Yogyakarta (pronounced ‘Jo-jakarta’ and often shortened by locals to ‘Jog-ja’) is a city in Central Java. Java is an Indonesian island and with a population of 141 million just on Java, it is the worlds most populated island. Yogyakarta’s biggest attractions are Borobudur and Prambanan temples.
While the islands of Java and Bali are next door to each other and separated by a tiny strip of sea, Yogyakarta has a very different feel to each of the places we visited in Bali.
Yogja is busy (like Bali), hot and rainy (like Bali) but surprisingly there are no dogs here! We haven’t seen any… Bali has a great many dogs roaming the streets (and a few current issues with rabies) but we’ve seen none here in Yogja.
Yogya is also predominantly Muslim so there are no offerings carefully placed outside almost every home or shop either. Instead we hear the Muslim call to prayer several times a day.
But one thing Yogja has in common with Bali (particularly Ubud) is great coffee shops with wifi! Another town to spend a bit of time in holed up in a cosy comfy coffee shop, uploading photos to Google drive (to store them in the cloud), catching up with this blog, planning and booking the next stages of our trip whilst drinking coffee, Bintang and sampling more delicious local treats.
We travelled around Yogja by becak which is an Indonesian cycle rickshaw and a convenient mode of local transport. They are very cheap and there are hundreds of drivers constantly offering to pedal you around. It started raining while we were in one and the driver put a rain cover over us, which felt something like being in an oversized pushchair!
In Yogja we visited an art centre and watched a lady doing some batik painting. This is a technique which uses wax on the fabric which resists the dyes when added. This lady was using a tool called a ‘canting’ tool which she dipped into the hot mixture and used to make dot patterns on the fabric. The fabric used is either silk or cotton, either of which can be washed and ironed before being mounted in a frame. It is well worth doing some research on batik art as we understand there are several scams and fakes around.
We were shown around the Kraton Palace above which is the palace of the Sultan of Yogyakarta. The ticket office was closed so the security guard gave us a personal tour!
The main shopping area is the busy Malioboro Street lined with hundreds of souvenier shops. We were hastily taken through by becak but didn’t stop as a) it was raining and b) we were enroute to the quieter sanctuary of the Ministry of Coffee, a bit more out of town and close to our hotel.
We would recommend the Aloha hotel which was a great base for us in Yogya. A small immaculately clean, newly built hotel with free tea and coffee made for you at any time by the lovely friendly staff. The hotel also has good wifi (or ‘wifey’ as they call it). They upgraded to fibre optic cable while we were staying there.
We also found Via Via nearby which, as mentioned in the front of their menu, is “a meeting place for world travellers and locals alike”. The concept of Via Via cafes was dreamed up in 1994 by 4 Belgian travellers who were concerned about the negative impact that mass tourism can have on local communities and the environment.
Via Via cafes have strong links supporting local communities and projects, promoting local environmentally friendly activities (such as trekking), less known tourist activities (such as Indonesian cooking courses) and selling fair trade local products. Most also have accommodation available. There are now several Via Via cafes worldwide in countries including Nicaragua, Tanzania, Chile and of course Belgium.
For anyone coming to Yogja we would suggest popping into Via Via for some alternative and interesting ideas for exploring the local area and culture particularly if you prefer to step away from the usual tourist trail.
Via Via food is fresh and organic, they avoid using palm oil and only supply homemade bread. As the food was so delicious we went in there several times. For lunch or dinner with drinks the bill averaged about £7.50 each time for both of us. They served delicious smoothies too, for example: ‘coco tango juice’ made with coconut, tangerine, pineapple, banana and dates.
With the exception of maybe Jakarta (where it will be expensive) there is little wine available in Java and Yogja. This is because the Government imposes high taxes on imported alcohol. So as a wine drinker since her 20’s Laura has now become converted to drinking Bintang, Indonesia’s lager!
(NB Bali has some vineyards and has locally produced wine available. This is called Hatten which is most enjoyable…)
We’ve seen no flies or mozzies in Yogya although we have seen one or two large and colourful bugs flying around!
Indonesians are particularly helpful and friendly and usually greet you by shaking hands. They remove their shoes when entering your room (e.g. when showing you inside or cleaning it) and sometimes even when entering shops.
Despite being the rainy season (at least the rain is warm) we have really enjoyed our time in Indonesia. There is around 17,000 Indonesian islands so it would be great to come back and explore more in the future!