Jogja's 7 Unique And Traditional Things That You Can See, Try, And Enjoy

Try and enjoy unique and traditional things that you can find in Jogja, starting from fancy cow carts to people living side by side with thousands of wild Blekok birds.

Updated on 19 November 2018

There is always a reason for another visit to Jogja, whether it is because of the yearning for its atmosphere and the hospitality of her people, the need for nostalgia, or a mere desire to go on a vacation. Like an old friend, Jogja keeps calling the name of those who have been there to come back again. Time has changed a lot of things, everything traditional have been replaced with the more modern ones. Carts are replaced by cars, while traveling barbers are replaced by barber shops or big salons. Jogja is different, however; not only is she a tourism paradise, she also acts as the preserver of many traditional things that have existed since the olden times. The following are 7 unique and traditional things you can see, try, and enjoy in Jogja.

1. Fancy Cow Carts, Jangkang Animal Market, Sleman

Unlike most people, who use cars or trucks to transport animals like cow to sell to the market, certain Jogjanese prefer to use a unique vehicle. Every pasaran day (pasaran refers to the days in Javanese calendar), at Pasar Jangkang, Sleman, there is a tradition of transporting cows using fancy cow carts. The fancy cow carts are basically ordinary cow carts, but decorated with the color red, yellow, and blue. The carts are modest, made of bamboo and wood as its basic materials. Each of the colored carts is steered by a "bajingan" (a Javanese term to refer to the driver of the cart). On Wage days (one of the five days of a week in a Javanese calendar), these bajingan(s) will take their cows or other farm animals with their carts to Jangkang Market and wait for their customers there. A lot more cow carts will appear on Wage Sundays.

2. Traditional Food: Geblek and Tempe Benguk at Kenteng Traditional Market, Kulonprogo

Geblek is one of the traditional foods that have become the icon of the District of Kulon Progo. The food is made of the wet cassava starch. White in color and sticking to each other, geblek tastes savory and chewy. Geblek tastes better when combined with tempe benguk (tempe made of benguk bean instead of the more commonly used soybean), another typical food of Kulon Progo, or dipped into sambal sauce. If you want to taste this rare culinary item, just come to Kulon Progo and visit one of its markets, Kenteng Traditional Market, in Nanggulan Sub-district of Kulon Progo.

How to go to Kenteng Market:
the City of Jogja - West Ring Road's Demak Ijo Crossroad - Jalan Godean - Godean Market - Progo River Bridge - Kenteng Market

3. The Making of Batik Tulis in Wukirsari Village, Imogiri

Yogyakarta is well-known for her batik tulis (batik made using melt hot wax painted using a pen-like apparatus called canting) and therefore, it is not difficult to find in Jogja. There are numerous batik galleries and shops in every corner of Jogja, like in Malioboro, for example. But have you ever thought of its origin and how it is made? If you are curious, just come to Wukirsari Village, Imogiri, Bantul. The local villagers inherited their batik-making skills from their parents. Wukirsari is the place where Jogja's typical motifs, such as Sida Mukti, Sida Luhur, Sida Asih, Wahyu Tumurun, Sekar Jagad, etc., are made according to the standards. Each of the motifs has certain special meanings, such as representing a prayer for the one wearing it. Furthermore, in this MURI record-breaking village, tourists can directly observe how batik tulis is made in a gallery, or visit the house of one of its residences and watch as they create batik pieces.

How to get there:
the City of Jogja - Ring Road's Giwangan Bus Station Crossroad - Jalan Imogiri Timur - Opak River Bridge - take a left turn at the second T-junction after Opak River - Wukirsari Village

4. Have Your Hair Cut by a Traveling/Traditional Barber

Traveling barbers might have actually existed, before modern salons and barber shops started popping out at every corner of the city like mushrooms in rainy season and eventually replacing them. However, this is not the sort of things occurring in Jogja. In this culture-rich city, we can still easily find such traveling barbers. Should you wish to experience nostalgia or just try the sensation of having your hair cut by traditional barbers, you can find them at either traditional markets or Yogyakarta's northern city square. Equipped with onthel bike (bicycle widely used during the Dutch colonization in Indonesia), a tool box containing several types of scissors, razors, and a mirror, these traditional barbers will travel around offering their service to people, or waiting for customers under a shady tree.

