Solo Part Eight: Food and Drink


Food is important to Solonese people who often discuss their favourite warung  or eatery. As well as local specialities, food from across the Indonesian archipelago can be tasted in Solo. Packed with all kinds of eateries, from cheap street food to top knotch restaurants, visitors to Solo have a wide choice of where to eat. Check out my Googlemap to see the locations of some of my favourite places to eat.

Javanese cuisine in Solo

Nasi liwet, a Solonese speciality is rice (nasi) with cooked bamboo shoots and a light coconut sauce. It can be served with egg or chicken and is a nice light meal.

Nasi gudheg, originally from Yogya but widely available in Solo, is stewed jackfruit, beans, leaves and cow skin (yes really) in a sauce, served on rice. It can be eaten with chicken, egg, tofu, tempeh and others.

Soto is rice soup, often with beansprouts, and chicken or beef. Add some spicy sambal (chilli paste) and kecap manis (sweet thick soy sauce) and eat with fried tempeh and tofu. This is often eaten as a breakfast meal but can be eaten throughout the day and some places sell soto at night.

Bakso is meatballs, usually beef, served in a stock or soup with noodles and some leafy vegetables. Add sambal and kecap manis (as above). This meal makes a nice break from rice.

Gado-gado is a mixture of vegetables, egg and tempeh in a peanut sauce, served cold with krupuk (rice crackers) crushed on top. Another good way to avoid rice!

Lotek is similar to gado-gado but involves more leafy vegetables and tends to be spicier.

Nasi goreng is fried rice, usually cooked with egg and can be spicy. Variations include chicken, seafood, and so on.

Mi or mie is the word for noodles, which can be fried (mie goreng) or boiled (mie rebus, mie godok). Usually with vegetables and egg, can be spicy.

Ayam goreng (fried chicken), bebek goreng (fried duck) ikan goreng (fried fish) and other similar dishes follow a basic theme of fried main food item, served with rice, sambal (chilli paste), cucumber and cabbage leaves. These dishes are usually eaten without a spoon, using one’s fingers.

Ayam bakar (grilled chicken) and other grilled meat or fish is served and eaten in the same way as the fried versions above. The meat is grilled in a sweet sauce or kecap.

Ayam tulang lunak is served and eaten as above. This time the chicken is cooked until the bones are soft and you can actually eat them.

Bubur is rice porridge, available in both sweet (bubur sum-sum) and savoury (bubur ayam) versions. It can also be called jenang.

Nasi pecel is a slightly spicy peanut sauce over beansprouts and leafy spinach-like vegetables served on rice. This can be eaten with egg, tempeh, tofu and so on.

Sop buntut is oxtail soup, served with rice.

Selat is not salad. It is a selection of cooked but cold vegetables such as potato, carrot, served with a sweet sauce.

Gorengan are deep-fried snacks, such as tempeh, tofu, banana etc. Healthy stuff!

Krupuk are rice crackers, available in various shapes and sizes and eaten as an accompaniment to almost any food.

Srabi, a sweet snack and a Solonese speciality, are small pancakes topped with a sweet rice mixture and your choice of banana, papaya, chocolate or coconut.

Drinks

Teh is Javanese tea, a mixture of black and jasmine tea, served hot or with ice, sweet and without milk.

Kopi is coffee, served sweet, hot or iced, with or without milk.

Jeruk means citrus fruit and refers to a drink made of juicing a small orange, mixing with hot water and sugar, and serving hot or iced. Jeruk nipis refers to a lime rather than an orange, which is also used to make this drink.

Jahe means ginger and refers to a drink using ginger, hot water and sugar. Teh jahe is the combination of tea with the ginger drink.

Wedang is the Javanese word for drink.

Wedang ronde is a hot gingery drink served in a small bowl with a spoon. In the liquid there are several balls of glutinous rice with peanut butter inside, among other things such as peanuts.

Sekoteng is similar to wedang ronde but without the peanut butter balls, and sometimes with raisins or other dried fruit pieces.

