Trip: Yogyakarta, Indonesia 3D2N (Itinerary + Highlights)
One of the beauties of living in Singapore is the proximity of travel destinations and abundance of cheap flights. Most of the other exchange students headed to Bali to bask in the popular beaches and luxuries - meanwhile, my friends and I were more interested in something more unique and heard of Yogyakarta during an info session on campus which introduced us to the local activities and lesser-known beauties on the main island of Java.
. . .
FLIGHTS: Pronounced "Jogjakarta" or just "Jogja" for short, this cultural city is only a short 2 hour plane ride away from Singapore. Our round trip flight at the beginning of November from Changi Airport (SIN) to Adisutjipto Airport (JOG) costed us roughly $208 SGD (~$205 CAD) with Air Asia. Similar to other low-cost carriers, check-in luggage costed extra so we packed extra light and traveled with just a small carry-on luggage.
PACKING: Light clothing and a good pair of walking shoes should be your focus. Indonesia is hot and humid, light clothes will allow you to breathe but are also easy to wash and dry.
CURRENCY: Additionally, I would recommend exchanging cash prior to landing in Yogyakarta to save yourself the trouble. Plus, if you will be traveling outside the main city area, ATMs are hard to find and may not support certain international bank cards.
TRANSPORTATION: Getting around the area is quite difficult (and expensive as taxi drivers commonly overcharge tourists) so hiring a driver and setting prices early on is ideal. Not saying that these are the prices you should expect, but here's a simple breakdown of the transportation costs of the trip:
= 1,530,000 IDR ($140 CAD)
- Taxi to hotel
- Taxi (Pinus Penggar)
- Taxi (all Day 2 destinations)
- Taxi (all Day 3 destinations)
- Jeep to Timang Beach
For roughly $140 CAD split among the 4 of us, I would say this is quite reasonable considering our destinations were 2-3 hours away from each other. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to find a reliable and responsible driver. You can do this by hunting around the airport's departure area or asking previous travelers in the area. Don't be intimidated by the aggressive drivers, stand your ground but also be cautious.
GREENHOST BOUTIQUE HOTEL PRAWIROTAMAN
$55 CAD per night
Greenhost is cozy and quite central in Yogyakarta. It's located near the intersection of Jl Prawirotaman and Jl Parangritis which has numerous food options in the form of local street stalls/vendors as well as more upscale and internationally friendly restaurants. Other than a stain on a towel, the rooms were quite clean and modern. The hotel itself is kinda like a dorm and is open to the outdoors - therefore leaving your room will mean that you'll be without AC but nonetheless shaded from any rain . I loved the industrial and hipster feel here though! Vines grow on the entrance walls and plants sprout out of the inserts in the balcony pipes (on purpose). The cement and dark wood contrasts nicely with the abundance of shrubbery - it's almost like something I'd expect out of a commissary in Los Angeles. The service is quite attentive and friendly though the staff's English was at a moderate conversational level.
TLDR: this hotel is great for the Insta without breaking the bank ;)
DAY 1 | DESTINATION #1
HUTAN PINUS PENGGAR
5,000 IDR (~$0.50 CAD) for parking 2,500 IDR (~$0.25 CAD) entrance fee
To be honest, I didn't know about places like these until I came across a random Instagram post of this view - which obviously sold me because I (literally) forced my friends to go here with me the night we arrived in Yogyakarta. Sadly the sun had already set as our driver drove to the wrong park previously, but we were able to catch a glimpse of the crazily extra photo-ops scattered in the forest. Apparently photo forests like these are common in the mountains around the main city and locals often flock in groups to take commemorative photos together. Since it's a very local spot (no one spoke English), it took us a while to figure out how things worked. First of all, there are numerous photo spots like this "Hand of God" which is made out of branches and supported by wooden stilts. The popular spots have a photo team to hand out queue numbers and help take professional pictures for you; which you can view at a little booth with a laptop (which is incredibly technologically saavy for the setting). I've seen some people pay and some not. Some groups took their own pictures while some spots seemed to require the photo team to take pictures.
TLDR: If you're up for an adventure and are willing to do it for the gram, look no further for a breathtaking view.
DAY 2 | DESTINATION #1
30,000 IDR (~$3 CAD) entrance free
The funny thing about this place is that we never intended to come here. In fact, we wanted to catch the sunrise at Borobudur - and yes we woke up at 4 AM to do so. Instead, we ended up at this place which is also called Borobudur Sunset (HAHA how convenient) which is basically a very large wooden platform which has multiple spots for photo-ops that overlook the endless fields below (and even the famous Chicken Church nearby..yes a chicken..church). The top spots are the rainbow platform (pictured above) and Jogja's version of the infamous Bali swing (pictured above). Photo-ops are free but there is an entrance fee.
TLDR: Nice for photo-ops if you're in the area but not worth the trek out unless you're really mesmerized by the Chicken Church.
