If my New Years resolution was to get severely ill, then I can say with resounding conviction “I DID IT!” All kidding aside, I had an amazing start to 2017 with my family in Washington. It wasn’t until this third week of January that things went downhill. I’ve spent most of the week glued to my bed with the exception of a couple of excursions to the doctor. But today I started to feel like I’m on the mend and got a little photo editing done. Please forgive my lack of comments, I don’t have it in me to be witty so I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
Whoa the holidays went by fast! We spent an amazing three weeks in Washington with Joel’s family and also a little visit from my parents. It was exactly what I needed after a whirlwind year that included a month long wedding extravaganza and tons and tons of travel. We finished 2016 sitting by a fire watching watching an icy storm rage outside while we ate tortellini soup. Pretty much perfect in my opinion.
We’re just getting back to Indonesia and settling into daily life again. I’ll have pictures to share as soon as I can finish unpacking, doing laundry, prepping for work and mopping the kitchen floor. Hope you all had a wonderful holiday season!
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!
Happy almost Friday! It’s currently Thursday evening here, but we have a free day tomorrow so we’re feeling pretty good about the three-day weekend ahead. The past week has been about rest and recuperation around our house. As you can see from the photo above, we had a surprise hospital visit last week. Joel swerved a little too hard and fast avoiding a street cat and took a spill off the scooter. Fortunately, nothing is broken, but he was definitely scraped, bruised and sore all over. He had to fly to Singapore the next day and the trip couldn’t be moved, so since his return we’ve tried to take it as easy as possible.
While Joel was in Singapore I got to experience my first giant Indonesian wedding. It’s customary here to invite your entire family, all your friends, colleagues and I’m guessing every member of your church. As a former wedding planner, I couldn’t wait to see the ins and outs of wrangling a 1,000+ guest event. The staff was certainly bigger than any crew I’ve ever managed- it even included a team of parking attendants- but everything seemed to run incredibly smoothly. The food was great, the venue was grand and beautiful and the band was playing a Diana Ross cover when we arrived- perfect! Also Vita, the bride, looked breathtakingly beautiful. Her lavish ensemble almost made me regret not wearing a golden hijab at my wedding.
With Joel on the mend and a long weekend ahead of us, we’ve thrown together a last minute trip down to Jogja. Can’t wait to explore even more of our favorite city!
Happy Thanksgiving to all my Americans friends out there! As I sit here typing between bites of friend rice, please know I’m dreaming of gravy covered stuffing, creamy green bean casserole and apple pies topped with ice cream. I do have a chef friend here in town that says they’re offering a turkey, stuffing and cranberry special this week so maybe I’ll check that out tonight.
With no significant Indonesian holidays this month (which translates to no long weekends), Joel and I have been focused on some local travel. One place that had been on our list for a while is a local-ish temple (called candi in Indonesian) named Gedong Songo. We picked a cool, overcast morning to make the hour drive by scooter. It was our longest scooter trip thus far and we could definitely feel it in our buns. What’s the best way to soothe sore buns? An hour on a horse! (That’s sarcasm in case you didn’t catch it.) The trail around the temples is only four kilometers so it’s easily walkable, but I wanted to make my parents proud and ride the horses. I grew up on a horse farm but had little interest in horses as a child, so I thought my mom and dad would get a kick out of an Amanda-on-a-horse picture.
The horses took us along windy path up the mountain side. At each landing we’d get off to roam around the temples a bit for photos. I was pleasantly surprised by how many visitors there were. There was even a group of college aged kids that had camped there overnight.
We stumbled upon a wedding shoot about half way through our outing. It made me think what pain in the ass to travel up a mountain in a white dress and full make up, but I’m sure the pictures from such a majestic location will be worth the trouble.
Similar to our experience at Prambanan, we came across a couple of piles of rubble where temples once stood proving ancient architecture is no match for an earthquake.
The ride down the hillside produced sweeping views of the valley below and the vegetation growing down the sloped terraces. The ancient temples and expansive views made for a wonderful morning, but the cool weather really sealed the deal to make it a magical experience.
It’s been just over a year. One year of living abroad and I can emphatically say it has been a mind-opening experience. There are so many aspects of US life that I’ve missed this year: family, seasons, Trader Joe’s. But there’s a growing list of items that I’ll miss when we leave Indonesia.
