Indonesia

Jogja

Yogyakarta, sweetly nicknamed ‘Jogja’, is an Indonesian city on the island of Java. It’s known for it’s cultural and artistic legacy, but also for its stunning surroundings, which host not one, but two of the oldest temples in the world.

Here you can experience some of Indonesia’s oldest traditions: Javanese dance, batik, gamelan music and traditional wayang puppet shows. But Jogja isn’t just about old traditions; it welcomes the new arts as well, in a perfect balance of past and present. Street art and graffiti, hip restaurants and cafes, wacky galleries with wacky exhibitions… it even has pedal cars with lit Pokemons, and yet somehow it all fits together in perfect harmony.

It is also known for being the intellectual hub of the island, as it is home to most of Java’s universities.

The Lonely Planet describes it perfectly: “If Jakarta is Java’s financial and industrial powerhouse, Yogyakarta is its soul.”

WHERE TO STAY

Short stay. Goal: see all the attractions
If you are staying for a short period and are here to visit the city’s main attractions, I’d say you are better off staying somewhere central, so that you can walk, or take tuk-tuks everywhere. I would opt to stay in the cool neighbourhood of Prawirotaman. It is touristic, and Jalan Prawirotaman (the street itself) is the westerners’ spot, but you’ll still find small streets with cool art galleries and trendy coffee shops/ restaurants. It is also much quieter and has better food options than the area around Malioboro (the other touristic main spot), which is a bit too much.

You’ll find loads of homestays, guesthouses and small hotels on booking.com if you select neighbourhood Prawirotaman.

Long stay/ Digital Nomad. Goal: work and experience the city
If you’re staying for a longer period, particularly if you’re looking to get some work done, I would definitely recommend staying in the sub-district of Depok. You won’t be close to the centre (you’ll have to rely on Grab or GoJek – see below – or rent your own scooter), but you will be in the Universities’ area, which means, good wifi and cool places.
There aren’t many tourists here, least of all westerners, and you won’t find the ‘westernized’ restaurants that you can find in Prawirotaman (which some times you really need, I get it). But trust me when I say, you can find amazing food here (read below). And quiet time to work, while still being only 10Km from the centre (although in Jogja’s traffic that’s around 30-40min).

We stayed at Student Park Hotel which I highly recommend. The rooms are super comfy and have loads of space. The staff is really friendly and the rooftop gym and swimming pool are simply awesome. The Wi-Fi works really well except on weekends when there are more people using it (but it’s still OK). You can upload blog contents, program your app/ website/ etc, watch movies and Netflix, all of that, no worries.
The only downside is that the kitchen is really limited, so if you’re looking for a place where you can cook awesome meals, this ain’t it. But there are tons of delicious restaurants around (find out more below) that are super affordable (I mean it’s cheaper than the groceries anyway).

Swimming
Swimming pool at Student Park Hotel

WHAT TO DO

Taman Sari
Also known as the Water Castle, the Taman Sari is where the royal garden used to be, and as any royal garden, it has a bathing area and an underground mosque.
It is pretty cool to visit and it only costs something like IDR 15,000 (£0.86/ 0.94€).
If you do visit, make sure that when you exit the bit with the water you go through the narrow street on the right. This will lead to some very cool streets, and the underground mosque, which we failed to visit the first time we were here. Thank the unicorns for Dena, our sweet Jogjan friend, who guided us the second time around!

Kraton
The Kraton of Jogja is the royal complex where you find the Sultan’s Palace. The Palace is still the main residence of Yogyakarta’s Sultan and his family but it is also the stage for some of Java’s traditional arts: music and dance and traditional wayang puppet theatre.

  • On Saturdays you can watch a wayang puppet theatre, but only in the mornings (I think until 12pm).
  • On Sundays it’s the dancers turn to take the stage – again, until 12pm – you can watch them perform the traditional Javanese dance.

Both shows are accompanied by the traditional gamelan orchestra.
The palace closes in the afternoons, after all the Sultan and his family need their privacy too.

Alun Alun
Memorize this address: Jalan Alun Alun Kidul, Kraton. Or just alun alun will do. This is a square. During the day it is hot and dry and not much happens there. But at night… OH. MY. GOSH.
This was probably (and please don’t judge me) my favourite touristy thing we did in Jogja. I say touristy, but I don’t seem to recall any other westerners when we were there.
I don’t really know how to describe it. At night the square is invaded by these pedal cars with neon lights on it, and not just any lights, but Hello Kitties and Pokemons and dolphins and hearts, which you can rent and go for one, two, three (as many as you’re willing to pay) laps around the square. Oh and the car is blasting pop music. We paid IDR 30,000 (little under £2) to go for one lap, which according to what I’d seen online was twice the price they ask locals. Don’t care. Best spent money of my LIFE!
It is ridiculous, I know, but it is, honestly, super fun.

