The Relaxed Jogja

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.

The Kraton

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.

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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.

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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.

Taman Sari

Modern Jogja

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.

Affandi Museum

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.

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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.

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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!

Selfie on my Go-Jek. Don’t try this at home!



Borobudur, Prambanan and Jogja

I welcomed 2018 in Yogyakarta, a laid-back Javanese city known for its cafe culture, romantic little alleys and majestic Kraton (royal quarter).

Jogja itself is a perfect spot for a weekend getaway, with prices that are significantly lower than Bali or Jakarta, and well-preserved old quarter.

But most visitors come here for Borobudur and Prambanan – two spectacular religious sites that symbolise Java’s long history as the centre of the Buddhist and Hindu faiths.

These two sites are located about two hours away from Jogja, and the best way to get there is by arranging a driver (supir) to pick you up. You can get a supir to visit both sites for about RM200/day per car.

Built in the 9th century, Borobudur is located on a large, gently sloping hill overlooking Mount Merapi – a spectacular sight, especially early in the morning as the morning fog shrouds the horizon.

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To avoid crowd, come early. Borobudur doesn’t receive as many visitors as Angkor Wat, so it’s possible to find a spot where you can reflect and meditate on your own here.

Borobudur also has one of the largest collections of Buddhist reliefs in the world, and each of the reliefs represents a historical event.

Apart from warung and some hawkers peddling their trade outside the temple compound, there’s nothing much to eat at Borobudur, so bring your own food if you’re picky.

From Borobudur, we went to Prambanan, which is located on the other edge of Jogja.

Prambanan is a Hindu temple, dedicated to the Trimurti, the expression of God as the Creator (Brahma) the Preserver (Vishnu), and the Transformer (Shiva).

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The Prambanan structures are tall and pointed, characteristic of typical Hindu architecture – like the ones that we see in Brickfields.

The reliefs and sculptures at Prambanan are less weathered than in Borobudur, and the temple complex is surrounded by a vast expanse of paddy fields, instead of the more rugged surroundings that give Borobudur a more majestic look.

After exploring Borobudur and Prambanan, we headed to the hilltop Abhayagiri resort for lunch. It was a buffet lunch (RM90), and while the food is alright, the view from the terrace is stunning. You can see the sprawling Javanese villages with the imposing peak of Prambanan at its centre.

Also visible are the many minarets that dot the region; emblematic of Indonesia’s current Muslim-majority fabric.

The view from Abhayagiri

This, from a hilltop in Central Java. Well worth the trip.


Ten months after

I’m back!

Went on several trips since my last post last December. Had a wonderful trip in Jogja, where I spent a quiet moment of reflection in Borobudur and welcomed the new year in the city’s lowkey street party, explored India and attended a good friend’s wedding in Delhi, went to Bali for work, and more.

Will post some photos and travel reflections here. Stay tuned!