Java is the hub of Indonesian society, home to the nation’s capital – Jakarta, and one of Indonesia’s most popular tourist destinations. It has enjoyed its role as a regional leader for centuries. Many powerful empires of yesteryear – Hindu kingdoms, Buddhist kingdoms, Islamic sultanates, and the Dutch East Indies were all based in Java. Today, Javanese culture is a collage of the architecture, arts and music these great civilizations left behind.
With over 60% of the population living in Java’s six provinces of West Java, Banten, Central Java, Yogyakarta, East Java, and DKI Jakarta, Java is the most populous island in the world and heartbeat of Indonesia. With just under 7% of Indonesia’s total land area and the lion’s share of its population, it is also one of the world’s most densely populated places.
As expected in such a densely populated place, traffic in most parts of Java is extreme, to say the least, especially on weekends when city dwellers from Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, and other cities head into the countryside for their weekend getaways.
Tourists should not be deterred – there are remote places that are rarely visited such as Ujung Kulon National Park – the only place the endangered one-horned Javanese rhinoceros can be seen. And, during the week, Java’s more popular joys are readily accessible.
Javanese Wayang (puppet) theater and Gamelan (traditional orchestra) can be enjoyed in several varieties throughout Java. Originally court dances, you will find many traditional forms of Javanese dance performed as they have been for centuries, as well as modern renditions. Javanese dance is often characterized from Wayang Theater and performed to hypnotic Gamelan music, as it tells its intricate story.
Geographically, Java is of volcanic origin – formed by thirty-eight mountains that run its full length, providing limitless camping and trekking challenges that will take you through lush vegetation, teeming with wildlife, to remote, rivers, mountain lakes and waterfalls.
At various times, most of Java’s mountains have been active volcanoes – some still are. Extremely rich soil has been left behind by all this volcanic activity. When traveling across Java you will see kilometer after kilometer of beautiful terraced hillsides covered with abundant rice, coffee, and other crops. Agro-tourism is a growing trend in Indonesia, allowing visitors to spend time on working plantations.
Java is well known for its surfing as well. Among its many surf spots, Plengkung beach, or G-land as it’s known to surfers, is the most famous, having hosted the Quicksilver Pro surfing championship on many occasions.
Javanese Batik, Java’s most popular craft can be found throughout Java. An art form, it is cloth dyed into intricate patterns, each with a unique meaning that traditionally signifies the wearers position in society. Other Javanese crafts include silverwork, rattan, and wood carving.
Java Food & Drink
Food from Java is a mixture of cultures, traditions and kingdoms. In the west you have the Sundanese Kingdom that has probably the healthiest Indonesian dishes which are rich in vegetables. Then we take the journey to central and east Java where your sweet-tooth in for a treat. Java is the centre of a happy stomach with its rich variety of foods at wonderful prices that mean you can eat like a king all day every day.
A little tip is forget the start main course dessert in Javanese cuisine as they don’t really exist in separate categories. Eat as much of the food you enjoy and wash it down with your extra sweet tea of drink. They do love their sugar buzz.
Some popular dishes are:
- Gudeg Yogya (Young jackfruit, chicken and hardboiled egg stew)
- Bakso Malang / Bakso Solo (meatballs, made of beef, and served in boiling hot soup with noodles, green vegetables, shredded cabbage, and of course chili sauce)
- Ayam goreng Kalasan / Klaten (Chicken, stewed in spices then deep-fried. Served with sambal and raw vegetable salad)
- Timlo Solo (A beef and vegetable soup)
- Soto Kudus (Indonesian soup with turmeric, and meat)
- Lumpia Semarang (Fried or steamed spring rolls)
- Sate Blora (Chicken satay)
- Pecel Madiun (boiled vegetable salad, in a spicy peanut sauce)
- Gado-gado (like pecel, only different vegetables)
- Soto Madura (beef and offal soup)
- Sate Madura (Chicken satay)
- Soto Lamongan (Chicken Soup)
- Rawon (Crimson beef soup)
- Rujak Cingur (boiled and raw vegetable salad)
- Lontong balap (“racing rice cake”, rice cakes, fried tofu, and beansprouts)
- Tahu campur (beef meat and offal soup, mixed with fresh vegetables, potatoes, rice cake, and tofu)
- Tahu tek (fried tofu, boiled vegetables, potatoes, covered in peanut-based sauce)
- Ronde (better known as wedang ronde glutinous rice balls stuffed with peanut paste, floating in a hot and sweet ginger and lemongrass tea)
- Ayam penyet (fragmented fried chicken, you eat the bones)
- Bebek goreng (deep fried duck)
- Gule kambing (mutton cooked in a coconut curry milk soup)
- Nasi kuning (like nasi rames or nasi campur, rice cooked in coconut milk with turmeric, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves to create a yellow colour)
- Sop buntut (Oxtail soup)
To wash it all down try….
- Teh poci Tegal (Home grown Tea with rocks of sugar in clay pots and cups)
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