Jakarta has the skyscrapers and the nouveau riche, Bali has the beaches, and Bandung has its cool air and colonial elegance.
Jogja has its relaxed Javanese vibes.
Yogyakarta (formal name for Jogja) is about 2.5 hours away from KL, which makes it a perfect escape for those who want to get away from it all. The city is also the gateway to Borobudur and Prambanan – two of the most significant religious structures in Southeast Asia.
This is a city that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Yogyakarta Special Region is the only region that still retains its pre-colonial hereditary monarchy. Members of the royal family and the aristocracy live in the Kraton precinct, a large inner city neighbourhood that is characterised with its beautiful heritage villas and quiet, leafy streets. Some of these homes have been turned into AirBnB accommodations, and we stayed in one of them.
Our villa has a magnificent living room, complete with antique furnitures and intricate ornaments. There’s even a dais in the middle of the room! Quite extra, but I loved it. There are several rooms, and we rented two of them, for about RM200/night each. More expensive than an average AirBnB in the city, but definitely worth the experience. There’s a small swimming pool where you can cool down after a long day of exploring Borobudur too.
Jogja’s Royal Palace is also worth a visit. The palace itself isn’t very big and ostentatious, but it’s worth checking out. Its architecture shows a mix between Javanese and European influences, with a sprawling ground where you can relax in a wooden gazebo.
Outside the palace is Taman Sari, a royal bathing ground built in the mid-18th century. The Sultan went to Batavia, and took inspiration from the European architectural styles to design Taman Sari’s centrepiece – the pink walled bathing ground.
Affandi (1907-1990), a famous Indonesian artist, called Jogja his home. His most iconic works are displayed in Museum Affandi, about 15 minutes drive from Jogja’s centre.
Jogja’s high street, Jalan Maliboro is the commercial heart of the city. It’s a popular shopping belt, with many batik shops, department stores and fast food restaurants. There are also large tents, where hawkers whip up gorengan and other popular street fares. Hamzah Batik is a huge store that sells Javanese traditional fashion and batik….lots of batik and they’re really cheap. The store is owned by Raminten, a transgender figure who also opens a restaurant (House of Raminten) in the city. There are even drag shows during dinnertime, but you have to come early as you might have to queue.
Javanese coffee culture
The Javanese people love their coffee, and Jogja has a vibrant coffee culture to boot. Ada Apa Dengan Cinta 2 was shot in this city, featuring some of Jogja’s famous attractions. While the famous Dr. Kopi cafe shown in the movie is located about 30 minutes out of town, you don’t have to go that far as good cafes are aplenty in Jogja’s centre.
Ruang Seduh is one of my favourites. It’s small, bright, quiet (but not empty), and very stylish. The cafe is also located on Jalan Tirtodipuran, which is lined with nice little art shops and good restaurants. Perfect for an after-coffee stroll.
Also on the same street is Bu Ageng. Yummy local cuisines in a nice traditional setting.
Getting around Jogja is easy. The traffic isn’t half as crazy as in Jakarta, and taxis are plentiful. But the best way to get around Jogja’s narrow streets and alleyways is Go-Jek. The motorcycle taxis are everywhere and they are really cheap too!