Disillusioned by societies languid, apathetic faces reflected in an iPhone screen these days? Then visit Yogyakarta.
A small town in the middle of Java’s expansive volcano fields, the people here are the friendliest I have ever met in my life, across the board; old, young, fat, thin, poor, rich, foreign or native. There is a smile on every corner, reserved for everyone, exempting of no one.
The taxi drivers at the airport smile as you turn down offers of non budget travel, on the dishevelled local bus, at only 3,500Rhp, people are politely inquisitive as to your appearance in their town. A young student kept us informed of local etiquettes, places to visit, and even a little Bahasa. After alighting, we tried to navigate the small alleyways and back passages to our accommodation, as best they could people came out from shops and homes to try and break the language barrier to assist us, even a little fat kid with his kite stuck up a tree dropped all his leafy concerns to come ‘running’ over to say hi.
We eventually happened upon Hati Hati homestay, and the best place we have stayed in South East Asia, Ade runs the place with his friends which after our three days felt like we were part of too. Equidistant between the Sultans Palace and the two streets that contain all of the food and drink places, this place is perfect; free breakfast, spacious air conditioned rooms (and dorms), in a quiet backstreet flanked with super friendly neighbours, and they can arrange all the tours you will need. As they had only just opened their new homestay we were lucky enough to join in on the two days of celebrations, the first a traditional meal to welcome the neighbours, the second a balls to the wall party with their friends.
There is great food and great coffee in Yogyakarta; Move On coffee sets a hipster benchmark with its spacious two story, speciality coffee haven. Mediterranea offers the best food in Yogyakarta, a French run, yet global menu, and considering the quality of food and environment, the prices are surprisingly reasonable. There’s a great Burritto place on the same road, plus plenty of other bars and cheap eats. Via Via, a great fair trade restaurant, has a yoga studio in the back, which due to low season gifted us a private 90 minute class, setting us up perfectly for a day in the hills an hour outside the town.
Hati Hati arranged a car for five of us to visit two of Yogyakartas natural beauties; Sri Gethuk waterfall, although busy with locals is set in splendid isolation and superbly refreshing to swim in the mid day heat, and Ancient Mount Nglanggeran (Gunung Purba Nglanggeran) a fairly simple hike to the top of strange rock formations, actually an ancient volcano, that gives birth to an incredible panorama over the lush green rice fields and distant volcanic peaks.
At 15,000Rhp the water palaces of the Sultans walled city are well worth half an hour of your time, if not as a stop gap on the way to the bustling Maribolo market, where clouds of spices fumigate the air, textile stalls are dizzying, and the people make you feel like royalty.
This is the perfect half way point for anyone travelling from Jakarta, East towards Bromo or Ijen, or Bali if that’s your bag. Expect smiles to stop you in the street, either to find out more about you, or sometimes just to practice their English. Visit Yogyakarta, I implore you.