Although first glance the flat, sprawling city seems even less a royal capital than its neighbour, Solo rewards patience. Its Suduhunan or ruler, as writer and batik artist Iwan Tirtaamidjaja has noted. “was the only Javanese to whom the Dutch paid full respect. His palace … was an enclave where absolute deference was awarded to ancinet Javanese laws and traditions.”
Partly as a result of the aristoctratic emphasis on Javanese traditions and proprieties in the city, Solo is very different from Yogya. It is more sedate, more reserved and more refined, without the young, revolutionary undercurrent, at least this is how the Solonese like to see themselves. Solo is sleepier and smaller (in area if not in population), with less traffic, and also fewer tourists.
The easiest way, from Yogya, is to book a seat on an express “colt” at one of the travel offices on Jl. Diponegoro just west of the Tugu monument for US$1,20. They leave all day at half – hour intervals and will drop you anywhere in Solo. You can also flag down a bus or mini bus heading east on Yogya’s Jl. Jend Sudirman or Jl. Solo and get to Solo for about half the price, but it takes a lot longer and it is usually very crowded.
The other alternative is to rent your own taxi or minu bus from Yogya with up to seven other people for US$17,50 one way, US$22,50 round trip (returning on the same day). Solo also its own airport, with two or there flights operating daily to and from Jakarta and Surabaya. And all trains stopping at Yogya also stop here.
Solo’s main street is Jl. Slamet Riyadi, a broad boulevard which runs east – west and is a continuation of the highway into town from Yogya. At its eastern end stands a Tugu monument, just in front of the northern gates leading into the alun – alun (town square) and the Kraton precincts. The General Post Office, government buildings, banks, the telephone office and the central amrket (Pasar Gede) are all nearby. Most hotel, restaurants and shops are also within walking distance, on or near Jl. Slamet Riyadi, and the interisting areas of town to explore on foot are mostly centred around the two palaces – the Kasusuhunan and the Mangkunegara. Jl. Secoyudan is the main shopping street and runs parallel to Slamet Riyadi. The travel offices are in between these two streets, on Jl. Yos Sudarso, and this is where you book and board and express “colt” back to Yogya. Most intercity bus companies have offices and representatives along Jl. Veteran in the south of the city, as well as at the Bus Terminal near the city “bypass” (Jl. Parman / Tendean / Haryono) in the north.
Almost everything is within walking distance. Otherwise take a pedicab (becak). See Yogya: Getting Around” for tips on bargaining for becaks. The fares here are essentially the same, and you normally pay no more than Rp 500 to go about a mile in the centre of town. With some practice you may be able to get rides for Rp 200.
Accommodation (US$20 and up a night)
The best hotel in town is the Kusuma Sahid Prince, with very comfortable doubles ranging from US$24 on up to US$200 a night for an “Indraloka Suite” (plus 21 percent tax and service). They have a good sized swimming pool, that can be used by outsiders for US$1,50. The Mangkunegaran Palace Hotel is just nearby (same price, US$24 and above). Two other hotels in the same category, the Cakra and the Solo Inn, are similiarly priced and quite adequate, but being on busy Jl. Slamet Riyadi are not as spacious or as quiet (without pools). The Sahid Sala is a bit older and slightly less expensive (US$20 for an air conditioned double, plus 21 percent).
Cakra Hotel (50 rooms), Jl. Slamet Riyadi 171, Solo, Tel: 5847, 7000.
Solo Inn (32 rooms), Jl. Slamet Riyadi 318, Solo, Tel: 6075 – 7.
Kusuma Sahid Prince Hotel (100 rooms), Jl. Asmara 22, Solo, Tel: 6356 – 8 and 6901 – 2.
Mangkunegaran Palace Hotel (48 rooms), Jl, Istana Mangkunegara, Solo, Tel: 5683.
Sahid Sala (40 rooms), Jl. Gajah Mada 104, Solo, Tel: 5891.
Internediate & Budget (Ubder US$20 a night)
Your best bet ib the intermediate range is the Ramayana Guest House, with several rooms ranging in price from US$12 up to US$22 for a large room with a fan, including breakfast. Very clean and airy, but a bit far from town. Several other guest houses nearby, like the Sarangan and the Putri Ayu in the same price category, are only slightly less comfortable.
The Indah Jaya near the train station gives you good value: air conditioning, carpeting, colour T.V. and breakfast for as little as US$15,50 a night (plus 21 percent). The Hotel Trio is a centrally locatedChinese run establishment right opposite Pasar Gede with small, clean rooms in the back for US$10. They also have several large older rooms in the front sleep three or four for tha same price. The newly remodelled Mawar Melati has rooms with a fan and private bath for only US$38, as well as some cheaper rooms for US$3.
Budget travellers invariably stay at Mawardi’s (also knowns as “The Westerns”) in Kemlayan for US$1,50. The beack drivers all know the place. If they are full, try the Mawar Melati, the Kota or the Central, all nearby.
Central Hotel, Jl. K.H. Ahmad Dahlan, Solo, Tel: 2842.
