Onward to Jakarta
Yogyakarta is a smallish city (by Indonesian standards) of some 500,000 odd people. Dubbed the 'City of Tolerance ' it is a plesant place to check out arts and crats (Batik and leatherwork are good here IF you know what you are looking for and don't mind haggling over prices).
The major tourist strip in Yogya is Jl. Sosrowijian and Gangs I and II which run off Sosrowijian towards the Tugu train station.
There is at least half a dozen losmen and hotels along Jl. Sosrowijian, and at least that number again hidden along Gangs I and II.
We stayed at Bladok Losmen and Restaurant (Jl. Sosrowijian, Ph 560452) where standard rooms with fan and mandi start at 66,000RP including government tax. The Losmen has friendly staff, a good sized pool and a restaurant serving good but expensive Indonesian and Western food.
Post, Internet and Banking
The main post office is located at the bottom of Jl. A. Yani, on the left hand side of the road before you cross the final intersection before the park.
There are a number of internet places scattered around the Jl. Sosrowijian area. The 'internet cafe' on Jl. Sosrowijian just before Gang II on the right hand side of the road has a reasonably quick connection with deacent equipment for 8,000RP/hr. You can also get a cheap breakfast and make international toll calls (but not local calls, there is a standard wartel further down Jl. Sosrowijain with good rates for local calls) for 7,000RP/min. Wizzkids internet cafe on Gang I appears to have shut up shop or the time being.
The appropriately named Internet Queen on Jl. Pasar Kembang appears to be the 'gay internet hangout' in the area. It has a wartel, a selection of snacks and drinks, comfy computer chairs and fast access for 6,000RP/hr. Take my word for it, you do not need to use the bathroom here.
The closest banks to Jl. Sosrowijian for exchanging traveller's cheques are BNI Bank on the corner of Jl. Malioboro and Jl. Trikora. BCA Bank is just across the rail line at the top of Jl. Malioboro on Jl. P Mangkubumi.
There are about 4 different ATMs located in and around the Malioboro Mall on Jl. Malioboro.
Reasonably cheap eats can be found en masse around Jl. Sosrowijian. The FM cafe on Jl. Sosrowijian does reasonably good Ayam Goreng for about 15,000RP, although it is lacking in atmosphere. Bedhot Cafe on Gang II does excellent curries, has several local specialities and does happy hour large Bintangs for 12,000RP between 5 and 7pm nightly. The atmosphere is excellent for relaxing and they have a great selection of travel books and magazines to check out.
Although slightly harder to locate, the small Sate / Mie stall at the back of the Beringharo Pasar on Jl. A Yani does some of the best Sate Ayam we had in Indonesia . The stall is on the ground floor in a corner at the rear of the spice market. Go through the fake batik section and walk around the wire fence exterior in an anti clockwise direction to find it. It is about the only place in the markert that has somewhere you can sit down. 20 tender, mouth watering and very large sate sticks, 4 serves of Es Jeruk, Coffee and Nasi came to 27,000RP.
The Mal Malioboro on the corner of Jl. Malioboro and Jl. Sosrokusuman sells pretty much everything you could want in the way of consumer goods, and is the largest mall in town.
Yogya is a good place to check out arts and crafts, but as anywhere else there are plenty of scams in operation.
Batik is one of the biggest sellers here, although telling real from fake takes a bit of expertise (which most people, myself included, lack). Fake Batik paintings can (apparently) sometimes be identified by a reluctance of the seller to immerse them in water and give them a light scrubbing (real batik paintings, made by a repeated waxing and boiling process) are completely impervious to warm or even boiling water. Stamped or printed paintings are not. Additionally, real handpainted batik will contain numerous imperfections in pattern and smaller imperfections in colour due to the hand manufacturing process.
That said, a number of operators have apparently become more sophisticated in faking Batik art, incorporating imperfections into their prints and using a permanent dying process, meaning that the 'wash and watch the colours run' test no longer works.
In addition to downright fake Batik, there are also a number of scams to get you to pay many time more than what you should for real batik. The classic 'large shipment leaving for Singapore tomorrow so you better buy now' scam appears to have been superceded by a new approach, which we fell for.
We attempted to visit the Kraton mid-afternoon, and saw from a distance that it was closed. We were then approached by a friendly guy who recommended that we try the Kraton again tomorrow morning, but said that if we had no plans for the afternoon (which we didn't) we should visit a government sponsored Batik Gallery that supported the work of students and help existing painters to develop new styles of painting.
Had he insisted on 'joining' us we may have been a little suspicious, but rather he pointed to a location on our map and sent us on our way via becak. In retrospect I can only guess that Indonesians, like the rest of the world, have embraced technology to an extent whereby a commission can now be arranged by sms.
