Explore Indonesia #3: Cultural City of Yogyakarta

About 3 weeks ago, I noticed on the calendar that a long weekend (Easter) was coming up. WHOOOOOP. I casually asked Agent D if we should travel out of Jakarta and to my surprise, he said “Yeah, why not?”. Upon hearing that, I quickly booked our air tickets and hotel (yes, all within a night) to seal the deal.

We settled on Yogyakarta because we’ve heard so much about it from our friends and also because it was just a one-hour flight away from Jakarta. Few days before our trip, I spent some time researching on places to check out in Yogyakarta – primarily that of food and attractions. Here’s what we did. 🙂

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Exploring the old streets of Yogyakarta.

Day 1:

By the time our plane landed in Yogyakarta around 10 a.m., Agent D’s stomach was growling real bad. We had woken up at 5 a.m.earlier in the morning and in our mad rush to the airport, did not have any time for breakfast. Garuda Airlines only offered a puny bun during the flight which was not enough to satisfy a hungry growing boy.

We arranged for a driver to pick us up from the airport and went straight down to Roaster & Bear for brunch. Roaster and Bear is an absolutely lovely two-story cafe lined with glass windows, white walls, and wooden furniture. Their entire theme revolves around bears (as their name says it) — BEARY INSTAGRAMMABLE indeed.

Whilst waiting for our food to come, I went around taking photos of the cafe. Agent D really liked this poster and insisted I take a photo of it (which is really rare, he seldom takes a fancy to cutesy stuff).

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I LOVE YOU BEARY MUCH (AWW).

Alas our food arrived! I told Agent D to wait for a few minutes while I snapped some photos of the food. He obliged with a weak smile but I could tell from the corner of my eye he was just waiting to pounce on the food hehe.

The food was not bad. I liked my pumpkin soup (which had a sweetish tinge) and tuna sandwich. If only the onion rings were more crumbly though. Agent D felt that his scallop pasta would have been much better with fresh scallops instead of frozen scallops. But then again, we would be paying a premium for that.

By the way, food in Yogyakarta is REALLY AFFORDABLE (1/2 the prices of Jakarta and 1/4 the prices of my home country). And this is true even for nice restaurants in 5-star hotels. Here’s a picture of the menu for your reference. 🙂

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Roaster and Bear Menu.

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Just had to take a picture against this cute wall.

After our very filling lunch, we proceeded to Mount Merapi. Translated as “Mountain of Fire” in Javanese, Mount Merapi is the most active volcano in Asia. It has erupted at least 68 times since 1548 and the most recent eruption in 2010 left 30 dead. SCARYYY. On our journey there, I prayed a silent prayer that 25 March 2016 was not going to be the next eruption in history. (Apparently, it erupts every 5-6 years which means an eruption is due anytime soon!)

We rented a jeep and a local guide to bring us around for 1.5 hours (IDR 350K). You’ll see many jeep companies at the base camp all offering the same kind of tours. Pick any one!

It was really fun zipping through the gravel-filled paths, up and down steep slopes, with the wind in our hair. Agent D stood up as our jeep went down a slope and started laughing so hard, he couldn’t stop. Being risk adverse, I decided to stay put on my seat for the whole tour.

Our Merapi Lava Tour consisted of 3 stops — Museum Sisa Hartaku (My Remaining Treasure Museum), Alien stone, and Bunker. Here’s us acting cool with our dashing red jeep.

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Outside Museum Sisa Hartaku.

Museum Sisa Hartaku (first stop) is within an actual house that was partially destroyed by the Merapi eruption in 2010. Everyday items such as bicycles, toys, televisions, furniture and cutlery are on display at the museum. From the items, one can catch a glimpse of the sad extent of the destruction and the impact it had on people’s lives.

 Just look at how the televisions melted because of the hot ash cloud. 😦

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Deformed televisions.

For me, this clock was an especially poignant reminder of the Merapi eruption on 5 November 2010. Due to the intense heat, the hands of the clock  were embedded into the clock surface at the point of eruption. Frozen in time, literally.

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12.05 p.m., Friday.

Along the way, we passed by abandoned dilapidated houses. Our guide told us that a number of villages were affected by the eruption and many houses still remain in ruins to this day.

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The 2010 Merapi eruption destroyed the homes of many.

Alien stone (a HUMONGOUS stone) was hurled out of the crater during the eruption. Not quite sure how it managed to travel such a long distance to land here. But it did. Looks more like a mini stone hill to me. 

