If Jakarta is the economic center of Indonesia, Yogyakarta is the heart and soul. There are few cities in Indonesia where culture is so active as in Yogya. In April 2010 I visited Yogya for the second time after 18 years, this time on bicycle.
I came from Prambanan, a reasonable busy, but not too busy road. On crossroads there was street entertainment and sad views of guys letting monkeys do their little tricks for a few rupiahs.
It was all very easy to follow directions. I passed the Kraton, found my way to an area where I was told there were some hotels to check out (Jalan Paratritis) and was on time to stay dry. When I checked in, the rain started to pour down.
My plan was to stay a few days in Yogya to visit some places I had seen before but wanted to see again. During my previous visit I had been to a music university outside the city center where students had been practicing all traditional instruments. This time I would skip that but wanted to visit Parangtritis, the beach resort area of Yogya. Of course I wanted to see more about the city center, Kraton, Fort Vredeburg, Waterpalace and some other place.
Some say Yogyakarta is great to get a bicycle and go around but I found it nicer to walk. Thus the next day I walked into the city center. As it was Sunday and many had their day off, it was busier around the market area. And inside Vredenburg that was even more clear where there were plenty of festivities going on.
Transport is still for a large part in the hands of becaks and horse carts personal transport goes by motorbike. A seemingly endless row of both could be found at Jalan Malioboro, the heart of Yogya. It was all too busy for me, so I found a small restaurant and had a meal while watching the crowds passing by.
I spend some time here, looked at some batik but it was way too busy. So I walked into a side street and went to the Kraton area. This is an amazing area, small streets it was all peace quietness, despite being only minutes away from Jalan Malioboro. It still has a kampong atmosphere.
While I wandered around I finally reached the bird market where a band played Bob Marley's Redemption Song. Here I saw not only birds, but all kinds of animals, from rabbits to lizards, from squirrels to cats and even fish. One can only hope these animals do not all end up in the pot.
I wandered further through small streets with little shops, small art galleries and becaks passing by. I went to the Watercastle back to the fortified Kraton walls south of the palace. Yogya has plenty further to visit, museums, zoo, festivals etc. but some of the main sites are outside the city itself. Prambanan and Borobudur can be visited as day trips but I went first to Parangtritis as I had already been to Prambanan. It was not far, about 20 km or so. Here's the story.
Accommodation in Yogyakarta
Plenty of accommodation in Yogya. There are two areas popular with travelers: 1. Sosrowijayan and 2 Prawirotaman. The Sosrowijayan area is located north of Jalan Malioboro, near the train station. This area has primarily budget accommodation.
The Prawirotaman is located south of the Kraton. Here you find budget accommodation too but also some of the mid range hotels.
Bicycle shops in Yogya
I have not found a bike shop in Yogya as Rukun Makmur in Solo. Still, there are several basic bicycle shops on Jalan Brigjen Katamso including Wim Cycle which is not bad.
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The back road to the Borobudur
Few people realize you can easily skip the main road and cycle all the way through the back roads to Borobudur. Here's how to cycle:
Prambanan, Plaosan & Ratu Boko
To me, Prambanan is one of the wonders of Indonesia, if not one of the wonders of all Asia.
An interesting day out of Yogya can lead to Parangtritis Beach, about 20 km south of the city. The beach is full of legends of the Queen of the South Sea. It's a nice day out of town.
The Dieng Plateau does not get the visitors the area deserves to see. There are several small temples to visit. This plus the magnificent scenery and lakes make the plateau a well spend day out of Yogyakarta.