We enjoy gardens and parks (here’s a post we did a while back about some of the local ones we enjoy around San Jose). In general, they’re a nice place to just go for a stroll – so when we explored Google maps to check out what was around us and found Jevremovac Botanical Garden we decided to give it a go.
After a little research we also found that these gardens are allegedly actually one of the most visited natural monuments in Serbia despite not showing up on any “Things to do in Belgrade” type lists we found. If you are limited on time in Serbia you probably won’t get to it but if you’re there a while (we were there over a month) or nearby, it’s a nice place to go wander around for a little bit. In general, and this is the vibe we get from Belgrade as a whole – we found the area to be peaceful and pleasant.
Altogether the park contains over 2,500 plant species spread over 12 acres. Some have labels to help you identify them.
There are benches throughout certain areas of the park for anyone who gets tired or just feels like taking in the scenery and sounds of birds.
Now, I’m sure the garden may appear different at different times of year, but also keep in mind that it’s not open year-round (info at the bottom).
Anyway, you can wander about and enjoy the general park/forest garden, but there are also a few specific places within Jevremovac worth mentioning:
The Japanese Garden
We really enjoy the aesthetic of Japanese Gardens. Of course, as far as I can recall we’ve only been to two others – the Japanese Friendship Garden in San Jose and the Japanese Garden on Margaret Island in Budapest (both impressive). We thought about visiting one in Vancouver which is supposed to be great but it was closed the day we planned to visit Vancouver (and prices were a bit high for us). This one was a little smaller than the other two but also very pretty.
Not far from it there’s also this little bamboo area you can walk through which is neat.
The greenhouse on the property was built in Victorian-style (which we enjoyed) in 1892 (and reconstructed again in 1970, 2005, and 2014) and contains over 1,000 species.
Inside there are all kinds of different intriguing plants, succulents, and cacti.
When we first made it to the greenhouse we also saw a couple cats and fortunately we had cat treats with us so we sat and enjoyed the company of one of them (the other one was scared).
There is also a 150-year-old oak tree inside which is a natural monument itself. (Sorry, don’t have a pic of it.)
Now for a little history: the garden was created in 1874 by the Ministry of Education of Serbia. The first manager (Josif Pancic) is said to be the “father of Serbian botany”. So this place is pretty significant in Serbia in terms of plants. About a decade after its creation, the king (Jevrem Obrenovic) donated the garden to the Great School in Belgrade and named it Jevremovac in honor of his grandfather.
And here’s some basic info for a visit: Cost: 250 Serbian Dinar (~$2/person) Address: Takovska 43, Beograd, Serbia Hours: 9am-7pm May 1 – Nov 1 Note: Keep in mind that this attraction is only open from May through November
We had elected to begin our stay in Yogyakarta in the outskirts of the city near Buddhist Temple Borobodur. This area was far outside of the central city, and could really only be described as rural country.
Upon arrival to the airport, we were picked up by a “friend” of our host who doubled as a taxi. The ride was about 2 1/2 hours from the airport and cost 250,000 IDR (~$19.00) which really is a pretty good price. Luckily, he took us to an ATM along the way.
We arrived at night, so we really weren’t able to get a good look at the place until the next morning. When we walked in, we were greeted by the host and his friends and family and given fresh tea and cassava chips (very similar to potato chips). We talked for a few minutes, and then we ordered dinner from them which they got from town. We got Gado Gado, which was pretty good – tofu and vegetables with rice puffs and a sweet peanut sauce.
While we were waiting for dinner to arrive, we checked out the room. It was a little “rustic” for us, and Briana was quite upset at the fact that there was no mirror or sink in the bathroom – but we made do.
It ultimately didn’t turn into a big deal, since I could work out in the main living room. The bed was ok, it sank a little, but not dramatically and although there were bugs around, the mosquitos weren’t all that bad.
Volcanos in the Distance
Waking the next morning provided us with a great view of the area. The homestay (which we booked through AirBNB) was situated along a nice rural street near rice paddies with a clear view of Mt. Merapi (when not obscured by clouds) and Borobodur. A beautiful garden with a great porch was out front for us to enjoy the passing storms and roaming chickens.