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Us with Alien Stone.

Our third and last stop, Bunker, had a lovely view of Mount Merapi. Thankfully it was a pretty clear day and we managed to see the towering volcano in all its majestic grandeur. Agent D and I felt this was the best part of the tour; it reminded us that He who created the mountains – nothing/no situation is too big for him.

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Taking a moment to soak in God’s wonderful creation.

“The mountains melt beneath him
    and the valleys split apart,
like wax before the fire,
    like water rushing down a slope.” Micah 1:4

We decided to head to Borobudur next. Borobudur is the world’s largest Buddhist temple as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Many people come to Yogyakarta with the main intent of visiting Borobudur.

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It was raining cats and dogs when we first got out of the car so we rented 2 big umbrellas from the locals. My jeans were soaking wet 5 minutes into walking towards Borobudur. :/

The monument consists of nine stacked platforms, six square and three circular, topped by a central dome. It’s amazing how the builders of those times put everything together by hand, without any cranes or scaffolding!

I read somewhere that Borobodur was forgotten for hundreds of years, and lay buried under jungle foliage and volcanic ash. Historians deduce that this may have been due to the religious shift to Islam in the 15th century.

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The view from the top of Borobudur.

The rain tapered off towards the end so we managed to take a photo without the umbrellas over our heads. YAY.

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We ended the night with dinner at Stupa Restaurant by Plataran, a 15-minutes drive from Borobudur. The moment we stepped out of the car, we were like WOW. SO PRETTY.

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Dinner with a view.

The outdoor terrace offers breathtaking green scenery of Menoreh hills and rice paddy fields. Digging into our warm food whilst soaking in the view was an awesome experience. Sadly, it got dark soon after and all I could see were some faraway stars. 😦

The food was so-so only (maybe because we ordered Chinese food instead of Indonesian food heh) and a tad on the salty side. The duck was quite tough to bite!

Prices were on the steeper side, but still affordable nonetheless. If anything, go for the view. Its worth it. Here’s the menu for your reference:

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Stupa Restaurant Menu.

Day 2:

Agent D and I were so tired towards the end of day 1 that we decided to take day 2 slower. Our Yogyakarta trip was meant to be a relaxing getaway from Jakarta and the last thing we wanted was returning to Jakarta on Sunday night even more tired than before. SLOW DOWN, DEB. You don’t have to see everything.

We decided to sleep in on day 2 and left for the Kraton of Yogyakarta at 10.30 a.m. It was really crowded (and hot) by the time we reached around noon time.

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Emblem of the Yogyakarta Kraton.

The kraton is a palace complex which is the main seat of the Sultan of Yogyakarta and his family. It serves as a cultural center for the local Javanese people and contains a museum that displays the sultanate’s artifacts. The Kraton’s architecture contains a mix of Buddhist, Islamic and Hindi elements.

There are approximately 2000 palace guards at the Kraton, out of which only 1000ish are active. I ran into a tea lady who is responsible for preparing tea for the royal family at various times of the day. She told me that she’s currently 7o+ years old and has worked at the palace since a very young age; her parents were palace workers too. And so are her children.

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With a palace tea lady. She carries a dagger in front of her chest, don’t play play!

Our next stop was Taman Sari, a short 5-minutes drive from the Kraton. It was built mainly for the Sultan’s pleasure; only females (his MANY wives, NUMEROUS concubines, and daughters) and the sultan himself were allowed to enter the central bathing complex.

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Entrance of the Taman Sari.

The central tower in the central bathing complex was used by the sultan to observe his daughters and concubines bathing in the pool. :/

I find it a real pity that the Kraton and Taman Sari have not been well-maintained over the years. Many of the walls had paint peeling off and growing algae, the artifacts did not have proper English translations, and the insides were not well-lit (some areas did not even have lights and we were walking around in total darkness!). Sad sights of once glorious places. If only more effort was put into the upkeep and preservation of both places – I’m sure they’ll be an even bigger hit with tourists.

We din’t stay long at Taman Sari but spent more time exploring the Kampung Taman settlement. I really enjoyed walking around the colourful houses and observing the people’s way of life.

The residents of Kampung Taman are best known for their traditional handicrafts and many of them sell craft and batik from their homes.

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A lady hand-making a piece of batik outside her shop/home.

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Spotted a raccoon snoozing in one of the convenience stores (sorry for waking you up mister!).

