Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Abud and I had two things in common. We can be in Yogyakarta a day earlier than Vira and we had to visit Taman Sari. Abud loves the Taman Sari complex. Maybe it’s his inner royal-wanting-concubines-self that is drawn to this place, maybe he was a concubine in his past life, who knows? Whatever it is, it’s great to have him as a semi-guide on this visit. Although located so close to the Keraton, oddly only a handful of people really talk about it, which was kinda weird because I found the complex to be interesting. Agreed, this is an underrated historical site. And it didn’t end there! We popped in a batik home industry, hung out at Malioboro street, and I drooled over charming princes on horseback. Oh Yogyakarta, can you stop teasing us with your endless list of things to do?
It’s about time Abud had a proper introduction, don’t you think? Come meet Abud! Everyone, this is Abud; Abud, this is everyone 😀
Abud is an old friend that bumped his head one day and decided that he wanted to make travel docs. I know, right? Where the hell has he been all this time? Who wouldn’t want to make travel docs? And he had to get injured to realize this, geez! Anyways, out of nowhere, he chose these silly girls to make a travel doc. As soon as we know it, there he was, complete with his super cool camera, super heavy tripods, portable dolly track/slider, and a big fat smile ready to torture us by enhancing the addiction of making travel docs. So, hold on to your seats guys, the 2 past trip entries will be available in motion picture. And soon you’ll realize how much we’re a mess than you think.
Here’s the introduction link.
And here’s some of his work so far on Vimeo.
There isn’t anything new I can say about this historical venue. As many beautiful ancient buildings, Taman Sari is there for you to admire. It has old buildings with beautiful carvings on the walls and gates of the complex. It’s no dutch building, which makes the feeling different to any other historical sites. It was made beautiful to accommodate the beautiful. Taman Sari was established by the first Sultan to take his ‘royal baths’ with his queen and concubines. It is said that this first Sultan had 40 concubines at the time. Can you imagine? That’s not even one woman a day for a whole month? Wow!
Once, the area was surrounded by water, supported by the sophisticated drainage system around the complex. This system regulates the water requirements of the castle. What was once surrounded by water, is now a dense complex of houses, many occupied by the abdi dalam or Keraton servants.
The main area of Taman Sari has two main pools. One besides the tower is for the queen and concubines, and the further for the Sultan’s many many children. You didn’t think that the Sultan had a family plan and wore condoms, did you? The Sultan’s quarters, is where he chose which lucky lady would accompany him in his private pool located behind the towers wall. What’s best about the pools are, you can walk through them, just to cool your feet from the hot Yogyakarta sun.
Although it sounds like a freakin harem (which it is), as I glimpse through the bar window of the Sultan’s quarters, I can’t help but imagine the amount of beauty he saw. Through that particular window he saw beautiful and possibly naked Javanese women playing with water and bathing. In the background was the sound of water trickling from the fountains and children laughing in the short distance. Exotic!
Within the complex there was also a building to wash the Keris. It was pretty mystical since the rooms were dark, and knowing that Keris are sacred artifacts there must have been a lot of rituals and mystical beings floating around. I totally believe in those stuff, by the way. This particular area is said to be where the Sultan did a lot of his meditation. Not far, is a room where he communicated and ‘communicated’ with the south sea queen, Nyi Roro Kidul. He was the queen’s favorite Sultan/King and it is said that this bond is maintained till current days.
Last but not least, is my favorite place, the Sumur Gumuling that functions as the Sultans mushalla or Islamic praying room. There are many pictures of this place but I have failed to notice that this was where the Sultan met his maker (he was a Muslim, hence bows to Allah). What’s interesting about this area is that it is round. If it was fully packed with Moslems praying, it wouldn’t be efficient considering the praying mats are square. But the Sultan’s philosophy of life being a full circle, as told by Pak Hanif our guide, was the reason why he designed it as so. Beneath the meeting stairs is the well where water never seized to flow and where people cleaned themselves with wudlu . It is now blocked since the mushalla is no longer used. In the west corner, was a small room for the imam or prayer leader. Wow, look at that, you just learned a few stuff about Islam. And to top it all, you had to access it through these long tunnels, adding the ambience of being secluded.
