Java: Yogyakarta

Ten years ago I spent just one day in Yogyakarta Java, adding some spice to a Bali holiday with friends. I vowed to return, hubby in tow next time and pay this town its dues. I also vowed to try and get a grip on Java, the Indonesian island you hear so much about, but never seem to travel to because it’s overshadowed by Bali. I returned to Yogya in April, flying in again from Denpasar (just one hour) and spent four fabulous days exploring this gem with my husband and friends.

Danar from Jogjakarta Driver (highly recommended) met our 7am flight and patiently drove us around. Top of our list was heritage listed Borobudur about 30 mins from Yogya. It is truly magnificent. A Buddhist temple built in the 9th century, abandoned in the 14th century, discovered by the British in the 1800’s and restored, it is huge and easily warrants a few hours. A word about the humidity – it is incredibly hot and as I found out, an umbrella works better than a hat. Next visit, I intend to head out here for sunrise. Heard it’s spectacular.

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The second World Heritage site we wanted to cross off our bucket list was Prambanan, a large complex of Hindu temples also built in the 9th century. Many Indonesian students visit Prambanan on school excursions. I lost count of the students’ photos we appeared in and conversations we had with them in halting English. We found their enthusiasm refreshing.

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Much later that day, Danar dropped us off at our hotel right in the thick of Malioboro St. This street is a heady mix of rickshaws, shopping, street food (the satays were superb), and fine coffee.

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Day 2 was rickshaw day. Everyone rides in one. There are hundreds and the modest price the men charge considering their hard labour in hot, humid conditions is quite humbling. The ride gave us plenty of time to take in the sights and sounds of this bustling place. Here’s a pic of our cheery rickshaw man!

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We spent the day at the Kraton -Sultan’s Palace (Sultan and his family still live here) and Taman Sari Water Palace. It’s an amazing conglomeration of buildings and people. The Kraton is a huge walled city, with 25,000 or so residents, markets and schools. Around 1,000 people work as active palace guards. Here’s a few on active duty!

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Below are the bathing pools for the Sultans’ concubines at the Water Palace. This is where the Sultan viewed and selected his women.

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Whole empty egg shells decorate this thorny plant, drawing a lot of interest.

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For our last two days we checked into the relaxing d’Omah just outside Yogykarta in the village of Tembi. The traditional Javanese style house is owned by Warwick Purser, Australian born, now Indonesian citizen and owner of ‘Out of Asia’ handcrafts. He employs villagers to make his handicrafts which are sold in Indonesia and abroad in shops like Macys and Harrods. d’Omah was once Warwick’s house and it is beautiful as you can imagine with its furnishings, pools and extensive lush gardens.

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We walked ourselves stupid around Tembi and its surrounds. Plenty of rice fields, plenty of great photo opps, but hot. So glad to come back to our air conditioned room and the cool pool. Experienced some pretty hairy electrical storms at night. Hairy but cooling!

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