Traveling to the Heart of Central Java in Solo (Surakarta), Indonesia

11:30:00 AM Jerik De Guzman 0 Comments


I've spent terrific number of days in Yogyakarta and i think, I've already explored much of what must be seen in the city. Finding some other place to go, i ventured into an off beat destination in central Java. You see, the island is so huge, but foreigners traveling to this side of Indonesia are often confined to the big wigs like Yogyakrta, Bali and Jakarta. Although there's tons to see in the places mentioned, they often are the same every single year. Nothing changes, really. 

I didn't have a guide book with me while i was traveling to Indonesia, so most of the places i went to all came from recommendations from hotel staff and bystanders. The night before, i was chatting with friendly locals outside my hotel nearby Marlioboro. One man mentioned Surakarta. The next day, i found myself riding the train bound for Purwosari. This is the stop for Solo or commonly known by locals as Surakarta. I just want to see the city for myself.


After traveling for an hour on a train and paying an unbelievable price at $1 for the ticket, i have arrived in Solo. Away from the tourists of Yogyakarta, i begin to wander around the city. Almost forgotten by many, and definitely not commercialized. During the time that i spent here, i haven't seen a single tourist in sight. 

TRIVIA: Not a lot of people know, the current president of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, proudly called Solo as his hometown. And before he was elected as the president of the largest Muslim archipelago in the world last October 2014, he served as the mayor of this beautiful and historical city. 

After negotiating a price with a Becak driver, i went on a tour around Solo. 


Puro Mangkunegaran is a beautiful palace built in 1757 for the Mangkunegara princess. My amazing guide was there to take me around the huge complex. I was simply admiring the main hall, the rooms and foyer. 


I placed my sandals on a plastic bag and carried it with me wherever i go. I was barefoot the whole time. 


It's so welcoming to note that i was exploring this vast place without any tourist in sight. Head here for the calm and peaceful atmosphere as you try to understand the kingdom and history of Surakarta. I even saw gold coins presented to the king by the Rajas of the Philippines. My tour guide is so knowledgable about the history of Solo, i even extended my stay there just so i can fully understand the richness of Solo's history. The tip i gave my guide was well worth it. 


This opulent lounge set in the foyer is a sight to behold. I can just imagine how the kings and queens of the Mangkunegara used to sit around and entertain their guests.

Not a lot of people know, that once in a while, i try my best to understand history of the place by visiting museums and reading about scriptures. If you're in Solo ( and i am telling you that you should be), it's but fitting to make the Mangkunegaran Palace as your first stop. 


Keraton Kasunanan is another palace that i went to. Built in 1675, this place is where the Pakubuwono Kings used to live. 


The mix of Javanese and European architecture is so apparent in the entrance of the palace. The elaborate railings of the terrace and the striking blue main door, make this palace truly a heritage site. 


Of course, there are more magnificent mosques found within Java but Masjid Ageng is one where you could see the tradition and religion of people go hand in hand. All of the others that you will find are beautifully designed and are renovated for tourists. Masjid Ageng is the beating pulse of the Javanese Muslim population, and is the most sacred in Solo. 


Outside the mosque, the real story comes alive. I stayed here for long waiting for the afternoon prayer to end. Vast number of locals were there to pray inside. While outside, the merchants and old people stay glued on their wares hoping to earn money to survive. 

That is the real story of Java that is often overlooked by UNESCO world heritage sites such as Borobodur or Prambanan. You may get a photo of a sunset at the top of Borobodur or the sunrise by the ruins of Prambanan, but how many of you have actually sat down with the locals in Solo (Surakarta) and asked them how their day was? That, i think, is a great story to tell to the next generation of travelers. 


Hindu-Buddhist sculptures and ceramics, and cannons from Dust East India Company are carefully placed inside the the second oldest museum in Indonesia, at Museum Radya Pustaka Surakarta. Established in 1890, the place is part of Taman Sriwedari park complex.


Find your own adventure by discovering the wonderful heritage of Javanese culture in pulsating city of Solo. Walking around lead me to even more historical houses built hundreds of years ago. 


If you really want to experience the local heritage of Java, head to Solo where afternoons can be spent roaming around and discovering prayers unlike you'll ever see anywhere else in the world. 


It's not just about history in Solo. Sometimes, you will see the rapid ascent of the future of this place, unfold right in front of your eyes. With thousands of local hang outs from restaurants, cafes and malls, you will always find something unique and adventurous to do within the city. The names of the places you will stumble upon are so funny, it's actually part of the local culture of Java. And is one that makes Solo such an endearing place to visit. 




I am quite thankful that i was able to spend almost a month within Java, just traveling and exploring different cities and towns. I've been to the heritage sites and top tourist attractions within Java, and they all are beautiful places. Yet, when i look back at all these places, i realize they are just pretty pictures to look at. Sometimes, while chatting with friends, they are just amazing memories to rekindle. Sooner or later, one will take a better photo of these places. And a few years from now, more people will also experience how it is to visit these sites as part of their own bucket list. 


But Solo was never part of my bucket list. I don't even have one. I actually didn't come to Indonesia to go to Solo (Surakarta). It just came up in a discussion with local people the night before. But the trip i had here was something i will always be proud of. Apart from Bandung, Solo was one of the destinations in Java where i felt i was really getting to know this country on a whole new perspective. Solo made me realize i was traveling to the heart of Java. 

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