Yogyakarta: A city of awe-inspiring sights and rich heritage

With its spectacular green scenery, historical sites, exotic mountainous area and active volcanoes, Yogyakarta is a natural wonderland of adventures.

Affectionately known as Jogja, Yogyakarta is the beholder of one of the world’s most active volcanoes, a stunning coastline, luscious green tropical rainforests, and a gateway to Indonesia’s most important archaeological sites.

Whether you are there for its rich cultural heritage, taking in the sights and sounds of the bustling city, or simply enjoying the peace and quiet of nature, the historical city is filled with extraordinary things to do.

Image: Azrina Zin

The Bruneian, along with several representatives from other local media agencies, participated in a three-day Familiarisation Trip to Yogyakarta.

The three-day trip which is an invitation from Indonesia’s Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy and the Indonesian Embassy in Brunei Darussalam includes visits to some historical and attractive places in the ancient city such as Borobudur Temple, Mount Merapi, Kotagede and Malioboro Street.

Exploring the breathtaking Borobudur

When you are in Yogyakarta the first thing that you have to visit is the majestic Borobudur Temple.

The surreal Buddhist sanctuary is a place that captivates tourists not only for its dazzling architectural beauty but also for its unforgettable cultural experience.

Image: Azrina Zin

Located in the Kedu Valley of Central Java, just outside the city of Yogyakarta, the temple is known for its historic and religious significance. It is the largest Buddhist monument in the world.

A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1991, the Borobudur Temple is the most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia.

The Bruneian had a chance to admire the breathtaking view of the temple up close and personal. The famous temple is only a 10-minute drive from our stay at Plataran Heritage Borobudur Hotel.

When we arrived at the Borobudur Temple, we had the advantage to enjoy the magnificent view without much crowd and because of the pandemic, the area for tourist visits was only limited to the temple grounds (base level).

Image: Azrina Zin

From a distance, the towering temple sits majestically on a hill surrounded by Indonesia’s natural backdrop of active volcanoes and lush emerald vegetation and paddies.

But up close, the true magic is revealed. The architecture and detailed stone carvings on the walls throughout the whole complex are simply mesmerising.

While wandering around the cultural heritage icon, we were left in awe of the creativity and craftsmanship of people during that era.

During the tour, our tour guide Daryat touched on the temple’s many unique characteristics and was very informative.

Image: Azrina Zin

We gained a new perspective on the monument and also on the natural wonders around it. Our tour guide entertained us with cosmos mythology and history lessons on every side of the temple.

Built between the 8th and 9th centuries, the Borobudur temple rests on 1.6 million blocks of the volcanic rock andesite and is decorated with 2,672 beautifully preserved carved stone reliefs that depict stories and legends from Buddhist mythology.

The complex also features 504 life-size statues of the Buddha, 72 of which are located inside a stupa, located around the central dome of the temple.

During our visit to the Borobudur temple, we also had the chance to see a number of elephants and a scenic view of beautiful mountain ranges and vast green paddy fields.

Image: Azrina Zin

Merapi Jeep Tour Adventure

Our next stop was the enchanting village of Kaliurang. Located on the slope of Mount Merapi, it is a popular tourist hotspot for its magnificent landscapes and endless outdoor activities.

During our trip, we got behind the wheel of a convertible jeep escorted by a knowledgeable guide for a sightseeing and adrenaline-filled adventure to see the aftermath of the Mount Merapi eruption.

Mount Merapi is the most active volcano in Indonesia located between the borders of Central Java and Yogyakarta.

On 25 October 2010, the area was covered by hot ash and pyroclastic flows. Today, it has turned into a popular tourist attraction.

Image: Azrina Zin

The tour’s first pitstop was at Museum Sisa Hartaku (My Remaining Treasure Museum), where we received a short introduction to the town life before the eruption that used to be full of life but now quiet and deserted.

From melting motorcycles to animal skeletons, the museum which is located on the slopes of Mount Merapi was once a house owned by one of the residents, Kimin and his family.

Now a growing tourist attraction, Kimin’s family took the initiative to collect the remnants of existing items and then turn the house into a humble museum to commemorate the volcano’s 2010s eruption.

Image: Azrina Zin

During the museum tour, walking past the time capsule of the house, we got to see personal items like clothing, television, furniture, books which made the experience very raw and real.

Every item of the house had a story and left me and the other tour participants speechless.

One of the highlights of the museum tour was the clock on the wall that stopped at the exact moment of the eruption, giving visitors a haunting reminder of the tragedy.

Image: Azrina Zin

Once out on the rocky trail road again, the tour gets going with an exciting drive towards Batu Alien (Alien Rock), dipping in and out of rugged landscape and clinging to mountain paths.

At Batu Alien, we had the opportunity to enjoy the picturesque surroundings of Mount Merapi. One of the main attractions at the area is a remnant of the 2010 eruption, a unique huge boulder that resembles the face of an alien.

Although we did not get to reach the bunker to the summit or see the peak of Mount Merapi, due to the weather and traffic, all and all, we had an amazing experience savouring the never-ending scenic scenery of the active stratovolcano.

Image: Azrina Zin

*Kotagede: the heart of Yogyakata’s silver industry

After a thrilling adventure through the countryside of Yogyakarta, we arrived at Kotagede, a historic neighbourhood in the country known for its quality silverware and jewelry since the 1930s.

