first I planned a road trip by bike from Bali to Yogyakarta (it could be fun and totally possible), then I thought to visit it with a special someone sometime in the future, but things change and I had a calling to go right now, so I just bought my flight tickets.
I haven’t been this excited for a while, I missed this feeling so much and have felt incredibly happy just getting out of Bali.
travelling alone as a female can be pretty challenging, especially in a Islamic country, so I wanted to clarify some details in advance: like dress code, driving or even walking alone after sunset as a woman. Bali is the most liberal island in Indonesia and as I haven’t been in Java before, didn’t want to look more “bule” (it means white person) than necessary.
I spent 4 days here and have to say, this region of Java is amazing. the people are nice, curious but not offensive (not like in Lombok), if you are sincere and respectful – honestly, we are here as guests in their country –, then you will have a wonderful time.
I am very happy that I made this trip, Jogja definitely is worth a visit! let me share my experiences and also some recommendations.
1. get a bike!
if you are used to SEA traffic or at least to the Indo-style, then you will have no problems. compared to Bali the people are more relaxed, they don’t have that arrogant pushiness while driving. of course the city is big and busy, you have to pay a bit more attention than anywhere in Bali, but still it’s much smoother and as there are no tourists on bikes, it feels for me much safer.
I booked my bike at Pamitran and I would recommend them. they have good prices (depends on the bike and duration, but you can make a deal), bikes are in good condition (I rented a 2016 Vario 110cc) and you can pick it up directly at the airport (it’s always the best choice). having your own bike means lots of freedom and you also save for yourself time in the city traffic (not like with a car).. just don’t forget that international driving license is needed.
2. choose your hostel wisely!
people advised me to stay around the Malioboro Street as that’s central, easy to walk around etc.. but seriously, I would have freaked out, if I had to stay there (details later).
following my intuition I decided to stay at the Kosala Jogja and I loved it!
a lovely couple (Jessica & Nicolas) runs this hostel and they created a really nice atmosphere here. no wifi, no hot water, but a warm welcome, cute house and comfortable like a home feeling.. truly a real hidden gem (far enough from bustle and tourists) in the artist quarter where you can find some peace and chill after an exhausting day.
different people, different needs.. for me it was perfect and I can just highly recommend it!
3. be a tourist in Jogja city!
as I already mentioned, the traffic is heavy and a face mask is a must – seriously, the exhaust smoke is a killer. each district has a different vibe, but they have one common thing: graffiti. basically the walls are marked with stencil art only, but I really like them, because it’s always good to see that people express themselves and their art is not removed immediately.
I skipped the city attractions (totally not interested in common things), visited only these:
Jalan Malioboro, the mass tourism spot and in my opinion a horrible place. the main and obviously busy shopping street, especially after sunset. very hectic, everywhere the same stuff, too many people, the traffic around this street is the worst and finding a parking place in the evening is an extra challenge. if you like to souvenir shopping and batiks and bargain hunting in general, then this is your street.. I just checked it and left as soon as possible.
the only good thing in this area is the Pasar Beringharjo. the main entrance is on Jl. Malioboro and so it starts with a crazy amount of batik sellers. as you walk further the souvenir and crazy stuff (like wedding dresses) section follows. the best part is at the end of the building (it opens from Jl. Pabringan), the actual market with vegetables, spices, fish and meat and all you need. I loved it. the atmosphere and smells and colors, exactly how a real market should look like. I enjoyed just walking around, watching people at the small food stalls, wondering what some strange looking dried stuff could be.. if you are like me, then skip the front craziness and go directly to the market area, but definitely do not miss it.
one surprising experience in Jogja, that the vendors don’t really care about the costumers. they are not loud and aggressive, only talk to you when you stop and ask something. I was prepared for a Bali-style madness where I just search for the escape routes, so I found this attitude very positive and refreshing.
I also had a negative market experience at the pets and plants market (PASTY). I just stopped by as many people gathered around and was curious about what was happening inside. Asians have this thing with birds, so you can find and buy beautiful little birds here. the shocking part was the mammal selection.. cats, dogs, bunnies, civet cats and monkeys, but I was also surprised about the bats and tokos – are they really pets or what?? I really don’t get it why people do this, why they torture animals. I just wanted to open all the cages and let them free. it’s really sad to see this and it breaks my heart a lot.
the Kampung Wisata Taman Sari is a lovely place, located in the heart of the city. you walk around in a small town labyrinth with cute houses, narrow streets, graffiti and small shops. it has a really nice vibe, even when it’s highly touristy.
Taman Sari is the water palace, very photogenic but once you take your photos there’s nothing else to do. Sumur Gumuling is actually a mosque, another Instagram spot with the stairs, but as people are posing all the time, you just feel blocked and when you are once inside, it’s challenging to leave. anyway this area is perfect for an afternoon walk.