IMG_4421

Prawirotaman (neighbourhood and Jalan)
As mentioned before this is definitely a tourist hub, western tourists that is, but I still think it’s worth checking out. It isn’t super crowded or super westernized as it sadly happens in some places.
On Jalan Prawirotaman you will find restaurants that are more adjusted to westerners (for instance they make fruit juices and ice with bottled mineral water and serve some western food too), while still fitting in with the community, the place and its people. The buildings are all in perfect harmony with the street, even if some look slightly posher, and the prices aren’t made for westerners only. In some restaurants, you still find quite a few locals, which I think is always a good sign. And it’s a good street if you want to grab a beer, hit the bar, listen to live music and/or just chill.
Some restaurants, like Via Via, even lookout for the community, by supporting ‘educational, social and cultural projects in and around Jogja’. (This was our favourite in that street BTW – more on food below).
Other than this street, you should also walk Jalan Tirtodipuran, check out Jalan Parangtritis and simply get lost in some of the back streets. This is the artists’ neighbourhood, the bohemian block if you will, so it is definitely worth checking it out.

Malioboro
Jalan Malioboro is the main shopping street in Jogja with mainly, local commerce. There are stalls with clothes, fruit, food, shoes… everything. Oh not to mention the traffic, the motorbikes and the horse carriages. All this in the same street, yes. I guess it is worth checking it out even if just to see how chaotic it gets! Make sure to go later in the day, at least after 5pm, as before that it is too hot and you won’t see the street in it’s full… glory?

Batik and Wayang puppets
One thing that is very common (for tourists) to do in Jogja is to visit the places where they make real batik and the wayang puppets. We did visit a wayang puppets workshop, kind of by accident – a random guy on the street started talking to us and took us there. So we watched and learned how they make the puppets. It’s pretty impressive.
Apparently the batik workshops are really worth it as well, so maybe check it out.

Outskirts
Outside of Jogja – as in, you’ll need a car or some sort of vehicle to take you there – there are impressive monuments and landscapes. Here are three things really worth seeing:

  • Borobudur – the world’s largest Buddhist temple
  • Prambanan – a really cool Hindu temple

Tip: Usually these are sold together as a pack. You can negotiate prices. We got a car, driver, fuel and parking fees, entrances excluded, for IDR 550.000, total. The temples are expensive. Most things in Jogja are very affordable, but these two temples are expensive for westerners, we paid a discount-combined ticket and it was still IDR 500.000 per person (about £30). It is totally worth it though.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • Kalibiru park – a beautiful park with amazing views. It weirdly has these platforms on trees, named photospot 1, 2, 3 and 4, where you can pay to get pictures taken. We bought photospot 1 (cheesy I know) even though that’s not really our cup of tea. However, the view from the platform is totally worth it. And the park is worth visiting for its amazing views.

Tip: we got a GrabRental (best thing ever) to go to the park. It was our driver’s first time in the park too, so he didn’t know either, but they have these ‘made up’ checkpoints, where they ask to have a ‘word’ with the driver. They tell you that the road is unsafe for your vehicle and you’d be better off renting one of their scooters. Our driver asked us if we wanted to rent the bikes, and said he’d be more than happy to wait there. We were like ‘nah, we say let’s see how far we can get, and if it is dangerous we come back’. It wasn’t dangerous. And there were at least five other guys trying to sell motorbikes along the way.

PicByDreamines

GETTING AROUND

What most tourists seem to do in Jogja is rent a scooter. We aren’t big motorbike fans as we aren’t very experienced drivers and the traffic in Jogja is terrifying, so we opted to move around using Grab.
Grab is an app, kind of like Uber, but works so much better. And it’s more widespread in Southeast Asia than Uber (I think). Anyway, here’s why it’s better: first, in Jogja there are loads of drivers so you’ll always find a ride; second, the price is fixed, yup, the price they show you is the total amount you’ll pay regardless of how long it takes to get there (this is very useful in such a heavy traffic city); third, in Jogja you can pick between bike, car (the usual) or car rental (this last option isn’t available everywhere), giving you a great alternative when you don’t want a full tour, just want to visit a few locations. For 6h you pay IDR 340,000 (£20) and you can make as many pick-up/drop-off stops as you want.
There’s also GoJek, which I heard is really good and offers really great deals, but we haven’t tried yet. Oh and they deliver food as well.

WHERE TO EAT

  • In Depok

Indochine, Jogja
IMG_4373Oh Indochine… this was without a doubt our favourite restaurant in Jogja. We went there a gazillion times, so we should know. You can read all about it here, but here’s a summary: get the crispy chicken rolls, get the mini pancakes, get the caramel prawns and get the chicken basil. Or the pineapple fried rice. Also, try the waffles, OMG.
Where? Jl. Kledokan Seturan (in front of Superindo, but in the back of the alley), Caturtunggal, Kecamatan Depok, Yogyakarta
Verdict: DO IT!. Money: €. Food rate: Heaven. Price/quality: Beyond Amazing.

