- Heritage and highland views
- City life
- Art, culture, learning
Yogyakarta may be difficult to pronounce, but it's easy to love: it has temples to rival Angkor Wat; a centuries-long history as a centre of academia and the arts, and an atmospheric mountain backdrop.
The name’s pronounced ‘Jogjakarta’, with inhabitants calling their home simply ‘Jogja’. The clear draws are the city's royal palace, colonial architecture, and traditional arts and crafts, such as gamelan music, Javanese shadow puppetry and classical dance. Away from these touristy pleasures, visitors can make the most of finding themselves among so many students, joining up for short courses in language or dance. Better still, explore the 500,000-population city on random excursions, shopping, eating and relaxing like a local. Beyond the city limits, the ancient temples of Borobudur and Pramnanan provide a fascinating glimpse of times past. The architectural heritage of the centre was largely spared by the 2006 earthquake, but in residential areas, recovery is still ongoing.
Book ahead to learn the intricate art of batik printing at Brahma Tirta Sari (www.brahmatirtasari.org), a renowned contemporary batik studio and gallery in the south of Yogyakarta.
- Within the city, metered taxis are abundant and relatively easy to flag down. After dark, minimum fare is Rp 10,000. Traditional means of transport like becaks (three-wheeled pedicabs) and andongs (horse-drawn carts) are quaint and fun for a quick whirl. Feel free to haggle enthusiastically: tourists are overcharged, more often than not.
- Tipping culture
- Major hotels add a 21 per cent service and government tax to bills. Elsewhere, a tip of 10 per cent is usual. It’s customary to round small amounts up to the nearest convenient coin denomination.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Offices and banks generally stick to a nine-to-five, Monday–Friday working week, though art galleries and museums vary, some opening in the mornings and then 5pm to 9pm; call ahead to check.
- Packing tips
- Think comfortable, loose and airy – the humidity hits you as soon as you step off the plane. As ever in a destination with a significant Muslim population, revealing clothes are inappropriate away from the beach, and a particularly dim idea around temples and other holy sites. Comfy Birkenstocks or Air Rifts will see you right as you tramp around Borobudur.
- Recommended reads
- Prolific Indonesian author Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s Arok of Java: A Novel of Early Indonesia follows Java’s 13th-century equivalent of Robin Hood. Phil Grabsky provides a gripping account of the construction and history of Borobudur in his book The Lost Temple of Java.
- Regional specialities
- Street food – it’s the only food we know… Well, not quite, but gastronomic adventurers are well served by the hawkers, dozens of whom are usually on hand when you fancy an inexpensive fix of bakso (meatballs), ayam goreng (fried chicken), sop buntut (oxtail soup) or ayam soto (chicken soup). A regional specialty (and must-try) is nasi gudeg, white rice topped with jackfruit curry and assorted side dishes. Curries, fried rice and crackers are typical, and the people of Yogyakarta are known for their collective sweet tooth, using plenty of locally abundant palm sugar.
- Indonesian Rupiah (Rp).
- Time zone
- GMT +7.
- Dialling codes
- Country code for Indonesia: +62. Yogyakarta area code: 0274.
- Do go/don't go
- Daily temperatures don’t vary wildly, but if you want to catch festival time, hit the city during high season (June–October).
Don't go home without...
… shopping among the locals on Jalan Malioboro, a two-kilometre strip of retailmania, where you’ll find scores of stalls, shops, markets and malls.