Friday, November 2, 2012

YOGYAKARTA: 02 - Review Your History, Then Shop

Yes, I went to Indonesia with the intention of seeing Yogyakarta. In fact, I was more excited to see Jogja than Jakarta. No, I have not been to Bali yet. In any case, people always tend to toss in Jogjakarta in the itinerary because of Prambanan and Borobudur, which are both technically under Central Java, but best accessed through Jogja. In terms of Geography, Yogyakarta should also be under Central Java but gained autonomous administrative powers from the rest of the region as a reward for playing the role of Indonesia’s temporary capital during the revolution. And I am so confusing you right now. Enough with the technicalities, but first, how is it really spelled?

I think it is officially spelled as Yogyakarta, but it is not uncommon to see it and hear it spelled as Jogjakarta, or as the locals would like to call it: Jogja. What do you see here? You have some options, but as already mentioned, Prambanan and Borobudur are the main reasons as to why people flock to this city. Just to give a short review of what I already wrote in my Central Java posts, these two UNESCO World Heritage sites could be accessed directly from Jogja. Borobudur is more than an hour away by bus from Jogja’s Jombor station to the north, while one could directly access Prambanan through the Transjogja line, the bus number for which I already forgot. What I remember is that it stops at that bus station in front of the tourism bureau, though.

Let us be fair to Jogja and talk about it without mentioning those two temples. Once you alight your train from whichever part of Java you came from, what would welcome you is the long and lively road of Malioboro. I arrived at Jogja in the evening and Malioboro, although already vacant from the hustle and bustle of that day, gave me the impression of a busy soi in Bangkok. The atmosphere and the layout of that road make it look like a real shopping area, and to some, a party place. I noticed the difference from Surabaya at once. While Surabaya was more homey and residential in orientation, one could easily tell that Yogyakarta has primed itself as a tourist Mecca. This should not even be explained as it is best felt and seen.

The journey to the guest house was longer, and many locals were advising me to be careful. I come from the Philippines, and I know what they mean. One thing I easily noticed from their speech is that they like referring to young men as mas. Lost on the way in streets that resembled those in Manila where the probability of getting held up is as high as the flood water at de la Rosa during rainy season, I carefully navigated the streets and ended up in a police station asking for direction, help for which I was offered without any hesitation. I guess it is safe to say that the people of Jogja are used to tourists by now. When I finally reached the guest house, I called it a day.

I spent around three days in Jogja but only got to use around one or two for tourism. I brought work with me and I had to prioritize that. Besides, it also rained a lot during my stay, making me feel uneasy going out as rain has always been my worst enemy when it comes to trips like this. Since I spent a day on Prambanan and Borobudur, I think I only had one day left to explore Yogyakarta, which I did, and was a bit disappointed with what I got to see.

It is not that Jogja is not tourist friendly. As I have probably mentioned a hundred of times already, this is one of the most touristy areas you will ever encounter in Indonesia. While the city has its unique charm, there seems to be something lacking, or maybe I was just depressed when I was there.

The place does not have as many malls as Surabaya, but it does not pale in comparison when it comes to shopping, most of which happens at Malioboro road. Go there in any given afternoon and you will find out what I am talking about. If you love to bargain, this is the place. What do I recommend as souvenirs? I would say t-shirts because the designs are awesome, but there must be a catch for the cheap price, and that would be the quality of the cloth used. Perhaps the more expensive the shirt, the better it is. It is just a pity that quality would have to suffer because those designs are really eye-catching. You could settle for handicrafts such as key chains interestingly designed as flip-flops, or little coin purses with exquisite designs, or a sarong. Take your pick.

I walked down Malioboro road and ended up at Vredeburg, which is some sort of fort turned into a museum. There is a minimal entrance fee that would not suffice to make your pockets say “Ouch”, but there really is nothing much to see inside, unless you love your Indonesian history. At the opposite side of the road is a big complex which appears to be some sort of palace or mansion. If there was an entrance fee, I would not know because I no longer dropped by for a visit. One thing I find amusing about Yogyakarta is their use of horse-drawn carriages pretty much the same way we do in Manila. The similarities do lessen the possibility of getting homesick.

Most of what I saw in Yogyakarta, I saw at that long stretch of road called Malioboro. It does serve as the main artery, with almost all the routes of Transjogja passing through it. Ah yes, the Transjogja. This is Yogyakarta’s answer to Jakarta’s Transjakarta, except that the platform that serves as the bus stop is considerably more petite in size. In any case, it is a convenient way of touring around the area, as long as you avoid rush hour.

Another site I wanted to see is not really a tourist attraction, but rather a prospect for the future. I have always wanted to study a language in a country where it is spoken, and the lack of Malaysian universities offering Bahasa courses made me look for some in Indonesia, where there seems to be plenty. One of them is the Universitas Gajah Mada, which is located here in Jogja. I wish I could have visited the university campus just to get a feel of how it would be like if ever I find myself improving my Bahasa here in the future. Oh well, there is always a next time.

As a suggestion, I would recommend allocating just one day for Yogyakarta. Since most of the attractions are in the nearby regencies, I guess that would be more than enough. Yogyakarta is a very ideal place to establish a base whilst exploring Central Java, and the rates of accommodation are also cheap, so you might want to take advantage of that. Best thing to do? Review your history, then shop.

YOGYAKARTA: 02 - Review Your History, Then Shop

2 creature/s gave a damn:

mahipk said...

The Borobudur was build in the 9th century. Imagine a tropical kingdom were people mostly lived from agriculture and trade. Most of the land is still jungle with the twin volcanoes Sundoro-Sumbing and Merbabu-Merapi, and two rivers, the Progo and the Elo nearby.
Candi Borobudur

mahipk said...

Most guests go specifically to the highest point of the landmark yet in actuality it is much all the more remunerating to walk the hallways and stroll through murkiness into the light of the outdoors at the best where the Buddhas under their stone stupas watch out for you.
Sejarah Borobudur

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