Places To Stay: Sawah Breeze House – Yogjakarta, Java, Indonesia
Name: Sawah Breeze House (Sawah means rice paddies)
Location: Kasihan, just south, and within easy reach of Yogjakarta, on the Indonesian island of Java.
Description: The small cottage is next to another cluster of buildings, which is also rented out, so one isn’t isolated, yet, it is completely separate and private. Behind it, the owners have their own small weekend house. Built with local flair and materials, it sits on the edge of a hundred hectares of rice paddies. It consists of a bedroom with a large king size bed with mosquito netting, a lovely outside bathroom, and a small outside kitchenette, where one can prepare a cup of coffee or tea, or make a bowl of instant noodles.
Surroundings: At the front stretches a seemingly endless sea of green rice paddies, while at the back, it is a short walk away from a main road, where one can find various warung (traditional food stalls / restaurants), as well as a small convenience store.
What makes it special: Not only is the setting wonderful, but Silke and Riyanto are the perfect hosts. Helpful, caring, friendly, and discreet. A special memory is the evening they invited me for a barbecue at their weekend house, as the sharing of stories, insights and experiences are always a highlight of my travels.
The front porch was by far my favourite spot, and it was from where I watched the sunrise every day (except for the day I watched it from the top of Borobudur), had breakfast and various other meals, wrote in my diary, watched the locals go about their daily chores, and watched the flicker of fireflies, while enjoying the cooling breezes after nightfall.
Food: Breakfast is included, and served on the porch, at a time you decide on. You have a choice of different Indonesian or Western staples, and it includes a plate of fresh fruit. The papaya was the sweetest I’ve ever tasted, and I also loved the dragon fruit, mango and watermelon that were in season.
There are various places to find good food in the immediate vicinity of the cottage, and Silke has compiled a very useful folder with suggestions. The following are my favourite two places, where I had more than just one meal:
Villa Bluesteps, a short walk through the rice paddies, and overlooking the same rice paddies as the cottage, but from a different angle, serves both international and local food. It also has ice-cold beer, which is the perfect way to end a hot, humid day, without going very far. The main reason why I loved this restaurant, is that I didn’t have to dodge any traffic, but could take a short, pleasant walk through the rice paddies to reach it. Walking back after dark is a wonderful experience, as the fields are filled with fireflies. Just remember to take a torch if you plan to stay after dark.
Aroma, a longer walk away, is a quirky spot, which serves great Indonesian food. They claim to have the best carrot cake in Yogjakarta, but I think they under sell themselves. It is the best carrot cake I’ve ever eaten, so if you are a fan of carrot cake, it is worthy of a pilgrimage.
Bookings: Bookings are made through Airbnb
How to get there: Yogjakarta or Jogja for short is a short flight from Jakarta (just over an hour). Various airlines operate this route. I flew with Indonesia Air Asia, as they conveniently operate from Terminal 2, from where Etihad Airways also operate. Soekarno-Hatta International Airport consist of 3 different terminals, so do some homework, before booking your flights.
Things to do in the area:
Walk to Chocolate Monggo. It will take you about 30 minutes. Try to walk as much of the route through the quieter neighbourhoods, instead of along the busy main road. The locals are very friendly and big smiles will greet you everywhere. Chocolate Monggo has a wonderful chocolate museum, and the guide, who took me through it was very knowledgeable. Their factory is closed on a Sunday, so visit when they operate to watch the process. Afterwards you can indulge in one of their chocolate drinks. On a hot, humid afternoon an iced version is the best. You will find their chocolate for sale at various restaurants, shops, and the airport, but stockpiling for the year, or buying them as gifts are a must. I’m not a big chocolate lover, but I did buy a good stash, as it is arguably the best chocolate I’ve ever had.
The shops in Jalan Raya Kasongan (the same road where you will find Aroma) are definitely worth exploring. They specialize in ceramics, but there are also antique shops and various decor and furniture shops. I could easily have filled a container with their wonderful offerings, but instead just admired the skill and creativity of the artisans. It is an easy 30-40 minute walk from Sawah Breeze House, if you like walking. On the way back, stop at the café located at the car wash for an ice-cold beer, before you turn off to the left to walk the final stretch through the rice paddies, where you will find various friendly locals hard at work.
One of the reasons I love to make time during my travels to amble around without a specific goal, is that I often stumble upon my most memorable experiences this way. This was exactly how I discovered the studio of graphic artist, Bonaventura Gunawan. I paused to take a picture of the street art in the photograph on the left, when a man, who just arrived at the building, waved me inside. Here I discovered five artists around a table hard at work. I was invited to sit and observe, and was introduced to B Gunawan shortly afterwards. Not only did he indulge me by showing me around, discussing his art, but I also left with two catalogues of his work from previous exhibitions, as a tangible reference to his amazing woodblock prints that are full of symbols and metaphors of life in Java.
Getting around: Although situated in a rural area, it is far from remote, and it is easy to get around by downloading either one of the following apps: GRAB (a Malaysian app) or GOJEK (an Indonesian app). With both you can even order food, and with GOJEK you can even get a massage therapist to come to your house. I made use of GRAB to get around, and it was a very smooth process. I also made use of a private driver, Narto, (organized through Silke) for three day trips, and who went the extra mile to take me to places he didn’t know, but I wanted to visit.
Visited: Oct/Nov 2018