Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Our 10 hour day busing to Yogyakarta was long and tiring. By the time we arrived, at about 9:30pm, we didn’t want to spend any time searching for a place to stay, we just wanted to get out there and see what the cultural capital of Indonesia was all about. We picked up a beer (we didn’t know it at the time, but the mini mart we went into was pretty much the only one in all of Yogy selling beer during Ramadan – so, we got lucky that night) and headed out to Malioboro, the main street in the tourist/backpacker area.

We had read that after 10pm, the street vendors would shut down and restaurants would open in their places where locals sat on mats on the floor to eat while listening to musicians who walk by playing their music. We didn’t think we’d get to try one of these places (we can hardly make it up until 10pm, let alone wait that late to eat dinner), but our first night turned out to be the perfect night since we got in so late (though in reality, as we learned the next night, these places are actually open during regular dinner hours as well).

We sat down at one of the restaurants where we recognized some of the food names (including a few that we were still waiting to try), ordered fried chicken, both fried and BBQ duck, and some coconut rice. The meat was all very bony, but it was still a nice meal. We’d been up since 2am so as soon as we were done eating, we headed straight home to go to sleep.

On our first full day in Yogy, our plan was to explore the city, starting with the Kraton, a walled area in the city that houses 25,000 of Yogy’s residents, including one very important one – the Sultan. When I think of sultans, the first thing I picture is Aladdin (obviously). So, as we headed to the Kraton, I was expecting to find a beautiful palace and maybe even a short little man with white hair and a turbin (just kidding – about the short little man). Instead, it was a huge grounds with lots of buildings but no palace and also no English, so we really didn’t know what exactly we were seeing or walking through. Even though there was no palace, the sultan actually does live in the Kraton, so its primary function is not as a tourist site, but as his home. It was nice and pretty cool to think about the fact that this important sultan was actually somewhere in our general vicinity, but when you’re expecting a palace a la Aladdin, and you don’t find a palace at all, it’s bound to be a bit disappointing.

The best part for me was walking through the village where the local Kraton people live. We stopped for an ice coffee, chatted with a very hipster-y student from one of the local universities, visited the Water Temple (which was actually very nice, but also had a separate fee), and just explored the area for a bit.

On our way back from the Kraton, we stopped at Pasar Beringharjo, the biggest local market in Yogy, which really just turned out to be a place to shop for the latest trends in Muslim garb (though Dave was still somehow able to find something he liked – a new pair of gym shorts which he desperately needed since he was on his last pair and we still weren’t planning to do laundry for a few days). After browsing the market, we stopped for lunch at a street vendor selling Bakso and Soto Ayam, two great local soups that we’d been wanting to try. They were delicious (we liked the bakso best), and also our first soups we’ve had in Indonesia.

Our last stop before heading back to our place was at one of the many tour companies along Sosrowijajyan to plan our activities for our next few days in Yogy. We had ended up with a little more time than we probably needed in this city (we had been planning on spending one more day getting there from Bromo but ended up being able to do the whole trip in just a day) so we definitely needed a couple of good activities/tours to keep us busy.

After planning the rest of our trip in Yogyakarta, we went home to relax for a bit and then headed out early to check out the Prawiotaman area, the second (and newer) touristy area in Yogyakarta. The woman at the tour company we had booked our tours through told us that it wasn’t a bad walk between the two areas, so since we had time, we decided to make the walk. It ended up taking us a little over an hour to get to our destination (which included stops at about 10 different mini marts along the way trying to pick up beers for the walk – all of which were unsuccessful) so by the time we finally got there, mostly we were ready for some cocktails. Except that there were no cocktails on any of the menus at any of the restaurants we passed by.

We’ve mentioned that alcohol (other than beer) has been insanely expensive in Indonesia. But, until we arrived in Yogy, at least we’d been able to find it. I’m not sure if it’s because this is the cultural capital or because the Sultan lives here or because it’s more religious or because it’s Ramadan (or some combination of all those factors), but we literally did not find one place in the whole city that sold anything other than beer in our entire 4 days in Yogy. Luckily though, we did find a place that was just at the end of their happy hour time AND had a pool table, so that was the spot we settled on for the night. We each got in two big beers and two games of pool before happy hour was over. Since we met, Dave has been trying to teach me how to play pool, and since we met, I’ve been failing miserably. Well, this night, finally, I started to make a little bit of progress which left me very happy.

After our happy hour, we walked further down the street to find dinner and decided on the last place on the block which had a great Indonesian menu, including two dishes we had been wanting to try but hadn’t yet found. After a great meal, we opted for a taxi home and called it a night.

One of the most famous Buddhist temples in SE Asia, Borobudur, is located about an hour and a half outside of Yogyakarta. Typically, people take a sunrise tour there but we decided instead to do the sunset tour because 1) we had woken up at 2 or 3am several times already while in Indonesia to catch a sunrise view, and 2) if we left at 4:30am, we’d be back by 10am and would still have the whole day to fill. So, instead, we spent the morning relaxing, catching up with our parents, checking out the market one more time, having a couple more Baksos for lunch and then headed out to Borobudur at 2pm.