We arrived at the 'Batik Art Group Gallery' (Jl. Kemetiran Kidul GT II/744), which is just off Jl. Joyonegran, a block west from Jl. Malioboro. Here we were met by someone preporting to be a student who showed us several people painting in Batik style, and told us a little about the history of Batik painting. He also took great pains to explain that this was a Government funded operation that used the profits from the sale of paintings to help develop the art form and train students. So far so good we thought.
Next, a so called 'master' Batik painter popped out to show us around, reaffirmed the role of the 'Government Gallery' in training new painters and explained the pricing schedule to us.
All of the paintings in the gallery were indexed from A to Z. An 'A' piece, which has little or no artistic merit (even to my untrained eye) sells for about 10,000RP. Think toddler with a paint brush. A 'Z' piece which looks pretty good (depending on your taste in art, and how much you know about Batik painting) sells for 1,000,000RP. The 'master' also took great pains to explain that as the Gallery was a 'Government funded Institute' the prices were fixed by the administrative committee that oversaw the operation, to protect both the buyers and the artists.
Had this not been such a slick, well run scam then I would be ashamed to admit that we were taken in by these guys. However as the guy that advised us to look at the gallery had no interest in 'showing us where it was', (which roughly equates to a cut of the profits), and the gallery had several young people painting, it seemed above board and we neglected to ask for some sort of government documents (which admittedly can be faked pretty easily).
I ended up getting a 550,000RP painting at a 'special Ramadan price' arranged for me at seemingly great pains by our new friend the master painter for 440,000RP. We left happy that we had picked up some real Batik (which we still believe it is) at a government sanctioned price.
Two days later we visited the tourist office on Jl. Malioboro to enquire about cultural dancing that evening. After a brief discussion with the tourist officer about what we had been doing in Yogya, several disquieting facts came to light.
1) There is, and never has been any Government support for Batik Painting in Yogya. There may be a Government funded 'Batik Research Centre' somewhere (ask at the tourist office) but apparently you cannot buy Batik there.
2) There is, and never has been, any officially (i.e. Government) licensed Batik retailers in Yogya. Any certificate with a Government seal hanging anywhere in a Batik store is most likely a license from the local government to operate a business (i.e. the toko that you get your toilet paper from and the rumah makan that dishes up your Nasi Campur also has one). These 'licenses' in no way endorse a business as a reputable or legal retailer of Batik paintings, sargongs, cod pieces or whatever.
3) That any list of fixed prices is set 'in stone' by a Government agency is completely untrue. The government doesn't care how much you pay for a Becak or a large Bintang. It certainly doesn't care how much you pay for Batik.
After a return to the visit (during which the 'master' made a very hasty exit out a side door) to the gallery we spent the best part of an hour expressing our displeasure to the gallery manager and got her to admit that no, the Gallery had nothing to do with the government, that no, the gallery was not in any way Government sanctioned, and no the laminated price lists were not set by a regulatory body. To cut a long story short we managed (much to the surprise of the tourist office staff the next day, who indicated that as far as they knew, we may just have been the first people ever to get money back off a Batik seller) to get 100,000RP and our choice of a second painting valued at 150,000RP.
The guys at the tourist office advised us that Batik 'ripoffs' were one of their major time consumers. They also said that a number of european language guide books (especially a certain French guide book to Indonesia ) claimed that the Batik Art Group was in fact a government-affiliated organisation.
As a VERY rough guide they said that for a Batik paiting by anyone other than someone who is exceptionally famous (both in Indonesia and internationally, and there aren't many of these guys and moreover they have their own galleries) is about 200,000RP for a 1m by 1m painting.
In the end we got off reasonably lightly, (getting burnt for about 100,000RP) but we were told of several 'horror stories' of people who had paid many millions of rupiah for paintings not worth much more than a good meal at a warung.
From my lay point of view I think the best approach is to not pay any more than you would be comfortable to part with should you find that the painting you've purchsed is a fake. If you are dead set on laying out more than a million rupiah or so for something special (and a lot of Batik artwork is very impressive) then at least go an do a google search for the artist in question before handing over the cash.
If the artist is as famous as the guys at the gallery claim then you should have no problem finding his or her name on the internet, maybe along with warnings on where or where not to buy his or her work and a price guide!
The Kraton is a large, sprawling settlement home to some 20,000 people partially enclosed by large walls at the bottom end of Jl. Malioboro.
Within the Kraton is the Sultans Palace, The Water Palace (Taman Sari), an underground mosque and a bird market.
The Sultans Palace
Although the Sultans Palace compound stretches from the grassy square at the bottom of Jl. A. Yani (Alun Alun) to the edge of Taman Sari, it is currently not possible to transverse the entire palace.