DAY 2 | DESTINATION #2
450,000 IDR (~$45 CAD) entrance fee for foreigners *520,000 IDR (~$52 CAD) combo ticket for Borobudur + Prambanan*
Since we woke up at 4 AM to see the sunrise, we got to the actual Borobudur temple really early (8 AM). Despite that, we were still met with an insane crowd and blistering heat. However, the beauty of Borobudur itself was enough to make up for everything. It's no wonder that Borobudur is named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is so extremely grand, even more so than the pictures I've seen prior to the trip. The sheer size of the temple is enough to leave you speechless - 9 platforms, 2,672 relief panels, 504 Buddha statues, and countless stupas will really leave you in awe. To get the most optimal visit, definitely aim to arrive before 8 AM on a weekday and head straight to the top central dome to get the best shots with minimal people. Any later and the tour groups will come swarming in. While the shot at the top is beautiful (3rd picture above), I also recommend a shot at the 1st level of the temple (last picture above) which has a great angle to show the size of the structure.
Tip: If you're planning on visiting both Borobudur and Prambanan, I recommend getting the combo pass which greatly reduces the overall cost of entry into both sites. This applies only to tourists as locals pay a small fraction of the price foreigners pay to get in.
(Oh and did I mention that if you look like a tourist/foreign, locals will randomly hoard to you in groups asking to take a picture with you? I felt like a celebrity HAHA)
TLDR: This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Come now. Come early.
DAY 2 | DESTINATION #3
KALIBIRU NATIONAL PARK
5,000 IDR (~$0.50 CAD) for parking 15,000 IDR ($1.5 CAD) entrance fee 35,000 IDR ($3.5 CAD) for obstacle course 20,000 IDR (~$2 CAD) for pictures
My friends really wanted something "outdoorsy" so we found this park, which is not as grand as a "national park" should be, and is also incredibly painful to get to. Maybe it was because our driver had a normal van and not a 4x4, but the ride up the mountain was so rocky I had to take a Gravol to stay alive. Nevertheless, we got here and made the most out of it.
This park features several small obstacle courses, food stalls, photo-ops, and owls (oh man the owls are so cute). I'm not sure if the obstacle course should be considered an obstacle course - ok maybe it is for people who cannot do heights. But for the 20-some year old us, the experience was incredible anti-climatic. The photo spots are quite pretty as the views feature 360 degree views of the nature below. However, some require payment (though just a few Canadian dollars but still) and some people may find it to not be worth it... but my friends and I did it anyways and it was pretty fun. Thank goodness for the safety harnesses because I had slight anxiety after realizing how high up we were. You shouldn't need to spend much time here, in fact, there are probably places that are more worth than the trip to Kalibiru.
TLDR: You probably don't need to come here but if you do, pet the owls.
DAY 2 | DESTINATION #4
10,000 IDR (~$1 CAD) for parking *520,000 IDR (~$52 CAD) combo ticket for Borobudur + Prambanan*
So you must be wondering how my friends and I are packing so many places into one day eh? Well even if you aren't wondering, I definitely still am because by the time we arrived at Prambanan, I was exhausted - but hey another UNESCO World Heritage Site and it's damn beautiful. As one of the biggest Hindu temples in SEA, Prambanan has towers that go as high as 47 metres and are spectacular to see in person. It definitely has a different feel than Borobudur and is less grand, but I find that the structures are still inspiring.
TDLR: Another UNESCO site, might as well go
DAY 3 | DESTINATION #1
350,000 IDR (~$35 CAD) for Jeep to beach 200,000 IDR (~$20 CAD) for return-trip gondola
Our last full day in Jogja was more nature heavy and our first stop took us to the edge of the Java island where Timang Beach is located. The ride there consists not only of going 2 hours the little town nearby but also a rental of a Jeep or motobike to the actual entrance of the island/beach itself. Since we were a group of 4, we stuffed ourselves into the red Jeep (pictured above) and had the bumpiest ride of our lives. Once reaching the beach area, you'll realize that there's two ways to get to the island - via a wooden suspended bridge or wooden manual gondola (pictured above) which both cost ~$10-$20 CAD. It's a hefty price but hey, we were there anyway so go big or go home (amirite) - so yes, we took the gondola for a minute trip over the roaring waves.
On the island, there's not much to do other than spend some time taking in the scenery and taking pictures at and of the jagged formations underneath (which are pretty amazing really). Explore the little cave underneath and/or take a classic picture with the "Timang" sign before taking your trip back to the main beach.
TLDR: Sorta gimmicky and a tourist trap as this ended up being our most expensive activity of the trip - but it was fun. If you're looking for things to do in Jogja, you can consider a visit.
