Yogyakarta's Jl. Malioboro has long been the main souvenir center for tourists visiting the city, with a wide range of souvenirs and handicrafts being available on this less-than-one-kilometer long street.
For the adventurous, however, a trip to visit the actual handicraft makers is recommended. Here the products are inexpensive and tourists can enjoy the cool air and panoramic view of the countryside. One can also experience frequent spectacles of local tradition and culture.
Before embarking on the trip, one should hire a car because public transportation from one handicraft location to another is not available. Cars can usually be rented through travel agents or hotels.
It is best to start off very early in the morning. The first stop is Kasongan handicraft center on Jl. Bantul in Bantul regency, to the west of Yogyakarta.
At Kasongan one can see the entire process of making earthenware vessels. If you are lucky, you can may get to watch the heating process in a hearth using dried rice stalks as fuel.
Not far from Kasongan - just 10 minutes by car - is Pucung hamlet, where a wide range of tribal statues and handicrafts are produced.
The price of these items is not too high. A 15 cm tribal statue can be bought for Rp 40,000, a larger one 60 to 90 cm in height costs Rp 100,000, while the largest, about two meters tall, carries a price tag of Rp 150,000.
About 15 minutes to the northwest of Pucung is Krebet hamlet in Pajangan Bantul, where a wooden batik handicraft center is located. There are various products here, such as tissue boxes, ashtrays, key chains, etc.
After enjoying the fresh country air and having done your shopping, a pleasant place to relax and have lunch is Depok Beach in Kretek Bantul. Various saltwater fish can be ordered to eat while you enjoy the refreshing panoramic view of the seaside.
While waiting for your food to be served, you can watch fishermen returning from the sea, usually between 11:30 am and 1 pm. The fishermen let people buy their fresh catch directly from their boats.
You can then continue your trip to Banyusumurup in Imogiri Bantul, where there is a kris handicraft center. Both types of kris - souvenir and authentic - are available.
However, only the souvenir type are over the counter as the authentic ones have to be ordered well in advance due to the eight months of rituals involved in their making.
To the north of Banyu Sumurup is the Giriloyo batik center, where there are more than 500 skilled batik-makers. Every day at almost any time of the day you can find women making traditional batik in their homes or batik groups.
A tourist can also learn more about batik and how it is made through a tour. Nur Achmadi, one batik producer, said the guided batik tour cost only Rp 45,000 and included detailed explanations and hands-on involvement. Various traditional snacks are also included in the price.
On the way back to Yogyakarta, drop by Manding on Jl Parangtritis, to look at the various leather products, such as wallets, belts and jackets. Prices range from Rp 15,000 to Rp 200,000.
After an adventurous day of visiting a number of handicraft centers, Tembi House of Culture on Jl. Parangtritis Km 8.4, Tembi, Timbulharjo, Sewon, Bantul is an interesting place to stop for the night.
Here you will find Tembi's Resort Ndeso, which offers typical countryside ambience. On the one-hectare plot stands seven buildings, namely traditional Javanese limasan and joglo.
Prices at Tembi's Resort Ndeso range from Rp 386,100 to Rp 918,500 per night. A family of up to eight persons can rent a whole building for Rp 99,000 per head per night including breakfast.
A cultural show is usually staged in the evening at the adjacent Tembi House of Culture, or guests are taken to Yogyakarta for cultural shows held in the city.
The traditional menu at this place originates from serat Centini, which was written in Javanese in 1824. Resort Ndeso has no fewer than 264 original Javanese items on its menu, 60 of which are various traditional chili sauces. Favorite dishes include buntil (shredded coconut with anchovy-type fish wrapped in papaya leaves), tongseng burung emprit (munia bird served with fried onion, shallots, chili and cabbage) and sambal jengot (hot chili sauce).
The aforementioned handicraft centers are just some of many centers in the area. Other places of interest include Kotagede for silverware and buffalo horn handicrafts and Bobung, Gunungkidul for statues.
- JP/Slamet Susanto