The Guest House
The home itself was divided into two parts: the guest area, which was made up of five rooms, some of which shared a bathroom (our’s had a private bath) and a large living room which contained two tables and some sort of general laying platform. The other part of the home was for the owners themselves, accessible through a door, and kitchen use.
There were several other travelers who came through the homestay while we there, we only had light conversation with them however, and by the end of our stay we were the only ones left. One of the couples had actually recently broken up and were from Scotland and Amsterdam, but had already booked the trip and decided to just go anyways. Another couple was on their honeymoon,.
Amenities and Perks
Our host provided us free of charge the ability to use the motorbikes and regular bikes which was quite nice. On the first day, we used it to go into town and visit the local market. We had up to this point avoided the local markets, because we hate haggling and dealing with the language barriers. However, we had no choice here so we gave it a shot, and it went quite well.
We went vendor to vendor buying individual items, fruits, and vegetables, until we had enough to last us.Even if we were getting ripped off (I don’t think we were), the price was great so we really couldn’t complain. I can’t remember specifically what we paid, but it came out to something like $6.
Our hosts were also quite nice and were pleasant to talk to about the region. They did inform, and apologize for the weather. It rained extensively during our stay, not normal for the time of year, but climate change was throwing things out of whack. Not that it was a big deal to us, we enjoyed the frequent showers.
They also provided us with a complimentary breakfast every morning, which came out to fruit, and chocolate toast. We could have got fried noodles but we just don’t want that for breakfast (though I did just once). As well, we could get tea or coffee at any time.
Unfortunately, it was not an ideal time to climb the volcano. I really wanted to do – but it was a little outside our budget and weather didn’t permit. Just another reason (among many) to come back. But we still enjoyed the sights.
Despite the initial shock, it was a wonderful stay and we definitely would recommend a stay at Griya Harja homestay.
We finally made it to the Taman Sari Water Castle after our prior detour to the Batik Ori, Ramai Mall, and Keraton Palace. The Ramai Mall and Keraton Palace were a little bit disappointing, so we were really hoping to finish the day off strong with Taman Sari. After all, it’s one of the best sites to visit in Yogyakarta after Borobodur.
We approached from a different direction than we had intended, but considering we were coming from the palace, we came down directly from the north. Using GPS was not very helpful, but we knew the right direction to head to, and we started seeing signs.
As we got nearer, I was expecting to have to turn down a road and make a few more turns before coming to the main entrance – but we saw a sign directly in front of us saying Taman Sari, and in the distance on a hill what appeared to be ruins. So we made our way forward, we figured it would probably be right, it was basically where we expected it to be anyways.
Hill top ruins
We wandered our way through stone steps and narrow residential areas to arrive to the gate of some sort of ruined hall (we would later find out it’s purpose). A few locals were hanging around, and we decided to spend a bit time exploring the space on our own and taking pictures.
It was not at all what we were expecting, we knew there were supposed to be pools, and there were none in sight. We also looked for signs of the Underground Mosque, which should have been close by and was on our itinerary. Alas, the spot, while interesting, did not seem to be where we wanted to be, so we made our way out the other side.
Coming down stone steps, we turned and found a tunnel through which other people were traveling. The Underground Mosque should be underground right, so what better place to check out than a tunnel? As we descended we were greeted by a band playing for tips, and then we walked through the long arched path. We found that we were not on the way to the Mosque. What we did find though, once we emerged from the tunnel, was the entrance to Taman Sari – finally.
Within the Castle
The entrance fee was 30,000 IDR ($2.20) each. We purchased our tickets and off we went. We were greeted by a charming garden filled with trees and carefully designed with stone steps and gazebos. There were a few tour guides who offered their services to us, but we declined, opting instead to explore on our own.
We passed under a stone arch and came into the area we had come for: the pools. Previous reviews on TripAdvisor had said that the pools were drained just a few weeks before for maintenance, but they were full and running for us. We really would have wanted to take a dip in the pools, but that’s not allowed. We instead opted for photos and enjoying our time.
Accidental Tour Guides
A tour guide who had originally seemed to leading another tourist offhandedly told us a few things. Then he told us a couple more things. Then he started following us around and giving us a tour.
Within a few minutes, we realized we had somehow gotten a tour guide – which we really didn’t want as we like to wander aimlessly on our own time. With that being said though, he turned out to be a great guide as he provided us with a tremendous amount of information we wouldn’t have otherwise got. You should note that there are no informational signs anywhere in the complex.
