Expat Living in Surakarta, Solo, Central Java
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More formally known as Surakarta, it is just in the middle of the island of Java. It is one of the two major centres of Javanese culture (the other one being Yogyakarta). The Surakarta Municipality has a population of about 570,000 (Census 2010), but the government of Indonesia officially defines a broader region as Surakarta's extended metropolitan zone with the acronym Subosukawonosraten as the city of Surakarta plus 6 surrounding regencies – namely Sukoharjo, Klaten, Boyolali, Sragen, Wonogiri and Karanganyar. In this area about 6,000,000 people live (Census 2010).
Solo Expats Association (SEA)
is a non-profit organisation with an effective network, enabling us to not only look after the needs of foreign nationals, their relatives and friends who live in and around Solo but also to provide support and disaster relief to the local community when needed.
We are open to people of any nationality, including Indonesians, and have no restrictions on religion, politics or other grounds. The Solo Expats Association holds monthly social gatherings, trips for members and their families and programs to assist and stimulate social life in Solo. There is a quite extensive SEA library at Manir’s Family Kitchen Restaurant.
Being member of the SEA also entitles you to substantial discounts at various Hotels and Restaurant in Solo. Please find further information on memberships and rates at www.soloexpats.com.
A community newsletter - W&M's Solo e-Newsletter
The W&M’s Solo e-Newsletter provides news and information about events in Solo. It comes out once a week, usually on Fridays and lists all the coming events of interest to expats in Solo, summarizes events that have just happened, is a forum for discussion and debate, and provides light entertainment news articles.
It is also possible to put advertisements or requests for help from members of the community. It is 100% free to anyone who is interested. At present they have a mailing list of 200+; growing fast. To subscribe, write to Michael at [email protected].
Beaches – Being stuck in the middle of the island, it’s a bit of a hike to the beaches. Nearest are the 3 triplets Baron, Kukup and Krakal, about 2,5 hours driving to the south. You can camp out on the floor of a friendly warung at Krakal for some seaside fun but there are also a couple of simple guesthouses. A very nice option is the house of Daryl, located on top of a small hill, which he rents out (villatirtasarikukupyogyakarta.com). Further east, about 3,5 hours from Solo, is the horseshoe shaped bay of Pacitan, with small beachside bungalows which lately have gone more upmarket. A much better option is to head a little bit more to the west from Pacitan to breath taking picturesque Watu Karang beach where you also can find simple accommodation or reside in the comfort of the new opened Desa Lima San (www.desalimasan.com)
Solo Fitness has opened on Jl. Raya Solo Baru, but it has limited opening hours.
Go-Kart Circuit – there is a Go Kart circuit right on the roof of Hartono Mall in Solo Baru, and a second one at the ground floor level of Hartono Pusat Grosir (across the street from The Park Mall) It can be quite fun especially if you go with a group of friends.
Havana Horses in Salatiga (www.havanahorses.co.id) is run by a mixed couple and has full-sized riding horses.
NEST Family Reflexiology & Spa at Jl. Perintis Kemerdekaan 35 in Laweyan has a nice environment and competitive prices. Most of the big hotels also have nice Spa Departments attached.
The Sunan Hotel has a half-Olympic, a paddlers and a middle-sized pool but charges 150 000 IDR entry fee for non guests.
The Lor Inn Hotel has a very nice pool area in the middle of a tropical garden, although the facilities are a little bit aged.
The Paragon Hotel and Apartments has a middle sized pool with a nice view over town.
Novotel has two pools, a quieter one on the side facing the street and a one more exposed one next to the restaurant.
In Solo Baru the Pandawa Water Amusement park has finally been opened after quite a long building period and makes a good outing for people with kids.
Solo together with Yogyakarta are the two main centres of Javanese culture and tradition. Thanks to ISI - Institut Seni Indonesia, Solo’s well-known art school and Taman Budaya Jawa Tengah, the local art centre, there is a very rich cultural life in Solo. Mainly for dance, traditional and contemporary, Solo is leading in Indonesia.
Carnivals - Thanks to the personal mission of Solo's former mayor Jokowi, who rebranded and promoted Solo as "The Spirit of Java", a Javanese culture and heritage centre, batik capital, and tourist-friendly city, there are regular special themed, very colourful carnivals along Jl. Slamet Riyadi; like the Batik Carnival and Wayang Orang Carnival.