In the past year, just like Gunung Bromo, Borobudur has implemented a pretty crazy fee to get in. While it used to be about $5pp, it’s now $20. Unlike Bromo though, unfortunately there was no way for us to sneak out of this one. We had two hours to explore the massive stupa (a temple that has nothing on the inside of it), which took 300 people about 30 years to build. Both the temple and the grounds it stands on are pretty impressive, but the most amazing part is the detail carved into every single stone around the building (similar to the Taj Mahal in that respect). Intricate carvings depicting stories of every day life for the ancient Buddhists are told on every stone. Later when we visited the museum on the grounds, it explained what each of these stories were illustrating and we got to see how they built the whole temple so that each and every stone fit together like a puzzle. It was very cool and it always amazes me that people were able to build things like this with no machines.

By 7pm, we were back in Yogy and got dropped off on the street parallel to ours. The bus driver showed us an alley (one with lots of restaurants and guesthouses, not a scary one) to walk down to get to our street. On the way, we checked out the menu for a restaurant we passed and saw that they had a very eclectic menu, including an entire selection of snake. Since Vietnam, when we were told we could eat snake but never found it, we’ve been really wanting to try it, so we instantly decided that this would be our dinner spot.

We ordered the snake, which came with both cobra (with bones) and python (without bones) grilled and with a red wine sauce (per our waiter’s recommendation). We also ordered guac for an appetizer (which we hadn’t had since our trip to Koh Phi Phi with Dave’s parents) and beef rendang, an Indonesian dish very similar to one of our favorite Thai dishes, penang beef curry. The snake came out to our table lit on fire (cool effect!). First, we dug in to the cobra which was way too bony for our liking. We could hardly even get a bite of meat without also getting 10 bones in our mouths. The python, on the other hand, was awesome. It was tender, very meaty, and had great flavor. I had expected it to be somewhat chewy, but that wasn’t the case at all. It was very good. We weren’t really still hungry for dessert, but when we saw baked Alaska on the menu for $3, we couldn’t resist (I had never had it but Dave said it was a very rare dessert to find on a menu, particularly in Asia). It was such a great and memorable meal and the whole thing only set us back about $13. A-Mazing.

Our last full day in Yogy, we had booked a full-day tour to the Goa Pindul cave for cave tubing and then to Indriyanti beach. We left at 7am with one other couple and after the 90 minute ride there, we were dressed in our life jackets and water shoes and ready to tube. The actual cave part of the excursion was very short and not quite as adventurous as we thought it would be (our guide had to actually pull us through the water because there was really no current), but it was still cool floating through the cave and seeing all the bats. After the cave portion was done, we piled in a pickup truck and drove to a nearby river for some river tubing. Again, not quite as adventurous as maybe we would have hoped, but it was still really nice and relaxing. Plus, Dave got to cliff jump from 12 meters, which he always loves. Our final stop was to Indriyanti beach. It’s supposed to be one of the nicest beaches in the area, but we thought it left a little to be desired. But, we rented a mat and umbrella (which we usually don’t do, but it was only $1 for one hour so we splurged:) and spent our time there dozing and reading. It was a really nice day!

We got back and somehow still had energy to go for our first run in a couple weeks, which felt great. Then, for dinner, after almost a week of eating Indonesian every day for lunch and dinner, we went out for a great Western meal (and these days, by Western, we mean pizza and pasta) and then called it a night.

On our last day, we had a 4pm flight to Jakarta, so we went for another run in the morning (2 weeks of no running and then 2 days in a row!), had breakfast, and then took the bus to Prambanan, the other very famous temple complex in Yogy, which is right on the way to the airport (unlike Borabodur which is Buddhist, Prambanan is a Hindu temple, the largest in the world). Like Borabodur, Prambanan also recently increased their admission fee from like $5 to $20. Though we were planning to have a couple of hours there, we were running a little late and so we only had about an hour there before we had to leave for our airport. As such, we couldn’t really justify spending $40 for an hour, so we decided that Dave would go in and take pictures while I wrote this blog. He offered to stay behind and even to rock, paper, scissors for it, but I insisted he go. He said it was a pretty cool temple (like a mini Angor Wat with beautiful grounds and a cool main temple area) but definitely not worth $20 pp, so I think we made the right decision.

We had a great few days taking it easy in Yogyakarta, the cultural capital of Indonesia, but now we’re ready to take on Jakarta, the biggest and most populated city in the country.

4 thoughts on “Yogyakarta, Indonesia

  1. Hi Guys,

    Congrats on becoming uncle and auntie! Wait until Jack Henry is a little bigger and you can read him all your stories about the adventures and places you’ve been. It will be better than any “once upon a time story” his mommy and daddy could read to him. (I’m not so sure about eating snake, though).

    Have a great time with Robin! I had a friend who lived in Singapore for a while and really loved it. Hopefully, you will too.




  2. Snake!! Oh No!! Will you ever enjoy a steak again?? Or Chicken vesuvio pasta?? Enjoy your time with Robin. Thinking of you. Love xoxoxo


  3. I just arrived in Yogyakarta, i wish you mentioned the name of the place where you had that beer the first day, we are desperatly trying to find some :-).
    The pool place also sounds interesting !
    Could you please help me out with the names of those places ? I would appreciate it very much !


  4. Pingback: Most Overrated Experiences in Asia | The Stave Diaries

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