Known to foreigners as "Yogyakarta", Jogja (Pronounced "Jog-jar" by locals) is regarded as the cultural capital of Indonesia. It is home to two UNESCO sites built in the 9th century, Borobudur - one of the largest Buddhist temples in the world and Prambanan - a series of Hindu temples dedicated to the Trimurti gods - Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
Outside these heritage sites, Jogja remains largely untainted by tourism leaving you with an authentic and immersive Indonesian cultural experience. Its rare to see buildings over two stories and the city is big on street food and street markets. A refreshing change from the branded shops that clog up Orchard Road. They don't even sell fake goods here because there is no market for it. As you walk around the city, you will notice an incredibly low foreigner to local ratio.
This blog will be a guide for those interested in heading over to Jogja. One of the few airlines that fly directly to Jogja is AirAsia. You can read up more about our AirAsia experience, who made this trip possible for us. Thank you guys!
Yogyakarta Video Highlights
Here is a short video I made of our trip! You may be able to spot some popular bloggers in it too!
Yogyakarta Traveling Tips
- An important word to know here is "Candi", which refers to ancient Buddhist or Hindu temples. e.g Candi Borobudur. There are plenty of Candi's scattered around the city area so look out for them!
- Another important word is "Mahal" which means expensive. When bargaining, make this your default response every single time, no matter what they say. You will always get a better price!
- Change your money back home. Money changers here are rare and some banks and hotels don't even provide this service!
- Be prepared to do a LOT of walking while visiting the UNESCO sites. For Prambanan its a 20 minute walk just to get from the entrance to the main area, then a 30 minute walk through another path on the way back. Stock up on sunblock and wear a cap, shades and something comfortable!
- Thinking of catching the sunrise at Borobudur? Stay at a hotel nearby. The sun rises early at 4.30am in Jogja but your sleep sacrifice will be rewarded gloriously by the gods... in your pictures. We stayed at which was just 20 minutes away from Borobudur. They have a golf course, spa and even water rafting activities nearby! Expect to travel at least 1 hour and 30 minutes if you're staying somewhere in the city.
- Bargain furiously. There will always be opportunists out there looking to overcharge you. The same "teh botol" that sells at 2,500 IDR will have a starting price of 10,000 IDR at a tourist spot.
Teh botol is super delicious"Jasmine Tea"!
Top Things to do in Jogja
We did not have the time to experience everything in Jogja, but here were 5 highlights of our trip in no specific order.
The walls of these temples are adorned with narratives of the Hindu epic - Ramayana and Bhagavata Purana. Be sure to hire a guide for about 75,000 IDR if you want this explained to you. There were originally 240 temples in the Prambanan compound. Today, about 8 main shrines remain with the Shiva temple in the centre.
Prambanan is over an hour's drive away from the city, but just 15 minutes from the airport. So if you're thinking of heading here, it may be a good idea to go here straight from the airport, that's what we did. Jogja is not spared from Indonesia's notorious traffic and it took us a good two hours just to get back to our hotel from Prambanan.
Panorama - click on the bottom right button to use full screen mode and zoom in.
Borobudur is the more high profile of the two UNESCO sites and till this day is still used for worship and pilgrimage. Every year, Buddhists across Indonesia make the trip here to celebrate Vesak day. Borobudur is Indonesia's single most visited tourist attraction and it is stunning to look at. Make sure to get the active Volcano Mt.Merapi in the background for that perfect picture. The more adventurous can even go tracking there.
Note that there are two admission prices. One for locals that starts at about 30,000 IDR and the other for tourists which is priced at 171,000 IDR. I'm not a big fan of paying much more for the same thing so I thought I would ask a local to help me buy a ticket at the local rate. It was not long before I found a willing partner in crime!
I was feeling pleased at myself for saving some money for more "teh botols" so confidently walked up to the entrance and handed over my local ticket. However, the gatekeepers at the entrance were quite vigilant about this and talked to me in Indonesian to test me. I think my video camera was not doing me any favours either.
Because my Indonesian vocabulary only consisted of words like "Mahal" and "Nasi Lemak", they weren't quite convinced. So if you want to try this approach, learn more words first! I recommend "Anda sangat tampan".
3. Malioboro Street
In the afternoon we were off to see the city Palace (skip it!) in Maliboro. It was interesting to see a lane adjacent to the main road reserved for trishaws and horse carriages. We spent about 2 hours walking through the alleys and street markets and in our entire time only came across one shopping mall. Jogja is less developed than most Indonesian cities but this meant it had a more charming authentic vibe to it.
For dinner recommended a nearby place called Gudeg Sagan. Finally, we could try Gudeg, a traditional Javanese food made from young Jack Fruit. The prices were catered to locals and they had a live band playing too. It was a great local dining experience and the best meal of our trip.
Those interested can find it at Jalan Prof Yohanes, 53 Sagan, Yogyakarta.
4. Kopi Jos
Thanks to Seth who was constantly on the look out for this coffee joint called Kopi Jos. We finally spotted it along the main road of Maliboro street, near the train station away from the palace. The interesting thing about their coffee? They literally placed a piece of charcoal inside!
They make their coffee very sweet so it was offset nicely by the smoky flavour from the charcoal. I am not sure how healthy it is and Google does not know either. It was definitely one of the highlights of our trip, chilling out on a foldable mat sipping charcoal coffee on busy Maliboro Street.
5. WAVE Spa
Thanks again to mumseword's recommendation, after much exploring we treated our weary bodies to some Indonesian goodness. This spa was truly an hidden gem that took us a long time to find! The spa is popular with trendy locals and we took the package that cost $20 SGD for a 2 and a half hour massage with exfoliating scrubs and jacuzzi usuage. It was a great way to end our trip.
Those interested can find it at Jalan Langensari 21, Yogyakarta.
More Pictures from our Jogja Holiday
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Disclosure: Media Invitation
Thanks to AirAsia, and Tourism Yogyakarta!
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