Entry to the ceremonial compound fronting Alun Alun is 2,000RP (plus a 1,000RP camera fee). This area is a decidedly uninteresting collection of two large courtyards containing covered ceremonial halls. The buildings are neither terribly impressive nor overly well maintained and we were at a loss to work out what you could possibly want to photograph. The large gateway leading through to the carpark outside the main palace compound is securely locked.
Unless you have a specific interest in plain looking ceremonial buildings or poorly maintained toilets then skip this area and head straight into the Kraton proper.
The Kraton is not terribly well signposted and is a bit of a maze. Take the road into the Kraton on the left side of the "Ceremonial Compound" as you cross the large square. Take the first left when you are in the Kraton proper (at the small coloured street map) walk down the narrow street then take a right hand turn at the T intersection and walk down past the small market on the left of the street until you hit a larger road. Turn right and follow this road until you hit the main enterance to the Sultans Palace.
The Sultans Palace is open from 8am to 2pm and admission is 7,500RP per person (1,000RP extra for a camera). Admission includes a free tour guide who will walk you as quickly as possibly through the various compounds and museums deovoted to the life of Sultans past and present. In retrospect the tour guide was more of a hassle than help, so feel free to ditch him or her and wander around at your own pace. The buildings are guilded and well maintained, and the museum exhibits are an interesting insight into the role of the Sultan in the post World War 2 conflict between the Javanese and the Dutch Colonial forces.
The main enterance to the restored bathing pools of Taman Sari is on Jl. Taman. Entry is 7,000RP per person (plus 1,000RP for a camera) and opening hours are 8am - 2pm daily. It is possible to get into Taman Sari via the maze of back alleys leading off the rear of the ruined walls of the 'unrestored' section of Taman Sari at the back of the bird market.
Taman Sari is reasonably interesting, although the renovation job makes it look more like part of the Playboy Mansion than a 250 year old palace. However, considering the Sultans original use for the place, this is probably quite fitting.
Taman Sari Ruins and Underground Mosque
The back alleys between the rear exit from the restored section of the water palace and the ruined walls bordering the bird market are a confusing array of alleys, houses and dead ends.
If carefully managed, this place actually this may actually be a good place to pick up a Batik Tout, which is what we did. We were 'possibly interested in looking at some Batik in a while, but needed to find the underground Mosque, the ruined walls and the bird market first.' Quicker than you could say 'ripoff' our latest new friend had offered to show us the quickest way to all of the places we wanted to go to.
Although this might be perceived as slightly dishonest behaviour, we felt that it was a case of 'when in Rome......' and although we suddenly had to head back to our hotel to make an urgent phone call home after the bird market, I did give the guy enough cash to buy a pack of cigarettes.
The underground mosque is small, renovated in the same style as the water palace (with a hint of Escher) but is quite interesting. The ruined walls of Taman Sari make for good views over the city, and are a cool place to take a breather before hitting the bird market.
The Bird Market
Especially busy on Sundays, the bird market at the edge of Taman Sari holds an impressive collection of birds of all sizes and colours (especially the small green and pinkdyed chickens). You can also pick up an interesting selection of live bird food (maggots and roaches) by the kilo, possums, bats, puppies and small kittens that strangely resemble wild cats.
Without a doubt is the snake store selling all manner of constrictor pythons, and the guys are more than happy to drape you in as many large snakes as you like. Especially impressive is the 5+metre, 80kg python living in the ceramic trough at the back of the shop. Ask nicely and the shop guys will bring him out for a play (although you may want to check he's recently eaten one of his five monthly chickens). Having an especially bad day was the small white and brown hamster huddled in the corner of one cage desperately trying not to wake up its large (and assumedly fairly hungry) 10ft long cage mate.
Candi Prambanan is a large Hindu termple complex 17km east of Yogyakarta on the main road to Solo.
The tourism operators along Jl. Sosrowijian offer return tickets to Prambanan for 40,000RP. They leave at 5am and return to your hotel at about 9am, giving you about two and a bit hours to explore the temple complex.
As we wished to tour the temple at our own pace, and not leave at 5am (sunrises / sunsets aren't overly impressive in October due to the frequest heavy cloud) we took a taxi from Jl. Malioboro to Prambanan at a cost of 43,000RP.
Entry to Prambanan is 100,000RP or 60,000RP if you have a student ID card. The main Prambanan complex consists of the impressive Candi Shiva, and the smaller, comparitively dilipadated Candi Bubrah and Candi Sewu a short walk to the north.
