Greetings from the beautiful island of Java, Indonesia! 💜The island of Java lies between Sumatra and Bali.This island is the economic heart of the country, and home to more than half the country’s population. Java’s largest city and capital, Jakarta, is a sprawling metropolis of over 10 million people! 😲
With so many people, Jakarta is notorious for its terrible traffic. During rush hour, they even apply a “three to one” rule, where no one car can have less than three passengers. Luckily, their metro system is super cheap and efficient, and I had no problems exploring the city without the stress. 😀
Cost: 50 cents for a round-trip ticket
One of the first places on my sightseeing list was Kota, Jakarta’s Old Town. You may notice that it looks an awful lot like Europe. That’s because Indonesia was actually under Dutch colonial rule from the 17th century up until WWII.The highlight of Kota is Fatahillah Square, where you can hop of one of these colorful bikes and go for a leisurely ride.They even throw in these adorable floppy hats to protect you from the strong rays of the sun. Smart and stylish! 😉Kota is also dotted with many quaint cafes.Fun fact: The Dutch introduced commercial cultivation of tea and coffee plants on Java. That’s why its name is synonymous with coffee. Nothing like a cup of java on Java. 😉☕The square also has a puppet museum and theatre. Wayang, meaning ‘puppetry’ in Indonesian, has been a popular form of storytelling since the 16th century. I wanted to see a performance during my visit, but unfortunately things were closed for Ramadan.Now aside from the old town, Jakarta has a very interesting foodie scene. During my time in Jakarta, I decided to check out Bakmi GM.They are a chain restaurant, which serves mainly thick, wheat noodles with a chicken and mushroom sauce. The dish came with some bakso, which is a ground beef meatball.This restaurant was also conveniently located in train station where I left for my next destination: Yogyakarta.
In contrast to the actual capital of Indonesia, Yogyakarta, or ‘Jogja’ as its often referred to, is seen as the cultural capital of the country.The region has traditions of Javanese dance, ballet, fabric production, and wood carving, among many other rich cultural customs.
I took my course at Batik Winotosastro.Batik Winotosastro has a full staff on hand, whom commit to producing only handmade waxed fabrics.They currently sell products in Japan, Italy, France and the USA. They also have an on-site store.
My small fabric cost 3.50 USD and took two hours to design. I began by choosing a pattern and drawing it on the cloth with a pencil.
After, I chose one of the gorgeous hand-carved wooden stencils, and applied a border around my design, again using the hot wax.
These stencils are seriously a work of art on their own! ❤Next, my fabric was ready to be dyed. I could choose between blue, turquoise or red, and I thought the deep red color really popped.To remove the hot wax from the fabric, they dip the cloth in a pot of boiling water and tapioca.
Currently they use both chemical and natural dyes. They also recycle the hot wax after it’s been removed. 😀
To finish the fabric, a woman at the factory, Ima, ironed my cloth for a quick dry.
Then another woman sewed up the edges to give it a more polished finished.
I was very pleased with the end result! 😀After my class, I headed to the historic city center to see the Kraton, or Sultan’s Palace. What’s unique about Yogyakarta is that it’s the only part of Indonesia that is governed by a monarchy. The sultan or king actually lives in this walled palace, along with 25,000 other people. Considering it’s still a fully-functioning palace, it’s not incredibly opulent or museum-like, but still fascinating nonetheless.Walking around the old town, I also noticed lots of unique street art.
Graffiti is a big part of this artsy city, and it’s actually encouraged by the government. I found the art to reflect a lot of Indonesian culture, and also appears slightly political, rebellious, and controversial. Love it!I ended the afternoon by visiting the Cemeti Institute for Art and Society.
They had a nice gallery on display, and I spoke with the woman who worked there about this unique herbal medicine on Java called Jamu. Apparently, there are Jamu doctors on the street here who will mix you up a Jamu ‘cocktail’ based on your ailments. Typical ingredients often include turmeric, ginger, tamarind, lime and honey. Unfortunately, I was told that the best Jamu woman here doesn’t normally work during Ramadan, so I couldn’t try the drink. Still seems like a nice combo to fight off a nasty cold!
On the other hand, I was able to try a traditional regional dish called gudeg.
Gudeg is unripe jackfruit that is stewed for hours in coconut milk. It’s shredded like meat, and served with chicken, hard boiled egg, chili and various spices.🤤It’s only about 3 USD for a full meal too. Score! Anyway, the next day I went on an early morning trip to Borobudur Temple. Borobudur Temple is the largest Buddhist temple in the world! 😍This ninth century structure was built on nine stacked platforms, with over 2,000 sculptural panels and over 500 Buddha statues! 😲These stupas actually protect Buddha relics, which are hidden on the inside.Can you see the protected Buddha?Even more interesting, an aerial view of the temple resembles a mandala, which is the religious symbol for the universe.I didn’t have a drone, but I did find this image on Google. So cool!
Now it’s a bit of a hike to get to the top, but the view is definitely worth the climb! 😀I was even more delighted to realize that I visited Borobudur on Vesak, or Buddha Day. This religious holiday celebrates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha.During my visit, Buddhist monks had come from all over the world to visit the temple and pray.
Now not only in Borobudur stunning, but it’s surroundings are absolutely breathtaking!
From the top of the temple, you have views of an endless green countryside, as well as, the stunning peak of Mount Merapi.In the early morning, there was also this low-lying fog that made for a slightly mystical atmosphere. Absolutely breathtaking!Borobudur Tour: To get to Borobudur from Yogyakarta, I booked a tour with my hotel for 7 USD. The guide picked me up at my hotel at 4:45 am and returned me to my hotel by 11 am. The tour only included transport, which was about a 3-hour round trip drive. The tour did not include the entrance fee, which was a hefty 25 USD for adults, or 15 USD for students.Don’t forget your ID! 😀I will say though, the facilities were well-maintained and there’s an on-site museum, which makes me feel like at least my money was put to good use.
As such, I went back to my hotel to lay by the pool and cuddle with the hotel cat. 🐱 💜
I wanted to do a few more things during my visit here, but unfortunately, due to Ramadan and the national holiday, many places were closed. I still enjoyed my time here, and I left with a very positive experience in this cultural hub. Anyway, up next I’m venturing further west on Java to attempt climbing a few volcanoes. Stay tuned to hear all about it! Until then! 😀
Getting there: To get to Jakarta from Medan, I flew with AirAsia. The flight cost 50 USD and took 2.5 hours. To get from the city center from the airport, I took a Damri Bus for 3 USD. To get from Jakarta to Yogyakarta, I took a train, which I booked through tiket.com. The booking site was super easy to use, and check-in at the train station was all digital.
The train station also had lots of familiar food options. Indonesia has tons of A&W chains, with a very unique menu to boot. Sadly though, my beloved 7-Eleven went bankrupt in Indonesia, so the main convenience store here is Indomaret.Their options are seriously lacking in comparison, but this avocado chocolate drink was actually on-point! I gave the bird’s nest one a pass. Hah! 😛Anyway, the overnight train to Yogyakarta cost 20 USD and took 8 hours. The train was clean, air conditioned, and had charging ports. It felt years apart from my experience in India, which looked literally like a prison on wheels. Hah!