Immediately after landing in Yogyakarta, I could sense the relaxed vibe of the city. The area I stayed in had a backpacker feel, but walking a few blocks away you could escape from the more western oriented restaurants and bars. Visiting in March, it was during the rainy season, which I had not expected so I was surprised by massive downpours that flooded the streets. Throughout the city, there’s beautiful graffiti murals on buildings telling messages of love and creativity. Even during the scorching hot temperatures, I enjoyed wandering the streets and stopping into shops for food and refreshments.
On my first day, I visited a Batik textile factory where I created my own piece of Batik. The following day I visited Borobudur, one of the two famous temples outside of the city, and Kalibiru National Park. I explored the city of Yogya and visited Prambanan temple in the afternoon of my final day in Yogya.
Batik is a traditional Indonesian cloth design. It’s done by using wax to create patterns and then dying the fabric. At this Batik factory, I was able to watch people working on the various stages of making Batik clothing. I also created my own Batik square. First, I used a rubber stamp to stamp a floral pattern along the edges of the fabric with wax. Next, I traced a design with pencil on the center of the fabric and then went over the tracing with wax. A man dyed the fabric for me and put it through hot water to remove the wax. My biggest take away from creating a piece of Batik is that it’s a tedious and difficult task. The women who were using wax to make designs on the fabric have to be so patient and have an incredibly steady hand. The whole experience taught me a lot about the traditional methods of creating Batik and only cost 50,000 rupiah (less than $4).
Borobudur is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a Mahayana Buddhist temple mixed with some elements of Indonesian ancestor worship and was built in the 9th century with more recent restorations. It’s the world’s largest Buddhist temple, and even after visiting many Buddhist temples, the grandeur of Borobudur is legitimately breathtaking. I spent a few hours at the temple partly because a few local schools were visiting the temple on field trips, and so I ended up taking photos with nearly every student. Also, older Indonesian men wanted photos with me. While I was at the temple, there was the procession of white people chanting presumably Buddhist chants and making hand movements as they spiraled up the temple; it was quite peculiar.
Kalibiru National Park
Kalibiru National Park is located about an hour and a half away from Yogya and isn’t frequented often by foreign tourists. The drive offers some scenic views, and I was able to stop and take some photos of ridged rice paddies. I went along with a driver by motorcycle up the steep, bumpy roads to the top of the mountain. Luckily, because it was rainy season, there weren’t many local tourists visiting the park so the place was actually pretty deserted. The park was built and maintained by local residents since 2009, and while I was there, it started to downpour so I had to take shelter, but it was amazing seeing the rain approaching the mountain from a distance over the valley.
Prambanan is also a temple built in the 9th century, but is a Hindu temple. The temple is located in a compound, of which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Prambanan attracts a lot of tourists, but they don’t tend to venture to the other temples in the compound. When I visited the last temple, it began to downpour, so I, along with two Germans, took shelter under the temple. The Hindu figure was missing from the center of the temple, but there were plenty of cockroaches embracing the damp, dark environment. The last temple in the compound was also my favorite because it had’t gone through much reconstruction, so many of the temples were in ruins.
Kraton Yogyakarta Palace
This palace is the main seat of the Sultan of Yogyakarta. It is a compound, so I visited two separate locations that were very close to one another. The palace is Javanese and does not resemble anything that comes to my mind when I imagine a palace. It feels much more modest although consisting of a large compound. There was a traditional Javanese concert taking place while I visited the palace.
Taman Sari Water Castle
The water castle had many purposes for the Sultanate of Yogyakarta. It has a water pool in the center of the complex that’s preserved today. Surrounding the castle are homes that are occupied, and if you explore through the neighborhood, you can find remnants of the castle such as the cooking area. Today at the castle, you can pay to have a photoshoot, so there were a ton of people posing with photographers flashing away when I visited. The castle also has an underground mosque with many staircases surrounding it!