Yogyakarta: from Colourful Batik to Cruel Bird Market

In Travel Guides
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Java’s main tourist city – Yogyakarta is a highly recommended visit. It offers many tourist friendly hostels and homestays, restaurants with western food, souvenir shops and cheap street food stands. Many of those help travelers to get the feel of the new culture. Locals, excluding some taxi drivers, are friendly and happy to teach you about their culture and customs.

ARRIVING IN YOGYAKARTA

TRAIN

Most travelers will be departing from Jakarta’s Gambir station. You can buy tickets personally or online here. For them the best option is usually the train for it provides the best price vs. comfort ratio. Several classes are available: economy, business and executive. Service in business class is much the same as the one in executive. If you don’t consider yourself a picky person, business will do just fine.

Day vs Night train: Day trains are very popular due to the scenic route from Jakarta to Yogyakarta. But if you don’t care for that and would rather use the train as a portable bed, night trains are perfect for you.

Words of advice:

  • Check train availability on Indonesia railway company’s official page. The site is in Indonesian only.
  • Additionally you can use eTiket webpage, when buying tickets. This site is also available in English
  • Carry a warm sweater and long pants so you don’t get caught off guard when air-conditioning kicks in. AC in trains are set to coldest temperature and maximum fan power. That is why the train’s inside can get ridiculously cold. Even worse if you sit near one of the ACs.
Executive class of Indonesian train

Executeive class of Indonesian train

FLIGHT

It is always recommended to check for cheap flights. You can check them here. With a little luck flight tickets can be as cheap as the ones for trains or buses. Keep in mind that one hour of plane is equal to roughly 10 hours of driving on bad roads. So flying is especially recommended if you are short on time.

Words of advice:

  • check for cheap flights on eTiket webpage, also available in English language.

BUSES AND MINIBUSES

Bus is usually the most notorious option of the three. If you have time and don’t mind being packed, bus is still a viable option. Especially during major Islam holidays buses remain the only means of travel, as train rides are sold out months before. Buses to Yogyakarta leave from terminal Pulo Gadung.

Words of advice:

  • Don’t let “helpful” locals in front of the terminal buy the tickets for you. They will charge you extra.
  • Do it yourself and try to bargain a discount.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS AND FINDING ACCOMMODATION

Newcomers will quickly discover Yogyakarta is a lot gentler than Jakarta. Traffic is still chaotic and taxi drivers annoying, but the air is cleaner and odorless. People aren’t trying to scam you on your every step and homestays provide you with toilet paper. If you desire a beer or some western food you can quickly find an appropriate restaurant or bar. Strong speakers on city mosques broadcast the daily prayers, which may sound like a man in great pain. With these Muslims are invited to pray and respect their God – Alah.

Accommodation is easily found on major tourist districts – Sosrowijayan and Prawirotaman. Countless homestay, hostels, restaurants and markets are located here. Find the one you like and bargain hard.

Words of advice:

  • Kampoeng Djawa homestay in Prawirotaman area was a very nice guest house with friendly receptionist. You can book it on this webpage or check their location on google maps.
  • Pego Homestay in Sosrowijana area was one of the cheapest and best looking hostels. The owner was also very friendly and helpful. You can check their facebook page for more information.
  • 25% price discount is usually the bare minimum you can get. If you are a student or if you plan to stay for more than a day, don’t forget to mention that. You will get discount faster and easier.

YOGYAKARTA’S SIGHTS

The city offers many cultural, architectural and historical sights. I found the following the most interesting or surprising.

Batik Workshops

Visiting a batik factory is almost essential. Batik is tradition ornamented and coloured textile. It is produced by drawing patterns with wax and dipping the fabric in a dye. In these workshops English speaking guides will demonstrate the entire process of batik making and show you how to make your own piece of ornamented fabric.

Words of advice: I was extremely hapy with the explanation at Workshop Batik Winotosastro

Workshop Batik Winotosastro

A worker dyeing textile at Batik Winotosastro

Yogyakarta Shopping

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Academy of Arts Batik Gallery

Both students and masters exhibit their work here and you can buy their beautiful hand-made batik for relatively low cost. The money you pay goes to the author of the purchased batik. Art gallery workers will also explain the process of such fabric colouring and teach you how to distinguish quality batik from rubbish.

Words of advice:

  • Small fake galleries are set up around Yogyakarta. They are usually located in the more remote alleys and require someone to take you there. So if a stranger offers you to guide you to the art academy gallery and then delivers you to a small room full of batik, you should be skeptical. Batik here is usually bought from the official gallery and sold to naïve tourists at higher prices.
  • Gallery’s location is showed on these google maps.

Yogyakarta bird market

This place is more distant from city center than other tourist sites, but is relatively easy to find. It is a huge marketplace where people sell and buy birds, reptiles, insects and fishes. Birds represent a status of masculinity in Indonesia, thus every man has to have his own bird. It is worth taking a look at this place as it gives a perspective how huge the trade with livestock is. However it is also sad seeing how poorly people take care of the animals here. Many are exposed to the sun all day long and lie exhausted on the floor, others take their defensive stance if you get to close to their cage.

Words of advice:

  • Not recommended for sentimental animal lovers as it will be a horror sight for them.
  • Bird market’s location is showed on these google maps.

Temples Borobodur and Prambanan

For these two you will need some sort of transport. The best option is to rent a motorbike and enjoy the glorious countryside, which opens up as you leave the city. You can watch stunning sun rise from a hill near Borobodur or sunset near Prambanan. Just ask someone around the entrance to point you in the right direction or even take you there. Most are very hospitable and will be happy to help.

The temples are a sight for themselves and paying an official guide is a must. He alone will answer all the questions that spawn when you first gaze towards these monstrous structures. Gardens that surround Borobodur are a perfect place for a peaceful walk. Let yourself wander to one of the gardens’ pavilions and relax while listening to live traditional music.

Words of advice:

  • When leaving back to Yogyakarta take the local roads as they are far more scenic than the main ones. You will most likely get lost a few times, because the way-posts are scarce. Don’t panic, however – friendly people live all along the road and they will show you the right way, if you ask them.
  • If you plan to visit both temples it is best to buy the tickets in bundle, for some discount. Students with international student cards (ISIC) can get 50% discount here.
  • Unesco offers additional information on Borobodur’s webpage and Prambanan’s webpage.

 

temple Prambanan near Yogyakarta

Prambanan in all its glory

Street Food

Yogyakarta’s street food is phenomenal. In the evening people gather in simple make-shift restaurants and eat all sorts of greasy food. Places like these are the best opportunities to get a taste of the new culture. You sit on the rolled-out carpets and eath with your bare hands. Hygiene is not at its best, therefore eating at least a bit spicy food is recommended.

Words of advice:

  • If the meal is suspiciously cheap, say only 50 cents, you should look at the state of the unprepared food. In these cases ingredients are commonly stale or infested with ants.
  • All drinks are thoroughly sweetened. You can avoid this by ordering “pahit” (sugar-free) drinks.
dumplings in yogyakarta

Ant infested dumplings

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