For the video, Abud and I shot a running sequence doing a full lapse. For some reason, I totally forgot that it was the house of God that I was running around in. I was like a kid on Ramadhan during the night prayer. How old am I?
Vira: you wan’t me to tell you? Really?
Mumun: Shut up Vira!
Around the Ngasem area, near Taman Sari, there are a lot of batik shops selling you cheap but good quality prints of this local art. As they are ready for tourism, you could just stroll in to a shop and have the people help you with your purchase. But that wasn’t why we were there. We decided that we needed to get some footage of batik making. What is Indonesia if not a dash of batik?
We took a becak ride and surrendered to the driver to take us to a shop where we could see the making of batik. Believe me, there’s a lot! We randomly chose a store, which had a few choices of batik workshops. I’ve done this before, but I decided to do it again, right there in the local factory. I chose the IDR 50,000 workshop which took me to drawing my own pattern on 2 handkerchiefs, used the canting to apply wax, dyed it blue, and express package it. Dya’ like?
Abud ran around the factory, getting stunning images while I stayed focus on my art. On a huge table, the owner looked concentrated, printing batik pattern. I hesitated to bother him but he didn’t mind me asking a few questions. He even threw me a few smiles showing me he was a true businessman, appreciating every customer that came in. His helpers were no less friendly. Making the short experience one I would do again.
It is the sunset strip of Yogyakarta. So famous and packed! But it’s still as charming as I’ve always known it. Modern, but still smells of tradition.
It was like any other day on Malioboro. Crowded, it was filled with street vendors, becaks, delman (horse pulled rickshaw) and people. On one lag of the street, there was a topeng monyet or monkey circus. If you happen to see this and you’re a hardcore animal lover, walk away!
During our visit, the royal wedding was about to commence. We were a few days early but predictably the buzz was bee’ing! So we wanted to catch a glimpse of the commotion. On the day we tore this infamous street, the rehearsal party just came out to rehearse. We waited for the rehearsal party to pass and head back to the palace. The fairytales were true; there were good looking princes on horseback. There were also mean-looking women of the palace in carriages. I bet the witch and mean stepmothers were true too. I was happy enough to see big healthy horses compared to the smaller ones on the street.
After all of this, we still haven’t seen all of Yogyakarta’s main attaction. This city is unbelievable. It offers so much. It’s a testimony that tradtion still attracts people to come and visit. And we will again, one day!
What is Yogyakarta without Gudeg? Incomplete!
Gudeg is a famous dish of Yogyakarta, made of sweet marinated young jackfruit, accompanied with cow skin and eaten with rice. Don’t be surprised if it’s a lot sweeter than your expectation, or you probably didn’t expect it to be sweet at all considering it’s a main course meal. Javanese are known to like their dishes sweet.
The Wijilan area is the place to find Gudeg. Gated by a thick wall, you can find Gudeg along the street. Abud recommended this area and Yu Jum Gudeg for that matter. You might find some open 24 hours a day. So it’s Gudeg anytime you want :D.
Gudeg Yu Jum isn’t hard to find. You will eat it lesehan style, or sitting on the floor. You will be given a choice of side dishes from chicken, egg, organs, and almost anything related with chicken. You can also choose to eat the krecek or cow skin, which is an adventure itself being jelly like, and stack up on chili paste.
A portion of Gudeg is about IDR 20,000 / person.
If you like, no wait… love mushrooms, you can eat up and die here. Almost everything in their menu is made of mushroom. The difference is the sauces and ways of cooking. They have peanut sauce, super hot sauce, sweet sour sauce, and more. They fry it, boil it, steam it, grill it, and almost anything to a mushroom. Although it’s mostly only a range of Indonesian sauces and ways of cooking, there are so many of choices on the menu. We were much-shroomed!
