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Yogyakarta: Taman Sari - Water Castle in 360°
Taman Sari also known as Water Castle is a former royal garden of the Sultanate of Yogyakarta located 2 km south within the grounds of the Kraton (palace complex). Its name means an area of a beautiful garden adorned with flowers. Since 1995 the Yogyakarta Palace Complex including Taman Sari is listed as a tentative World Heritage Site.
1. What to see
Built in mid 18th century by sultan Hamengkubuwono I and II , the Taman Sari had multiple functions, such as a resting area, a workshop, a meditation area, a defense area, and a hiding place. Presumably a Portuguese architect planned the water castle but decoration was created by local artists. The complex was effectively used between 1765-1812 and it was already partially ruined during the British invasion in 1812. An earthquake destroyed several buildings and drained the water features in 1867. People started to build their houses within the ruins of the deserted pavilions and the empty lakebeds.
1.1. Eastern gate
There are two gates that lead to the bathing complex, both of them are decorated with ornaments of stylized birds and flowering foliages. The Eastern one (Gedhong Gapura Panggung) finished in 1758 AD is still functioning as a gate and is now the main entrance for tourists. The two small buildings in front of the gate were used by the guard.
1.2. Eastern octagonal courtyard
The eastern gate leads to an octagonal-shaped enclosed courtyard. Within the courtyard, there are four pavilions known as Gedhong Sekawan. These pavilions were used as the resting place for the royal family.
1.3. Bathing complex of the royal family
This place called as Umbul Pasiraman served as a bathing complex for the royal family.
The northernmost building was used as the resting place and changing room for the daughters and concubines of the sultan.
The southernmost building with a tower was used by the sultan as a changing room and resting place. The central tower was used by the sultan to observe his daughters and concubines bathing in the pool.
1.4. Private pool of the Sultan
On the south of the towered building of the sultan is another pool. During the era of the sultan, only he and his concubines were allowed to enter the inner pool.
1.5. Lake Segaran
Lake Segaran and an artificial island used as a secret hiding place of the sultan stood once behind this wall. This complex has no visible remains except for a former hanging bridge that connected the island to the rest of Taman Sari. However it can be reconstructed based on an 1812 English army sketch of the kraton. Kinupeng Island occupied the middle of the artificial lake and a building, known as Gading building stood in the middle of the island. On the west side of Kenongo Island stood a mosque, a one-storeyed circular structure that formed another artificial island.
2. When to see
Water Castle is open daily from 8am to 2pm (sometimes from 9am - 3pm).
4. How to get there
If travelling on a package tour to Java, you can be sure that sights of Yogyakarta will not be missing from your journey since the town is located very close to the famous Borobudur and Prambanan temples.
If staying on the island of Bali, you can consider to take a one-day Yogyakarta guided trip. These trips usually include the famous Borobudur and Prambanan temples along with the sights of Yogyakarta. You'll arrive at the airport of Denpasar very early in the morning, fly to Yogyakarta with a local Indonesia flight (Lion Air / Garuda), enjoy the above mentioned monuments and finally get back to your hotel in Bali in the evening. It is important to know that you have to purchase the airplane tickets in advance, but it might be difficult, since Indonesian air flights only accept VISA cards issued in a few countries. Lion Air simply doesn't accept any European or US card, Garuda only accepts cards issued in Western Europe. If you are lucky, you can purchase your tickets in cash a few days before your excursion in a nearby country like Singapore.
It is not recommended to drive on your own in Indonesia due to the general negligance of driving rules. Singposts are written with Latin alphabet, but it might be difficult to find remote places on your own. The best solution is to rent a car with a driver for an entire day.
5. Where to stay
There are hotels in the city for every budget: from backpackers to luxuary 5* hotels.