Destination: Yogyakarta

The World Heritage site Borobudur isn’t the only reason to visit Yogyakarta.

The majestic Buddhist temple of Borobudur, an hour’s drive from Indonesia’s cultural capital Yogyakarta, features highly on many people’s bucket lists. (It’s a nice way to one-up people bragging about having been to Angkor Wat.) Truth be told, though, the site is now often overrun by tourists and, with the uppermost levels currently off limits after the 2010 eruption of nearby Mount Merapi, making it the focal point of your visit could leave you disappointed. Fortunately, it’s easy to get your cultural fix in bustling Yogyakarta itself, to venture out to smaller and more intimate temples in the surrounding countryside, or to just kick back in one of an increasing number of luxury retreats. We asked art curator Leonor Veiga, a recent contributor to Indonesian Eye (www.indonesianeye.com) to, pick her favorite art spaces in the city.

Cemeti Art House

The environs south of Yogya are great for an art tour, especially the area beside the Keraton palace. Cemeti Art House (Rumah Seni Cemeti), which opened in 1988, was the first alternative space to promote art practices on a wider international platform. Founded by the artist couple Mella Jaarsma and Nindityo Adipurnomo, it now acts as a liaison between Indonesia and the rest of the art world: Curators, researchers and artists can apply for residencies; and it’s where major and groundbreaking names—including FX Harsono, Heri Dono and Jompet—have displayed their work.
Jl. D.I. Panjaitan 41, +62 (0) 274 371-015, www.cemetiarthouse.com. Open Tue-Sat, 9am-5pm.

Kedai Kebun Forum

From the same generation, artist Agung Kurniawan founded another alternative space in 1999: Kedai Kebun Forum, which explores performance and visual arts. KKF is a great place to learn about the art scene as Agung and his wife Yustina Neni (the Executive Director of Bienniale Jogja) are always there. The Forum also encompasses a nice restaurant offering international cuisine, a gallery that functions twice a year as a shop of artist-made goods, a library and an inviting garden. KKF is walking distance from Cemeti, and makes for an easy lunch or dinner after taking a look at the shows.
Jl. Tirtodipuran, +62 (0) 274 376-114, www.kedaikebun.com. Open daily, except Tue, 11am-11pm.

Lamggeng Art Foundation

Last year, the preeminent collector from Magellang, Deddy Irianto, opened a new art space in Yogya: Langgeng Art Foundation. It’s walking distance from Cemeti and KKF. The striking building (which also houses a nice bistro) was designed by renowned Indonesian architect Eko Prawoto. It hosts mainly exhibitions of established artists, with FX Harsono, S Teddy D, Agus Suwage and Filippo Siascia among those who have had shows there to date. More will surely follow.
Jl. Suryodiningratan 37, +62 (0) 274 417-043, www.langgengfoundation.org. Open daily, 11am-7pm.

Sangkring Art Space

Sangkring Art Space is located in the famous village of Desa Nitripayan, to the Southwest of Yogya, where many artists have their studios. Rents are cheaper here and it’s set amid inspiring scenery. Opened in 2007, Sangkring is owned by Bapak Putu, who is from Bali. Many Balinese artists study in Yogya because of its role in critical discourse: Bali is still hooked on tradition, since it’s a guardian of the same pre-Islamic culture that founded the temples of Borobodur and Prambanan. This is perhaps the most beautiful space to exhibit in Yogya now, and it plays host to a variety of major events.
Nitiprayan Rt 1 Rw 20 No.88 Ngestiharjo, Kasihan Bantul, +62 (0) 274 381-032, www.sangkringartspace.net. Open Mon-Sat, 11am-8pm.

Why You Should Go

Borobodur. Probably Indonesia’s most famous UNESCO World Heritage Site, Borobudur, a complex of Buddhist stupas built in the 8th century, is the world’s largest Buddhist structure­. Driving to it from Yokyakarta takes around 40 minutes.

Prambanan. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Prambanan features a collection of 237 giant hindu temples built around the 8th century. The complex is 17km away from Yogyakarta.

Kraton Complex. Also known as the Sri Sultan Palace, the multi-building compound is where the former sultans and their families once lived. You can experience classic Javanese arts and architecture in the main mansion Kraton Yokyakarta, and its surrounding buildings and museums, reflecting the ancient royal family’s luxurious lifetsyle. Located in town.


Getting There

There’s no direct flight from Bangkok to Yokyakarta. Your choices are: flying via Kuala Lumpur or Singapore with AisAsia (from B8,400 roundtip, www.airasia.com), or Jakarta with Garuda (from B21,000 roundtrip, www.garuda-indonesia.com).

Where to Stay

With its manic mopeds and busy byways, it’s easy to forget that Yogyakarta was once a royal capital. The best way to stay sane is to splash out on some princely accommodation of your own and consider staying outside of the city.
Amanjiwo. Frankly, spend a night here and Borobodur itself will seem rather underwhelming, such is the contemporary elegance of this luxurious hideaway. It also affords perhaps the best view of the monument, three kilometers away but perfectly (and deliberately) framed through the entrance; the design paying homage to traditional Javanese architecture. Each of the 36 suites has its own garden terrace and outdoor bathtub, with some even flaunting private pools. It ain’t cheap but nothing else comes close. Rates start at US$700 (B21,855) per night for a Garden Suite, including airport transfers.
Ds. Majaksingi, Borobudur, +62(0)293-788-333, www.amanresorts.com
The Phoenix Hotel. Yogya’s version of Raffles, this former estate of the late-Sultan’s kid brother offers history and luxury in equal measure. Just 15-20 minutes’ drive from the Kraton (home of the Sultan himself), the city center bustle is close to hand but easily put out of mind. Onsite amenities are, naturally, expensive but as a base for easy exploration of Yogya it can’t be beat. Snag a room overlooking the picturesque pool; this is the new section of the hotel and, ironically, the nicest. Word of warning: don’t be surprised to see (and hear) kids running around. Rates start at 614,000IDR per night.
Jl Jenderal Sudirman 9, Yogyakarta, +62(0)274-566-617, http://bit.ly/lvBotF
Villa Sumbing. One of the best kept secrets in Java. Tucked away in traditional farm country, this luxurious five-room villa is surrounded by gorgeous rice hills and paddies, adjacent to the hauntingly beautiful Mt. Sumbing. Although the villa is about an hour’s drive from Borobudur, and two hours from Yogya, drivers offer full-day car service for IDR600,000, while for just IDR100,000, guests can also hike through the surrounding countryside with local, English-speaking tour guides. With just five rooms and a private pool, the service is certainly personalized and friendly. Although the staff don’t speak much English, it’s still relatively easy to communicate—and if you speak French, you’re in. Rates start at a bargain IDR550,000 per night.
Magelang, Borobudur, +62(0)293-552-9577, http://villa-sumbing-indah-id.com

Travel Tip

Touring the more remote temples around Yogya on your own isn’t easy and few local drivers speak English. Your best bet is to arrange a guided tour, either through your hotel or with an independent guide.


1 Baht = 290 IDR (Indonesian Ringgit)

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Address: Destination: Yogyakarta, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
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