Indonesians and foreigners alike love Yogyakarta for its village-like charm and its proximity to ancient monuments of the first great Central Javanese empires.
Sprawling Yogyakarta (Jogja) is situated at the very core of an ancient region known as Mataram, site of the first great Central Javanese empires. In the 8th century, this fertile plain was ruled by a succession of kings – the builders of Borobudur, Prambanan and dozens of other elaborate stone monuments. Around AD 900, these rulers suddenly and inexplicably shifted their capital to East Java, and for more than six centuries, Mataram was deserted.
At the end of the 16th century, the area was revived by a new Islamic power based at Kota Gede, east of present-day Jogja. The Yogyakarta and Surakarta sultanates came into being in 1755 when the Dutch split the kingdom in two, further dividing each sultanate into two separate entities to dilute their influence. The Yogyakarta court was twice invaded by foreigners for failure to comply with colonial instructions – once by the Dutch in 1810 and again by the British in 1812. During the fight against the Dutch (1945–49), Jogja, a hotbed of revolutionary idealism, served as the capital of the Indonesian republic and was later awarded Special Province status, giving it the same privileges as the capital, Jakarta.
Today's Jogja is loved by Indonesians and foreigners alike for its village-like charm, its thriving university student population, its dedication to traditional Javanese arts, and its cheap local cuisine. Although foreign visitors may initially come here to visit nearby ancient monuments or to more closely observe Javanese culture, it is Jogja's people that they remember.
Yogyakarta is a year-round destination. For tourist sights, go during the week, if possible, as the city is packed with Indonesian tourists on public holidays and during school breaks.
Singaporeans and citizens of other ASEAN member states can visit Indonesia for 30 days without a visa. Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months and that you have a return or onward ticket. Visitors from many other countries can get a 30-day visa on arrival at Yogyakarta for US$25.
Indonesian rupiah. There are plenty of ATMs and currency exchange counters at the airport. Banks in the city centre also have ATMs accepting international credit and debit cards, and can change foreign currency including Singapore dollars.
Yogyakarta's airport lies 10km (6 miles) from the city. The easiest way to get to the city centre is to book a fixed-rate taxi at the counter just outside the baggage claim area.The modern, air-conditionedTransJogja buses cover six routes around the city. Buy your ticket at the bus shelter before boarding. There are also cheaper city buses, without air-conditioning, which are ideal for budget travellers. Get route information from the driver or at terminals. Becak (bicycle or motorised trishaws) are Jogja icons. Settle on a price with the driver before getting in. Travel by metered taxi or hired car can save time when routes are unfamiliar. Your accommodation can arrange this.
As with any major city, watch out for pickpockets in crowded areas, thieves in cheap hotels, and the occasional scam artist. As everywhere in Indonesia, don't drink the tap water. While there is very little danger of contracting malaria in Jogya there is a potential risk of dengue fever, particularly towards the end of the rainy season, so do your best to avoid mosquito bites.
|How are you?||Apa kabar?|
|Fine, thanks||Baik, terima kasih|
|Excuse-me! (to get attention)||Permisi!|
|Thank you||Terima kasih|
|What's your name?||Siapa nama anda?|
|My name is…||Nama saya…|
|Nice to know you||Senang berkenalan dengan anda|
|Are you on Facebook/Twitter?||Anda ada di Facebook/Twitter?|
|Where’s an internet café?||Warnet [warung internet] di mana?|
|Where can I get a taxi?||Di mana saya bisa mendapatkan taksi?|
|Where is the bus/train station?||Stasiun bis/kereta di mana?|
|A one-way/return ticket to…||Tiket sekali jalan/pulang-pergi ke…|
|Do you have a room for one/two?||Ada kamar untuk satu/dua orang?|
|When's check out?||Kapan waktu check-out?|
|Can you recommend a good restaurant/bar?||Bisakah anda menyarankan restoran/bar yang bagus?|
|A table for two, please||Tolong meja untuk dua orang|
|A menu, please||Tolong minta menunya|
|The bill, please||Tolong minta bonnya|
|Where's the toilet?||Kamar kecil di mana?|
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Prambanan Temple Complex
The Hindu Prambanan Temple Complex was completed sometime around AD 856 but deserted within a few years of its completion, and eventually collapsed. Restoration work on this Unesco World Heritage Site is continually ongoing due to earthquakes and eruptions. It has a beautiful main temple known as Roro Jonggrang (also spelled Loro) dedicated to Siva. Shrines on either side are dedicated to Vishnu and Brahma. Roro Jonggrang’s appeal is its symmetry, graceful proportions, and its wealth of sculptural detail.
