Saturday, May 12, 2012

Yogyakarta Trip Day 2 - Kraton Palace and Taman Sari Water Castle

Prambanan and Borobudur are the names that always been mentioned with Yogyakarta. However, both of the temples are actually not located in the province of Yogya, but in Central Jawa. Our second day in Yogya, after spending 3 hours visiting Candi Borobudur in the morning, we went back to Yogya to visit two of the most historical sites within the city- Kraton Palace (or Karaton Ngayogyakarta by the locals) and Taman Sari Water Castle.

Kraton Palace was built in 1790. It is the symbol of the king and the sultanate of Yogyakarta, successor of Sultanate of Mataram. The palace was built facing Mount Merapi, with Tugu Monument stands in line between them. We read in an article, saying that the monument was served as a mark for the sultan to observe the condition of the volcano in early days. After the independence of Indonesia in 1949, Yogyakarta has been given the autonomous in administration under the king and formed the Special Region of Yogyakarta. The Palace is located at the southern end of Malioboro Road, and it is quite easy to be reached (20 minutes by foot from Dagen Road). The entrance fee is RP 15,000 (tour guide is included) with additional RP 1000 for our camera. The palace is open to public from 8 am - 2 pm daily. The palace is closed to public one hour earlier on Friday.

Once we got our tickets checked, we went into the compound of Kraton Palace. The palace is dominated by Jawanese architecture, art and design, with a blend of Hinduism and Islamic influences. This white in the photo gate leads to the main palace compound. There are two guardian statues at the side of the gate, the left one is guarding the good events while the right, bad events.

There is a theater at the right side of the white gate, with traditional dance and Royal Gamelan Musicians on shows. That was the first time for us to see a full set of Gamelan. Gamelan is an assemble of traditional musical instruments originated from Jawa.

After we entered the white gate, we could see the stage of modern music (upper left) on the left, where the modern music players perform in royal occasions. Behind the stage is the house of the musicians (lower left). To the right is sultan's residence (upper right). Sultan is in his residence if the lamps in front of the residence are turned on. We grabbed an opportunity to take photo with one of the palace's guards. The palace guards are still wearing the traditional costumes and equipped with keris (traditional Malay dagger), and walk in bare foot.

Many of the equipments which were used in olden days are still displayed. The large wooden box on upper left used to be the place for sultan to store his puppets for wayang-kulit show. The big drum on upper right was used to remind sultan about the time to pray. The small litters (or sedan-chairs) on lower left were the vehicles to carry the dowry during royal marriage. Our English speaking guide was super friendly. She even showed us how the fire alarm was sound during the olden days.

The golden museum is one for the many buildings that showcases the collection of sultans, built by one of the sultans of Yogya to commemorate his own "golden era". This dark wooden building is eye-catching in the middle of white buildings.

Many antiques are displayed in the palace. One of them is the light bulbs used many years ago in the palace (left). 300 years old gamelan which is played only during Prophet Muhammad's Birthday (upper right) and the cameras used by the sultans are displayed as well.
With the mind set of how a "palace" should look like (such as the sultanate palaces in Malaysia), the modesty of Kraton Palace impressed us in a different way- that's why the people here love their sultan very much- live an ordinary life.

Taman Sari (or Tamansari) Water Castle is situated inside Kraton compound. The castle used to be the royal garden of the sultanate. Built around 1750, the castle is believed to be an area for the former kings to rest, meditate, defence, and even to escape from the enemies. The castle is believed to be a place for the kings to accommodate their concubines.The entrance fee is RP 7000 (RM 2.50 or less than USD 0.80), with additional RP 1000 for camera. The castle is opened to visitors 9 am - 3:30 pm daily.

Taman Sari consists of four different area - the first in the middle is a large bathing area with 2 pools, to the west is an artificial lake (the water has been drained out), smaller bathing pool for the sultan at the east, and a compound for royal function at the south (just after the entrance).

According to our tour guide, most of the area of Taman Sari have been occupied by the village folks, whom many of them are working for Kraton. However, in future, all the village folks will have to move out of the area in order to give Taman Sari a place on the list of World Heritage Site.

The current entrance of Taman Sari Water Castle was originally the back door of the castle. The main entrance was closed as it is not easy to be reached by visitors.

The entrance lead us into compound, where the sultans used to conduct their royal ceremony there. The small pavilions were once used as the performing stages for the musicians.

This is the picturesque scene that we saw at the center of the water castle. This is the scene that appears on many postcards. The tower used to be the location where the sultans looked for the "right one" to spend a night with.
Photo taken with LS's parents by the pool, where the concubines of the sultans used to swim inside.

Going in deeper and this is what we saw- the main entrance of the water castle. The other side of the wall has been fully occupied by the village folks. This closed entrance marks the furthest point that we could access in this castle. Lead by our tour guide, we turned right to visit the artificial lake and the underground passages.

This is one of the entrances to the underground passage. The artificial lake has been filled up by the villagers and turned into the settlement of the villagers.

Walking down to the underground passage, which once upon a time, the underwater passage.

This is how the underground passage looks like.

There is a structure lay in ruin on the top of a hill (upper and lower left), which used to be the place where the concubines live. Looking down the hill, we can see a row of white structures lined in the middle of village cottages (upper right). The white structures serve as the ventilating holes for the underground tunnels. The water used to cover until just a few inch below the windows of the white buildings. Then, led by our tour guide, we went underground again. Once we surfaced, we had reached the dock where the sultans used to embark and sail to the hillside far behind (showed by the green arrow).

For Tamansari Water Castle, hiring an English speaking tour guide with RP 20,000 per trip is highly recommended, as some of the places at Taman Sari, such as the seclusive artificial lake and the hidden underground passages are not easy to be found without proper guidance. We missed these two parts of the castle in our first visit, as the site is too big for us to explore by ourselves. We easily found the hidden area of the castle the next day, with a tour guide by our side. 

Both Taman Sari Water Castle and Kraton Palace can be accessed by becak (trishaw), andong (horse carriage), or by taxi. We found a becak driver who was willing to send us with RP 20,000 from Kraton Palace to Taman Sari, then from Taman Sari back to our hotel at Dagen Road.

After we had visited Prambanan, Borobudur, Kraton Palace, and Taman Sari Water Castle, we reserved the rest of our time to roam around Malioboro Road and Ambarrukmo Mall on our last day at Yogya. Follow us now to know more about our story about shopping, food,  and accommodation at Yogya now.

[Yogygakarta Trip Day 2-Kraton Palace and Taman Sari Water Castle]


  1. Such a great information! Bravo!

  2. Thank you for the detailed explanation. We did get a guide but he did not give us all this information.

    1. Dear Govind, incompetent tour guides can be frustrating, especially when they cannot provide the necessary information for us to know and appreciate the essence of the historical sites. We hope that by reading our blog, you can know more about Kraton and Taman Sari Water Castle and filling in the blanks that your guide had left out. Cheers.

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    10.00-10.15 go to tamansari
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    1. Dear Jati, thank you for your information about the tour package offered. Hope our reader will find your information useful.

  4. wah bagus yah tempatnya..sangat menarik.

  5. Great post! Love the pictures of the palace as well! Do check out our coverage of Yogyakarta Travel Itinerary before you go!

    Happy Travels Everyone!

    Tom & Kate,