Museum Danar Hadi show casts an exquisite private collection of 10 000 plus Batik pieces, antiques and modern. A must see for the enthusiast of the traditional art of hand made batik, Jl. Slamet Riyadi 261.
Traditional Art Performances – on the 26th of every month at 8:00 PM at SMKI Surakarta – High school for Performing Arts, Jl. Sangihe, Kepatihan Wetan.
Traditional Dance - Every Wednesday morning from 9:30 until about mid-day the dancers of Soeryo Soemirat, the classical Javanese dance school that is part of the Mangkunegaran palace, rehearse Javanese court dances in the Pendopo accompanied by the meditative sounds of the royal gamelan orchestra. The palace is on Jl. Ronggowarsito. It has three entrances, one from the west, east and south. The Pendopo is in the central courtyard; you cannot miss it. Watching the dance rehearsals is free and open to anyone. If you are interested in a guided tour of the palace; there are English, German, Dutch and Japanese speaking guides available who will show you around for a small fee.
Wayang Kulit – once a month, on malam Jumat Kliwon according to the traditional Javanese calendar, there is a Wayang Kulit performance at the Pendopo of Taman Budaya. It starts at 9:00 PM and goes on until around 4:00 AM the next morning. Note: malam Jumat Kliwon means that the event is on the evening before, as traditionally the day already starts at 6:00 PM in the evening!
Life in Solo changed several years ago with the opening of Solo Grand Mall, Solo Square (both located on Jl. Slamet Riyadi; the main street in Solo) and Hartono Mall in Solo Baru. The latest additions to a modern shopping experience are the recently opened Paragon Mall integrated with the Paragon Apartment and Hotel Building and the brand new The Park Lifestyle Mall (next to the Hartono Mall).
Food and Beverages
Locally made bacon, ham, salami, South African biltong (dried beef fillet) smoked chicken wings and Ginger beer you can get from Tamen Ijo Catering, Jl. Nusa Indah II Gang Asri No. 55, Perumanas Palur. Contact Ibu Nanik 0271-825248 or 081329513423 for an appointment and directions.
Fresh baked bread, bread rolls and yummy cakes are produced upon order by Yani Zanden, you can contact her at 083866507624.
Club Sehat Solo, J. Adi Sucipot 65C (next to Fave Hotel) has a good selection of dry fruits, all kind of cerials (including Qia, Qinoa etc) lentils, Muesli, many different nuts and other extremely healthy things you hardly will find elsewhere in Solo.
Keju Indrakila supplies locally made, competitively priced fresh cheese. They have several kinds of chees, including feta, mozzarella, mountain cheese and camembert, called Boyobert. Contact Novi at 081329265213 for order and delivery.
Monsieur Michel grows organic vegetable, salads and herbs on the slope of Gunung Lawu. Mr. Michael has introduced a lovely delivery service: Kartini Super Service where you can order fresh greens from Michel about once in a fortnight and Michael will transport them down to Solo.
The best way to get regular cheese and greenery deliveries is to join the Whats Up “Cheese, Vegetable & Cake” group. If interested, please contact Charlotte 08122656821.
Super Indo supermarket, the newest shopping addition in town features some imported food items (like Muesli), organic vegetables and herbs and is nice and interesting for grocery shopping. Jl. Adi Sucipto No.98 and Jl. Ronggowarsito No.23.
There is a tasty and quite economic new brand of beer in town, called “Prost Beer”, it can be ordered by the box (12 bottles) from Wawan 0818 02465133.
Wine is like hen’s teeth in Solo. What is available here is very, very expensive and very, very average. Spirits are mainly for sale at the large hotels. But grey channels exist for wines, spirits and other alcoholic drinks with close to duty-free prices. Be careful who you buy from though as many fakes go around also.
Shopping Malls & Markets
Solo Grand Mall is by most standards not so grand but it is a mall and as such has become the focal point and favourite haunt of every Solonese teenager. It is anchored by a Hypermart supermarket in the basement a Matahari department store and numerous fast food stores such as KFC, Texas Chicken and Pizza Hut. Upstairs on the third floor is a reasonable food court and the smaller fourth floor houses the Grand21 cinema complex and a large billiard hall. There is also a Breadtalk bakery on the ground floor with good cakes and reasonable bread.