Perhaps the ultimate in Javanese dance spectaculars is the Ramayana Ballet. A modernised version of the lavish wayang orang dance-drama, the entire epic (four episodes, one per night 7.30–9.30pm) is presented on four clear nights on and around the full moon from May to October. The elegant 9th-century Roro Jonggrang temple at Prambanan is the backdrop. There is also an indoor theatre at Prambanan where performances are held during the rainy season.
Taman Sari Water Castle
Behind the Keraton stand the ruins of the royal pleasure garden, Taman Sari, named the Water Castle by the Dutch. Although difficult to imagine now, there was once a mansion on the northern end of the complex overlooking a massive artificial lake. Beneath the lake were underwater passageways, meditation retreats and a series of sunken bathing pools, all connected by subterranean tunnels, some of which can still be explored. Hire a local guide at the ticket counter and let him or her regale you with stories of what once was.
Towering over Jogja’s thriving art community is Affandi, an internationally renowned expressionist painter. The Affandi Museum housing his collection also serves as a teaching venue for children and adults. Stroll through the museum’s three galleries and see how his work progressed from 1939 until his death in 1990, visit his grave, and marvel at his building designs, whose roofs resemble a split banana leaf. There is also an art shop selling t-shirts and other souvenirs.
Keraton Cultural Performances
The Keraton (royal palace) hosts a different performance every morning in the Sri Manganti Pendopo. Performances include gamelan, wayang kulit (leather shadow puppets), wayan golek (wooden puppets), court dances and Javanese poetry. Visit www.jogjapages.com for schedules. Tours of the Keraton (Sat–Thur 8am–2pm, Friday until 11am) take in the two museums inside the palace grounds, but not the Royal Carriages Museum west of the Keraton.
The fabled site of Borobudur, a Unesco World Heritage Site, lies near Magelang, 40km (25 miles) northwest of Jogja. This huge mandala, the world’s largest Buddhist monument, was built sometime between AD 778 and 856. Yet, within little more than a century of its completion, it was inexplicably abandoned. In order to beat the crowds and see experience sunrise, head there for 6am when the park opens. Allow a minimum of two hours to tour the site.
Start from the east and ascend the monument, circumambulating each terrace clockwise in succession to see the reliefs, ending on the highest level and its huge crowning stupa, which represents Nirvana.
Heritage tours of Jogja itself usually begin at the Keraton, a two-hundred-year-old palace complex. The palace houses not only the sultan and his family, but also the dynastic regalia and several other buildings bounded by a fortified outer wall. Take a guided tour with one of the palace docents for an insight into the significance of the buildings and artwork on display.
From the Keraton, head north to busy Jl. Malioboro past Alun Alun Lor (North Square). At the first intersection is the Central Post Office and Bank Negara. Across the street is Fort Vredeburg, now called Benteng Budaya, a culture centre where exhibitions are held. On the opposite side of the street is the State Guest House, formerly the Dutch resident’s mansion. Pasar Beringharjo further down and on the right is the city's central market. All are lovingly restored colonial-era buildings.
Borobudur, Keraton, Fort Vredeburg, State Guest House, Pasar Beringharjo.
Outdoor adventure opportunities abound near Jogja. Popular expeditions include volcano trekking, setting off in the pre-dawn hours to reach the summit of Mt. Merbabu, Mt. Sindoro, Mt. Sumbing or the infamous, highly active Mt. Merapi for sunrise. Also north of Jogja are the Elo and Progo Rivers, where novices are in for a splash and a bit of fun during the dry season (April to October) and adrenaline rush seekers hold competitions during the rainy season when the rivers are fuller.
South of Jogja in Gunung Kidul Regency is Jomblang Cave (Goa Jomblang), a large stalactite- and stalagmite-studded cavern in the middle of farmland planted with cassava, peanuts and teak trees. With depths of up to 90 meters (295ft), some of the caves within are interconnected.
Several travel agencies offer guided cycling trips, often through villages where stops are made to glimpse the daily life of local farmers who plow their fields with buffaloes while the women tend to household chores.
On the southern shores is a stretch of beaches lining the Indian Ocean. Most of them are rocky and crashing waves make them too dangerous to swim in, but there are a few hidden nooks that welcome those who want to take a dip. Near Ngobaran and Nguyan beaches is a cove protected by towering cliffs and lined with colorful fishing boats that is ideal during the week when the beaches aren’t crowded. Local cooks will prepare your selection of fish for lunch.
Volcano trekking, Jomblang Cave, Guided cycling trips, Ngobaran and Nguyan beaches.