fun times.
Batik Winotosastrois a famous batik producer on Jl Tirtodipuran. Their showroom is extensive but, again being in a tourist trafficked area, more expensive than the markets. What was more interesting for me was their tour of the studio. I loved seeing the batik process and their massive collection of batik caps including a Yoda and Storm Trooper from Star Wars. They also offer daily workshops where you can try your hand at the art of batik for only 50,000 rupiah (about $4USD).
Malioboro I feel like it’s not a Jogja round-up without mentioning the biggest tourist shopping avenue in the city, but honestly, Malioboro doesn’t do it for me. It’s crowded and every stall seems to have the same key chains and t-shirts. We did enjoy some bars and restaurants on Jl Sosrowijayan, just off the Malioboro strip. But the real highlight of Malioboro for me was Museum Sonobudoyo. The complex offers regular evening wayang kulit (leather puppet) performances. You can also see the wayang kulit masters practicing their art and even purchase a puppet for yourself.
Neighborhood walks Jogja’s vibrant art scene is alive on every corner with murals and quirky graffiti. Grabbing an iced coffee and a camera and strolling through whichever neighborhood you find yourself staying in is a great way to see an authentic side of the city.
Thanks for checking out my list of Jogja favs. Yes, it’s probably swayed to our bule (white folk) perspective, but hey, we’re two American expats living in Indonesia. I hope we can inspire at least one person to add Jogja to their Java travel itinerary!