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Solo Part Seven: Googlemap of the City


Have a look at my Googlemap of Solo to see where various places are located, with photos and information.

http://maps.google.co.id/maps/ms?hl=id&gl=id&ie=UTF8&oe=UTF8&msa=0&msid=201503360068374700641.00047f4c4355587d6141a&ll=-7.570168,110.820288&spn=0.026359,0.063762&output=embed
Lihat Rachel’s Solo di peta yang lebih besar

Solo Part Six: Performing Arts


Solo is a hub for traditional performing arts, with many regular performances taking place. In this article I provide a guide to some of the routine events, but you should ask around when you get here, since schedules can change and performances are sometimes cancelled. In particular, many performances are cancelled during Ramadan.

In order to follow the schedule for many of the routine performances you need to be familiar with the Javanese calendar. This is a five day calendar, with days named Pon, Wage, Kliwon, Legi and Pahing. This calendar runs in parallel to the usual seven day calendar, thereby coinciding once every 35 days. Javanese mark auspicious and significant days according to this 35 day cycle, with dual names such as Jumat Kliwon (where Jumat is Friday), which is the coincidence of Friday with Kliwon.

Since many of the regular performances follow this 35 day schedule it is wise to check a Javanese calendar to find out when these days fall. Calendars are everywhere in Solo, so just ask at the place you are staying at, or look for one online. Public performances in Solo are usually funded by a private sponsor or institution, and are therefore free to watch. Most wayang kulit shows run all night from around 9pm to 4am, while other performance genres tend to be shorter in length. The audience is free to chat, eat, drink, smoke and come and go as they please.

The Javanese way to refer to evening events is to call them by the eve of the next day.For example, Malam Jumat is the eve of Friday, that is, Thursday night. This can be somewhat confusing at first.

Here is a list of some routine performances in and around Solo. I’m sure there are others I have missed.

Wayang kulit (shadow puppet theatre with gamelan music)

  • Every Malam Jumat Kliwon (the eve of Friday Kliwon) at TBS, 9pm – 4am.
  • Every 14th of the month at the home of Ki Purbo Asmoro, Gebang, Mojosongo, 9pm – 12am.
  • Every Minggu Pahing Malam (Sunday Pahing evening), at the home of Ki Purbo Asmoro, Gebang, Mojosongo, 9pm – 2am.
  • Every Malam Rebo Legen (the eve of Wednesday Legi) at the home of Ki Anom Suroto.
  • Every Malam Selasa Legen (the eve of Tuesday Legi) at the home of Ki Manteb Sudarsono.
  • Every Malam Minggu Legi (the eve of Sunday Legi) at Balai Agung, next to the Alun-alun Utara, a small intimate venue.
  • Every Malam Minggu Pahing (the eve of Sunday Pahing) at SMKI, gamelan high school, in Kepatihan.
  • Every third Friday of the month at RRI (Radio Republic Indonesia) Surakarta, in an unusual theatre-like setting, 9pm – 3am.

Klenengan (gamelan music concert)

  • Every Malam Selasa Legen (the eve of Tuesday Legi) at Balai Soedjatmiko, Gramedia, a different group performs each month, 8pm – 11.30pm.
  • Pujangga Laras, approximately once a month but different dates and locations, 8pm – 2am.
  • Every Malam Setu Pon (the eve of Saturday Pon) there is a radio broadcast at the Mangkunegaran Palace, 9pm – 11pm.

Dance (Tari)

  • Every 26th of the month at SMKI, 8pm – 10pm.

Wayang orang (wayang wong), with people acting instead of puppets

  • Every evening except Sunday at Gedung Wayang Orang, Sri Wedari, 8pm – 10pm.

There are also frequent performances of wayang, dance and gamelan music at ISI Surakarta, the city’s arts institute, in Kentingan.

