Travelling is a luxury very few people can resist. Sometimes everyday life becomes mundane, and you need a break, to revive both your mental and physical energy.
Indonesia is a country famous for its cultural heritage, myriad temples, batik, spices, and of course the lovely beaches. It also provides some of the best resorts in Asia, and the service quality is nothing short of excellent. I recently visited Yogyakarta, the seat of Javanese culture, and had one of the best holidays of my life.
Yogyakarta has a host of hotels and resorts to suit your palette and budget. You can stay comfortably on a budget, or splurge on some of the best resort chains. Hyatt Yogyakarta is an absolute gem, if you are travelling with family. We stayed for a few days in Hyatt and a few days in Grand Aston, to experience the best of both resort style and city hotel accommodation. Most hotels provide a free breakfast buffet, so you can fill up your tummy before you start your day during your vacation. In my travels in Asia, Europe and USA, I have noticed that hotels in south-east Asia, have invariably the best breakfast buffets, with huge spreads of continental, western and Asian choices.
Yogyakarta boasts of several ancient temples, traditional palaces, and cultural arts and crafts. It is also home to the active volcano Mount Merapi, and the state Universities with huge campuses.
Our first day in Yogyakarta started with the visit to the Hindu temple Prambanan, which is dedicated to Trimurti and was built in the 9th century AD. It is a Unesco World Heritage site, and originally contained 240 temples in the temple complex. It is advisable to hire a car for the day for the temple tour, as it takes quite some time, to see the entire complex. There is also a wonderful playground with a small choo-choo train in the temple complex, to keep the kids busy. The walk from the ticket counter to the main temple is short. If you want to see the entire temple complex, and are tired of walking, there is a free train ride that will take you across the entire complex. On the way out, there is an expansive market, selling cheap and beautiful tourist artifacts, and batik. Remember to bargain about 200 to 300% less than the price quoted. We had a late lunch at one of the local traditional restaurants nearby. The food was delicious and the surroundings were stunningly rural, and peaceful. We also managed to see the Ramayana ballet at the temple complex in the evening. The performance was memorable, with delicate dance steps, and beautiful costumes and music to match. It is certainly not be missed if you like watching dance dramas. For our second day, we planned a visit to the Borobudur temple, and we booked the same taxi services. Booking a cab tour company is easy and affordable. You can ask at the hotel concierge for reliable cab services. Taxi and cab services in Yogyakarta are mostly reliable, so you can relax.
The most important temple in Yogyakarta is the Borobudur temple. It is a 9th century Mahayana Buddhist temple, and has stunning architecture. The temple also demonstrates the influences of Gupta art that reflects India’s influence on the region. Borobudur has the largest and most complete ensemble of Buddhist reliefs in the world. There are a significant number of steps to climb in this temple, to see it entirely, so remember to wear comfortable shoes and clothes.
On our third day we decided to see the Candi Sambisari and the Candi Plaosan temples. We hired the same taxi services again, and carried some snacks and fruits for lunch, as we had been eating too much for the last few days. Yogyakarta has several ancient temples, and all of them are unique, beautiful, and worth to be seen. In addition to Borobudur and Prambanan, also worthwhile to see are Mendut, Pawon, Sambisari and Plaosan temple.
In addition to the Hindu and Buddhist history, Yogyakarta also boasts of its more recent history. Some buildings of outstanding beauty that can be visited are, the Kraton Complex, Kota Gede, TamanSari and Tugu monument.
On our fourth day we visited the Kraton complex and the Taman Sari castle. This time we just hired a taxi outside our hotel. The Kraton is the Royal Complex of the Sultan. It is impressive, and has a beautiful architecture. The Taman sari water castle, is the former royal garden of the sultan, it is well preserved and has a beautiful garden with lots of flowers, and huge bathing complexes.
On our fifth day, we visited Kota Gede and some other museums. Kota Gede is part of the old town, and contains the historic remains of the Islamic Mataram kingdom. It is renowned for silver artworks, and you can visit several shops, where you can watch the silversmiths at work.
After all the hectic sightseeing, in and around Yogyakarta for 5 days, we were absolutely exhausted, and decided to indulge in some spa. Spas in Yogja are affordable, and the service is excellent. Try to go for renowned spas or spas in your hotel, for guaranteed service and quality. Traditional Javanese massage consists of long firm strokes, and provides stress and muscle relief. After pampering ourselves with an invigorating spa and an absolutely delicious dinner at Kesuma, we were all charged for our next highlight of the holiday, Shopping!
If you are in Indonesia, try traditional Javanese food. It is packed with loads of flavor with rice as the staple in most dishes. Gado-Gado a traditional vegetable salad is a must try.
For shopping we first decided to go to the famous shopping street Maliaboro. We were absolutely spoiled with choices of clothes, mostly Batik, and souvenirs to carry back home. We brought several dresses, shirts and handbags.
There are several shopping spots in Yogyakarta, so if you want to shop well, you will need at least 2 to 3 days. Our next stop was Pasar Beringharjo. We were spoiled of choice, you can get almost everything here from batik to western clothes to electronics. But be sure to bargain hard. A good bargain will make your shopping budget even more expandable. The key is, if you quote a price, and the seller refuses, walk away, and if you get a call back, you were successful in getting a good bargain. Else, you know, you have reached the bottom price, and just quote a slightly higher price in the next shop for the same item.
Yogyakarta has several shopping malls, and supermarkets, were you can get a decent choice of everyday necessities, so remember to travel light. Also, clothes are cheap, so you may not need to carry a huge array of clothes. Plan your shopping such that you can enjoy wearing some of the batik clothes that you buy, while at your vacation.
We had been in Yogyakarta for 8 days now, and every single day was exciting, with new experiences. Our final stop was a trip to Mount Merapi. We travelled in an old jeep, up a mountain over rocky pathways, with stunning, unforgettable views of the volcanic countryside. There was a slight drizzle, and as we adjusted ourselves to the volcanic air, and the cool breeze, our tour guide explained to us the difficulties that the poor people in the volcanic countryside face on and everyday basis. This is an adventure trip you must not miss, more for understanding the power of Mother Nature than for anything else.
On the last day of our holiday, we decided to try the spa at the Grand Aston. It was absolutely heavenly, and the masseurs were so gentle, it was an absolute treat. We had a leisurely horse-cart ride across a beautiful traditional Indonesian village in the evening, another memorable experience. Villages in Indonesia are quaint and clean, and villagers are extremely friendly and welcoming to tourists. Thus ended our Yogyakarta trip, with our taste buds satisfied, our eagerness to see heritage satisfied, and our hunger for adventure satisfied. Our suitcases were loaded with beautiful batik and artifacts. We were ready to go back home.