After I finally put my clumsy feet on the grounds of Southeast Asia and visited its two famous countries, Malaysia and Indonesia, I can say what I’ve always wanted- I’m 100 per cent an ocean type of girl and no one can ever change it. However, while being a little mermaid, bathing in the salty pools of Gods wherever I go and as much as I can, a certain town, surrounded by volcanoes and other cities, not seas, lakes and oceans recently captured my heart.
Yogyakarta sits at Java’s heart and this vibrant, fascinating centre is sure to catch your imagination. Despite being quite chaotic and over-populated, it’s not too touristy and yet it bursts with enough interesting attractions to explore. It pumps with youthful innovation and spirit in forms of art and dining, shrouded in myth and folklore. A visit to Jogja is enough for a 3-night stay, (we stayed 4) and it promises you the best getting to know of Southeast Asia. As ancient as its surroundings, the city provides a peek into the deepest Indonesian history while being steeped in rich tradition and culture.
Jogja is a place I’ve never seen before and having zero experience with Asia, as I’ve never been, I couldn’t even imagine what it could be like.Utterly chaotic?Yes.Friendly?That too.But mostly, it’s obscure and a bit mysterious, hiding away so many beautiful and ancient places from people’s sight, just to be explored later on and enjoyed to the max.
We stayed in a hostel- our first time ever experience- but it was one of the best ones of our lives. I knew that choosing something labeled “Happy Hippie homie” was a right thing to do and its atmosphere sold the whole city to us straight away. If you’re wondering, we didn’t have to sleep with eight other people in the room, even though it was an option too. We had our own private hippie room which totally satisfied our needs.
The place is like an oasis inside a hectic, noisy city. An escape into a lush garden with palm trees, swinging nets, comfy seats and beds, where all the people come together to chill and share experiences from their own travels.
The outside area, all made using natural materials such as bamboo and inspired by Bali boho living was lit up in festoon lights as we came in, passing a small water fountain with koi carps. Have you ever experienced cuddles with fishes? Well, here you sure will. Someone was reading a book in a swinging net, while others were chatting and drinking Bintangs(local beer) at the long table. It took us 5 minutes to fall in love with this place and at the end, we didn’t even want to leave. We also met some amazing people over here, some of them even joined us in our travels to Mount Bromo and Surabaya and we still keep in touch.
If you wish to stay in the city center, but hidden away in something that looks like a tropical backyard in Bali rather than knowing that you’re in Java, Sae Sae won’t let you down. The place has everything from free drinking water, cooking utensils and basic cooking equipment, to bike rentals, trips and their own mini cafe bar serving yummy smoothie bowls and all day healthy breakfasts.
When it comes to sight-seeing and doing all the touristy stuff, the city itself is an adventure. Try walking through it at night and you’ll find out yourself. Locals crazily riding on motorbikes, carrying their whole family as well as roosters and dogs on it was something new to us, but we got used to it after a little while. Or after we saw sheep tied up with a rope at the back of a bike. (Don’t worry, they weren’t hurt or abused) Colourful lights coming from shops and small restaurants, smells from little transportable kitchens on which locals cook and sell soups and dumplings, noises of the street, all together create an unspeakable atmosphere- only from one short walk, you can see the local culture flourishing.
We visited two temples, Borobudur and Prambanan, which are both ancient Buddhist monuments dating back to 9th century. Borobudur temple is also the oldest Buddhist temple in the world. It’s unbelievable how magnificent and ancient these monuments are and imagining its building process and coming to life is simply amazing. You can choose from many tours, including sunrises and sunsets over the monuments, or you can get there by yourself on a motorbike or a cab. We chose to see the sunrise from the hill over the Borobudur temple and sunset at Prambanan. Amazing experiences and I highly recommend both!
However, the best part about Jogja is simply how cheap everything was and how hip and cool some places are! The number of handmade shops, organic cafes and healthy restaurants in this city is unbelievable.Of course, you should try Nasi Goreng and all the Indonesian classics, but if you’re a real gustatory princess like me, eat in MOVE ON cafe, Yamm Yamm restaurant or Satebar. Everything was soo good! They’re all located at the same street, which is like a way to heaven because it boosts with the best restaurants in town.
For the most amazing game of smells and colours, visit one of the city’s food markets, where locals sell everything from fruit and meat to spices and sweets. Home-grown and super cheap! This was my favourite place, mostly because of all the fresh fruit they were selling. Mangoes so sweet and ripe you could even get a glucose shock. We bought duck eggs for our morning omellete and finally we discovered some bomb ass spices including extra spicy chili! Make sure not to miss it if you love food.
When the sun went down, the streets lived up and markets such as the Marlborough street filled up with even more people than before. This is the best place and time for buying souvenirs such as batik- a local type of artwork plus cheap clothes and sunglasses which you will never regret destroying or loosing in the sea. The city itself is a massive culture shock, doesn’t matter what part of the world you come from, it will always amaze you. You don’t get the immediate feeling of being in a touristic location as most people head down to Bali straight away. That’s one of the reasons why prices don’t go rapidly up and you can enjoy feeling rich for a moment. People are genuinely nice and satisfied with their simple lives, whether they work in restaurants, sell goods on the streets or drive one of the popular rickshaws and you can see it on their faces. Kids will greet you with a smile and some will even want to take pictures with you. You gotta bargain if you want to get a REAL price on something, but hey, that will only prepare you for the rest of the places in this country. Jogja is simply a perfect opportunity to taste THE REAL Indonesia and start off your traveling of this magnificent part of the world.
With Love, Domi.