The Keraton Palace of Yogyakarta sits inside the Kraton – the palace city of the Sultan. The walled city houses 25,000 people, 1,000 of whom are directly employed by the Sultan.
Today, the Kraton remains just as vibrant and bustling as it used to be – as it is a fully functioning city. In fact, it was the location of our AirBNB and made for a wonderful starting point for many of our adventures while in the Yogya city-center.
Our plans to visit the Keraton Palace did not go the way we had intended though – it was supposed to be the second stop after visiting Taman Sari, but we ran into a random student on the street who got us to go check out the Batik school instead, and that totally threw off our plan. Though this resulted in a much more fun, and unexpected afternoon.
After wandering our way down Malioboro street from the north, we re-entered the Kraton and found ourselves looking at the Keraton Palace. The Keraton is a still functioning palace, and the current Sultan still lives and works there – as such, parts of the palace are off limits to visitors and it shuts down on holidays and Sundays.
But for those interested in visiting, you enter from the north side of the complex, on the right side of the entry gate.
Still, the complex can offer some interesting sights to wander around and explore.
If you come at the right time (which we didn’t) you can see performances which are included with your ticket. The specifics vary by the day, but generally are between 9 am and noon and include gamelan, puppetry, poetry readings, and classical dances.
As well, there is a museum on the grounds. As I stated above, it’s poorly curated, so we don’t really have much context on just what everything was, but it was still interesting to look at.
The palace looked nice, but ultimately we found it sort of boring as it was uninformative to the casual tourist. Still, it’s worth taking a peek – especially if you plan to show up at the right time and day.
If you’re really lucky, you might even get to see the Sultan.
Nonetheless, with our destination set, we set out for a walk to get to the statue. We began with our customary walk out of the residential road and across the bridge (which was under construction) over the river to the main road.
Once on the road we proceeded out towards the waterfront road, where we proceeded to walk the entirety of Weligama Bay. During this time, we passed numerous fish mongers, boats, shrines, surfers, and cricket players.
The sky was on the verge of storming nearly the entire duration of our walk, but this had become customary to us. We had arrived in Sri Lanka during the monsoon, and as such it rained most days. But coming from Florida, this really wasn’t a big deal – we’ve heard people complain about monsoon weather, but personally, I think it is actually nice (less tourists, and cooling rains – why complain?).
Just as we rounded the cape of the bay, we turned inwards back towards the main drag of Weligama. Along this road, at this point, though, things were far more relaxed and residential.
We stopped by a small Buddhist shrine, but didn’t feel right entering because we weren’t properly dressed. A few locals outside the shrine urged us to go in and look around, but we still felt a little uncomfortable.
We proceeded to enter at their behest, but were shot dirty looks like by other locals inside the temple. We opted to simply wander the grounds for a few minutes but not intrude on the temple operations themselves. We left shortly after.
Continuing along the road, we came upon numerous homes and buildings of seemingly no consequence. However, they all bore a authenticity that made our wandering all the more enjoyable.
A long while later, we finally came to a fork in the road that I was expecting – near the train tracks and knew that we were close to the statue. A quick turn to the left, and proceeding across the tracks brought us to the entrance to the tiny park that held the statue.
The statue was carved into a large boulder and stood a few feet above head height. The park was small, but offered a quiet respite from the going-ons about us.
Known locally as Kusta Raja Gala or Rock of the Leper King, it supposedly depicts an ancient king stricken with Leprosy who was instructed to drink coconut pulp for three months. The “cure” worked and the statue was built to commemorate him.
We stayed for a few minutes, before proceeding back towards our AirBNB. But of course, we were still a long ways off from home at this point, and still had good walk ahead of us. We took a break watching some cricket players across the road.
This time though, we proceeded to make our way through the heart of Weligama and the main city center. It was very busy, and aside from the cell phones, evoked the feeling of being in the 60s or 70s.
The walk took us several hours, and we were quite tired upon arriving back to our AirBNB. But as we’ve found elsewhere, a simple walk in seemingly mundane neighborhoods can be far more noteworthy experiences than the typical tourist fare.