5. Buying Traditional Cakes at Kotagede Traditional Market

As the world is becoming more and more modernized, traditional foods are getting harder to come by because their popularity is slowly over-ranked by instant and fast foods. However, tourists can still find these traditional foods at the oldest market in Jogja, Kotagede Market. The market has existed since more or less 400 years ago, during Panembahan Senopati's reignned over the Islamic Mataram Kingdom. Every Legi day (one of the five days of a week in a Javanese calendar), the market is always full of people because Legi is the market's pasaran, and for the very same reason, the people living around the market call it the Legi Market. But you do not have to wait for a Legi day to come just to buy those traditional foods. Every day in the afternoon, food merchants will be ready with their serabi (a cake made out of rice flour), cucur (fried cake made of wheat flour and rice flour), pukis (a half circle shaped cake), and Jogja and Kotagede's typical food, bakmi pecel (noodle served with boiled vegetables and peanut sauce) and kipo cake (small cake with grated coconut and palm sugar filling). In addition, after satisfying your stomach, you can resume your journey by walking around enjoying the atmosphere of the setting sun in Kotagede, Jogja's oldest urban area.

How to get there:
from Malioboro, take a left turn at KM 0 crossroad - take a right turn at Jl. Senopati's traffic light - Jogjatronik, Jl. Brigjen Katamso - take a left turn at Pojok Beteng Wetan crossroad - take a right turn at XT Square traffic light - Jl. Pramuka - take a left turn at the next traffic light - Kotagede - Kotagede traditional market

6. Attending and Observing Jogja's Rituals and Traditions

Jogja is rich in culture and local wisdom. Though it is slowly turning into a modern city, the citizens still manage to preserve their culture and local wisdom that have existed since a very long time ago. Even until now, you can still witness numerous cultures and local wisdoms such as merti dusun (a village festival held to express gratitude to God) and sedekah/labuhan laut (giving offerings to the sea), religious ceremonies like Melasti (Hindu's purification ritual held at the beach), and many others. If you cannot match your personal schedule with the ritual schedule, you can just come and visit Keraton Yogyakarta (the royal palace of the Kingdom of Yogyakarta). At the Keraton, you can see interesting activities performed by the Abdi Dalem (Keraton's servants) in preparing beverages for Sri Sultan (the king of the Yogyakarta Kingdom). The ritual is performed daily at 06.00 in the morning and at 11.00. If the Keraton's ticket booth has not opened yet in the morning, you can see the ritual at 11.00, around when the female abdi dalem(s), dressed in their typical clothing, are going from the Keraton complex to the Keraton's kitchen (Gedhong Patehan). The beverages served to Sri Sultan are teh tubruk (tea served unfiltered), teh saring (filtered tea), coffee, and plain water. We are allowed to observe the ritual but limited to only within the area of Gedhong Patehan.

7. The People of Kentingan Village, Sleman, Living with Thousands of Blekok Birds

People living side by side with their pets are something you might have seen every day, but what about people living side by side with thousands of wild animals? The people of Kentingan Village, Sleman, have been accustomed to that kind of life. For decades, people there have lived with thousands of Blekok birds (a species of heron) coming out of nowhere and building nests on their trees. Visiting this village, you can observe the life of these birds as they make nests and feed their hatchlings. The best time to come to this village is in the morning and in the afternoon. In the morning, the birds usually feed their hatchlings and fix the nests. Approaching noon, they will fly in flocks to the village's rice fields. In the afternoon, the birds will fly back home to their nests to feed the hatchlings and perhaps continue repairing the nests for a second time.

How to get there:
from the City of Jogja - West Ring Road's Demak Ijo Croosroad - Jalan Godean - Jalan Cebongan - Sendari Village, a bamboo crafter village - follow the road signs leading to Kentingan Tourism Village - Kentingan Tourism Village