Keeper of the Javanese Heritage
It is impossible to escape the pulse of Java and all things Javanese in the ancient village-cum-city of Yogyakarta, the island’s flourishing art center. Visitors leave shopped out, enlightened, and entertained to their hearts’ content.
Rich in history, “Yogya” and the nearby city of Solo, long havens of cultural refinement, are still ruled by sultans, whose sprawling kratons (palaces) are fascinating to visit. This is especially true when they become the venues for gamelan concerts, described as “the sound of moonlight.” Exquisite classical dance performances, which originated in these very palaces, are still attended by members of the royal family and their batik-uniformed court retainers.
Royal patronage also keeps alive the inherent artistry of the Javanese, whose workshops are everywhere. Intricate silverwork, leather wayang shadow puppets, and colorful batik in every quality level and price range make shopping the city’s many pasars (bazaars) a herculean study in resistance. What doesn’t tempt your eye will tantalize your palate – Yogya’s street eats are ubiquitous and renowned.
A visit to the nearby Buddhist monument of Borobudur is a must, as is the Hindu site of Prambanan, a 9th-century complex of 224 temples and shrines, 8 of which have been restored. During the full moon in the dry season (April through October), Prambanan becomes the floodlit backdrop for a cast of hundreds that performs the Ramayama ballet; it leaves even the most jaded international audience transfixed.