We were hoping to somehow travel independently from Borobudur via Mount Merapi and on to Surakarta (Solo) but this proved virtually impossible without hiring private transport. But as we were still heading to Mount Bromo and Kawa Ijen this was less of a priority and we opted to return from Borobudur to Yogyakarta in the same way (with a local bus) and take a train to Surakarta (Solo) to see what the so-called 'twin-city' of Yogya has to offer.
Yogyakarta Walking Tour with MAP
How to visit BOROBUDUR Temple on a Budget
To get from Borobudur back to Yogyakarta you need to get a bus from the Borobudur terminal to Jambor Bus Terminal. The journey takes around an hour and costs 25 000 Rp per person. You then transfer to a Trans Jogja bus (3 500 Rp) to reach Yogyakarta Train Station. Regular trains depart for Solo from platform 1 and it takes about an hour. Our ticket was 8 000 Rp per person for the economy service - the price will depend on the class of the train. Tickets for this service are only available at the stations and can’t be booked online.
The formal name for the city is Surakarta - less formal but widely used is the name Solo.
Historically, Solo has been a centre of power in Central Java and today is known for its influence on Javanese culture - notably for its batik industry and wayang kulit (shadow puppet plays). There are a number of interesting and historical sites to visit and you can also easily do day trips to Mount Merapi or Prambanan.
We found that the handiest way to get around Solo is by becak. The compact size of the city means walking is an option but the streets can get crowded and noisy.
Keraton Kasunanan is the palace of the Pakubuwono Kings. It's a large and beautiful palace built in 1675 that combines traditional Javanese and classical European styles. Admission fee is 15 000 Rp for foreigners. Strangely it was virtually deserted when we visited and we spent some time around the museum and gardens.
The Klewer Market (Pasar Klewer) is located right near Keraton Kasunanan and you can just walk to get here. This market offers thousands of stores selling all types of fabrics, batik, jewellery and trinkets. We browsed around and enjoyed a freshly squeezed juice from a vendor outside.
One thing you HAVE to try is Serabi, the original pancake in Surakarta. Serabi is slightly different from pancake you know with a thick dough and flat shape. Rice flour is combined with coconut milk which makes the pancake tastes both savoury and sweet. The thin crispy crust surrounding it makes it even more irresistible! You will find no shortage of Serabi vendors on the side street along Jalan Slamet Riyadi.
Solo is one of the main centres of production for Batik (Indonesia's national fabric) which is synonymous with the culture of Java itself. Batik making in Java is an age-old tradition that has been passed down through generations.
Traditional batik making is characterised by the wax-resist dyeing technique, in which melted wax is applied to the fabric using the Canting, a utensil that has a metal cup to hold the melted wax and a tiny spout to drip it. It is held like a stylus and used to cover the pre-drawn pattern lines to allow it to be dyed afterwards. The process requires painstaking precision and patience as Batik patterns can be extremely complex.
If you're looking for some of the best authentic Batik in Java you won't find much better than visiting one of the two Batik villages in Solo, Laweyan and Kauman Batik Village. The nearest one to the city centre is the Kauman batik village. Here you will find local houses with rooms converted into a boutique where you are able to watch the batik making process. The area’s signature batik is usually dark in colour and boasts modern motifs.
We visited Solo over a weekend and found it to be exceptionally quiet for the most part. Apart from the weekend night markets, there was a Fun Walk down Jalan Slamet Riyadi on Sunday morning to encourage a "Solo Car Free Day"
Solo is affectionately known as the “Spirit of Java”, and for a good reason. Although not as charming as Yogyakarta you should consider putting this city into your next destination wish-list when you visit Indonesia and find out if this is true.
PART 1 Video of our month-long trip to Indonesia during 2016
This video shows us arriving in Jakarta and travelling via Yogyakarta and Surakarta (Solo) on to Mount Bromo near Probolingo and from there to Kawa Ijen near Banyuwangi. It was made before we started our Youtube channel and was mainly recorded using compact cameras.