One of the fun aspects of travelling (for me) is the preparation and research. And we all have our quirks. I, for example, will typically put out my suitcase(s) a week prior to getting on the plane, adding stuff for the trip incrementally. Last-minute packing means you are sure to forget something; plus, I have to figure out what I will be wearing and not wear those clothes during the week prior to leaving for laundry reasons.
Both Via and I have been doing our Internet research, as well, although she is more interested in looking for photos of where we are going and what we may see. My research has tended to be more about details on restaurants and our tours; for example, it looks like our tours will require quite a bit of walking, and climbing, so I’m bringing a knee brace, as that shredded ligament from more than a year ago is still a problem.
Via is very excited about the trip; she has never really seen any of her country except for Batam and her hometown of Jambi. On the map above, you will find Yogyakarta below Jakarta on the island of Java, not far from Bali. Our trip starts just below that tip of Malaysia and just above the word Sumatra.
We have a direct flight from Batam on Friday morning (2 hours). Once there, we will taxi to our hotel – Adya Nalendra Boutique Hotel – located in a residential area not far from the main part of town and the main commercial street – Malioboro Avenue – sure to be a sensual disruptor.
Friday afternoon and evening will be free time and I expect we’ll explore a bit in town and also try out some of the food. Jogja, as it is called, is known for its Javanese-style food, all very inexpensive and, unlike most indonesian food, not so spicy. I will post later about some of the restauarants and local dishes.
Yogyakarta is the capital of the Yogyakarta special region on the island of Java. It is known as the center of classical Javanese art and culture. Yogya means “suitable, fit, proper” and karta stands for “prosperous, florishing” (i.e., a city that is fit to prosper). The city takes up about 32.5 square kilometers (12.5 square miles) and emanates in all directions from the Kraton (the Sultan’s palace).
There is a quite modern section of the city, with skyscrapers and such, but much of Jogja is less modern. The primary shopping district is around Malioboro Avenue (Jalen Malioboro), with vendors along the roadside selling food, arts and crafts and pretty much whatever you want, as well as nearby markets and malls. This is the primary tourist market district, but the city also contains some markets outside this area where you can expect to find even better prices.
Surrounding the kraton is a densely populated residential neighborhood that occupies land that was formerly the Sultan, sure to be worthy of some exploring and photo taking.
North of the city is Mount Merapi, the most active volcano in Indonesia (which is saying something), which we will be visiting on Dec. 30 (Monday). This will probably be a very early morning departure from our hotel. We will be going on a “lava tour,” visiting the sultan’s palace and the Tamansari water castle, seeing batik and silver being made (lots of stuff to buy there), and touring the Prambanan temple.
Because of its proximity to this temple and to the equally impressive Borobudur temple (which we will be seeing on Saturday, Dec. 28), Jogja is the second most popular tourist destination in indonesia, after Bali. As this is the Christmas season (and despite the fact this is a Muslim country), the city is expected to be overflowing with visitors like us. Airline ticket prices, for example ($250 each round-trip), are actually more expensive during Christmas than Ramadan, the main muslim holiday. So we paid a premium for flying and also for the hotel ($53/night) that would not have been the case during most of the year.
Yogyakarta is known for its batik and silver jewelry making, as well as leather crafts and puppetry and theater (so we will probably find a theater to attend one evening).
More about Jogya and the sights in Part 2.