Dana Hotel, Jl. Slamet Riyadi 232, Solo, tel 3891.
Indah Jaya, Jl. Srambatan 13, Solo, Tel: 7445.
Kota Hotel, Jl. Slamet Riyadi 113, Solo, Tel: 2841.
Mawar Melati, Jl. Imam Bonjol 44, Solo, Tel: 6434.
Mawardi’s, Jl. Kemlayan Kidul 11, Solo.
Ramayana Guest House, Jl. Dr. Wahidin 15, Solo, Tel: 2814.
Seribu Hotel, Jl. Marconi 28 A, Solo, Tel: 3525.
Trio Hotel, Jl. Urip Sumoharjo 33, Solo, Tel: 2847.
The overall best Javanese restaurant, by general consent, is the Sari, on the south side of Jl. Slamet Riyadi (no.351), but it’s about 3 km (2 miles) from the centre of town. The specialities here are nasi liwet (a Solonese speciality – rice cooked in coconut cream with garnishes), fried chicken and various types of pepes (prawns, mushrooms or fish wrapped in a banana leaf with spices and steamed or grilled). Closer to town, the original Timlo Solo, Jl. Urip Sumoharjo 106, is also very good. They have excellent daily specials, but also the standard Javanese fried chicken, pecel (boiled vegetables with peanuts sauce), nasi gudeg (the Yogyanese speciality) and nasi kuning (rice cooked in turmeric), with tahu, tempe and coconut. For the best Javanese style fired chicken in town, try the new Tojoyo at Jl. Kepunton Kulon 77. That’s all they serve and it goes fast (open only 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.)
The best Chinese restaurant is the Orient Jl. Slamet Riyadi341 A (several doors down from the Sari). Here you can order a beef hotplate, sweet and sour pork or fish (a whole gurame), corn and crab (or shark’s fin) soup, Chinese broccoli with black beans (kailan tausi), and their speciality: boiled chicken with garlic, onion and ginger sauce (ayam rebus). The Centrum at Jl. Kratonan 151 is much more central and also very good – let the manager order for you. They are famous for their crab rools (sosis kepiting), prawns stir – fried in butter (udang goreng mentega), fish with salted vegetables (ikan sayur asin) and fried crabs claws (kepit kepiting).
For the best chicken and mutton sate in town, go over to the Ramayana at Jl. Ronggowarsito 2 (one block in front of the Kusuma Sahid Hotel). They also have excellent Chinese dished such as fried spinach (kangkung) and deep fried pigeon (burung dara goreng).
A convenient spot for a light lunch is the Segar Ayem restaurant on Jl. Secoyudan opposite Pasar Klewer (the central Batik market), within walking distance of the Kraton. Excellent iced fruit drinks here, with some simple Javanese dished like gado – gado, pecel and nasi rames.
Another nearby luncheon spot, good for Chinese noodles of many types as well as iced fruit juices and cold beer, is Bakso Taman Sari on Jl. Jend. Gatot Subroto 42C between Secoyudan and Slamet Riyadi. Another good place for Chinese noodles is Miroso, Jl. Imam Bonjol 10. The best nasi Padang place is Andalas, on Jl. Ronggowarsito Palace Hotel entrance.
Finally, you should sample the sweet coconut cream cakes sold from little carts all along Jl. Slamet Riyadi at night – a local speciality called serabi.
Batik: Solo is konwn as “Batik City” and the three largest producers are all based here: Batik Keris, batik Semar and Batik Damar Hadi. Visit their showrooms. Danar Hadi has many better quality kain and batik shirts in the US$10 to US$20 and up range. Semar aims at the mass market, with printed batik dresses and shirts selling for as litte as US$2. Keris is in between. For the best in Solonese tulis work, visit Ibu Bei Siswosugiarto (Sidomulyo is her label) in the south of town, where most pieces cost between US$40 and US$120. K.R.T. Hardjonegoro, one of Java’s best known batik designers also lives and has his factory here, but generally sell only through outlets in Jakarta. You might try his some though. Have a look also at the thousands of pices for sale in Pasar Klewer, and wander the side streets nearby, behind the Grand Mosque, where there are several quality producers.
Batik Danar Hadi, Jl. Dr. Rajiman.
Batik Keris, Jl. Yos Sudarso 37, Solo.
Batik Semar (factory showroom), Jl. Pasar Nongko 132, Solo.
Batik Semar (barnch), Jl. Slamet Riyadi 76, Solo.
K.R.T. Hardjonegoro, Jl. Kratonan 101, Solo.
Sidomulyo (Ibu Bei Siswosugiarto), Jl. Dawung Wetan, R.T. 53, Solo.
Antiques: Visit the Pasar Triwindu market first, to get an idea what is available and what it costs some years back, antique brass oil lamps were fetching between US$15 and US$50 depending on size and ornamentation (the glass is an expensive aprt, as few original ones are left intact). Round marble top tables with four chairs were up to US$175 (US$50 less without the marble, which is searce here but can be easily bought in the West). And Chinese wedding beds were over US$1,000 for a good one with the gold leaf trim intact.