Solo Part Five: Excursions


This is a brief guide to possible excursions from Solo that can be visited in one day or less. Many of these places can be combined as a single daytrip to two or more destinations. I haven’t included lengthy histories of these attractions – you can easily find that information on Wikipedia or other websites. These are simply my suggestions of where to visit while staying in Solo.

Borobudur

This is one of the most famous landmarks in Indonesia, a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist monument, with bas-reliefs around its walls. You walk round the temple, starting from the bottom level working your way up to the top where you can reach inside the stupas to touch the buddha statues in order to receive good luck. From the top, the amazing vistas across the Javanese countryside alone make it a worthwhile trip. There are lots of souvenir sellers near the entrance and you will be hassled. If you don’t want to buy anything just keep walking purposefully. It is a good place to pick up touristy items, however, but do bargain hard; most sellers will start at a price more than 200% of a reasonable price, an increase I have only seen at Borobudur. Borobudur makes a good daytrip from Solo – you can go there at sunrise (check opening times), during the day when it can be very hot, or at sunset. It takes about two hours to get there from Solo by car, and can be combined with visiting other places.

Prambanan

Prambanan is a 9th century Hindu temple compound, on the road from Solo to Yogya, near Yogya. Prambanan is a complex of temples, so with many temples in the area, you need a good few hours to be able to see them all. Again Prambanan is impressive, though if you have to choose which to see, I’d definitely recommend Borobudur. It takes about one to one and a half hours to get to Prambanan by car from Solo on the road to Yogya, and again it can be combined with other places as a daytrip.

Yogyakarta

Yogya was, like Solo, an old kingdom of Central Java. Nowadays it is a bustling city about two hours drive or an hour by train from Solo. Yogya has its own kraton and palace like Solo, with museums attached, and there are other interesting sights such as the “water palace” which was previously a series of swimming pools for the sultan. The colourful main street Malioboro is known for its shopping opportunities, and is worth a wander, if only to see the mixture of old (horse-drawn carriages) and new (glossy shops, motorbikes). Yogya is busier than Solo, and has more modern conveniences, such as bigger cinemas, English language bookshops etc. If Solo is good for traditional arts, Yogya is good for the contemporary. As a daytrip Yogya can be combined with Borobudur or Prambanan if travelling by car. However Yogya is a large city so in half or a whole day you will only get a snapshot of what it has to offer.

Tawangmangu / Grojogan Sewu

Tawangmangu is a small town in situated at the foot of Mount Lawu. It is known for the nearby waterfall Grojogan Sewu, which is done up as a place for the Javanese to come on a day out, and it makes a lovely refreshing break with the cool mountain air. The impressive waterfall is surrounded by forest and hundreds of small monkeys live there. You walk down lots of steps to the base of the waterfall, and then you can sit and watch the monkeys. You can also go in the waterfall if you want, and eat rabbit satay and other foods. The food sellers will spread out a rug for you on the ground. Grojogan Sewu is one to two hours drive from Solo.

Candi Sukuh and Candi Cetho

Also located at the foot of Mount Lawu, these two ancient Hindu temples are worth a visit. Hundreds of times smaller than Prambanan or Borobudur, Candi Sukuh, which is sometimes called the “erotic temple” after its bas-reliefs and figures with phallic symbols, and Candi Cetho offer a quiet peaceful atmosphere and cool mountain air. You may well find yourselves the only guests there. On a clear day you can see great views looking down from the side of the mountain, but if the clouds come down you can’t see anything at all.

Sangiran

This is one of the key archaeological sites where fossilized remains of the famous “Java man” or Homo erectus were found. Less than an hour’s drive from Solo along the Purwodadi road, this makes a pleasant trip which can easily be done in a few hours or half a day. There is an interesting museum displaying some of the fossils, with information, some in English, as well as a map showing all of the sites and some life-size models of Homo erectus men and women. The museum had recently been renovated when I went there and it looked like more buildings were going to be opened up in the near future. More information about Sangiran here: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/593

Solo Part Four: Markets and Shopping


Solo offers a range of markets and other shopping opportunities.