I was happily walking around the stores in search for the perfect batik dress when I heard Agent D’s stomach rumble. GRRROOOWWWL. I glanced at my watch and omg it was 2.30 p.m.! Time was flying by so fast. We called our driver and headed to Mediterranea Restaurant for lunch. BEST CHOICE EVER.

Touted as one of the best french restaurants in Yogyakarta and rated #3 of 723 Restaurants in Yogyakarta, Mediterranea truly lives up to its name.

With a homey ambience and small bar, Mediterranea comes off as an unpretentious French restaurant. I felt that even if I folded my legs on the chair and put my elbows down on the table – no would would judge me. The restaurant has nice surrounds for dining with an atrium (a covered garden) out at the back.

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Hungry and tired.

We were both very hungry and over-ordered (again). The food was authentically french and tasted yummy. Best thing yet — the prices. For all the food we ordered, out total bill came up to IDR 289K (S$30)! Very reasonable right. 🙂 🙂

The duck confit with mashed potatoes was our favourite! The duck was cooked just right and was paired together with grilled eggplant (beneath it). The mashed potatoes had bits of risotto in them…SO GOOD.

Both Agent D and myself were in food coma mode after lunch and decided to go back to the hotel. After resting for 2 hours, we freshened up and headed down to Jalan Malioboro for some shopping (what’s a holiday trip without shopping right – much to Agent D’s dismay hehe).

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Jam-packed streets of Jalan Malioboro.

Jalan Malioboro is one of the icons of Yogyakarta. Many small eateries, batik and souvenir shops can be found there. There wasn’t anything much for us to buy (apart from my batik dress) but it was nice to just soak in the atmosphere by taking a slow stroll down the street. Tourists can also opt to sit in a becak (rickshaw) or delman (horse carriage) at night.

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In search of a pretty batik dress.

Dinner was at Hikaru Dining Japanese Restaurant, a cosy Japanese establishment near to our hotel. Juliana was just commenting that I seem to eat all kinds of food in Indonesia (French, Japanese, Western, Chinese, etc) – all except Indonesian cuisine. Haha that is so true. Not sure why I never have a craving for Indonesian food. The only time I eat Indonesian cuisine is when friends come to visit.

The food at Hikaru was decently good for the prices we paid. Their chef is apparently certified by Singapore Health Association (is there such an association in Singapore?!) and they’ve won a number of awards in earlier years. Impressssive.

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Here are some pictures of the interior of the restaurant:

And some photos of our comfort food:

I totally forgot to take a picture of my salmon head soup. Only realised it after I had dug out the poor salmon’s eyeballs and cheek meat (yes, I love fish eyeballs) which didn’t look too appetizing after. Agent D liked his ramen and their baked salmon roll was as good as the one in Sushi Tei.

Day 3:

Day 3 in Yogyakarta happened to be Easter Sunday. I woke up earlier before the alarm clock rang and decided to peer out of the hotel window to see if I could catch the sunrise. A brightly lit cloud amidst a blue unlit sky greeted me.

Psalms 146:6 came to mind: He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them– he remains faithful forever.

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Easter Sunday morning. Christ is risen!!!

I went back to bed thereafter only to wake up again at 9.30 a.m. After breakfast, Agent D and I went for a leisurely swim at the hotel pool downstairs. It had been a lonnnnng time since I last swam and after 3 laps, I was kinda panting and had to stop by the side to catch my breath. Sigh time to start exercising again.

As our flight was only in the late afternoon, we decided to go for some SPA pampering at De Wave Spa after checking out of the hotel. I had a 60 minutes full body massage + 20 minutes face massage whilst Agent D went for a 90 minutes full body massage with greater focus on the back. SHIOK.

As seen from the receipt above, the total cost of both our treatments was IDR 220K (S$23). WORTH IT RIGHT?! It is even more affordable than my usual massage package in Jakarta! So happy.:) After our massage, we had a slow lunch at the hotel and then headed to the airport.

Both Agent D and myself really enjoyed our time in Yogyakarta and we’re thinking of making another weekend trip sometime within our posting. Next time round, we hope to do more adventurous stuff like cave tubing and abseiling into Jomplang Cave (which I heard is really fun!).

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Us on the plane. Up, up, and away!

Come to Yogyakarta if you’re seeking a short getaway without burning a hole in your pocket. It won’t disappoint! x


Useful Information:

Recommended lodging: Grand Aston Yogyakarta (https://www.aston-international.com/eng/hotel-detail/73/grand-aston-yogyakarta)

Recommended car rental service (comes with driver): Ukhi (http://yogyadriver.com/)

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