Surakarta or Solo City, Central Java – Here We Go! Road Trip Day 2

Submitted by mumunmumun on 1 December 2009   •  Itinerary

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Second day, we decided to leave Puspita in Semarang and head to Surakarta for the next day by using the public transportation. Sally knew well the route to Surakarta and suggested that we leave Puspita. It’s quite hilly and Puspita might not be the girl for it. Fair enough!

Solo city

Previous: The Trip: Java-Bali… 11 days behind the wheel
Next: Semarang to Malang… Hey that rhymes! Road trip day 3 and 4

Day 02

Destination: Surakarta, or well known as Solo

We woke up at 4.30 AM, another record, and headed to the train station taking Puspita. I guess not a lot of people have a sense of how important online information is yet, so nobody updated that the train left at 6.30 AND NOT AT 5.00! Dude! That’s a whole 1,5 hours of sleep! There was no way we were to waste 1,5 hours, so we decided to hop on the public bus on the Cipto street. Here you can catch the busses to Surakarta or Jogjakarta for about 2 hours.

Solo city

It took us about 3 hours to get to Surakarta, passing Boyolali, hometown to Sally. Once there, we hopped off a random place knowing we were already in the city of Surakarta. Many know this city as Solo but in fact, Solo was just a village name that was located in the middle of the city. Yet, it no longer exist. But what is in a name? Then why do people call it Solo? Dunnow! State Solo or Surakarta as your destination, and you will end up at the same place.

Solo city

In Surakarta we first headed to PGS or the grocery center of Solo and did a bit of window shopping ending up with shopping of course. Interestingly, in front of PGS there are railway tracks of the inner city train. And… not surprisingly, no safety precaution to it 🙂

Solo city

Since Sally had to do some business looking for kept men hehehehe… Tari and I thought we would do the tourist attraction: the Surakarta palace or as they say it, Keraton. The Keraton is located just within the shady gate beside PGS. Vira did this trip already… so let’s see what hole I can fill in.

We strolled along to this field to find that all village leaders from the all around the country have gathered for an annual meeting. My God, I’ve never seen so many people dressed the same at the same time. In this country, it’s the village heads that actually have the strongest influence among the people. And so here they were, and turns out they were waiting for the President. We didn’t care much to what they were doing exactly, so we strolled along to find the Keraton, which was located behind the so-called government hall.

Solo city

Walking in to the Keraton, you have to enter through a special door, the door for commoners. The ticket booth is easy to find, and you have to walk a bit to get to the gate for visitors. This gate starts with a museum with a few chambers filled with artifacts. For the chamber with carriages in it, you can take pictures close to it with the permission of the ‘abdi dalam’ or Keraton servants. You just have to pay Rp 10,000 to them.

Solo city

One door will lead you to the Keraton lawn. It’s a shady lawn filled with trees but with no grass around. The ground consists of gray sand. The area is very limited and bounded to commoners. Shoes are permitted but sandals are also forbidden. So, if you are wearing sandals, you are insisted to bare foot. THE BETTER, HURRAY! I love going bare foot. The sand is cold and compact. And it’s a great place for a photo session. One of Tari’s questions was why is the Keraton very much influenced by Greece since the statues were similar to those of Greek goddess? Sally explained that many of the statues are gifts but I’m not sure which ones.

In the back of the palace, the special buffalos lay happily. All albino buffalos are considered sacred and worth hundreds of millions of rupiahs. These buffalos are usually cleaned and taken out for strolls at special sacred days and ceremonies.

Becak driver: “Want a free meal and sleeping place? Here you are… the prison.”

Solo city

Hahahaha… Can’t help to laugh at it! This becak driver was the Indonesian crazy happy people kind. He would choose a president, in the upcoming election, who has a daughter because he dreams to be the President’s son in law! How cute is that? He then took us to Kauman, the batik producing area. It’s located not far from PGS and Keraton. The area is located in front of the city prison which looks like a kindergarten considering the colors. Hideous!

Surakarta batik is originally brown and has a dense pattern type. But through time, the area has produced many other patterns with various colors to choose from. But you can easily see which is from Surakarta and which isn’t from the display.

