Yogyakarta- yes I have spelt this city correctly- is in Central Java. It is one of the biggest cities ( population of about 1.6 million and growing) in Java with numerous transport options to further afield; planes, trains and buses.
Where Jakarta has lost its ‘soul’ due to rapid development, Yogyakarta has kept it with its traditional customs seen everywhere.
The development of Yogyakarta revolves around the kraton. This is the sultan’s palace which was first built in 1755 by Prince Mangkubumi and since then has been occupied by subsequent sultanas of Yogyakarta (even today it is still solace of residence). You can easily visit the Kraton to view some classic Javanese architecture, view some royal treasures and gamelan instruments.
Whilst we were there we were able to watch some performances of classic Javanese ballet which were being held in the courtyard. These change daily and often occur in the morning from around 10am, so make sure that you don’t miss it! Alternatively there are evening performances of the ballet and puppets around the city to see.
When visiting the kraton make sure that you choose the official entrance, costing 12,500 Rp. A scam which some people often fall for is to enter by the ‘side entrance’ which is basically just a courtyard and nothing more. The price is the clear indicator to know if you are in the right place, but also you should pass a large clock before the ticket office.
Make sure that when you visit your shoulders and knees are covered as a sign of respect. And if you bring a camera it will cost an extra 1000Rp.
Around the kraton there are a few museums such as Sono- Budoyo or Kareta Kraton which hold artefacts that honour the history of Java and Yogyakarta as well as a night fairground full of small rides, street food and clothes stalls.
If you want to see a real market head slightly North of the kraton to Malioboro road where you can find Beringharjo market. Here you can buy what is know as bakit clothing, which is at its cheapest here.
The fun/ annoyance of Yogyakarta is its traffic. Transport options line the street for people to ride across the city. Anything from horse drawn carriages, motor or cycled becak, motorbikes and Trans Jogjas. Becaks are a great way to see the city, but take my advice and get a motor one, otherwise you will be sitting there for most of the day.
Trans Jogja is the modern air conditioned mode of transport which runs efficiently around the city. The routes are well mapped out and can take you to most places you want to see from 6am- 10pm, for a set rate- even to and from the airport. You can catch numerous buses and if you don’t leave the bus terminal it wouldn’t cost you any more.
Don’t worry if you are ever lost everyone wants to help so just have a piece of paper with the destination on and you will be fine.
Not that tourism is big in Yogyakarta at the moment, but the few tour operators in the city offer sunrise or day trips to Borobudur and Prambanan. The former is the largest temple in the world and often compared to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. As it is the start of the rainy season, sunrise is a hit or miss and getting up for 4 am was never going to be tempting and was also advised it wasn’t worth the chance.
Prices on the tours include transport, but not the entrance fee. So we decided to take the cheaper option-taking Yogyakarta public transport instead. This may take a bit longer, but it is possible to do. It is still best not to leave it to late in the day, as Borobudur and the buses will become busier and hotter.