Candi Shiva consists of a central courtyard surrounded by a large number of smaller ruined Candi. In the Candi Shiva courtyard are temples dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma, as well as smaller shrines dedicated to the creatures these three deities are supposed to have used as transport. The large bust of the bull Nandi is especially impressive. If you want to get good photos inside the Chandi sanctuaries bring a tripod for your camera.
Upon exiting the temple you find a museum with an interesting video explaining the Rama and Sita reliefs on the temples and the restoration of the site. From here you can walk to the two smaller northern temples or head back to the village of Prambanan for lunch.
There are a number of smaller temples scattered around the area. We took a plesant walk to the hilltop Kraton Ratu Boko, only to find that admision to this slightly restored site was another 100,000. If you've got lots of cash to burn the views from the top of the hill are probably quite nice. If, like us, you don't then save your cash for Borobodur and head back to Yogyakarta .
We headed out to the main road and flagged down one of the many bemo's that travel along this route for a ride back into town, which cost 5,000RP per person. The bemo will drop you off a few kilometers from Jl. Malioboro so you can either walk or grab a taxi for 15,000RP.
Candi Borobodur is justifiably one of Java's premier tourist destinations.
Tourist operators on Jl. Sosrowijian offer return tickets to Borobodur for 40,000RP leaving at 5am and returning at 9am . This gives you about 2 hours (the first of which is in near darkness) to explore this massive, highly ornate complex.
We walked out to Jl. Joyonegaran and took a number 5 bus to Jombor Bus Station for 5,000RP. The bus takes about 15 minutes and terminates at the station. From here you take a public bus to Borobodur. Buses depart approximately every half a hour from early in the morning to mid afternoon. The 40 km trip takes a little under an hour and costs 10,000RP per person. The bus terminates at Borobodur Bus Terminal, which is also where you catch a bus back to Yogyakarta .
From the terminal walk through the row of hawker stalls out onto Jl. Badrawati. Turn left and walk to 1km to the park enterance on the right hand side of the road.
Enterance to the park costs 110,000RP (or 70,000RP if you have a student ID card). You need to go to the shiny, glass and steel walk in ticket area, not the humble booths that sell local tickets for 7,000RP.
Before you head over to the temple proper, you may want to consider watching the 40 minute video presentation for 5,000RP per person. If you like to look around without a guide hustling you about the place the video provides an interesting introduction to the symbolism behind the ornate reliefs on the temple galleries, and into the restoration of the temple itself. Guides are available for 40,000RP for an hour, although you can negotiate a lower price if you are on a budget.
Look out for the reliefs depicting the monkey teasing the bull, the turtle saving the sailors from the sea monster, and the eagle saving the deer from the lion. The view from the top is very plesant and the current lack of visitors makes for a very peaceful visit to a spectacular temple.
If you have time (and energy, to follow each of the four story reliefs on the lowermost gallery involves a little over 3km of walking) there is several museums you can visit.
To get back to Yogyakarta , head back to the bus station where buses again depart every half an hour until about 4.30pm in the afternoon. The price is 10,000RP per person. From Jombor terminal you can either take a bus back towards Jl. Malioboro, or (if you are as tired as we were) grab a cab for about 15,000RP.
Onward to Jakarta
There are a number of trains that make the run between Yogya and Jakarta each day, which is how we made the trip.
Taking a train has a number of advantages over bus travel. Apart from being more comfortable and decidedly less dangerous, both the Tugu Station in Yogyakarta, and Gambir Station in Jakarta are 5 minutes walk from the backpacker ghetto's (Jl. Sosrowijian and Jl. Jaksa, respectively). The long distance bus stations in Yogyakarta and ESPECIALLY in Jakarta are a long way from where you are likely to stay, adding both unnecessary cost and travel time to your journey. For example, a taxi from Kampung Rambutan terminal in Jakarta to Jl. Jaksa (18km) will cost anywhere between 50 and 65,000RP and may take as long as 40 minuetes depending on traffic.
We took the Bima train from Yogyakarta to Jakarta . An executive class seat costs 170,000RP (140,000RP outside of Ramadan) and includes a very comfortable allocated reclining chair, aircon, blanket and pillow and a small meal. The trip takes about 7 - 8 hours with the train scheduled to leave Yogya at 9.47pm and arrive at Gambir Station at 5.15am .
There are cheaper business class (and probably economy if you are especially hardy) trains that run throughout the day, but unless you want to check out the scenery the night train is fast and comfortable, and also saves you the cost of a night's accommodation. Tickets can be booked on the day from the ticket booths at the end of the main Tugu concourse, or for advanced purchases walk along Jl. Pasar Kembang until you find the smaller enterance to the train station on your right. The booking office is immediately on your right when you pass through the boom gate and they do not accept credit cards.
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