Indonesia is an absolutely massive country, and I was only able to spend there one full month during my three-months Backpacking Trip. I still think I could be happy with even more time. I only had few days at the biggest Island of Java. I wanted to take careful thought with my itinerary. Of all the 17,000 islands that make up Indonesia, Java can easily keep any traveler travelling solo or in a group occupied for months. Java is the biggest and it’s a heart of the country. I traveled alone but Indonesia struck me as the perfect destination for smaller groups.
The City of Yogyakarta
Yogyakarta is located in Central Java. I couldn’t wait to finally start exploring Yogyakarta City, my main destination in Java. I knew I wanted to skip Jakarta all together. I had a gut feeling that this is the best way to do it. I set up my flight from Kuala Lumpur straight to Yogya. From all the places you must visit in Java, for sure this is the one you cannot miss. It has narrow alleys, full of local shops, vibrant main streets like Malioboro Street with delicious food to try. City is rich in history including its leather shadow puppets shows and beautiful Kraton Palace. City is divided into 14 districts. There are literally hundreds of budget hotels for any type of travelers. Most of the budget hostels can be found at Sosrowijayan Street. Best time to go to Yogyakarta would be the dry season which is generally April to October. I spend here 4 days.
My Flight went pretty smoothly. When I landed I was greeted by an immense thick, moist wave of heat and stuffy air. I made my way slowly by taxi to my first accommodation in the middle of the city. After that I went out for a well deserved beer. On the walk back to the hotel I stopped at a local street food stalls to grab delicious snacks. The next day I spent in Jakarta exploring local small markets, and one bigger Pasar Baru market. I was very surprised how peaceful city was compering to other I have visited. Not a single street vendor or rickshaw driver pestered me. The food at the Pasar Baru market was delicious and I was really happy about how my day went.
The next day I took a local rickshaw to Glodok (China Town) and I check out the Chinese market. You have to try a ride in traditional horse-pulled cart, known as an andong or a dokar. Other Places Worth seeing are: Candi Sambisari temple and Taman Sari (Water castle).
While I was travelling I managed to talk to other travelers, who did this part of the trip already, and all of them advised me to rent a car with a driver, for the whole day of visiting famous temples outside of the Yogyakarta. I do not regret listening to them. For a very good price I got comfortable air-conditioned car, with a lovely local guide, to drive me all day. I learned so much about local customs and history during this adventure. I was to lazy to read it all by myself. First we went to see Borobudur to catch beautiful sunrise, and after that we slowly made our way to Prambanan and Ratu Boko.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Borobudur is a breathtaking ancient Buddhist temple complex built in the form of a mandala, or sacred diagram. Borobudur was designed to be climbed. The temple is a massive step pyramid structure made from giant stone blocks. The top of the monument is crowned with a massive bell shaped stupa. It has richly decorated levels with statues of the Buddha and reliefs carved into the stones. Its definitely Indonesia’s most visited tourist attraction with most stunning sunrise and sunset views. Borobudur is about 40 kilometers from Yogyakarta. It’s about an hour drive outside of the city. I walked through each level of the temple admiring the intricate hand carved stones sculptures.
9th Century Hindu temple complex Prambanan is not as visited as Borobudur but really worth seeing. just 18km east of Yogyakarta. Its the largest Hindu temple site in Indonesia dedicated to the Trimurti as an expression that God is the Creator (Brahma), Preserver (Vishnu) and also the Destroyer (Shiva). Humbling in its own way. easily reached with the Transjogja public bus or you can rent private tour car from your hotel.
Standing majestically on a hillside The Palace (kraton) named Ratu Boko, after a King Boko of local folklore, is overlooking Prambanan temple complex and with a view to Mount Merapi. This place is more like a ruin than anything else, and thats why it is not as famous as the other two temples. it can be hard to make any sense of the place, however because of that it has its unique charm. The views from this location are breathtaking. Located approximately 17 km east of the city of Yogyakarta. For a richer cultural experience, take a local guide to explain to you the wide range of historical, artistic and religious intricacies.
Things I didn’t do
One thing I didn’t manage to do, while staying in this part of Java, was going to Goa Jomblang Cave. I heard all good things about it, but it was too late for me to book it.
As well as Mount Bromo, which is located far away from Yogyakarta . It was on my list of things to see in Java but getting there from Yogyakarta was not an easy trip. The lack of train options at the time didnt help. I decided to head straight to Bali from Yogya airport. Very cheap flight options where a huge incentive. I figured out that I will have a strong reason to come back to Java in the future. This way I had much more time to explore Bali and Gilis Islands, as my Indonesian Visa was only for 30 days at the time. I didn’t want to overwhelm myself skimming through too many destinations. Yogya was definitely a major highlight on my trip around South East Asia.
Money Saving Tips: Eat on the street and Bargain a lot. Rent a car/scooter to move around.