Yogyakarta – pronounced Jojakarta – is the capital of the Yogyakarta Special Region in Central Java. The city is a centre of education where Indonesians come for higher learning. It was also the Indonesian Capital during the War of Independence.
Unlike Surabaya, where we felt like the only Westerners, Yogyakarta is the second most visited tourist destination in Indonesia. Our hostel was near Jalan Malioboro (Malioboro Street), the main tourist area in the city, so not surprisingly this was where we saw most of the Westerners.
Jalan Malioboro begins at the main train station to the north and runs south to Beringhajo Markets, near the Kraton – the Sultan’s Palace. The street has plentiful stores and street vendors selling all the typical touristic wares. Thankfully the vendors are less aggressive than in Bali, making wandering the street far more relaxing.
Kraton Ngaygyakarta Hadiningrat
The Kraton or Sultan’s Palace is just south of Jalan Malioboro and was the seat of power in the area. While it was once the house of the royal family, it’s now a popular tourist attraction and museum. The Indonesian 1,000 Rupiah bill features an image of The Keaton.
Taman Sari Water Castle
Two kilometres south of the Kraton is Taman Sari, the Sultan’s royal gardens. It once had an artificial lake with islands, several pavilions and a bathing complex. While most of the Taman Sari lies in ruins, the bathing pools of the Sultan’s concubines are well-preserved and open to tourists.
Borobudur temple is the world’s largest Buddhist temple and is one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world. It was built in the 9th century and abandoned in the 14th only to be rediscovered again in 1811. It contains the largest and most complete collection of Buddhist reliefs in the world.
We took an organised tour to the site and climbed the structure via the eastern gate, the only proper entrance to the temple. The stairs climb through three large tiers to the top where there are many bell-like structures, each covering a state of Buddha.
The site is an amazing place for photos, although getting one without tourists can be troublesome. The temple was not the only thing being photographed, Westerners tend to also be targets for photos. When first asked, I assumed they wanted me to take a photo of them with the temple but they actually wanted a photo with me.
Prambanan temple is the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia and was built around the same time as Candi Borobudur. The temple complex was once a collection of 240 individual temples, with the largest six temples at its centre dedicated to the 3 manifestations of the hindu god and the each of their steeds.
Most of the temples are now just piles of rubble after numerous eruptions of Mount Merapi and the earthquake of 2009. The major temples have been reconstructed and stand like fingers protruding from the dirt.
This time my brother and I hired scooters and rode out to the temple compound, which is only 17km from Jalan Malioboro. While vastly different to Borobudur, it is equal in magnificence.
There are several other temple complexes near Candi Prambana, although most are now little more than stacks of stones. One that has been rebuilt is Candi Sewa, a buddhist temple.
Its main temple has been reinstated, but most of it’s surrounding smaller temples have not. Yet the guard statues still stand ready to defend the site.
Mount Merapi, literally Fire Mountain, is the most active of Indonesia’s 129 volcanos, with major eruptions occurring every 10-15 years. It’s also a popular volcano to climb, usually to see the sunrise. In my adventures I’ve climbed mountains at night and had sworn never to do it again. But for some reason I forgot and climbed it anyway.
The climb was difficult and 300 metres from the very top I made the call to go no further. I stopped at a large group of tents belonging to the wise people who had climbed the day before, camped and woken early to climb the final hour and forty minutes to the summit. The views from the camp were still awesome, although it was very cold. My brother and our Italian friend did make it to the top for similarly spectacular views, such as Mount Merbabu, Merapi’s slightly taller twin.
While it was good climb, I stick with my decision to not climb mountains at night and will never do it again. I prefer to climb mountains when I’m rested and not after a full day. But for those who did reach the top they enjoyed the experience, although for some it was the most difficult thing they’d ever done.
Next we head further across the island of Java to the city of Bandung.
The Trail Wanderers.