Many of the vedors and dealers here also have caches of antiques furniture and other valuable items at home, or they can guide you around to some of the refinishing workshops in town. no obligation to buy if you go with them, though you should pay for the becak. But then established antique shopfronts on Slamet Riyadi and Urip Sumoharjo, where all sorts of teasures are sitting gathering dust. They are a bit more reputable and less likely to sell you fakes. But still beware and bargain hard!
Eka Hartono, Jl. Dawung Tengah 11 / 38, Solo.
Mertojo “Sing Pellet”, Jl. Kepatihan 31, Solo.
Mirah Delima, Jl. Kemasan RT 11, Solo
Parto Art, Jl. Slamet Riyadi 103, Solo.
Singo Widodo, Jl. Urip Sumoharjo 117, Solo
Trisno Batik & Art Shop, Jl. Bhayangkara 2, Solo.
Keris: To buy an antique keris dagger, visit Pak Suranto Atmosaputro, an English lecture at the university, at his home just down a narrow alley across from the RRI radio studios (Jl. Kestalan III / 21). He is a keris aficionado and member of the “Keris Lover’s Association” of Solo, and always has pieces of his own for sale, or he can quickly round up a selection for you to examine, at prices ranging from US$30 to US$200, with many good ones in the US$75 to US$100 range. Follow him on a Sunday to observe how is keris being forged and carved in the village to Komplang just to the north of Solo (at the hone of Ki Lurah Wingyosukadgo).
Wayang Puppets The acknowledged centre for wayang kulit production in Java is the village of Manyaran, about 35 km (21 miles) to the south and west of Solo (take a “colt” first to Wonogiri and then change for Manyaran). Here the village head, Pak Sukar Hadiprayitno organises the village craftsmen and sell their wares at quite reasonable fixed prices. Smaller figures cost about US$10 to US$15 while large gunungan go for US$50 (US$100 with gold leaf). Visit his home in Kampung Kepuhsari, Manyaran.
You can also pay a visit to the workshop of Pak Parto in Pajang Kampung Sogaten RT 27, RW 9) just to the west of Solo (travel out of town on the main highway for about 4 km / 2,5 miles and turn left onto a dirt road just after the bridge and ask for directions). Pak Parto produces very fine puppets (his craftsment are all from Mayaran), and sell them for the same price.
You can also go directly to the dalang dalang themselves, most of whom make their town puppets in their spare time. Pak Soetrisno is descended from a well known court dalang family and now teaches wayang kulit at ASKI (he also speaks good English and spent some time in the United States). He live out of town and has no telephone, so get someone to call his office at the university (Tel: 5260) and leave a message that you are interested in buying puppets. He generally has many nice ones for US$7,50 to US$25.
Java’s nost famous dalang is Pak Anom Suroto and he lives down a small lane from Jl. Slamet Riyadi. Enter from between the Danar Hadi Shop and the Cakra Hotel and ask anyone where he lives. He occasionally has puppets for sale.
Gamelan: To buy a complete gamelan orchestra, a single instrument or just to observe these bronze metallophones being cast and forged as they have been in Indonesia for thousands of years, using hand – operated bellows, teak wood charcoal and primitive tools, visit the gamelan assembly of Pak Tentrem Sarwanto. His family have been suppliers of instruments to the court for many generations. Located in the southern of town: Jl. Ngepung RT 2 / RW 1, Semanggi, Solo.
Dancer’s requisite: Gold spangled headdresses gilded bracelets, painted or unpainted topeng masks, coloured gloves and matching tights used in various types of dances dramas in Solo are for sale at Toko Bedoyo Serimpi at the corner of Jl. Hayam Wuruk and Jl. Ronggowarsito. This is a real theatrical supplier, not just a souvenir shop for tourists (though many tourists now come here). Many of these items are also produced at a workshop just in back and to the left of Trisni Art Shop of Jl. Bhayangkara.
The Performing Arts
Taman Sriwedari on Jl. Slamet Riyadi boasts the most accomplished wayang orang troupe in Java.
The Taman Hiburan Bale Kambang amusement park complex, located in the north – west of the city, houses two theatres. One, the popular Srimulat comedy theatre, presents an ordinary fare of slapstick routines such as “nighlty. The other offers more serious Ketoprak folk dramas, enactments of historica; tales and legends. aThere are also several open – air restaurants and billiards hall in the park, as well as a video hall. Shows begin nightly at 8 p.m. except Sunday (when there is a matinee beginning at 10 a.m.).
Directly to the east of Solo lies Mount Lawu at 3,265 metres (10,700 feet). The Candi Sukuh at 910 metres (3,000 feet) up on the western flank of Mount Lawu, is sometimes billed as Java’s only example of erotic temple carving. The temple is worth visiting for the spectacular views it offers out over the Solo River Valley.
About 600 metres (2,000 feet) higher up the mountain and several miles to the east is another temple known as Candi Ceta which seems to have been built at about the same as Sukuh. Its Bima figures and numerous terraces lie beyond the village of Kemuning, reached by paved but rather badly pot – holed road.
–> Read Also – See Location and Maps of Surakarta