We had a chance to experience the ins and out of the silver factory and workshop at one of the influential silversmiths, HS Silver, where knowledge and history meet innovation and timeless design.

From its very beginning in 1953, the quality of the product and uniqueness in design have been and continue to be the mainstay of HS Silver.

Image: Azrina Zin

Today, the company has produced more than 5000 unique designs and has expanded its high-quality silver production from local to overseas markets.

During our visit, we got a chance to see the company’s original historical models and learn about the main phases of production, from the raw materials to the tools and techniques used.

We also got to see talented local workers in action, from demonstrating the chiseling technique used to create their beautiful and intricate silver pieces to smoldering and casting techniques.

Image: Azrina Zin

One of the highlights of our tour to HS Silver is the one-on-one workshop, where we got hands-on experience with all the traditional methods to make sterling silver during our private workshop.

Throughout the process, we were helped by experienced silversmiths who taught us how to use and hold hand tools as well as develop our own designs and style

During the whole workshop, we learned that the silver-making process requires patience and time. The craftsmanship involves stages like designing wires, inserting designs into frames, welding, polishing the silver and more.

Image: Azrina Zin

After the satisfying workshop, we visited the HS Silver gallery and checked out their beautiful craftsmanship selection.

From the miniature Prambanan Temple to the stunning set of earrings, we were amazed by the intricate designs of every single piece of silver handicrafts at the store. We also bought some souvenirs to bring home.

Altogether, learning the best of Javanese silversmithing traditions has been quite an eye-opening and fun experience.

Image: Azrina Zin

Malioboro Street: A Shopper’s Paradise

Our last stop before we leave Yogyakarta is Malioboro Street located in the city centre. The one-kilometre shopping street is known to be the most popular street in Yogyakarta for its treasure trove of hidden shopping gems and eating spots.

Before the arrival of the Dutch, the street was originally used as a ceremonial avenue for the Sultan of Yogyakarta to pass through on his way to and from the Keraton or palace.

Today, the vibrant and bustling street is one of the city’s main tourist attractions and a popular hangout spot for locals.

Image: Azrina Zin

Located in the heart of the city and juxtaposed between Dutch colonial-era buildings and modern infrastructure, the iconic street is a haven for bargain lovers, foodies and architecture lovers.

The Bruneian and other members of the media had a chance to wander around Malioboro. Along this street, you will come across many shops, restaurants and many street vendors.

The legendary strip is a great place to find cheap souvenirs and wholesale fashion, with everything from Javanese batik cloth to miniature landmarks. It is the centre of everything in Yogyakarta.

Image: Azrina Zin

During our shopping trip to the street, we also got a chance to explore one of the largest traditional markets in Yogyakarta, the Beringharjo market.

As you enter, you will be greeted by a wall of colourful sarongs and a variety of different floral and leaf batik patterns.

Being one of the largest markets in the capital, you will find almost anything you can think of here. Vendors sell an assortment of traditional items, such as clothing, jewellery, bags, trinkets as well as spices and everyday household goods.

Image: Azrina Zin

Aside from that, the marketplace is also a good way to test your bargaining skills. It is a budget-friendly market where you can find great deals and bargaining is easy.

Moreover, Central Yogyakarta is a juxtaposition of bright new developments and old colonial heritage.

The city offers a kaleidoscope of sights, activities and a rich cultural scene with a treasure chest of museums, free daily concerts and performances, and shopping centres and markets that come alive in the evenings.

Image: Azrina Zin

The Taste of Yogyakarta

Yogyakarta is an adventure for the senses, and there is nothing we love more than a trip that tantalises the taste buds.

From scrumptious local street food to dining like royalty, The Bruneian went on a culinary voyage exploring a medley of unique and traditional flavours of Jogjakarta.

Javanese cuisine is slightly sweeter than the other parts of Indonesia because of the generous amount of gula jawa (palm sugar) or sweet soy sauce.

Image: Azrina Zin
Image: Azrina Zin

During our journey, we had the taste of some of the country’s authentic local dishes at Sekar Kedhaton Restaurant.

Located in the historical district of Kotagede, Sekar Kedhaton has been opened since 1800 by a successful businessman, Pak Prawiro Soewarno, fondly known as Pak Tembong.

From Ayam Bakar Kotagede to Iga Brongkos, each dish at the restaurant is a manifestation of the nation’s rich heritage and culture.

Moreover, when it comes to food, the street is full of surprises. We also got to bring our tastebuds on tour at Malioboro Street.

Image: Azrina Zin
Image: Azrina Zin

One of the dishes that we tried was the Gudeg (sweet jackfruit stew cooked in coconut milk), a staple dish in Yogyakarta. You actually can find it at any warung gudeg all over the town.

However, we chose to try out the signature dish at Gudeg Yu Djum, an iconic outlet founded in 1950 located on Malioboro Street.

The signature ‘Nasi Gudeg’ at Gudeg Yu Djum features a delicious combination of krecek (spiced buffalo skin crackers), gudeg, boiled eggs and fried chicken. It tastes savoury and satisfying with a hint of sweetness.

Image: Azrina Zin

Reflecting back, Yogyakarta is a spectacular destination, one that offers travelers a unique side of Indonesia and a wealth of different sights and experiences.

Whether you like wondrous green nature, vibrant cities and culture, or historical sites, Yogyakarta truly has it all.


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