Pasar Klewer is Solo’s batik market. Located in a building near the Kraton, it’s full of tunnel-like paths leading along the rows and rows of batik stalls. It’s busy, dark and overwhelming, but worth a visit. Haggling is difficult at Pasar Klewer, where foreigners are often overcharged, so you might be better off buying batik elsewhere. However, Pasar Klewer is such an experience, that you should have a look. You may never see so much batik squeezed into one small space again.

For buying batik there are many options. PGS and Beteng, at the eastern end of the main road just beyond the statue, are worth a visit. Set out like shopping centres these buildings offer a far more pleasant shopping experience and reasonable prices. Haggling is sometimes possible, but many stalls sell at a fixed price.

In the Kauman area, south of the main road near Cakra Homestay, there are many small batik shops, where you can often pick up something original at a good price. You could spend all day wandering down the alleyways visiting these shops, and it’s a pleasant shopping experience.

Large batik stores such as Batik Keris, on Jl Yos Sudarso, and Danar Hadi, on Jl Slamet Riyadi, offer yet more batik options, including small souvenirs such as fans, purses and bags made of batik.

Pasar Triwindu on the road leading from the main street to the Mangkunegaran Palace is Solo’s recently refurbished antiques market. As well as antiques you can find all kinds of knick-knacks and souvenirs here. Haggling is definitely required.

On the same street on Saturday evenings (and some other days) there is Pasar Malam, or night market. This small street market is a good place to pick up little souvenirs and other items, such as food souvenirs, t-shirts, models, keyrings, etc.

There are many other markets in Solo, selling food, flowers and other items. However, those I have described above are the most useful for souvenir shopping.

Should you wish to get away from traditional markets, Solo has two malls – Grandmall and Solo Square – both west of the town centre on the main road. These malls feature supermarkets, fast food outlets, clothing stores and all the usual facilities.

If you need to buy clothes you could check out Matahari department store in Singosaren, near the main road, or one of its branches at either mall.

For buying daily provisions there are many small stores and mini-markets throughout Solo. Larger supermarkets include Atria, at the southwest corner of the Mangkunegaran Palace, and Hypermart at Grandmall and Solo Square.

Solo Part Three: Historical Attractions and Museums


Solo has two palaces – the Kraton and the Mangkunegaran. The Kraton is located south of the town centre within a large walled compound where the Kraton employees and their families live. You can visit the palace and its grounds, where there is also a museum. On one visit I was told it was compulsory to have a guide, who turned out to be very informative and then on another visit I was not even offered a guide. You can see the Sultan’s house at the centre of the Kraton and the tower that was built by a previous Sultan from which it is said you can see as far as the ocean. The museum features old carriages, formerly used for transportation, pictures of the royal family, past and present and many items owned by the Sultans. The water at the Kraton is considered to offer good luck to those who drink it or wet themselves with it, and you can try this in the Kraton garden.

The Mangkunegaran, located just north of the main road, is Solo’s second palace. Although smaller than the Kraton, it is my personal favourite of the two, and one of my favourite places in Solo. The atmosphere in the Mangkunegaran pendhopo (Javanese wall-less building) is magically beautiful and peaceful. You can take a tour where you will be told about the history of the Palace and taken inside to see the museum collection of artefacts, including household items, jewellery and much more. On Wednesday 10am – 12pm there is a gamelan and dance rehearsal in the Mangkunegaran pendhopo, and on other mornings of the week you can watch rehearsals of other traditional musics including gamelan pakurmatan (music for special celebrations). Entering the palace grounds and the pendhopo is free of charge.

Museum Radya Pustaka is situated on the main road – from Novotel cross over and walk west. It is the oldest museum in Solo and features collections of artefacts ranging from household items to wayang shadow puppets.

Solo Part Two: Accommodation


Despite being a fairly small city, Solo is full of hotels, hostels and homestays. I’ve checked out a few across a fairly wide price range.