Jl. Magelang Km. 11. Turn right at Beran Lor intersection and drive another 800 m.
As Yogyakarta is well known as the place for the young and creative to gather and do their thang, cafés and coffee shops area spread like dust in an abandoned house ready toaccomodate this generation of creators. It’s everywhere! As Vira wanted to catch up with an old friend, we decided to meet up at the coffee shop called Semesta, not far from the Tugu train station.
It provides good cheap-tasting coffee and snacks, and open 24 hours. A promising future for the creative from Yogyakarta!
Semesta Coffee Shop
Jl. Abu Bakar Ali No. 2
It’s just a necessary repetition. STREET FOOD IS GOOD! I’m a sucker for it. I don’t eat as much just to keep my err… current figure. I didn’t say I was thin either!
I tried on the fried Lunpia or spring roll at a random vendor. It looked crowded so I decided to see what the fuss was about. I was drooling once I saw they spread a layer of minced garlic on the rolls skin. Never tried it like that before. I do like me-self some garlic, and have loved the minced version ever since my trip to Semarang. So I’m all for it, and I never looked back. Man, was it good!
The trip was actually based on Vira’s wanting to visit this particular homestay. She has this err… dream which I can not spoil. Anyways, I agreed to to stay here since it’s a budget accommodation and according to its website, it looks pretty darn cozy.
Thing is, it’s a famous accommodation amongst foreign travelers. Upon our stay, the standard rooms were filled, mostly by long term travelers or international exchange students. So we had to take the VIP room, which was still a bargain though. Abud got there first and I thought he was kidding when he said that the room was a 5 star quality room. But it was true! Most utterly spacious, with a huge modern sunlit bathroom and huge paintings. The bed was heaven, AC, cable TV, fridge, and a wooden desk. And guess what? It only cost us IDR 250,000 /room with IDR 40,000 for the extra bed, breakfast not included. Such a bargain for such a great room!
The location isn’t so near to most of touristy areas, but still it’s very helpful. Although situated within a local settlement, a car can fit easily amongst the alleys. There is space for your rented motorcycle and bikes. And if you’re the public-transportation type, the homestay is within walking distance from the main roads where you can get to anywhere by bus, becak , and ojeg. There are also Trans Yogya bus stops in front of one of the access alleys to the Tiga Lima Homestay.
Jl. Affandi (previously Jl. Gejayan), Kepuh GK III/946 – Yogyakarta 55222
(enter from beside Elok Supermarket on Jl. Gejayan).
I really like traveling with trains. There’s a sense of heading somewhere different and the enthusiasm builds up along with the time taken on the train. I decided to take the train to Yogyakarta eventhough the prices aren’t that much of a difference by plane.
I took the Gajayana train from Gambir station, Jakarta. This executive night train has the works, it’s neat, crisp and really cold for a tropical girl like me. The train departs at 5 pm and arrives at Yogyakarta at 2 am. Although there are a few becaksand ojegs to help you at this time, they would probably charge more than daytime services. Be prepared to add a little more to your travel plans.
You check the train schedule here.
Air Asia has direct routes to Yogyakarta from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Jakarta. I’m not sure if other airlines do too. But if you’re flying from within Indonesia, you’ll have so many options as Yogyakarta is one of the busiest cities in the country. Garuda Indonesia, Lion Air, Batavia Air, you name it.
A return flight from and to Jakarta cost IDR 450,000, purchased a few months in advance.
Yogyakarta is a travelfriendly city. The city centers around the Keraton and places of interests are just a walk away. But take a becak ride right in the middle of the city that still embraces it! With narrow alleys and destinations that does not have paid parking service, becak is the way to go.
We often remind you to be considerate when haggling for the fare. Remember your weight, you luggage, and distance should all take in to account. That diet doesn’t seem so bad now, especially if you’re a budget traveler.