Dec 26, 2007
SOLO & YOGYAKARTA, A Wedding and City Stroll
Ever feel like time goes so fast and you just can’t relax and enjoy life? My suggestion is go to Solo. It’s a city in Central Java, Indonesia, where distance is not a matter, and you can barely run out of time.
DESTINATION : SOLO
ARRIVAL : SEMARANG
Renny and I were ready to check in for our very early morning flight to Solo by Mandala Airlines (cheapies!), when the staff told us there was no flight to Solo that morning, Dec 21.
Me: “How can that be?”
Renny: “Yeah, we’ve bought the tickets!”
Staff: “Yes, but sorry ma’am, the plane is out of service, so we don’t have flight to Solo this morning..”
Me & Renny: “So…, what now?”
Staff: “But we can put you in our flight to Semarang one hour from now..”
Me & Renny: (confused and ‘WTF’ look in our faces)
Staff: “..we will then have a car ready to drive you from Semarang to Solo..”
Me: “How long is the ride gonna be?”
Staff: “About 3 hours..”
Me & Renny: (bursting with laughter and amazement of this ridiculous service)
But, well, we had no other choice, so we just went along with the itinerary.. I swear to God I’ll never ever fly with Mandala ever again.. well, that is IF I still have other choices.
So there we were, at the Ahmad Yani International Airport, Semarang. And then after having to claim for one hour for our rights for the car service to Solo along with 2 other passengers / victims, they put us in a taxi with the meter on. The airline paid for the fare, about Rp 260.000,00. And so we arrived at our hotel in Solo at noon.
Literally the name of the hotel means “My House”. It’s located on Dr.Rajiman street, Laweyan. Turned out that it’s not really at the center of the city and wasn’t very popular, so it was quite funny when we told our cab or becak drivers to take us to Roemahkoe, they would ask us “where’s your house at?” wahahahaha..
The hotel consists only of about 14 rooms. All decorated in Javanese style, combined with the old Dutch style house. I kinda expected some spooky atmosphere, but thank God nothing ‘funny’ happened while we were there :D
It’s a boutique hotel, I’m not sure it’s rated by the 5-star rating system, but I don’t think it matters because Roemahkoe has a unique style of its own. This is how they serve complimentary breakfast: they’d phone each room to ask what food of the provided choices the guests want as breakfast. The choices are fried rice, fried rice-noodle, pecel (sorta like Javanese salad), omelette, and scrambled eggs with toasted bread. And we can either have it in our own room or at the restaurant.
Another unique thing about the hotel is that they have a set of Javanese gamelan ready to be played at the back of the restaurant. Visitors can request for a gamelan lesson, but Renny and Jaka here only played for the fun of it without instruction from anyone. But since I’m no expert in the gamelan music whatsoever, I didn’t mind listening to their spontaneous composition :D
Just a step away from the gamelan set, there’s a back door that goes to houses of the Laweyan area. This area is known for the batik retailers since ages ago (the hotel Roemahkoe used to be one of the batik vendors house as well). A nice walk in the afternoon through small streets and stopping by some houses with the ‘Batik’ signs outside is a recommended way to spend time in Solo, and you can purchase cheap beautiful batik clothes, sarongs, etc, for yourself or gifts for loved ones.
The price for a piece of sarong varies from about Rp 40.000,00 to millions of Rupiahs, depends on what kind of material (cotton, silk, etc) and design. Most of these vendors also distribute their products to vendors in Jakarta (who then sell the products in crazy prices), and some export them overseas such as Malaysia and Suriname.
There’s a well-known batik vendor in the Central Java (I think they’re originally from Solo) called Danar Hadi. They’ve got shops all over the country. Here in Solo, not only they’ve got a shop, they’ve also opened a batik museum (displays all kinds of Indonesian batik from the colonial era ‘til present time, from Java and other parts of Indonesia, which are all personal collection of the owner of Danar Hadi). Too bad in both the shop and
museum visitors aren’t allowed to take pictures. I have no idea why, but I’m fortunate enough that they let us take pictures as many as we want in the workshop where they produce the batik cloths.
There are 2 major kinds of batik: the written batik (batik tulis) and printed batik (batik cetak). The written kind is of course more expensive because it’s much harder to make.
After the writing or printing design is finished, they color and wash the cloths in big bad tubs, and then dry them indirectly from the sun.
Although it’s a very small city, Solo is widely known for its good food. Various kinds of food. We didn’t have that many chances to taste every kind of food there, but we were fortunate enough to taste some of the good ones.
Serabi Notosuman is one of the popular snacks there. It’s produced and sold at a simple shop at Notosuman street. Make sure you get there at the latest at 2 pm unless you wanna end up like us – they ran out of the serabi when we got there at 3pm. But the Fortune Goddess was on our side.. our beloved hotel Roemahkoe serves the serabi in the evening between 5-7pm for free! Yay!
Still on the Notosuman street, right across the Serabi place, we bought some dry food to bring our beloved ones in Jakarta. Gosh, there were too many kinds of food to choose from!! The price varies from about Rp 7.000,00 to Rp 28.000,00 a bag.
Just across the hotel, there’s a simple lesehan café (lesehan is where you sit on the floor to eat, with a short table in front of you, sorta like the Japanese do) that serves mostly ‘tulang lunak’ food (tulang lunak literally means soft bones, you can eat all the bones of the duck, chicken, and fish, without getting trouble chewing or swallowing or digesting it).
Gudeg Adem Ayem is one of the famous places to eat gudeg. It’s also a famous food from Jogjakarta as well, so I’m not sure where it’s originally from. But since Solo and Jogjakarta is only 1 hour apart from each other by train, so it doesn’t really matter, right? (whoa! Don’t throw stones at me if you disagree! I’m just kidding!)
