Indonesia feels like a long ways away, mostly because there’s snow in the air as I type this. But our pictures from the second half of our trip need to see the light, so here are some highlights from Jepara and Yogyakarta.
Jepara is a city by the sea known for its wood carving and we definitely had Indonesian wood on our minds. Joel and I have started a company called Raya Exchange and our focus is on supporting small businesses in Java by importing handmade, home goods that we sell via our web store and Charish. So far, we had been concentrating our efforts on handwoven textiles- pillows, throws and runners- but this trip was planned in order to expand our efforts into teak furniture and planters. We visited our furniture partner in Jepara to check out the progress of our order and we were thrilled to see our products coming together so beautifully.
Initially my idea for this post was to make a top ten list of my favorite images of Indonesia, however that soon proved to be impossible. Scrolling through two years of blog posts there were too many memories and snapshots of unforgettable destinations for me to narrow it down to a mere ten. So my top ten became a compilation of pretty much any image that I was fond of starting with our fantastic honeymoon in Kuta and Ubud. I hope you enjoy viewing them as much as I enjoyed compiling them.
Truth be told, I can’t wait to get back to the Pacific Northwest- three weeks and counting! The weather, the water and my beautiful, little doggy will welcome me back just in time for a glorious summer. Living in a foreign country has been enlightening and also had its share of challenges. But after almost two years, it’s started to feel like home and there are aspects of life in Indonesia that I’ll be missing once we’re back in Washington. Here are a couple at the top of my list.
So, so many photos from our week with my mother-in-law, Kirsten. It certainly means we packed a ton of activities into our six busy days in Jogja. The mother-son scooter was a sight to see. With Joel driving his mom and me scooting solo, we wound through busy city streets to see the palace and Water Castle, then through rural villages to climb ancient temples. At the temples we were photographed by local tourists like we were more exciting attractions than the colossal feats of engineering that produced five story lava rock towers covered in Hindu and Buddhist gods. Another morning we drove south down rice paddy lined streets to the Indian ocean where Joel and I had previously never explored in our half dozen trips to Jogja.
Kirsten and I also embarked on a tour of the traditional market with a guide who schooled us on the ingredients and formulas of making jamu. Jamu is a traditional beverage made from roots and barks that is said to cure ailments large and small. We listened wearily to tales of jamu being prescribed to heal broken bones. The tour concluded with a massage by a blind masseur that was interesting to say the least. It was certainly a memorable and educational day.
With our days in Indonesia soon coming to a close, I’m glad to be taking home so many amazing memories. This trip was one to remember.
For our first weekend away of 2017, we made a quick weekend run down to our favorite little city- Yogyakarta. I know what you’re thinking, “Don’t y’all go to Jogja like every other weekend?! What could possibly be left for you to see there?” Amazingly, even after seeing Borobudur and Prambanan, there were still plenty of temples to tour.
First on our temple tour was Candi Kalasan which we found just by the roadside on the same street as Prambanan. How had we driven right past this behemoth and not seen it? In our defense there are plenty of palm trees blocking the view and I was probably concentrating hard on GoogleMaps. Kalasan is just the one towering structure surrounded by small modest homes.
Next we were on to Candi Sari, which just so happened to be closed. So we took some photos from the fence and were on our way.
Temple number three, Plaosan, was actually a large group of temples and by far our favorite of the day. The grounds were busy with photo snapping tourists, even a couple doing engagement photos which we’ve come to expect at grand locations like this. Being the majestic backdrop that it is, we wasted no time getting photos of myself and Joel. However Joel was the only one lucky enough to be flanked with fans in his photo. Another cool thing about Plaoson is that you can go inside the temples. A little dark for photos, but with the help of your trusty smart phone flash light you can see all the details.
By the time we reached the last temple, Ratu Boko, we’d been out in the heat all morning so we didn’t stay long. The view of Mount Merapi in the distance was impressive despite the clouds. We took a moment to get some photos then scurried to see the temples before the imminent rain storm blew in. The ride back to the hotel was a good 45 minutes, but we made it just in time to nap through the storm.
For accommodations we chose Adhisthana Hotel which is on the same street as Greenhost Hotel, where we stayed for Christmas last year. During our morning walks we had seen Adhisthana’s impressive, shutter covered facade that conjures up memories of Potato Head Beach Club in Bali. The room was tiny, but what the room lacked in space the hotel made up for with their laid back, batik-chic decor.
Joel’s mom is coming to visit in March and we’ll be headed down to Jogja and staying at this lovely villa. This time instead of a quick weekend we’ll have five whole days to relax, shop, sightsee and eat. I can’t wait!
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!
Our favorite Java travel destination-Yogyakarta! Jogja, as it’s known in these parts, is a cultural mecca on the southern coast of Java that’s full of history and surrounded by temples. On our first trip to Jogja last year, Borobudur won out as our top temple to visit and we were not disappointed. I would say it was spiritually moving, but I think the heat distracts my brain from having any kind of heavy, divine thoughts. Nonetheless, we loved learning the history of the structure and we were flattered by the minor celebrity status that we received as the token white people.
Having conquered Borobudur meant that we would move down our list of Must See Temples so this trip we would be taking on Prambanan. Also a World Heritage Site, Prambanan was constructed in the 9th century and is the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia.
It’s also worth noting that Boys II Men had a concert at Prambanan last August. While scooting through Semarang Joel pointed out a billboard advertising the concert and I nearly fell off the bike. My devastation set in when I realized that the show had taken place the previous weekend. Motown Philly was an important piece of artistic expression of my youth and being able to relive that as a grown-ass-adult in Indonesia would have been a juxtaposition of earth shattering proportion. I die a little inside every time I remember my shitty timing; but I did my best to put that out of my mind as we made our way around the complex.