DAY 3 | DESTINATION #2
10,000 IDR (~$1 CAD) for parking 50,000 IDR (~$5 CAD) for sandboards
We drove for roughly another hour along the coast to an area called Gumuk Pasir which, although has greenery nearby, has a large expanse of sandy hills. There, we were met by casual locals who will rent you boards for a few hours. The fee apparently comes with a "guide" who briefly taught us how to board down the hills and helped us wax the board undersides every round. After roughly an hour, we got tired and walked around to explore the dunes and take pictures with the little huts and signs (pictured above). Nothing too spectacular about this, but it was fun for a bit.
TLDR: Not much to see here but if you're a board fanatic, you could give sand boarding a go if you have the time.
DAY 3 | DESTINATION #3
JOGJA SUNSET PARK
On our way back to our hotel from the sand dunes, our driver asked if we wanted to catch the sunset at one of his favourite places. After a bit of a drive uphill, we came to small parking lot at the base of a large hill with a long wooden staircase. Midway up, you'll find a local cafe that serves cheap and local food (read the food section for more) and another short walk up will bring you to one of the most beautiful views of region I've seen. This hilltop overlooks a large expanse of beach and a small town that borders it. We watched the clouds roll by and waves brush up to shore with small groups of locals who brought towels and food - it was kind of great.
TDLR: A beautiful local spot for a beautiful sunset view which also has a cafe where you can sit and eat while watching the views below.
DAY 3 | DESTINATION #4
ALUN ALUN SELATUN
40,000 IDR (~$4 CAD) for one bike car (for one round)
These "cars" are actually bikes decorated with lights and decked out with old-school karaoke systems. Each "car" seats roughly 4 and is driven around a roundabout in the middle of the city where other local cars also cross by. These bikes drive in the inner lane while local traffic continues on the outer side. Payment is calculated per car per rounds you'd like to complete. Think night car karaoke with friends - it's pretty fun to jam out to really old school American pop and sing your hearts out on the streets of Jojga. We found that 1-2 rounds was enough considering that it got repetitive after a bit.
TLDR: A fun little activity in the city if you're looking for something to do at night - though not a necessary activity.
@ WARUNG JOGJA SUNSET PARK
So about the sunset park I talked about earlier .. has this great little cafe/restaurant which serves small plates and drinks with food like nasi goreng (fried rice) and milo. Although there are sheltered seats near the kitchen, there are also benches and tables along the side of the hill where you can overlook the beach and town below. I recommend getting a spot at the furthest bench to get the clearest views. Bless that there was a slightly translated menu but we still asked the server to bring us some dishes they recommended. I ended up with a cold ginger tea and ikan asin goreng which features a traditional salted dried fish with rice and egg (pictured above) - a pretty good meal for ~$1 CAD if you ask me.
@ MOVE ON CAFE + TEMPO DEL GELATO
If you're homesick and craving some international food, Move On Cafe and Tempo Del Gelato offer Western-friendly dishes for a reasonable price. My friends and I took an extreme liking to Move On Cafe - I mean it has swings for seats, witty quotes on walls, and steak for less than $10. Ice cream cravings can be satisfied at the cafe itself or at a nearby ice cream shop which gives you a full gelato experience.
@ PLACES HERE AND THERE
Food was not really a priority this trip (which is a rare occurrence when traveling with me) so we ate whatever crossed our path really. Luckily, we came across a few local establishments which we were minimally able to communicate with (thank Google Translate) and filled ourselves with as much nasi goreng as possible. From our small trip, it seems that local food comprises mostly of carbs like rice and noodles, eggs, few veggies, and less than average protein portions. So fill up on the carbs and can I suggest stocking up on Rotiboy coffee buns when you're in the city area? Those fresh buns are seriously out of this world. If you're not fluent in Indonesian, have no fear because Google Translate is your best friend at restaurants and people are generally very accommodating. Every establishment we went to we actually very eager to try to talk to us and help us with our orders.
This Yogyakarta trip is one of my favourites during my time in Singapore because it was just so adventurous. My friends were equally adventurous and patient with every inconvenience and I definitely owe them much thanks for the great company. This trip was definitely a step out of my comfort zone as none of us understood the local language and a lot of factors were out of our control (being scammed, finding reliable drivers, getting lost, etc) but we did our best to plan and improvise when needed. Generally, Indonesians are very kind and quite eager to help foreigners. We met some super friendly locals who even tried to converse with us in English and help us whenver we asked. In more touristy areas like the temples, do beware of street vendors that will, more often than not, try to sell you overpriced souvenirs.
For 3 days and 2 nights, a whole whirlwind of activities, transportation, accommodation, and food costed our group of 4 a total of ~$1500 CAD ($400 per person) which I found to be very reasonable. We definitely didn't take the most expensive options during the trip, but we didn't skimp out either. Your dollar can go quite a far ways and if we had planned even better, I think we could have reduced the cost of the trip even more!
Most of the activities are outside of the city, so be prepared to really do as the locals do. Be smart. Find a good, reliable driver. But have fun!
I really hope that this inspires you to explore Indonesia or helps you plan your own trip!