While Borobudur Temple is the main reason tourists travel to Yogyakarta, the city itself is worth exploring with its historical landmarks, sights linked to the royal family and last but not least, shopping :).
It was converted into a museum in 1992 which showcases historical objects, photos from a bygone era, replicas and diorama depicting the Indonesians road to independence from the Dutch. It’s worth the IDR2,000 entrance fee and spending an hour or two here for a little history lesson of the country and the city.
Another historical landmark of Yogyakarta is the Tugu Monument. The well-known white tower is located at the intersection of Jenderal Sudirman street and Mangkubumi street. Built by Hamengkubuwana I, the first Sultan of Yogyakarta, the monument forms a straight line that connects the southern ocean, Kraton Yogyakarta and Mount Merapi.
Yogyakarta used to be ruled by the Javanese Sultanate until Indonesia attained independence. While no longer ruling Yogyakarta, the Sultan of Yogyakarta is automatically the governor of the region. The royal family is still much revered and love by the people here. He and his family still reside in The Kraton, a huge walled city that houses a palace complex, houses of the palace workers, schools, mosques, cottage industries, shops and markets.
The sprawling palace complex is made up of several pavilions, spacious courtyards and buildings with traditional Javanese architecture. European style touches can also be seen in some of the buildings.
The Kraton is still used for official functions and political meetings. It is also a living museum where visitors get to experience the Javanese culture and the royal family’s treasures, antiques and heirlooms are exhibited in the many buildings within the palace complex.
From the Kraton, we walked a short distance to the Carriage Museum which showcases 23 horse drawn carriages of the royal family. Most of these carriages are imported from Netherlands during the reign of Sri Sultan Hamengkubowono VIII.
While most of these carriages are no longer used, some are still being used for special events such as the coronation ceremony. There is even a hearse carriage that is used during funerals.
The last stop on our royal tour is the Water Castle (Taman Sari). Though part of the Kraton Complex, a separate entrance fee of IDR15,000 per pax is charged for a visit here.
Built by the first Sultan in 1765 as a royal garden and one of the bathing pools is dedicated to his harem. Today, only the bathing pool complex is restored. The Sultan is said to take a peek from a tower overlooking the pool to pick out his favourite to join him in his own private pool.
We also explored the underground passages that were once used as an escape route for the royal family and walked around Kampung Taman Sari, a small village inhabited by descendents of the Sultan’s servants.
For some retail therapy, head to Malioboro Street (Jalan Malioboro), the shopping district and the most happening area of the city. This 2km stretch has everything from small roadside food stalls to restaurants, traditional batik boutiques to Yogya made cotton T-shirt shops, local handicrafts stores to cheap souvenirs stalls.
For bargain hunters and something different, head to Pasar Beringharjo or Beringharjo Marketplace. This massive market complex offer a wide range of merchandise such as traditional snacks, Javanese herbs and spices, fresh vegetables and fruits, complete collection of batik, antiques, shoes and bags. On the ground floor, there are stalls trading in gold as well.
So if you are planning a visit to Yogyakarta, make sure you stay a few days not only to visit the famed temples but also to explore the city itself.