We were so pleasantly surprised with Yogyakarta, or Jogja (if you’re a local!). It was clear from the moment we touched down that we were in “real” Indonesia now. Not the touristy Indonesia of Bali.
The airport was TINY! The smallest that either of us have ever been in (well, it was a tie for Dean since this was the same size as the “Paris” that Ryanair flies to). The plane touches down on the one and only runway for the entire airport and turns around to get to the gate. The entire airport consists of 1 room… baggage claim. Then you exit to find your ride. It was awesome. Luckily for us, the taxi ride to the hotel was only 70,000 IDR ($5)! Much better than the $25-30USD we have been paying in other cities.
It was difficult to figure out where to stay since neither of us had heard Jogja before and no one else we’d talked to did either! We plunked in our requirements on Hotels.com (through Ebates for our cash back! Please use our links so we get credit!) and did our best to find one that looked to be in some sort of center. We did well! The Harper Hotel was the perfect location. A gorgeous hotel 5 star hotel for only $50USD, and just 5 minutes walk from “Malioboro Street” which was the main “touristy” area, definitely the main attraction in town.
Malioboro street was lined vendors selling shirts, bracelets, bags, sunglasses etc. As we were walking around, taking in all the sights and smells, locals kept coming up to us just to chat. They asked us where we were from, which sparked all kinds of questions. “Ohhh America?! California or New York?!” It was funny to see their perspective of where we are from. It was always followed up by “Obama!” Clearly they haven’t gotten the news yet… Everyone was so friendly and very excited and intrigued to see some real life tall blonde haired (more like sun bleached brunette) Americans! We were even interviewed by some students and of course did the obligatory Instagram selfie!
During the many different conversations we had with locals on the street, every single one asked us if we had been to the art school yet. At first it seemed as though they were trying to sell it to us. “There are students and professors and masters! You must go see, it’s free!” Each one seemed to say the same thing. At first we thought they were plants put on the streets by the school, but after the 3rd or 4th person told us about it we realized that the people of Jogja were just consumed with how proud they were of the school. They just wanted to share the accomplishments of their people with us.
Intrigued with all the suggestions, we decided to make our way to the school winding our way through the streets and neighborhoods of Jogja. True Indonesia! We must have looked lost, because a friendly man started chatting with us and when we told him where we were going, he ended up walking is all the way to the school. We were sure was going to ask for a “donation”, but he brought us to the school and said “Okay, well I live a few streets away so… bye bye!” Such a nice friendly man. We’re sorry we doubted his good deed! The school turned out to be more like a gallery, but was filled with all different Batik paintings. Batik is a style of art which starts with a piece of cotton. The artist first outlines their design with pencil and then fills in certain areas with wax. There are two different types of waxed used, beeswax and candle wax. Once the wax is placed in certain areas, the entire piece is dipped in dye of the color of choice. It dyes the areas filled and unfilled differently. That dries and more areas are filled and then dipped again. It is a long process but the result is incredible and one of a kind. We, of course, had to get one to take home!
Jogja is most known for its temples, specifically the Borobudur and Prambanan, and that is the main reason we came here. There are a few ways you can see these temples. The first is by hiring a private car to take you to both. Similar to the one in Bali, you pay a flat rate for 8-10 hours. The ones here seemed to be on the more expensive side, but a quick trip to the tourism office (located on Malioboro street with the nicest people to help) proved to pay off as we were able to find one that would be with more people but for less than half the price! We ended up paying 240,000 for 8 hours (about $20USD). We picked up a great Australian couple who were in town for a habitat for humanity house build, and we were off! First was Borobudur, a Buddhist temple built in the 9th century, located about an hour and a half out of town. Drenched in sweat from the second we exited the car, we ascended with the enormous temple complex growing larger in our sightline. It’s hard to describe the feeling as you get closer. It’s awe inspiring! The architecture, the history, it’s almost overwhelming! 9 staked platforms, each one carved with an intricate scene or design and 504 Buddha statues seated atop the stepped levels. It was an amazing sight. The top level housed an enormous bell surrounded by smaller bells with a Buddha in each one. Aside from all the other tourists, it felt peaceful and completely transported us to a different time. Such an incredible sight to see.
Our other couple had done their homework and had asked to stop at the Mendut Temple which was home to a large 3 meter seated Buddha. It was on amazingly beautiful grounds. It was such an impressive sight!