Solo city

After Kauman we realized that the day was growing late and we had to head back to Semarang. So we hopped on a bus back to Semarang where we found Aji joining us. Yeah… he was a bit late, but it was a surprise to have him onboard. Again, we hit the Bandeng Juwana resto.

Solo city

“Guys, we have to see the old city of Semarang”

“But I’m exhausted and we haven’t had dinner yet. Not to mention we really have to head out early tomorrow.”

“Alright, we can always come back to this city in the future.”

Surakarta

Entering the gate you will find a huge field. As a traditional city layout, cities in Java have a square field with 2 huge trees in the middle marking the center of the city. The trees are used as shady areas to gather for town meetings. The sides of the fields are usually placed with a grand mosque, a government office, a market and a prison. But through time this setting has been modified according to better and required city planning.

In Surakarta, we had our breakfast in front of PGS. There are small stalls along the road providing various food. The taste is moderate and edible. So why not try it? In Java one of the most famous dishes is the Pecel. Steamed (or sometimes raw) vegetables are served with rice and peanut sauce. It’s really cheap but tasty, with about Rp 8,000 per portion. Don’t forget to use the sweet soy sauce and prawn or rice crackers.

Solo city

Of course there is the famous Surakarta surabi on Vira’s page.

And silly us… we forgot about lunch. SOB! We were really hungry that night.

Around the train station of the Tugu Monument junction, take any public transportation (ask around because that was what we did) to the Cipto junction and pay about Rp 2,000. From here, we recommend you can take the SAFARI or TARUNA bus that is ready at about 5 am on Cipto street.

The bus is very convenient, very clean, equipped with reclined seat, and most importantly AC. This is quite important since the ride takes about 1,5 hours.

To get to the center of city, there is the AC bus which cost about Rp 3,000. it’s not the most pleasant transportation since it’s forced to be jammed with people leaving little space to breath. It’s quiet inconvenient but it was worth the try for the knowledge, and worth the cheapo ride.

From the center of the city, everything is a walk or a becak ride away.

Heading to the terminal, just take the yellow 01 mini bus from the market (in the end of the Kauman area) to the bus station. The trip would cost about Rp 3000 per person.

Solo city

There are a lot of commuters at this time, interestingly they commute to smaller towns as Salatiga and Ungaran… hmm what do you know? All you have to pay is a mere Rp 20,000 to this small city of Surakarta royalty. You can stop at any leg of the road.

To get to the center of city, there is the AC bus which cost about Rp 3,000. it’s not the most pleasant transportation since it’s forced to be jammed with people leaving little space to breath. It’s quiet inconvenient but it was worth the try for the knowledge, and worth the cheapo ride.

Solo city

From the center of the city, everything is a walk or a becak ride away.

Heading to the terminal, just take the yellow 01 mini bus from the market (in the end of the Kauman area) to the bus station. The trip would cost about Rp 3000 per person.

Surakarta is well known for batik creation, we decided to start at the generic source. PGS or Pusat Grosir Solo or Solo Grocery Center. Here you will find all kinds of textile goods and mostly made of Batik. Not forgetting cheap! Most of the product didn’t interest me much since Batik was making a come-back in fashion, until we found this shop that made its own shirt, skirts, and shorts with batik print right in the back of the building. Found my first shopping item! A mini skirt and a T shirt with batik prints. The prints are unusual, I say. There are lots of dresses also made from batik, just sooo many to choose from.

Solo city

Items at this shop range from 50,000 – 150,000 rupiahs. A fair value for unique quality!

Kauman area is quite crowded since everyone knows it’s the city to buy batik.  You can easily spot a shop, and if you are escorted by a becak driver, he will definitely take you to his preference. They usually get a tip from the owner if you decide to buy something in that particular shop. You can also waltz along the surrounding stores to have a look. There is sooo many. So shop till you drop!

In this area, items have great ranges due to the range of quality. The area offers generic printed batik to the handmade batik that cost a lot! Hand written batik which are dyed traditionally can cost up to millions of rupiahs. And you can find it all in this small rich area!


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