October has been a month full of travel starting with our honeymoon in Bali, then a weekend in Jepara and finally a little jaunt to Jakarta. But this trip wasn’t all rainbows and roller coasters; there was work to be done! Work for Joel that is; he had a Saturday morning meeting. He could have chosen to just fly in at 6:00am and come home that evening, but that would have made for a very long and not very fun day. So being the party animals that we are, we decided to make a weekend out of it.
We arrived late-ish Friday evening and Saturday morning he was off to work bright and early. I lounged around the hotel for a bit then headed out to stop number one: Pasar Tanah Abang, the largest textile market in SE Asia. And of course I traveled by bajai! I professed my love for the bajai on our last trip to Jakarta in February. I truly believe I should own one of these adorable scooter-car hybrids and no matter how many times Joel tells me otherwise, I refuse to believe that it wouldn’t be street legal in the US.
The maze of Tanah Abang was exactly as I remembered. Floor upon floor of small cramped walkways winding through 40,000+ stalls of clothes, accessories and fabrics. The market’s many buildings are labeled blocks A-F, then each building has up to ten floors. It’s massive, congested and overwhelming for a first timer.
Looking for one specific vendor is a lost cause, but that was precisely my goal. On my last visit I had seen a stall of tassels and trims and had only a vague idea of how I might find it again. I browsed for about a half hour before stumbling across tassel trim heaven. After spending only $5 USD I was the proud new owner of 40 mini tassels. They’ll get paired with some textiles to become pillows as soon as I can get back to my sewing machine.
After the market, Joel was done with his meeting just in time for lunch. When prepping for a weekend in Jakarta- especially a Halloween weekend- we read lots of blogs like Manual Jakarta and Honeycombers looking for restaurants and parties. That’s where we heard of Attarine, a new restaurant by the Potato Head group that just so happened to be debuting their lunch service that day. What a delicious decision it turned out to be! Their menu features a variety of small plates with lots of vegetarian dishes for Joel and a giant bowl of olives for me.
We stayed at Takes Mansion and Hotel for a second time; last time with a room in the mansion, this trip in the newer hotel part. We used the pools accordingly, this trip hotel pool, last trip mansion pool. Sunday morning we had just enough time for a quick dip between our Car Free Day walk and heading to the airpot.
It’s funny that we’ve gone to Car Free Day on all of our Jakarta visits. We’ve gone to the one in Semarang maybe twice and Joel said he never even went once in Jakarta despite living there for two years. It makes sense though if you know anything about Jakarta and traffic. Joel lived in the Kelapa Gading neighborhood in north Jakarta and Car Free Day is in central Jakarta. If there was absolutely no traffic it would be a 20 minute trip, but in true Jakarta fashion it would typically take over an hour to make the trek. Not worth it!
But Takes Mansion is right in the mix of central Jakarta so we were able to walk the strip of carless street from Grand Indonesia Mall to Monas. We strolled through looking at vendors, grabbing a coffee at the now famous Starbucks and took selfies at the Monas monument. When I first moved to Indonesia we spent my first weekend in Jakarta and Joel snapped a picture of me at the very same spot in front of Monas. I remember how wide eyed I was about everything and everyone around me that first weekend in a foreign country and how different every aspect of the culture felt.
During this walk, for no reason in particular I was drawn to taking photos of all the food carts along the way. Even at the height of the popularity of the food truck scene in the US, they’re still viewed as somewhat quirky. Food carts here are more wound into the fabric of everyday life. They’re on every corner, serving all types of food and operate morning, noon and night. After working for two different catering companies in the US, I have to laugh at how much red tape there was to set up a mobile food establishment back home. In this country obtaining permits from the city to operate on the street or having a scheduled health inspection would be viewed as gratuitous and downright comical.
After a sweaty morning walk and refreshing dip in the pool, it was time to head to the airport for our 60 minute flight home. We planned on getting home early in the day so we could prep for work on Monday, but leaving that morning I felt a little sad that we hadn’t decided to linger later in the day for a leisurely brunch. We’ll be back for another Jakarta weekend as part of a long layover when we head to Washington for Christmas. Yes, a PNW CHRISTMAS!! I’m a little excited to say the least. I’m counting down the days until we can enjoy brisk days on a rocky beach and evenings sipping hot cocoa, listening to banjo music around a backyard fire pit.