Household Goods and Furniture: Quite complete and good priced local household goods can be found at Toko Putra Manis, Jl. RE Martadinata , across Pasar Gede. A little bit more to the east across the street is a quite interesting porcelain outlet shop where you can find nice plates, cups, bowls etc. Other big household stores are in Jl. Dr. Radjiman between Jl. Gatot Subroto and Jl. Paku Wojo (near Matahari Singosaren).
Interesting Fashion Outlet stores
As there is a lot of textile production going on in and around Solo, there are quite a few interesting fashion outlets. As textiles sold there where mostly intended for export, you have the chance to find bigger sizes and well known brands.
Blossom Family Outlet
ESSE Sportswear outlet
BATEEQ FACTORY OUTLET
La Moda (next to La Moda del Gelato)
Eses Factory Outlet
New Eses Men Fashion Store
Solo Stock Factory Outlet (SSFO)
Solo is famous for its food and for the fact that you can enjoy it 24 hours a day - 7 days a week. There is a wide range of Indonesian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Western food. As in the last couple of years the number of restaurant opened has absolutely mushroomed, it is now nearly impossible to give a complete list. Go to www.tripadvisor.com for a fairly substantial overview of restaurants in Solo.
McDonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut are found around town and also every mall has, besides restaurants, a food court. Not to mention the 1000's of warungs (small simple restaurants) and small stalls along the sides of the streets; favourite places for locals and backpackers to grab a quick and cheap meal.
All the upscale Hotels like for example Alila Solo, Royal Surakarta Heritage, Novotel Solo have good restaurants with western and Indonesian food on their regular menus and often Buffet on the weekends. Best check their respective websites for further information.
Parfour Restaurant & Grill on Jl. Kebangkitan Nasional 31 (behind the Sriwedari Park area right next door to Sports Station). Home style cooking popular in the southern United States. Authentic barbequed burgers, steaks, pork chops, ribs and homemade pizzas. A great place to get a cold beer and a hot meal. Open 16:00 – until late, Mondays closed.
1863 Restaurant & Lounge, opened its doors in November 2013. Fresh salads, grill with local and imported meats & fish, Javanese and Dutch favourites like bitterballen, Grandma's apple pie and real Dutch pancakes. Located at Jl. Monginsidi 79 near Balapan Train Station (across the Brimob) in an old colonial building it has a pleasant and quite garden terrace in the backyard. Open 15:00 - 23:00 hours, Mondays closed www.1863resto.com.
Incontro, in front of Alila Hotel, Jl. Slamet Riyadi No. 562
Middle Eastern Food:
Javanese / Indonesian Food:
Saffron Resto & Meatshop, Jl. Ronggowarsito No 38, Tel. 0271 648454
Warung Orange, Jl. Kapten Mulyadi No. 19, Pasar Kliwon, Tel. 0271 9384557, www.warungorange.com
Dessert & Bakery:
Dancing, Live Music, and Spirits:
Solo is relatively cheap for housing. Options are extremely varied, and expats are scattered widely over the city. Most expats rent while a few of the more established residents with local spouses having bought or built their own houses. Renting is comparatively much, much cheaper. At the Colomadu Sugar Mill out near the airport there are some huge and magnificent old mansions built by the Dutch in colonial times. They have enormous grounds, and are a challenge to renovate, but where else in the world could you rent almost an acre for under US$4000 per annum. Solo Baru (a satellite town of Surakarta; officially in Sukoharjo Regency) to the south has a lot of one and two storied modern places for rent – usually in the US$2,000-4,000 range. Nice medium size local houses run at about US$1000-2000 per annum. Rental is usually paid in full and in advance for the whole rental period but with government owned properties and some private owners you can discuss payments in terms (like per year). When you have to renovate a lot (most likely) make sure to sign long-term contracts.
If you need to stay for an extended period but don’t want to commit to rent a house there is always the possibility to move into a “Kost”, a kind of boarding house. They have daily, weekly and monthly rates, the longer you stay, the cheaper it gets. Good kost are:
Medical facilities are quite good, with Dr Oen Hospital, one in Solo Baru and a second one at Kandang Sapi being the most popular. They have an emergency room open 24/7, and also a polyclinic with general and specialist doctors.