All prices are correct as of October 2010 when I was researching accommodation. I doubt they will have increased by much, though peak season prices do tend to be slightly higher. Prices are in Indonesian Rupiahs and may be subject to tax. Currently £1 = around Rp.14,000.

Novotel
This is my personal favourite of all of Solo’s expensive options. The rooms are nice, with air-conditioning, hot/cold water, mini-bar, TV, bath and shower, room service, laundry and everything you would expect from an international standard hotel. Wi-fi internet is available in the rooms and in the spacious lobby. There’s a bar with live music, two swimming pools (shared with Hotel Ibis next door), restaurant, fitness centre etc. The hotel is centrally located on the main road, so you can walk to various places of interest. Getting taxis or becaks (rickshaws) from outside the hotel is straightforward. Staff can arrange transportation to and from the airport and are generally helpful and efficient. Breakfast is a large buffet with everything from cereal and toast to fried rice and cheese.

Rates:
Room only prices:
Standard (1 bed / 2 bed) 500,000
Family 550,000
Executive (1 kingsize bed) 590,000
Suite (bedroom and sitting room, 1 kingsize bed) 950,000

With 1 breakfast:
Standard 520,300
Executive 617,100
Suite 943,800

With 2 breakfasts
Standard 550,300
Family 598,950
Executive 647,350
Suite 974,050

Hotel Ibis
This hotel is right next door to Novotel and shares swimming pool facilities (two pools). It is slightly cheaper and less classy than Novotel but still very much international standard. You get air-con, hot water, and all the usual facilities. The cheaper rooms have a shower and no bath. Wi-fi internet is available in the lobby and the rooms have cable internet. Breakfast is a large buffet with Western and Asian foods.

Room only:
Standard 340,000
Deluxe 370,000
and 400,000

With breakfast:
Standard 425,000
Deluxe 455,000
and 485,000

Hotel Asia
This is a step down from the previous hotels, and located in the North of the town, away from the main road, but still within convenient distance of most places. The rooms all have air-con, though the cheapest ones have old-fashioned systems, and the same goes for TVs. There is hot water, and the more expensive rooms have bathtubs. The cheapest rooms don’t have windows. I detected a faint smell of cigarette smoke that might bother some people, though for others being able to smoke in your room would be an advantage. There is free wi-fi in the lobby, a decent-sized swimming pool and karaoke!

Prices include breakfast for two people, buffet-style with Western and Asian options.
Standard 174,000
Standard + 254,000
Moderate 334,000
Deluxe 378,000
Superior 420,000
There are several levels of room above this going up to Asia Suite Room at 1,220,000 but I think if you want to spend that much money, Novotel or somewhere else would be much better for you.

Istana Griya Homestay
This is at the budget end of accommodation in Solo but the rooms are clean and pleasantly decorated. There is no swimming pool or internet, but they do offer a laundry service and prices include a breakfast of fried rice and self-service tea/coffee at all hours. Istana Griya is located in the centre of town, just north of the main road, in an area with many cheaper homestays and hotels. Staff can organise tours, for example, to see tofu being made or learn about batik production. Only the most expensive rooms have hot water (though you may not mind cooling down with a cold shower after a hot sweaty day).

Rates:
With fan only 100,000
With air-con and TV 150,000
With air-con, TV and hot water 250,000

Cakra Homestay
This is comparable to Istana Griya in price, but rooms are plain, with traditional-style “bak mandi” bathrooms. However, Cakra has facilities unavailable at other equivalently priced homestays. Situated just south of the main road, it has a lovely garden with a swimming pool, and a gamelan with twice-weekly rehearsals where visitors can watch or join in. The buildings are in beautiful traditional style, making it a nice place to hang out as well as somewhere to sleep. There is no hot water, though this may not bother you. Again, staff can organise tours to local places of interest, staff at this homestay can often tell you about upcoming performances and other events. Prices include breakfast of tea/coffee and toast.

With shared bathroom 100,000
With shared bathroom per two rooms 125,000

With private bathroom 150,000
With air-con 175,000