YOGYAKARTA is one of the most popular places in Indonesia because of its famous landmarks. When I lived in Jakarta in 2002, Yogyakarta, which we often referred to as Jogja, was one city I frequented, but mostly for work, whether to hold a seminar or conference or to build houses in the community with families in need.
However, during my return last month to this historic city in Central Java, every corner seemed unfamiliar to me. I’m not sure if my memory has failed me, which seldom happens, but my recent trip to this city was like visiting a new place entirely. Even the train station seemed different.
It was a joy for me, as I embraced this city anew, trying to absorb what I see, hear, smell, taste and feel as if they were novelty.
Our home there was the Pesona Jogja Homestay, a compound of six apartment units, wherein guests can rent either one whole unit or only one of the rooms. We instantly felt at home in this private location. We got to rest fully and recharge after an almost 24-hour travel by bus, ship, and train from Lampung, with only an hour stop in Jakarta.
While in Yogyakarta, we had one full day exploring the temples located outside the city, and another full day just going around the city center. Here are not-to-be-missed places when you visit Jogja.
I climbed this largest Buddhist archaeological site 15 years back. Yet, everything seemed hazy. And as smartphones and digital cameras were still a rarity then, I have limited photos to remind me of that experience. Since it was hot during my first climb, I never really went around and took a good look at the bas relief within this landmark. This time, I made sure I look at the details of what were portrayed there.
It was still hot, but I brushed the feeling aside as I committed almost every aspect of the site into memory. The way the blocks were put together was interesting. We watched the workers at one part of the site doing the restoration. We found out that the blocks were interlocking, like Lego toys. The stupas on top still never fail to amaze me. Plus, the view surrounding the site was truly breathtaking.
The Prambanan Temple, the biggest Hindu temple in Indonesia, was a landmark I only saw in passing, when I was on a business trip from Solo to Yogyakarta. Good thing I was able to come back to this place because I had a closer look at the buildings. When we arrived, the afternoon sun and the dust being blown by the wind created an enigmatic, mysterious aura around the compound.
There were blocks gathered around the main area, as if they were debris from a wreckage. A billboard near the buildings revealed that they were indeed rubbles caused by a strong earthquake in 2006. Still, the primary structures remain mind-blowing, given its remarkable architecture.
Kraton and city center
Yogyakarta is the only place in Indonesia still run by a royalty. The Sultan is also the governor of the special region of Yogyakarta and he still lives in a palace, or the kraton. Since we walked the length of Malioboro St. and got embroiled in its shops and souvenir offerings, we got to the kraton compound beyond its closing time of 2 p.m. We continued our walk to Taman Sari or the water garden, but it also closed early.
With that, we went for a rickshaw ride to a batik factory and then a batik art gallery where we saw the beautiful craftmanship of local artists and artisans. Those two places were fascinating, making our Jogja trip indeed a colorful one.
Claire Marie Algarme blogs at http://firsttimetravels.com. Follow her as @firsttimetravel on Twitter and Instagram and like her Facebook page First-time Travels blog.