There is a very good orthopaedic hospital Rumah Sakit Ortopedi Prof. Dr. Soeharso near Universitas Muhammadiyah. For more serious problems those who can afford it will go to Singapore, Bangkok or back to their home countries.
For any questions about expat living in Solo/Surakarta, you may have please contact: [email protected]
A story from an expat family who lives in Solo
Newcomers – One Year On
We left Yogya after the earthquake in 2006, house gone, business gone, nerve all but gone, certainly very broke, not much to hang onto except a chance to earn some commissions from some friendly factory owners with whom I had worked before. Sink or swim, to stay in Indonesia or to go, that was the question.
Solo was the choice because one of us had to work in Yogya and the other had to get to Salatiga.
Finding a house wasn’t that easy, we are a bit quirky and prefer older houses with character and there are lots of these in Solo but nothing seemed to be for rent, we got pretty desperate and accepted a house which was totally wrong for us, paid for it stupidly before checking the plumbing, which turned out to be really furred up, the landlords idea of fixing it was to run ugly plastic pipes all around the place. We started to realize that properties here seem less likely to be advertised or have a ‘to rent’ sign on them, and the best policy was to just ask if a house seemed empty. The Solopos has a regular section for renting but the best way is word of mouth.
That was how we found our lovely old place out at Colomadu near the airport, a rambling Old Dutch style house belonging to the sugar factory with a huge garden. Like idiots we fell in love with it and went through the pain of renovating it to an acceptable standard. The place had nothing left inside, no door handles no toilets no light switches, it had been stripped bare! It had been empty for a good few years, and was knee deep in some pretty unspeakable stuff.
We found a local guy to do the garden and our beloved housekeeper who has been with us for 13 years started coming from Yogya 4 days a week by bus, because she refused to sleep in the house as it was too full of ghosts for her taste.
Having lived in Yogya for so long we always thought that Solo was a bit scary, during the 1998 troubles Solo had been in the news more than Yogya and seemed to have more than it’s fair share of angry extremists. More buildings had been burned and stories abounded around Yogya of how difficult it was in Solo.
We have discovered that image to be far from the truth, the people in Solo go about their religious and civic lives in a perfectly normal, reasonable way.
Additionally the very first time we went out shopping we couldn’t believe how un-molested we were, no one said ‘Hello Mister’ no one tried to get us to go and see a ‘Batik Exhibition’ and the becak drivers are totally laid back compared to Yogya. Even our first sortie into the more obviously touristy area near the Kraton was a delight, no one seemed to pay any attention, the warungs were a delight and the local people seemed content to let whosoever wander around and do their own thing without comment. It’s more anonymous. The Antique Market at Triwindu is as near as it gets to being pushy, but after all they are there to sell, and if you think about Bali and Yogya or Surabaya Street in Jakarta it’s downright relaxed.
Compared to Yogya the traffic is a lot less hectic, mainly as there are less student on motorbikes.
The history and culture of the city has such depth that it is an endless fascination. We feel that here in Solo we are really in Old Java, tradition here seems impervious to outside influence and less self conscious. We are converted Solo-ites now, we really enjoy the city, there may be less restaurants and places designed for Ex-pats, but the places we tend to hang out in are very comfortable and easy going. The Ex-pat community that we have met are very friendly, amusing ordinary people, unpretentious and genuinely desirous of helping each other and the community. When the Solo Expats Association was first suggested it was as a means of exchanging information and welcoming new comers, supporting each other and each others families and also supporting various community projects within Solo to help the local population understand us, and to help us to understand them. We call that just being neighbourly.
Our first year in Solo has been probably one of the most enjoyable of all our years in Indonesia, even after the traumatic start we can honestly say that we’ve made more friends, had more laughs and felt more relaxed living in Solo that just about anywhere, which is amazing coming from a Brit and a Yank who find it hard enough just living with each other!
The Soviks. Colomadu, Solo
Our thanks to Michael Micklem, Mo Woodgate, Nord Sovik, Steve Beeson, and Norman Masters of Solo for providing this information on Expat Living in Solo!
Last updated April 23, 2016
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