Solo has its own kraton (kraton is like a palace with the kingdom, government, and everything). Nowadays the kraton still has its king, princes, etc, but they don’t really rule anymore. It’s now only some sort of cultural thing, and the ruling now is held by the provincial government. Or something like that. Please do correct me if I’m wrong.
The kraton itself was bought by the kraton family from a professor in the 1700s. By now there are some renovated parts – like the paint, the ceilings – but mostly are still original. They’ve got many furniture and decorations such as statues originally from Europe and China. They’ve also got a museum in the kraton. If you go there on Sunday, make sure you get in before 1pm. Then a guide will guide you around the kraton tour until whatever time you wish.
PASAR KLEWER (KLEWER MARKET)
I’ve heard of the Klewer Market since ages ago. It’s said to sell lots and lots of cheap stuff, mostly made of batik. It’s a dry market, but I guess most of the stuff weren’t really my kinda taste. Certainly wasn’t Renny’s either cos we got out of there empty-handed and didn’t even have the mood to take any pictures. Sorry.
PGS (SOLO RETAIL MARKET)
We then continued our journey to PGS (Pasar Grosir Solo = Solo Retail Market) by becak. There we had a nicer atmosphere to shop. Other than batik clothes, they’ve got many modern style stuff that you can even find in Jakarta or anywhere else in Indonesia, but the important thing is that there’s a single shop that sells rattan stuff! Very cheap ones!!
I bet my sister and her hubby would go crazy if they saw this shop directly because they’ve been looking for rattan stuff for their home, which are very difficult to find in Jakarta with reasonable price. So I managed to buy them a laundry basket and a waste basket (which, in Jakarta would be worth 10 times!), and I’m so glad that they actually love them!!
Not a lot of people know about this place. We got a hint of it from a friend of Renny who saw it on TV. Finally a staff at the hotel could tell us where it was and how to get there (well, by taxi, but he did draw a map for us cos the taxi drivers didn’t know much about it either). Here at Triwindu market there are lots of small stalls the sell antiques. Mind you, the antiques aren’t actually antiques. They’re quite newly made, but they look very much like antiques. Well, maybe some are actually oldies, but you better check with the sellers. Hope you don’t get fooled. Oh and, they’re not so expensive anyway.
Now, the reason why I went to Solo in the first place was because there’s a college friend of mine who got married on Dec 21 evening. So Renny and I (and Jaka) played dress-up a little bit for the party, with the simple purses that I purchased at the PGS for only Rp 50.000,00 each.
On our way to and from the wedding, we were surprised to see that some of the cabs are equipped by a DVD player that plays music videos. It’s meant to attract customers because the ones with DVD player are mostly from the newer taxi company.
It was nice that I also got a chance to meet my old friend, Novi, who squeezed in time to meet me from her daily activities as a working mom, and also gave me some info on where to go in Solo. Her house in Jaten is like 30 minutes ride from our hotel, and that’s considered to be a faraway distance in Solo. I told ya, time is not a matter there..
Since Jogjakarta is only 1 hour of train ride from Solo, so we hopped on the economy-class train called.. oh geez I forgot..! it’s “something express”.. which only cost Rp 7.000,00 / person. No seat number, first come first served. There are several departures each day. The latest one from Jogja to Solo is on 6.55pm, and the latest one from Solo to Jogja is one hour either before or after that.
Becak ride in Jogja is always nice and always cheap. Rp 5.000,00 per becak from the train station to Bringharjo market on Malioboro street.
Kinda like our experience in Klewer Market, Bringharjo doesn’t give us much of shopping pleasure. But not to make the same mistake like before, this time I did take some (poor) pictures there.. hehe..
MIROTA BATIK & GIFT SHOP
As predicted, I bought some unique stuff at a gift shop called Mirota. I’ve always liked to shop here whenever I visit Jogja for any purpose (this was probably my 5th time there). But to our surprise, Mirota was jam-packed with visitors! Oops, we forgot.. it was a high-season, a very long weekend.. everybody was either in Bali, Bandung, or Jogja.. including us..!!
KAFE VIA VIA
This is a memorable café for me cos I celebrated my birthday here 2 years ago. It’s located on Prawirotaman street, the same direction we’d go from Malioboro to Parangtritis beach, only it’s only about halfway to Parangtritis. I’ve always loved this area, Prawirotaman. It reminds of the Poppies Lane in Bali, where there are many small cafes and simple hotels alongside the narrow streets. We got there by delman, a horse-carriage, which cost us Rp 40.000,00 from Malioboro. It was about 20-minute ride. It would be much cheaper if we weren’t given the tourists price.
After having a great time but not so great food at the café (used to be cheaper too, the food) also with my old pal Koko and his girlfriend, we had to kinda rush our way back to the train station cos at that time we weren’t sure what time the latest train would depart. After purchasing the tickets and realized there was still time to shop around, we then strolled down Malioboro street and got ourselves cheap sunglasses for Rp 35.000,00 each pair.. We just loooove cheap stuff..! :D
BACK TO JAKARTA
Going back from Solo to Jakarta, Renny and I took the executive train called Argo Dwipangga, Rp 250.000,00 / person. It departed from the Solo Balapan station at 8 pm, scheduled to arrive at Gambir station, Jakarta, at 3.55am the next day. But it turned out to arrive at Gambir at almost 6am. But it was overall a nice ride, we had quite a nice sleep on the reclining seats, lent blankets, and quite spacious seats.