Yogyakarta, or Jogja in short, is a bustling town in central Java, Indonesia. The city is colorful; with a strong cultural heritage and thriving traditional art scene. With a mix of the days of old and modern times, Jogja manages to lure its visitors with the promise of beautiful sights like the world famous archeological site, Borobudur and the stunning Merapi Volcano.
My trip to Jogja was pretty last minute. My travel buddy, Abby and I needed a quick getaway for the weekend; I wanted a new city to explore, and Abby wanted beautiful scenery to try out her new camera. After looking through the list of destinations that our national budget carrier, Air Asia flies to, we finally decided on Jogja. It was the obvious choice– neither of us had visited the city before; and it is close-by, cheap, and offers beautiful aged-old temples.
This was our 3-day itinerary.
We arrived in Jogja’s Adisucipto International Airport at about noon and made our way to our hotel in the city center, the Ibis Styles Yogyakarta Hotel. I have to say, it was a good choice. The 3-star hotel is not only affordable; the modern and multicolored interior is pretty impressive, and its rooftop swimming pool and bar offers a stunning city view.
Our hotel was situated at a fantastic location– it was just a street away from Jogja’s main shopping street, Malioboro. This entire street is lined with tons of stalls selling souvenirs and trinkets; all set up in front of shop-houses selling the same things too. In fact, every shop along the street sells the same things– you just have to walk a short stretch of the main road to get an idea of how the whole street looks like. Everything looks so similar.
After having a simple lunch at Malioboro, we were picked up from our hotel by the personal driver we hired in Jogja. We contacted Ukhi at http://yogyadriver.com via email– the arrangement was pretty straightforward, quick and affordable; and it made our trip easy and hassle-free.
We were headed to Parangtritis, located about an hour south of the city center. The beach town is a popular weekend getaway for the locals– most people visit to spend time at the beautiful beach and admire the sunset.
The Sand Dunes of Parangtritis
On the way to the beach, we passed by vast sandy land and dunes– the sand dunes in Parangtritis spread over 2km of the coastline. We made a last minute request to stop and visit the dunes, and our driver was very accommodating. Most of the vast dunes are mainly covered with scrubs and plants, but he managed to find an area that had been cleared for local wedding photo shoots.
The sand dunes in Parangtritis are considered the only sand dunes in South Eastern Asia. Its formation is influenced by Mt. Merapi and other active volcanoes and rivers nearby. Walking through the sand dunes, I left footprints; but my trail gradually got blown away by the wind, leaving pretty wavy patterns in its place.
Our main destination for the day was the Parangtritis Beach. We spent 3 hours enjoying the beautiful beach– walking along the sand, jumping over the waves, chilling at the nearby stall while sipping on a coconut, and watching the sun set.
Parangtritis Beach has a legend of its own. It is closely related to the legend of Ratu Kidul, or the Queen of the South, who was the wife of the king and controls the Southern seas. The locals believe that Parangtritis Beach is the gate of Ratu Kidul’s magical kingdom. It is said that visitors should not wear green when visiting the beach because it is the queen’s favourite colour– she will lure you into the sea to drown!
After watching the sun set; we went back to the hotel, and then to Malioboro Street for a lesehan dinner. Lesehan is the term used for dining while sitting on a matted floor with a low table. It is a popular way to eat in Jogja and throughout the country. Lesehan diners can be found all along Malioboro Street especially during dinner time. All sorts of food are displayed in front of the stall– we just had to choose and select what we want. Between us, Abby and I ordered gudeg (unripe jackfruit cooked in coconut milk), chicken, crabs and kangkung (water spinach); all cooked in spicy sambal. It was delicious.
We dedicated the entire second day to the beautiful temples of Jogjakarta. Both Borobudur and the Prambanan temples are the city’s main attraction– and is definitely a must-visit.
I wrote a separate post on the temples here:- The Stunning Borobudur and Prambanan Temples.
The final day in Jogja was kept free and easy to explore the city, and for last minute souvenir shopping. We spent the early half of the morning walking along the streets of Malioboro, and wandered into Malioboro Mall and the Beringharjo Market located along the street.
The first city attraction of the day was the Kraton– it means royal palace in Javanese. The Kraton in Jogja city is known as the Kraton Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat, which is the primary palace of the Yogyakarta Sultanate. It is the current residence of the Jogja Sultan and the Queen, and the royal courts are located here as well; so only some parts of the building is opened to the public. If you’re lucky, you might catch the servants walking around doing their daily chores in traditional batik attire.
Walking around the palace, I realized that the beauty of the palace lies in its simplicity. Javanese architecture is minimalistic– minor carvings, walls painted white, and all the buildings; like the audience halls, museum halls and portrait halls, are built apart from one another.
Taman Sari Garden
Built in the mid 18th century, the Taman Sari Garden was the former royal garden of the Sultanate of Yogyakarta. It isn’t far from the Kraton, so we were able to walk over to the garden. Even in its rather decaying state, the garden still looks grand. I’m sure during it’s heyday it would have been absolutely beautiful. It served the royal family as a resting area, a bathing area, a meditation area, a defense area and a great place to get lost in!
Becak Ride to Kotagede
We got to our next stop towards the south of Jogja by becak (trishaw). Jogja is pretty known for its silver works; and Kotagede is considered the silver handicraft center of the city. The beautiful silver statues and mural designs on display in the many shops around the area were absolutely beautiful– and, a little pricey.
Sunset from the Hotel Rooftop
Towards the end of the day, we opted for a quiet evening– just sit back, relax and chill a little. We spent it at the Ibis Styles Hotel’s rooftop pool and bar, and witnessed one of the most beautiful city sunsets.
It was a lovely end to our weekend trip to Yogyakarta. Abby and I took the flight back to Kuala Lumpur early the next morning.