Just like its neighbour, Yogyakarta, Solo (or often called Surakarta) is also still identical with a long history of monarchy government. Yogyakarta and Surakarta both make their palace as the center of cultural development and preservation.
Furthermore, the palace is also a symbol of the king’s power. Unlike Yogyakarta whose Sultan is still automatically elected as the governor, Solo has another governor who runs the city. Governor in Surakarta is elected by the people in Surakarta.
If you are coming to Solo, here are some suggestions you might put on your to-do list.
Look Up to The Palace Closer
One thing you really must see is, of course, this beauty of Keraton Kasunanan Surakarta. This palace is a complex of buildings that still runs a function as a residence of Sri Sunan Pakubuwono and palace households that conduct royal tradition until today. Keraton Kasunanan Surakarta Is open for visitors from 09.00 AM-02.00 PM except on Friday, Keraton is closed for public. Admission fee is only IDR 10,000 for domestic tourists and IDR 15,000 for foreigners (about USD 1.2)
Learn to Bargain at Klewer Traditional Market
It is still typical of Indonesian habit to haggle at a traditional market to have a better price. The most wanted market to see is this Klewer Market (Pasar Klewer) which is located near Keraton Kasunanan Surakarta. You can just walk on foot to get here. This market offers you thousands of stores selling fabrics, batik, jewellery, trinkets, even puppet leather. FYI, Klewer Market was damaged by massive fire back in December 2014. Now, though you may not be able seeing how this authentic market looks like, you can still find many Javanese pieces of stuff here at the new face of Klewer Market.
Try Serabi, the original pancake in Surakarta
Serabiis maybe slightly different from pancake you know with its thick dough and flat shape. They combine the rice flour with coconut milk which finally makes the pancake tastes both savoury and sweet. The thin crispy crust surrounding it makes it even more tempting. The original Serabi from Notosuman is actually white and plain but they also make more variants by adding some toppings like chocolate sprinkles, slices of banana, and also jackfruit. You can find many Serabi mongers on the side street along Jalan Slamet Riyadi but the one with its legendary recipe since the 1920s is here in Jalan Mohammad Yamin No. 28.
Learn The History of Cetho Temple
This temple is located in the area of Gumeng village, Karanganyar regency, which is 36 km away from the city center of Surakarta. One of Javanese-Hindu temple which is still undamaged by years since Cetho Temple was built around 15th century. Pay attention to the every inch of its beautiful cravings accompanied by the mild breeze coming from such plantation complex nearby.
Watch the shadow puppet show
If what you only know so far is just shadow puppet show, you also have to attend this special show which brings the puppets alive. Wayang Orang, which literally means Human Puppet will show you group of real human act out characters based on various forms of drama. The story is mostly adapted from Javanese version of Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. Human Puppet Show is run daily from Monday until Saturday on 8 PM. The ticket fee is only IDR 10,000. Just go to GedungWayang Wong in Sriwedari, Jln. BrigjenSlametRiyadi No. 275, Surakarta.
Getting Around The City with A Fancy Double Decker Bus
Department of Transportation Solo provides double decker bus which will take the passengers going around the city to see the beauty of Solo city by just paying IDR 20,000/person. This bus is called Werkudara Bus and it is taken from a character in Mahabharata story. Werkudara is described as a tall, brave, and certainly doughty man, quite an apt name for this giant bus in bright red colour. In the middle of the journey, there will be a time when passengers have to exchange their seat. If you have first chosen a seat in the upper deck, then you must come down halfway to a seat in the lower deck.
Quench your thirst with Es Dawet at Pasar Gede
Pasar Gede literally means Big Market. Try to find Es Dawet Telasih Bu Dermi here. It is no easy feat to find this place because it is only such a small kiosk. The stall can only accommodate six customers at the same time. Do not ask how it tastes like, just go and try it! Trust me, you would be wanting to come back here again and again, lining up like all the others for a taste of this addictive sweetness. This Es Dawet consists of cendol (green pulpy dish of rice flour), tape ketan (fermented glutinous rice), bubur sumsum (rice flour porridge), and with the main ingredient telasih/selasih (basil seeds).
Hunting Batik in Kauman Batik Village
There are actually two Batik villages in Solo, Laweyan and Kauman Batik Village. The nearest one to the city center is the Kauman batik village. Here you can find local houses with parts of it converted into a boutique. You are also able to watch the batik making process here. As you know, the stamped batik (batik cap) is cheaper as they are easier to make. But if you appreciate batik that is painstakingly hand-drawn, then they are well worth the splurge.
Find Cool Spots Around Post Office
When night comes, the area around Solo Post Office comes to live. People, mostly youth, gather around here just to spend their night. It is also popular to get the best angle shot of the classical buildings here or the passing by vehicles as your downtown background.
Mandarijn Cake For Your Family and Friends
The most famous place to have snacks and cakes is in this oldest bakery in town. One of the tourists’ favourite is their Roti Mandarijn (Mandarijn cake) which has two layers, yellow at the top and dark brown at the bottom. Pineapple jam glues both these layers together.
Solo is known as the “Spirit of Java”, and for a reason I am sure. You should put this city into your next destination wish-list when you visit Indonesia and find out if what they say is true. I personally agree!