Tom’s Milk
My fave quote at Tom's Milk...Tom’s Milk is a nice, chilled out place, kind of looks like a barn, with Indonesian food. It is kind of like fast food, you fill out your own request, pay at the counter, tell them your table number and wait for your food (OMG it’s Nando’s!).
Obviously, the first time we went there for lunch, alarm bells went off, thinking ‘uh-oh, this is going to be disgusting, greasy junk food’. Nope. It was DELICIOUS. Honestly. Would I have come back like five times to eat there again otherwise? Nope.
Their nasi goreng sayur (fried rice with vegetables) was the best one I had – super tasty, filled with crunchy veggies and big portion too, which is always good for me. Also, they’d always respect my ‘no spicy, no chilli’ request, which I really appreciated.
For the digital nomads out there, wifi here is great. Often you spot groups of students doing their homework or group projects or whatever it is we did in Uni.
Where? Jl. Kledokan Raya, Jl. Garuni II, Caturtunggal, Depok Sub-District, Yogyakarta
Verdict: If you’re in the area, do it. Money: € (we’d eat for £2.67. For the two of us, that is). Food rate: Good. Price/quality: Amazing

Parsley Bakery and Resto Seturan
Parsley offers a wider range of food choices – from traditional Indonesian food to burgers and ribs. We didn’t try the burgers and ribs, but I’ll say this, their Chicken Teriyaki is delicious! Really good! There was also a sort of miso soup that was really good, and the pan-fried chicken was delicious too. To be honest, everything we ate was delicious, I just can’t remember the name of the dishes!
To top it up, the place itself is really cosy, with great environment, friendly staff, and a large terrace where you can sit (if you can cope with the 300 degree heat).
Where? Jalan Seturan Raya No.15A, Caturtunggal, Sleman, Yogyakarta
Verdict: Do it. Money: €. Food rate: Very Good. Price/quality: Amazing

Matra Restocafe
This was one of those places that we found I can’t even remember how, and that on the ride there we thought ‘this Grab driver is going to take me to the woods and kill me’. And then, suddenly, you go through this weird entrance, very poorly lit, and you are in this area that can only be described as ‘perfect for a music festival’, filled with cool restaurants by the river, fairy lights, cool designs and cool people, and you just want to stay here.
That being said, Matra was pretty much empty when we arrived. I mean, were this in London, this place would have a queue for the queue, you know? Not only was it really cool, and the staff super friendly, the food was delicious. Sure, there is no such thing as ‘no spicy, no chili’ here, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was DELISH! I know, you’re worried a place this cool will be pretty much unaffordable, the sort of ‘we’ll go on special occasion’ place… We paid, brace yourselves, £2.91 for a meal for two that included an extravagant side order of fries. Go. Here. Now.
Where? Condongcatur, Depok Sub-District, Sleman Regency, Yogyakarta, AKA good luck getting there! Nah, if you take Grab or GoJek, tell them to head for Kampung Kuliner Pringwulung. That seems to do it.
Verdict: Do it. Money: €. Food rate: Very Good. Price/quality: Amazing

IMG_4408Oh, and right next door to Matra Restocafe there’s the Riverside Resto which we really wanted to try, but couldn’t go to due to heavy rainfall and laziness. Regrets, Regrets. If you go, please let me know if it was as good as I dreamt it was.

  • In the Centre

Lotus Mio
Located in the Prawirotaman neighbourhood, in a very cool street I might add, Lotus Mio is a cute little place, with a cute little chocolate shop (Monggo chocolate, only the best in Indonesia) with GREAT food. If you are in the area, make sure to check this place (don’t just stay around Prawirotaman), I swear you won’t regret it. There’s an outside sitting area, that is really chilled and, quite honestly, the perfect place for a lunch watching the rainfall. Or stay inside, if you prefer, but try the food. They have a few western options (like ratatouille pizza, pies, quiche) as well as traditional food. Now, my personal recommendation? The chicken satay. It is orgasmic. I could eat it all day. Like tons of it.
Where? Jl. Tirtodipuran No.10, Mantrijeron, Kota Yogyakarta, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta
Verdict: Do it. Money: €. Food rate: Very Good. Price/quality: Amazing

Via Via
I mentioned Via Via before, as this was our favourite on Jalan Prawirotaman. There were a few others that were OK, but this was really good. It is touristy though. I mean, you’ll probably find yourself surrounded by backpackers, travelers, westerners of all sorts. But the service is impeccable, the traditional Indonesian food is really good (nasi goreng is yummy) as is the ‘world food’ they serve (the pastas and the tacos are delish). The best bit? You can drink all the natural fresh fruit juices and smoothies you want, without fearing getting, well uh, the shits, the next day. This is because they wash everything and prep everything with mineral water. They also have jazz nights and other cool nights, so it is worth checking out. Slightly more expensive than all of the above, but still very affordable.
Where? Jl. Prawirotaman No.30
Verdict: Do it. Money: €. Food rate: Very Good. Price/quality: Amazing


We absolutely loved Jogja, not only for all the things mentioned above, but mostly for its people, who are, without a doubt, the friendliest people ever. If you’re curious as to why we thought that, you can check out my post on Jogja’s people, here.


Need help planning your trip?
If you’d like more tips/ recommendations on Jogja, get in touch. I’d be more than happy to help!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s