Completely drained from the hot sun, we ventured on and were off to Prabanan after dropping off our Australian friends. A Hindu temple, located much closer to town. The first thing that popped into our minds when we saw this was those little sand castles you build as a kid where you take wet sand and let it drip through your hand into a wet sand castle. Anyone remember doing that as a kid? As we got closer, however, each individual temple had its own identity. Each temple honored a different Hindu god but the biggest were for Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma, with many smaller temples to other Hindu gods. Many of the temples had turned to ruins over the years from neglect, volcanic activity and earthquakes, until the Dutch (Colonial occupiers) started to rebuild the grounds. Some have been rebuilt, others are in the process of being rebuilt and some sadly will never return.
Close to the Prabanan temple site were 3 other temples, Sewu being the most impressive. It was much less crowded here, maybe because dark rain clouds were threatening or because everyone had been templed out for the day, but either way we were happy to not have to dodge so many people. A long, hot day of temple surfing… it was an incredible thing to see in person and we feel lucky to have been able to see them.
Rustik at Harper Hotel: Since it was raining on our first night and we weren’t yet familiar with the area, we decided to have dinner at our hotel and it was a great restaurant! First it was a delicious drink for me. Vanilla ice cream, milk and blue curaçao! (Anything blue and I’m sold!) It was basically a blue milkshake, yum! For dinner, Dean got a coconut curried lamb stew with steamed rice and a tasting spoon of some crazy hot chilies, Spicy! He loved it. For me, stir fried noodles wrapped in an egg omelet. Dessert was fabulous. Green Tea Panna Cotta and Ginger Lemongrass Creme Brûlée. They also had an amazingly impressive breakfast buffet! From omelets to Nasi Goreng (friend rice) and Mie Goreng (fried noodle) and even a traditional Jogja corner with Ayam Pop (chicken stew) and Beef Skin Soup. They also had a huge array of juices, both vegetable and fruit. It was fabulous!
Sakapatat Social House: We have so many amazing things to say about Sakapatat. Tucked away in an alley, off the main road and away from all the beeping cars and scooters whizzing away lies what we call “hipster paradise”. You’re completely transported into a little oasis of great music, delicious (even though it was non-traditional) food and cheap Bintang beer. We loved to here so much we went twice! We tried their spinach and cheese fritters, corn nuggets and some of their burgers. I got “El Gingo”. Fried chicken with guacamole and a Chile mayo. Dean got “Zorro”, a burger with mozzarella, lettuce, tomato and crispy fried onions all served on a deep black charcoal bun. That was the best part! The second night we went they had free beer! Yes, FREE! Friday nights are free flow beer until the first keg is out. Score!
Roaster and Bear: Attached to our hotel was this super cute cafe with some of the best and fun coffees! They had all different flavor lattes from your standard mocha to the fun red velvet, green tea and even a purple latte with taro! We saw on Instagram that they do fun designs with their foam so we picked out flavors and they came the cutests designs. We loved it!
The streets of Jogja proved to be fun as well. From fruits and vegetables to fried chicken and of course the famous satay. We tried a piece of fried chicken and some satay. They grill it right there on he street! Beware, they’ll definitely try and rip you off!
We left Jogja wishing we had more time here! A city we will definitely be recommending to everyone and one we’d love to come back to see more of (In addition to more of Indonesia as a whole!). Until then we’ll take our few days here for what they were. Great exploration, exceptionally friendly people, interesting history and delicious food. Next up is Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia!
**We are using Ebates and Hotels.com to book everything we do! We get cash back from Ebates and earn free nights on Hotels.com so you get rewarded for doing what you would normally do anyway! On Hotels.com, they provide excellent service and will match hotel prices if you find something cheaper elsewhere. If you stay 10 nights, you get 1 free and if you become a gold member (30 stays in 1 year) you get early access to deals and special rates. Also 24/7 service. On Ebates, while the percentage cash back varies depending on the store, you legitimately get cash back on almost every store you would shop online for anyway and get a check every quarter with your savings. They also have special coupon codes to get discounts on the site that you can’t get otherwise. In 1 year we’ve gotten back $350 cash back. That’s nothing to sneeze at! We get credit if you use our links (hyperlinked in the names) and would love if you could help us out! But really, you’re helping yourself too!!**