Day 31-32: Yogyakarta and Bandung

Yogyakarta (pronounced Jogjakarta) is the arts and cultural heart of Java. It is a sultanate and the Sultan Hamengkubuwono X still lives at the Royal Palace or Kraton.

From a TripSavvy article: “The city itself grew out from the Kraton since its founding, and today the palace serves many functions: the home of the Sultan, a center for Javanese performing arts, and a living museum that glorifies both contemporary Indonesian history and the royal line of Yogyakarta.”

“Visitors expecting grandeur on the scale of the Vatican or the Buckingham Palace will be disappointed – the low-slung buildings in the Kraton do not inspire much awe. But every building, artifact and artwork holds deep significance for the Sultanate …”

The Yogyarkarta Kraton

The Kraton had a lot of old photos of the sultan’s life and his possessions. And as the article mentions, the palace is underwhelming but interesting.

There are daily performances at the Kraton and we came on a day where they were performing gamelan. It was surprising to see so many female musicians as I’ve only ever seen a mostly male ensemble. Have a listen by playing the video below.

After visiting the Kraton, we hopped on a becak to get around. It was a good way to feel part of the scenery instead of feeling closed off in a taxi. Since there’s really only room for two people in a becak (although we have seen three people and their shopping), we took two of them.

All manner of transport shared the road.
Including this horse and cart.
Elina enjoying the ride.

Wayang kulit (shadown puppets)

Within the walls of the Kraton complex are many artists and performers. We visited a wayan kulit (shadow puppet) maker.

This man thoroughly explained the different meanings and significance of each part of the puppet’s design. It was quite complex but overall it sounded to me like there had to be a balance between good and bad, vice and virtue, male and female to create harmony in life and the universe.
Wayan kulit is most often made of water buffalo leather.
These puppets are made of wood and cloth.
We fell in love with this Tree of Life wayang kulit and bought it directly from the artist. He explained that you have to practice doing other puppets first for several years (13 years in his case) before attempting the Tree of Life design.

Mt Merapi volcano

Mt Merapi is a mere 30km from Yogyakarta. The last violent eruption by the volcano killed 353 people in 2010. Merapi is the most active volcano in Indonesia, regularly erupting since 1548. So of course we went to have a closer look.

We left pretty early in the morning and travelled in a jeep over a very rocky, black road riddled with huge craters where lava once flowed, in the hopes of seeing the sun rise over Mt Merapi.

But it wasn’t to be. The night before it had rained and in the morning, it was drizzling and cold and clouds covered the view of the volcano.

I’m sure this sign means something like: “Warning, volcano can erupt at any time. Do not park here.”
Elina in the doorway of the bunker on Mount Merapi. Note the thickness of the door. Two volunteers who were helping evacuate a nearby village during the 2006 eruption fled here just before the bunker was covered by a pyroclastic flow to a depth of two metres. Their bodies were dug out three days later. They died of burns. Photo and caption by Paul
Yogyakarta is somewhere down there…
“Alien rock” was spewed out by Merapi. Can you see a face?
The macabre “museum” of the 2010 eruption. The operators of this site actually used to live here before the volcano destroyed their house. I guess that’s their dead livestock out front; there were photos of severely burnt cows and other animals inside.
Rough translation: The time when Merapi erupted.
Rough translation: Everything is completely gone/finished.

Our guesthouse

I wanted to mention that the staff at Monginsidi Guesthouse were super helpful in arranging a driver to go to Borobudur and also the tour around Mt Merapi.

Our room was just through the white door and we sat at this table for our breakfast each morning, which was included.
There was a fish pond just outside our suite and Elina the animal tamer couldn’t resist saying hello to this teeny frog.

Train to Bandung

After our morning on Mt Merapi, we were on the train to Bandung. Because it was so late in the evening when we arrived in Bandung, I couldn’t take any photos of the amazing sunset and landscape as we approached the city. The windows we were sitting at, unfortunately, were tinted so taking a good photo wasn’t going to happen. The train had a dining car and the food cart offering meals and drinks. It was a pretty comfortable way to travel.

We took a first class, air-con train to Bandung. It took about 8 hours and cost AUD $48 each.
On the way to Bandung.


Bandung is the capital of West Java and has “relatively” cooler tropical weather than the rest of Java because of its elevation. The city is also full of clothing and fashion factory outlets. We came because my cousin Marcel lives here. He’s the oldest brother to my cousins Michael and Megi.

We stayed at the Summerbird Hotel, a pretty funky boutique hotel near the Bandung train station. Breakfast was included and there was also all you can eat congee (rice porridge).

The first full day we had in Bandung, I caught up with fellow Canadian Wendy Bone. She and I completed Langara’s Journalism Diploma program way back in 1994. She’s been living in Indonesia for the past 12 years and her Bahasa is waaay better than mine! She’s written a book about palm oil production and its effects on the local people and wildlife (namely orang-utans) and is looking for a publisher.

It was so good to catch up with Wendy and ask her what life is like as an expat and also as someone who is married to an Indonesian Muslim.
Bandung has many art deco buildings.
The doorway to Bandung’s central mosque.
A leafy street.
There are a few food courts and we ate at this one with my cousin.
My cousin Marcel and his wife Yunni and their boys Cedric and Clifton.

Train to Jakarta

We took another first class air-con train to Jakarta, which took about 3 hours and costs about AUD $10 each

Rice terraces.
We went over several bridges.
Raised highway.
Rice fields are everywhere in Indonesia.