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Things to do in Yogyakarta, Indonesia: An interview with a resident

Yogyakarta, commonly referred to as Jogja, is an Indonesian city located in the southern part of Central Java and has been described as one of the foremost cultural centers of Indonesia. Jogja is the capital city of the Special Region of Yogyakarta, unique for being an autonomous region in Indonesia co-ruled by the Sultan of Yogyakarta and Duke of Pakualaman. The region welcomes a high number of domestic and international tourists, and has a large student community, being home to various universities such as Gadjah Mada University and Yogyakarta State University.

We caught up with Yuli, a resident of Jogja, to learn more about the city and surrounding region.

Hi Yuli, thanks for catching up with us. What activities can a tourist do to learn more about Indonesian culture in Jogja?

Yuli: There’s so much. But first I’ll say that Jogja is special because there are only three places in Indonesia that have autonomy. Papua, Aceh and Yogyakarta. Indonesia is also such a diverse country and so culture in Jogja is unique. We’re the only region in Indonesia headed by a Sultan. Some of the places I would recommend are Ullen Sentalu Museum to learn about the history of Jogja, Vredeberg Museum to learn about Indonesia’s colonial past, the Presidential Palace to learn about the early history of our country after independence, and the Sultan’s Palace, which is the seat of the reigning Sultan. Also to learn about our culture, I think as a tourist it will be easy to meet with the locals here. Just walk through the city centre and someone is likely to approach you! We’re welcoming to foreigners and we mainly see them on TV, so if we do see a foreigner some of us say “hi” and even ask to take a photo with you.

Hah! That’ll be a unique experience for some tourists. And what about activities for those who want to explore the area?

Yuli: As in the previous question, there’s so much I could say, but I’ll list my favourites. Check out Jalan Malioboro. It’s a busy area to do some shopping, get some food and drink or just to hang out. It generally has a really nice vibe both during the day and in the evening. If you like beaches, visit Indrayanti Beach. It will take about 2 hours from Jogja city centre. If you like your scenery, definitely go to Kalibiru National Park. You can do zip lining and it’s the perfect place to get that amazing Instagram shot!

What is a unique food or drink you can get in Jogja?

Yuli: The one dish you have to try is Gudeg. Gudeg is jackfruit that’s boiled with brown sugar. It tastes sweet and is often cooked with chicken and rice; sometimes with egg. At first it will be an unfamiliar taste but it then becomes very addictive. For me, it’s delicious and I have it very often.

Gudeg, a traditional Javanese dish from Yogyakarta.
Gudeg, a traditional Javanese dish from Yogyakarta.

Other than the locations mentioned earlier, are there any nice monuments to visit?

Yuli: Definitely. Jogja is majority Muslim, but there is some beautiful architecture from various religions. Borobudur Temple is stunning, especially at sunrise. It’s the largest Buddhist temple in the world and the most visited attraction in Indonesia. It’s actually just outside Jogja, but it takes an hour by car from the city centre. Prambanan Temple is also a must-visit. It’s north-east from the city centre and it only takes about 25 minutes to reach by car. And if you want to see a beautiful mosque, check out Masjid Suciati Saliman. As impressive as the architecture is, I like the story behind the mosque. It was built by an old woman, who used her own money from selling items at a market.

Lots to see. What is the best way to travel around Jogja?

You can try to walk, but you may get tired very quickly, especially when it’s hot. You can either get Grab or Gojek, or even hire a motorbike. Hiring a motorbike will cost 70,000 IDR per day, which is about $5.

Prambanan Temple, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Prambanan Temple, the largest Hindu temple complex in Indonesia

And can you tell us something about Jogja that isn’t well known?

Yuli: Jogja is very cheap. It’s even considered cheap compared to other islands in Indonesia. So if you are looking for a destination to visit while on a tight budget, Jogja is the place to go. Also Jogja is very much a student city. There are a lot of schools and universities here, so there will be many students from all over Indonesia. The weather is nice and people are friendly. If you are thinking about when to visit, a good time would be during Ramadan. There is free food at the Jogokariyan Mosque every day when the fast breaks. Also if you go to Kraton Square on Sundays during Ramadan, there is a food stand that provides free food as well.

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