The best thing about an armchair travel blog is that you can pop over to most anywhere in the world and discover amazing things. So just sit back as we leave New Zealand behind and take a look at Indonesia, a Southeast Asian nation. Out first stop is Yogyakarta, a city on the Indonesian island of Java. This city is often called Jogja and is known for its traditional arts and cultural heritage.
Our first stop is at the temple Candi Prambanan which is also known as Candi Rara Jonggrang. This is a well-known ancient Hindu Temple, built during the 9th century for Trimurti. This is an expression that God is the Creator (Brahma), Preserver (Vishnu) and also the Destroyer (Shiva). The temple is located 18km to the east of Yogyakarta. It counts as one of Indonesia’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is the largest Hindu temple architecture in Southeast Asia, rising to a height of 47m with a wide compound surrounding it.
Uncover the secrets of the Sewu Temple, a short distance from the Prambanan temple. The name Sewu means thousand, although it only has 249 temples. It has been partially restored and by using your imagination you can explore all of its nooks and crannies and admire its structures and carvings.
Take a look at the impressive Sambisari Temple, which used to be buried five meters underground for hundreds of years until the first stone slab was discovered in 1966. It took over 20 years to excavate it and since then it has been reconstructed.
If you enjoy shopping head for the streets of Malioboro and to the Beringhario market, where you’ll find lots of stalls selling everything imaginable from clothing to bags to rattan products and silver jewelry. You can find lots of delicious food here as well.
While in Indonesia take a taste of one of the best foods – Gudeg. This unique dish is a stew that is made from young jackfruit with palm sugar, coconut milk, meat, garlic and spices. Its special taste is derived from the slow simmering of flavors and textures.
Take a hike to the ruins of the volcano Mount Merapi. Here you’ll find yourself among the ruins of leftover houses from a recent volcano eruption that occurred in 2010.Reaching the place of Mbah Maridijan, you’ll find out how a keeper of spirits stood by his duty even as the volcano erupted. For a different view on things take a sunrise hike up the volcano.
On the other side of the Water Castle (Taman Sari) you’ll find yourself among rundown defense walls and scattered village houses. There are mazes of underground water holes, secret chambers, gardens and pools. This castle is a huge complex that at one time was a former royal garden of the Sultanate of Yogyakarta. It was also once used as a bathing place. Today the bathing pools have been restored.
You’ll enojy the Kraton Yogyakarta, a well-maintained palace from the days of the Sultans. All visitors are accompanied by a local guide, who can speak many different languages. You can learn about myths and rituals and hear all kinds of stories. In this way you can better understand the rich history and culture of Jogja. This walled city is a unique compound and home to about 25,000 people. It has its own market, shops, batik and silver cottage industries. There are schools and mosques. The Sultan employs about 10,000 residents.
The innermost group of buildings were the current sultan resides, was built between 1755 and 1756. European-style touches were added to the interior in the 1920s. This is an impressive example of Javanese palace architecture and offers a series of luxurious halls, spacious courtyards and pavilions. The center of the Kraton is the reception hall, the Bangsal Kencono or Golden Pavilion, with marble floors, an intricately decorated roof, Dutch-style stained glass windows and great columns of carved teak.
A great part of the Kraton is used as a museum and has an extensive collection that includes gifts from European monarchs, gilt copies of the sacred pusaka (heirlooms of the royal family) and gamelan instruments. One of the most interesting rooms houses the royal family tree, old photos of grand mass weddings and portraits of the former sultans of Yogya.
Outside the Kraton, in the center of the northern square, are two sacred waringin or banyan trees. Here in the days of feudal Java, white-robed petitioners would sit hoping to catch the eye of the king. In the alun-alun kidul or southern square you’ll find two similar banyan trees that come with a myth about accumulating a great fortune.
In the inner pavilion visitors are treated to delightful performances. Gamelan on Mondays and Tuesdays, puppetry on Wednesdays and Saturdays, Javenese poetry reading on Fridays and classical dance on Thursdays and Sundays.
Myth of the banyan trees – the banyan trees found in the southern square are huge and stand side by side in the middle of the square. Local myth has it that if you can manage to walk between these two trees blindfolded you will get what you wish for. However many have found that it is impossible to walk straight between these two trees but you can try your luck.
Take a one hour drive to Borobudur, a 9th century temple and an Indonesia UNESCO Heritage site. This is one of the largest Buddhist temples in the world. It consists of six square platforms with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. During Waisak Day thousands of Buddhists make their pilgrimage here.
About 25 km from the city center is the wonderful Parangtritis Beach. The beach is popular with visitors and locals especially in the evenings or on weekends. Here you can enjoy a picnic, ride an all-terrain vehicle, delight in the sunset, view the lovely scenery and swim in a small swimming pool. Go paragliding between January and February. Sand-boarding is available at Gumuk Pasir.
If you really enjoy chocolate visit the Monggo Chocolate Factory. These chocolates have been around since 2005 and there is a showroom you can visit.
Koto Gede is an up-market suburb of Yogyakarta and the hub of the silver industry since the 1930s. Jl Kemasan, the main street that leads into town from the north, is lined with silver workshops. In the shops you can find hand-beaten bowls, boxes, fine filigree and modern jewelry.
Affandi Museum offers visitors a look at the artwork of one of Indonesia’s most celebrated artists, Affandi. He worked and lived in a riverside home studio which is now the museum. Here you can see an extensive collection of his paintings, including some amazing self-portraits and personal items. You can see his car, a real boy-racer’s dream – lime-green and yellow customized 1967 Galant with an oversized rear spoiler. There is also a small cafe. In a converted horse carriage, painted in multi-colors you’ll find the mushullah or prayer room. This looks just like a psychedelic gypsy cart.
The Sono-Budoyo Museum displays a first-class collection of Javanese art, including wayang kulit puppets, topeng (masks), kris and batik. There is also a courtyard full of Hindu statuary and artifacts, among them impressive Balinese carvings. Wyang kulit performances are held here as well.
Visit Pastar Pasty, a bird market that offers songbirds, owls, raptors, pigeons for training and at times ravens. Of course it is better seeing birds in their natural environment rather than cages but it is an interesting thing to do.