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.
Wayang kulit (shadown puppets)
Within the walls of the Kraton complex are many artists and performers. We visited a wayan kulit (shadow puppet) maker.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Train to Jakarta
We took another first class air-con train to Jakarta, which took about 3 hours and costs about AUD $10 each