Yogyakarta is the epitome of creative expression. Street art encompasses the walls and installations of bizarre art work are dotted around the city. The streets are filled with groups of friends busking on cosy street corners, musicians tinkling xylophones in unison, creatively tattooed locals, and shopkeepers by the dozen. Walking around the city is atmospheric and taking any street corner that twists and turns leads you into a maze of funky batik shops, individual street art and tasty food.
Walking past the old president’s house, you catch glimpses of white colonial style buildings. Whilst my friend and I were remarking at how neat and pristine the building looked, a father and son started talking to us about where we were from. After finding out we were English, and introducing themselves as a teacher and university student, both father and son immediately asked us both an individual dozen questions on grammar and pronunciation. I felt incredibly blessed to be an English Literature graduate and have English as my first language. The enthusiasm in which these two men shared with us and their experiences with learning English in Indonesia, was warming and encouraging. They laughed with joy to find out that the word “marvellous”, can be used other than just with association to food, which made me eager to learn and practice my shaky Indonesian.
Waving our new friends goodbye, we headed straight to the area of Kratan, which still holds political power over Yogyakarta, and has Islamic architecture and style that has influenced the palace. The square that is at the entrance of the sultan’s house resembles a park with no scrub land or grass. Despite this, couples and families still spread themselves comfortably over bamboo mats and watch the clouds disperse over their heads. There are cultural performances involving a number of popular Javanese dances, some telling parables, others providing insightful knowledge of Java’s history through the power of storytelling dance. They are twice a week and are free (every backpacker’s favourite word). The water palace is connected to an area of the sultans palace, and isn’t the most breathtaking sight. Instead, honestly, it resembles a similar view of a water fountain in Europe. So if you are here on a time restraint, feel free to avoid these sights.
There are many markets to become a spend thrift in and stock up on Batik attire, an internationally known design originating from Java. There is such a large variety, it could transform a typical accounts bedroom to an eccentric hippies carnival, so be prepared. Head to the Affandi Musuem, which is outside of town, where you can absorb some artwork created by Indonesia’s most exceptional artists. Although a distance, the art work is worth it.
Numerous “art schools” are in Yogyakarta, which is a commission filled scam. Approach these establishments with caution, as some may say it is a “school”, when in actual fact, it is similar to a factory but employing small children to do the hard labour, with extortionate prices for the artwork. Each piece of work will be commission filled to whoever directed you there, so beware.
Dining options in Yogyakarta are aplenty, ranging from restaurants serving authentic and international food, to small stalls on street corners. The entire time we were in Yogayakarta we ate at these cheap (20 thousand Rupiah) yet delicious stalls that served some very strange dishes such as cow skin and hairless bony bats. Needless to say, we stuck to Ayam and Nasi (Chicken and Rice but cooked in different styles).
We stayed at Bladok Losemen in the main backpacker area, Sastrowijayan, conveniently located near the train station. It is a hotel with helpful staff, clean rooms and a swimming pool to cool yourself in after spending a hot sticky day exploring. Economy rooms are pretty basic, with a squat toilet, but comfortable. A single bed is 100 thousand and a double is 150 thousand rupiah.