As most of the city inhabitants swarming over Alun Alun roundabouts, or what used to be called as Sultan’s ground, you would inevitably encounter a unique juxtaposition between Javanese nostalgia and the chic modernity. There lie few humble riders of dokar, the local transport of a horse-drawn carriage slouching comfortably on the grassy rug while attentively thumbing on a pocket stylish cell-phone. He lets his horse snuggle its head under sprawling ficus trees’ shadow which apparently mark the heart of the city. This Yogyakarta alun-alun is also a perennial symbol of how prevalent the Sultan’s reigning is that has set the privileged city’s features seemingly frozen through decades of time. While many Indonesian metropolises have been faithfully abiding with the latest democratic electoral system in putting on the crown to whoever wins the cheers, Yogyakarta, or famously nicknamed as “Jogja,” remains unchanged with its loyal governmental mechanism, holding on to Sultan’s sanctified generation to permeate justice and truth. And this sole quality, as a matter of fact, has appointed Yogyakarta under the title of “Special District Yogyakarta” (DIY: Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta), highlighting the city’s undoubted substantial quality as either a rich haven for flourishing Javanese uniqueness as well as an extremely attractive tourist spot that you should have already visited since the beginning of your leisure trips.
Swerving on a detour that embellishes the city’s everlasting rustic buildings plops in as the first thing to do after you land on the International Adi Sucipto Airport. If a jet lag occurs, it is better to insert a quick easy nap in your booked hotel in the schedule of the day. However, whenever you are feeling like nothing would bring you down, put on easy sandals or slippers and be ready to roam in a memorial venture into the city. There is much cultural savvy going on as you slide along Jogja’s best spots in a full-of-surprises local dokar or becak, which the latter appears to be a tricycle pedaled by muscular native hunks. After much haggling and stuff, you are on-the-go to nowhere-else-in-the-world entrancing Buddhist and Hindus Temple, intricate art galleries, and Kraton Complex.
Three premiere temple names are the key codes to pass on to an amiable though non-English-speaking becak driver. The first is Candi Sambisari, a unique candi or temple that sinks in six meters below the ground. Albeit its spot is a stone’s throw away from the airport, Sambisari stays intact with its one main building and three other supporting candis. Its wall depicts mostly three ruling gods over heaven and earth who are Agastya, Ganesha, and Durga. Historical experts have concluded that the temple has been designed to adore Siva Gods and was constructed during the ninth century (812-838 AD). Next is the oldest Buddhist Temple in Jogja, which is Candi Kalasan. Built in two centuries earlier than the previous temple, Kalasan mirrors the golden days of the governing Sanjaya Dinasty at that time. One characteristic that distinguishes this candi to be the most beautiful among others is its stony relief. The wall is also covered in ancient white cement called bajralepa so that the exterior aesthetic tops off the other temples. It is said as well that Kalasan emphasizes on offerings to Tara Goddess. The final candi is the largest Buddhist monument in the world, which is Candi Borobudur. Despite its distant location about forty minutes off the city, Candi Borobudur is a must-visit temple due to its massive architecture conveying hundreds of picturesque carvings and the irreplaceable historical values as the holy ground for Buddhist praying. 1406 relief panels accompanied with 504 Buddha effigies garnish the enchanting ninth century structure which ranks as one of the Wonder World Heritages. Complying with its translation as a mountain with terraces, Borobudur Temple possesses ten grounds, of which each renders a life step that a man must take in order to achieve perfection such as Buddha Mahayana. An interesting folk belief states that whoever successfully touches Buddha effigy in certain corners shall receive much blessing for the days to come.
Not only preserving numerous religious monuments, Yogyakarta also opens up its artistic crafts for sale. Malioboro is the most famous shopping promenade where malls and art galleries converge in conveniently. The stretching area also exudes various goods selections since there are hundred stores flashing out their posh outfits, scrumptious snacks, and accent souvenirs. Two prominent spots are Mirota Batik and Dagadu. The prior is actually a huge family-owned store that collects authentic artisan’s works, including paintings, statuettes, local Batik fabrics, and Wayang Kulit or Shadow Puppets. Batik dresses nowadays have been much exported to developed nations, where the accent repetitive motifs made from native wax ingredients melts stands out impressively amidst other regional fabrics. Moreover, Mirota Batik often invites one indigenous artisan to perform batik drawing on the spot during the day, meaning that you may start on a crash course quickly as you barge in the store. Another handicraft, the shadow puppets are pressed leather-made puppets that resemble well-known figures in Javanese plays. Most of them contain precious tapestries and ornate details which, unfortunately, can really contribute to high pricing. Nonetheless, there are also shadow puppets printed in cheerful color T-shirt collections branded with Dagadu in one of Malioboro corners. Being a successful national T-shirt company, Dagagu often shares its business secret that is etching down a witty remark on every collection that would pick up one’s laugh or cheeky grins. A three-line rhyming postulation about easy lifestyle such “Young man splurges; old man harvests; dying, heaven opens” (Muda foya-foya; tua kaya raya; mati masuk surga) definitely splashes out one’s intrigued frown at the first reading. But hey, who knows perhaps life can be that easy.
Kraton Complex is the Sultan’s residence which extends from the main court, carriage museum, to water castle. The location where Kraton anchors in, unexpectedly, carries out a deep philosophy according to the Yogyakartans belief. It has been said that Kraton lies in the middle of a straight line between Parangkritis Beach at south and Merapi Mountain at north. This renders Sultan’s powerful mythical ties to guardian spirits in both places. But what is apparent to a foreigner’s eyes is only the artistic beauty Kraton holds. The main court which is open for public oozes much of Sultan’s wealth, portraying priceless items and crafts in a modest array. The carriage museum houses Sultan’s antique horse drawn carriages, including two grand carts imported from Netherland, named as Golden Carts (Kereta Kencana). If you desire to compare old Chinese emperor to Yogyakarta Sultan, Kraton Water Castle (Taman Sari) is the place to go. The partially-ruined garden used to be the first Sultan’s harems grounds as well as bathing pools back in 1765. One tower overlooking the whole area remained as Sultan’s favorite snug pit to decide his pick every night. Climbing to the top of the tower now would not be as exciting as it was despite the idyllic view. You can only imagine how blissful Sultan was while observantly sitting at the high peak. Few important things to note down are that Kraton Complex usually charges cheap admission fee and the current Sultan, who is also the Yogyakartan Governer, still lives in the palace though in separated area. No noisy chatter is allowed to disturb the Sultan’s serene palatial comfort.
Other noteworthy activities to while nights away in Yogyakarta are to watch cultural performances and devour local delicacies. Regular shows like shadow puppets and traditional Ramayana dancing are expectable, yet you would require a native interpreter to comprehend the language. Meanwhile, the local food goes as sweet as the city turns out at night. Savor a bite of gudeg, a jackfruit curry served with chicken, egg, and rice, or bakpia, a local snack made from sweetened green-bean paste wrapped with thin dough pastry. To complement the flavor, order Es rujak for the dessert, which is a combination of fruit salad consisting of papayas, mangos, apples, pineapples, cucumbers and several other ingredients such as palm sugar, lime juice, salt, chilly, and cool ice cream. Altogether, all flavors are available in one plate. Yogyakarta, similarly, becomes your affordable holiday getaway that evokes much of cultural sense and respect, particularly