Yogyakarta’s main street is Jalan Malioboro, a busy road with separate rickshaw lanes. It’s one long shopping mall with clothes stalls in narrow dark arcades. It ends at the sultan’s palace. The sultan lives there but a cluster of very large reception pavilions and smaller attached buildings that house exhibits can be visited. The central reception pavilion has an original beautiful wooden ceiling; all the other pavilions were lovingly fitted with flat pale green plastic ceilings with flourescent lights and loudspeakers. Well done guys. The overall impression is rather lame.

The rest of the surrounding kraton, meaning walled city, is rather nice, with alleys lined with trees and small residential houses not shown on any map, where children play and adults nap under tree shades. There are almost no cars there. The whole kraton reminds me of Hué in Vietnam, except they have a much bigger and more beautiful palace. The Prawirotaman neighborhood to the southeast of the kraton is very similar, except that many backpacker facilities like restaurants with “international menus” (that means pizza and spaghetti) are here.

The water palace neighborhood is different; the alleys here are narrow and twisty and people live in low wooden buildings open to the alley. Definitely no pizza here. Children call out, and I talked to a friendly local about life there. When I asked if he needs to leave as the muezzin called out for prayers, he said no problem, he is an atheist, although his ID card says “muslim” because otherwise he’d be branded as a communist and that’s very very bad.

Rickshaws have two advantages: they are apparently not bound by any pesky traffic law at all, and while you are in one, you won’t be hailed every 30 seconds by other rickshaw drivers. In Asia, you don’t hail taxis, taxis hail you. All the time.