They’re really bringing together the old and the new with the Instagram frame out front. I think this scene makes it official that Instagram has taken over the planet.
You can see from the piles of rubble on the outskirts of the complex just how devastating earthquakes are to ancient temples. Mount Merapi is just a stones throw away and erupts regularly so the region definitely has it’s far share of tectonic drama. Rumor has it the master plan is to rebuild it all gradually and there were some areas under construction. But the piles of bricks go on and on so rebuilding will be slow and arduous. I don’t envy anyone facing that task!
Just after I mentioned to Joel that I was so happy people were respectful of the ‘no climbing’ signs I saw this little girl having her photo taken on the ledge. In her defense, she didn’t climb up, she was gently placed by her daddy. As long as she’s not pushing bricks off the edge, I think they’ll let her slide. And it pales in comparison to the American National Park vandals making the news lately.
There is little shade inside the complex unless you’re in the shadow of a temple. Even arriving at 8:00am didn’t save us from some pretty severe sweating. We knew the drill since our visit to Borobudur was similarly scorching, so we were prepared with lots of water. We took a short train ride around the Prambanan complex that offered a reprieve in the way of a small breeze. The scooter ride home was nice and windy too.
Our weekend solidified Jogja as my number one Javanese city for sightseeing, maybe even my favorite spot in Indonesia. We’re headed to Bali next week for our honeymoon so we’ll see if it can steal my heart away from Jogja. Even visiting during the height of tourist season, Jogja felt as authentically Indonesian as ever. We’ll see if Bali can say the same!
You have casual Friday, but Indonesia has batik Friday because batik is a big deal. The batik industry was huge in the 18th and 19th century but saw a decline after the Japanese occupation. There was a batik revival in the 21st century after batik came back into favor with designers. Unfortunately Semarang batik did not have much of a revival, but industries in Yogyakarta, Solo and Pekalongan came back stronger than ever.
We visited Batik Winotosastro in Yogyakarta over christmas. It’s a traditional facility with a beautiful showroom and workshop that produces traditional textiles using both hand work and batik cap (pronounced chap). Above are some caps which were on display including a Yoda cap. We also found them making two different Star Wars themed batiks on the day we toured, one (may the force be with you) painstakingly being done by hand and the other a storm trooper cap.
After seeing all the batik in Jogja, we did some research about Semarang batik and eventually we found a small collective of batik shops aptly located on Jalan Batik (Batik Street). It certainly wasn’t the expansive tourist destination like the shops in Jogja, but we did find a batik that was stamped with a Lawang Sewu cap. And of course I had to buy it! See the resemblance?
Mornings are the best time to explore with milder temperatures and rain usually not coming until late afternoon. Joel and I would finish breakfast then meander the windy back roads of the neighborhood near the hotel. Homes tend to be vibrantly colored with small porches covered in plants and birdcages. Gates are also hugely popular with most being bright and elaborate. Every street is an unexpected surprise as you can also find a brand, spanking new mansion next to a tin roofed shack, but it’s a pretty good bet that you’ll always see at least one loose chicken running around.
We’ve also noticed an abundance of murals- they’re everywhere! I’ve wondered if business owners arrange to have their buildings painted or if there just aren’t graffiti laws because it seems like any spare surface is covered in art.
Another morning we checked out Pasar Satwa, which translates to animal market but we had heard it called the bird market. They do indeed have a variety of different animals, but birds are by far the biggest business. From what I’ve gathered, owning a bird is a status symbol of sorts and the best way to keep up with the Jones’ is to display your birds front and center on your porch. I’ve also heard there’s a belief that when someone places a curse on you, if you own a bird the curse will transfer to the bird and you’ll be protected.
Our transportation to and from Pasar Satwa, as well as pretty much everywhere in Jogja, was bejak. On a hot day (which is everyday) we prefer the motorbike bejaks over the pedal ones because you get a better breeze. All the drivers call the motorized ones helicopters. We’re still scratching our heads on that one.
The Kraton (Sultan’s Palace) and Taman Sari (Sultan’s Water Castle) are both hot tourist destinations in Jogja. Typically Joel and I are lone explorers and politely say “Tidak terima kasih” (No thank you) when approached by the ever eager rogue guides. But we asked directions from someone hanging out near Taman Sari and he was more than happy to give us a private tour for the next hour. Since we didn’t really know where we were headed, we took the bait and to our surprise it turned out to be a good decision.
We had arrived early trying to beat the crowds so the Water Castle wasn’t open yet. Our guide took us through someone’s back yard complete with their family’s drying laundry to this secret spot so we could get a view of two of the pools from overhead. He told us the far pool was for the Sultan’s children and the other was for his forty wives.
Once inside the complex you can go to the opposite side of the tower to see the Sultan’s private pool, the one below.
You can also climb up into the tower and sit on the Sultan’s bed. I think the guide told us some folklore about us sitting there together and it magically giving us a longer relationship or strong marriage, but his English wasn’t great so he may have just been telling me to sit down.
After Taman Sari we walked around the grounds, through some tunnels and to an underground mosque that is apparently the spot for wedding photography. We saw two wedding parties and someone doing what looked like prom photos as well.
There are lots of homes within the Kraton complex and many of the people that live there are employed by the Sultan. We found two men sitting on a porch carving wayang kulit- Indonesian shadow puppets made from water buffalo hide.
After bidding farewell to our guide we made our way to the Kraton. It’s a large, sprawling complex of buildings that still houses the Sultan’s family, museums with artifacts from past sultans and from 9:00-1:00 each day a couple of hundred tourists.
We met a group of school girls just dying for a picture with a handsome, white American so of course Joel obliged. Not to brag, but I had a couple of fans myself.
And after seeing this portrait, I’m now on a mission to get myself a pair of these gold, elfish ear ornaments.