He informed us that Taman Sari was the place the Sultan would go to cool off during the hot summer – which being the tropics is pretty much always. There were 3 pools within the complex: 1 for his daughters and sisters; 1 for his 35 “wives” (concubines); and then 1 which was in a private section for him and the wife he chose for that day, to enjoy.
Between the first two pools and the the private pool was a special changing room for the sultan as well as a massage room, to which he would receive a massage after the pool and then take a nap (the Sultan seems to have had a pretty easy life). At the top of the two pools was a changing room for the wives and daughters.
On to Other Sites
Our guide then lead us up and out of the pool complex. He brought us before a big gate, to which we were given the opportunity to take a picture together and then shown some people working on Batik and encouraged us to purchase some – while they were nice, we had just come from buying batik a few hours previously, we decided not to get any more).
Proceeding out of the complex, we wandered through the residential streets. He explained to us that all the residences here were at the time of the Sultan’s use – part of a large artificial lake. The entire area would be navigated via boats and each section was essentially it’s own island.
After minutes of what seemed to be aimless wandering, we eventually found our way to the Underground Mosque. We found ourselves outside of the round building that was apparently the mosque. We entered a tunnel, which went on for about a hundred meters or so before bringing us into the subterranean interior.
It was quite different from the other mosques we had (and would) visit, but still contained all the important parts, such as the Mihrab. The construction is unique in that it is several stories tall – or low? (It is underground after all)
In the interior of the donut rings that formed the building, a series of staircases came together to bring you to the top level. These staircases could be seen from numerous openings from the all levels.
The round, cool, stone walls were enticing to simply relax in and provided for nice acoustics. I would imagine a call to prayer while inside the mosque would sound very nice. We could have stayed and admired the mosque for a bit longer, but our guide was pushing us along.
Revisiting Our First Stop
Emerging from the mosque, we then proceeded up to the where we originally came in. The ruined building atop the hill. He told us that it was actually the Sultan’s dining hall. One wing was for the men, and the other was for the women.
A few years prior, the hall was far more complete. But the volcanic eruption in 2010 caused the roof to collapse and other serious damage to the structure. Restoration efforts are underway, but they’re slow and not likely to reach their former glory.
Making a Sale
He then led us down and continued to show us through the streets. We weren’t sure where we were going, seeming to have finished the complex, but he kept going.
Finally, we arrived at his house, where he showed us all his Batik for sale. We politely declined and our tour was over. We tipped him for the tour, and he seemed grateful for it.
Taman Sari is definitely worth checking out while you’re in Yogyakarta. While getting a guide isn’t necessary, and slightly irritated us because we wanted more time to just explore, you really do get a lot of information from one. If you have the time, you could go twice – once with the guide, and once without. Have fun and enjoy the water.
Wat Preah Prom Rath stands as the largest temple complex within Siem Reap. While it is nothing spectacular, and it doesn’t particularly stand out if you’ve been seeing many temples such as we have (Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand), it is still a very nice and interesting complex to see.
Edit: The complex really is very pretty and ornate, certainly worth visiting. When I wrote this initially, I was feeling a little temple fatigue having spent the entire previous day and a day before that exploring Angkor. But in hindsight I came off far too negatively. Considering there are barely any tourists here, it has a very serene and tranquil charm to it. – Kyle
Founded In History
Wat Preah Prom Rath is an active Buddhist temple, and very old as well – with early construction dating to the early 1200s when it was a Hindu temple. The modern temple though, was founded in 1915. So while you’re here, you are likely to come across active worshippers in the prayer hall or monks about the grounds.
The grounds are well kept, and highly decorated with gold, marble, and black slate. Statues and gardens abound, and can offer a sleight reprieve from the punishing Cambodian sun. We found an interesting and confusing river boat display with a man appearing to be dead and being eaten. We did not venture into the prayer hall, as there were many people actively worshipping and we didn’t want to intrude.
A Short But Easy Excursion
We filled about thirty minutes time exploring the grounds before proceeding on. It is free to visit, and worth stopping in if you’re nearby. It’s located on Pokambor Ave directly across from the bridge of Street 25 in downtown Siem Reap. It’s basically located in the Central Market district, so you really can’t miss it.