Getting Cultural in Yogyakarta

November 15, 2019

Words and images by Nikki Ferriols


On planning a visit to Indonesia, the first destination that comes to mind is always Bali. Its beaches and coastal town vibe mixed with the island's distinct history has attracted tourists around the globe for decades. But Bali is just one in Indonesia's 17,000+ islands. Dig a little deeper into the country's attractions and you might just surprise yourself.


One city that seems to be creeping up the radar among visitors is the city of Yogyakarta. Yogyakarta, sometimes referred to as Jogja (also, how it is pronounced), is the last monarch-ruled city in Indonesia. It is located on the island of Java and is accessible via flights from either Jakarta or Bali. Dubbed as the cultural hub of Java, the city is a blend of  youthful modern energy that brings traditional culture to the forefront. 


Sometimes deemed as a gateway to other sites around the Javanese island, the city itself has much to offer. Take a trip back in time and visit historical monuments and delve deeper into their culture by participating in decades old activities. 


Taman Sari

Learn more about Indonesian monarchy by making your way to Taman Sari Water Castle. A short distance from the Kraton or Royal Palace, the monument functioned as a defense fortress, religious site, and resting place when it was first built in the 17th century. Today, some of the castle's buildings have either been demolished or used as housing by locals, but some remain in tact and stand as monuments of Indonesia's royal history. Around and inside the compound, a town called Cyber Village can be explored. Known for their colorfully painted houses, the town is an Instagram hit where you just have to snap a photo or two.





A walk through the pools, village, and down a staircase will lead you to Sumur Gumuling, mosque used for Muslim cleansing rituals years ago. Its architecture is composed of five staircases to symbolize the five pilars of Islam: profession of faith, praying fives time a day daily, alms giving, fasting during Ramadan, and the pilgrimage to Mecca. 




Taman Sari Water Castle, Wisata Taman Sari Jalan Tamanan, Patehan, Kecamatan Kraton, Kota Yogyakarta, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta 55133, Indonesia



Borobudur

Connect with your spirituality by visiting Borobudur Temple.  Built in the 9th century, the monument is considered the largest Buddhist temple in the world, consisting of nine stacked platforms and topped by a central dome.  The structure is decorated with 504 Buddha statues and 2,672 bas relief panels that depict the teachings of Buddhism. Across the storeys of Borobudur are 72 stupas and one mother stupa at the very top. Its role in history and Buddhism is widely revered, considered as a shrine to learn more about the religion and a place of pilgrimage.




Situated right outside of Yogyakarta in the town of Magelang, Borobudur Temple can be reached either by bus or car. It only  takes around 1-2 hours to get there. If you’d much rather spend more time in town, there are a few hotels and homestays around the area. 




For a more enlightening experience, book a sunrise or sunset tour. Climb the 100 steps to the top and take in the view of the mountains as the sky's colors gradually change. Before heading back down, don't forget to circle the mother stupa clockwise three times. In Buddhist belief, if you do this, your wishes will be granted.


Borobudur Temple Compound, Jl. Badrawati, Kw. Candi Borobudur, Borobudur, Kec. Borobudur, Magelang, Jawa Tengah, Indonesia



Batik Making

The Javanese  batik is a decorated piece of cloth made using the processes of waxing and dying and is revered as a national treasure in Indonesia. There are three types of batik, differentiated by the process in which they are made: printing, stamping, and handwritten. The handwritten batik is regarded as the most meticulous, time consuming, and expensive of all.



After a design is placed on the fabric, melted wax is drawn over the design. Once dry, a batik undergoes several stages of dying and/or painting until it becomes a colorful piece of work. These steps may be repeated several times and, depending on the design, can even take months to finish.


Visit Batik Plentong to see firsthand how this artwork is made. Once you've learned the basics, try your hand at making your own handwritten batik piece to bring back home.



Batik Plentong, Tirtodipuran St No.48, Mantrijeron, Yogyakarta City, Special Region of Yogyakarta 55143, Indonesia


Silversmithing Workshop

Years ago, the town of Kotagede established itself as the home of Yogyakarta's silversmiths. Until today, the neighborhood is speckled with silver craft stores. Take time to visit at least one to learn more about their products.




At HS Silver, one can get a firsthand experience as to how their silver pieces are made. Take a quick tour around their workshop, meet the silversmiths, and witness how their most famous product, filigree jewellery, is crafted. In this method, wire is bent and coiled to produce elaborately designed artworks that are nothing short of elegant. 



After the tour, participate in a workshop and you can get to take home your very own filigree piece. It might take a while to complete, but it will all be worth it.


HS Silver, Jl. Mondorakan No.1, Prenggan, Kec. Kotagede, Kota Yogyakarta, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta 55172, Indonesia



Unwind at an Angkringan

As the sun sets, you'll notice mats being set up outside stalls along the sidewalks. These are roadside establishments known as angkringans, ready to welcome customers.  An angkringan is essentially a cart or stall that sells food and drinks and exchanges tables and chairs for mats.




Munch on satay (grilled meat) aplenty and wash it all down with a plethora of Indonesian beverages. Don't miss a chance to drink Kopi Joss, a Jogja classic of black coffee dunked with a burning piece of coal. Watch the coffee sizzle and listen to that 'ssss' sound, which is said to be the onomatopoeia that gave the drink's name. The coal adds a dark, smokey taste and is believed by locals to neutralize the coffee's acidity. Angkringans are found all over Yogyakarta and is enjoyed by everyone in the city. So kick back, relax, and do as the locals do.


Shop at Malioboro

Before heading home, don't forget to pass by Malioboro Street so you can bring home pieces of Yogyakarta with you. The major shopping street of the city, the area is populated with stalls that sell batik, clothing, leather goods, food, and many more. If you kmp

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