4. eat like a local!
of course I did some research what is the best food to try in Jogja and also pinned some places.. but at last visited other ones.
my first hit was right next to the hostel, the Mbah Cemplung. according to the story the grandma was the personal chef of the sultan (yes, Yogyakarta is a sultanate) and since that no change in the recipe. they have to know something, because the place is always busy (also some tourists arrive in vans). there’s only one dish on the menu: ayam goreng. you can choose which part you want (I took the left leg), the seasoning is really tasty, it is perfectly fried, also the sambal on side is hot, but honestly it was not the best chicken of my life. btw chicken in Java look different than in Bali – these much more resemble dinosaurs.
during my research I found the dish brongkos – a signature beef stew. I searched for a recommendation and found the Brongkos Alkid Handayani. it really has to be the best in town, as people are always standing in line – I also had to wait 15 mins until I could find a single place to sit down. I ordered totally blind, seriously had no idea what was on my plate and in my glass. then from the bill I figured out that the dish was the brongkos komplit and the drink es campur (this one contained coconut, tape, coconut milk, some red fruit syrup and ice). also my table companion shared with me some jadah tempe that was very delicious.
probably my favorite place was the Warung Makan Mbak Emi. this lady makes a very tasty gado-gado. I have my favorite one in Ubud (unfortunately because of the many ceremonies that lady doesn’t have time to make it anymore), somehow these two women have a similar character (they are my gado-gado ladies) and I really appreciate their cooking. if you are around, visit her for a breakfast gado-gado – I did it twice and it made my belly happy.
before catching my flight back home I stopped at the ViaVia Artisan Bakery, because I heard they have nice bakery stuff. if you spend long time in Asia, you know what I mean when I say that bread here is not so good as in Europe. not just because of the culture, simple the climate is not good for the texture and especially for the crunchiness. as I probably miss good cheese and bread the most, I wanted to try. I bought a potato and a spinach bun, and both of them were really nice. I’m still not convinced that they can reproduce that quality I was searching for, anyway it was very very close.
one thing I could kill for, but unfortunately couldn’t find was the nanas susu terang bulan. terang bulan (aka martabak manis) is a crazy good thing, but in Bali it exists only with banana, so when I found it listed with a pineapple-milk version, I wanted to have it immediately. no luck, but now that I know about it, I will try to get one (in worst case I will bring a pineapple to my fav TB guy and ask him to make it).
5. admire some ancient heritage!
tourists are coming to Jogja mainly because of two worldwide famous temples. Prambanan Temple Compounds is the one. I visited it right after arriving, was surprised by the 25 USD ticket price (my fault, I did not check it in advance), but if you are here, it’s definitely a must.
for the ticket you get a coffee/tea/water, so I started my walk in the park with hot fresh coffee in my hand, through the umbrella tunnel and was stunned by this view:
from outside the complex reminds me of Angkor Wat and it’s really amazing inside.
the main attraction, my childhood dream and in general the place you have to see once in a lifetime: Borobudur. I wanted to go big (of course) so I chose the sunrise visit. the normal ticket costs 25 USD (you can buy the 2 temples visit in package, so it’s cheaper), the sunrise visit is 30 USD.
I woke up at 3 am and from the hostel it was 1 hour 15 mins drive (you can make it in 1 hour if a Muslim happening doesn’t block the full main road and you have to make a detour). it’s always interesting to drive in the middle of the night, on empty roads and in the tropic cold, but I enjoyed it. it was Sunday, I don’t know how much this influenced the amount of people, but there were plenty – I’m sure that during the daytime it’s much more crowded.
the dawn happened around 5:30 and I guess I was pretty lucky with the sky conditions and with the sunrise, and despite a horrible coughing attack, I felt blessed and happy to be there. I felt also that these experiences are the best shared, and was sorry this time to be alone.
you can find all details about the temple – interesting that almost all Buddha statues are headless –, and I suggest not to focus on selfies, but stop and watch the small details, the structure, the reliefs, the stories, and the surrounding, the jungle in the background and the early bird sounds. this composition creates an amazing awe, you can feel really good energies if you pay attention.
after the walk coffee/tea and some gorengan are included and perfect to just sit down and meditate on the sights in the early morning.
close to Borobudur there’s a strange place: Gereja Ayam (how could we live without a chicken temple?). I recommend to visit it, because it’s so weird and from the top of the chickens head you have an amazing view (also Borobudur is in the distance). the ticket costs 30k IDR and you receive some traditional fried potato thing, which is pretty nice (I can’t help but have this thing with deep fried stuff).
6. go on a road trip!
good advice: don’t want to chase waterfalls in the dry season, simple because they don’t exist. I was not counting on this, and mapped out a few to visit.
I was expecting this..
but then I came to this..
Luweng Sampang Watery Curtains Air Terjun Kedung Kandang
one of my favorite route was the one from the chicken temple back to Jogja. it was longer than the highway, but you ride next to the river and the nature and the valley is just gorgeous.
I also did a trip to Batu Giring. (the original plan was to go to Pantai Sinden, but I got some cold and didn’t feel to go that far.) I don’t really get this place, but here you are totally in a local area and it’s always fun (the markets, the “random” ceremonies you run into and the wondering people around you).
at last there’s a place I loved heaps: Bukit Paralayang. a picture says a thousand words, so here you are:
the road up there is tricky (but not too much), and then the view is worth it all. perfect for sunset, but I guess anytime during the day. the beach (Pantai Parangtritis) below is not a big thing, anyway if you want to give it a visit, I recommend to walk to the end (less local people are there, so you won’t feel uncomfortable in your bikini).