For a city whose kingdoms are heavily patriarchal, it’s refreshing to find and explore a museum in Yogyakarta that is dedicated almost solely to the powerful feminine figures in the Javanese kingdoms. It was pure curiosity that pushed me to make the two-hour drive to the chilly Kaliurang region on the slopes of Mount Merapi to visit the Ullen Sentalu Museum.
Unlike other museums in Yogyakarta or Indonesia in general, Ullen Sentalu is well-preserved and well-maintained. Visitors are not allowed to freely roam the exhibition rooms themselves. Instead, they are divided into small groups for which a dedicated guide, whose services are part of the admission fee, explains the history of each exhibit as the groups move from one room to the other in chronological order.
We sat in the outdoor vestibule while waiting for the tour to begin, engulfed by the warm and welcoming atmosphere that Ullen Sentalu’s surrounding greenery brings. Near the museum’s entrance a massive banyan tree stands tall, its huge roots cradling the entrance like giant hands.
Located in Kaliurang, Museum Ullen Sentalu tells story of Javanese culture through the life of Puteri Keraton, or Javanese Princesses, as well the occasional Javanese King. Entering the museum area, you will be transported to an ancient Javanese Kingdom through buildings which reflect the grandeur of the Mataram dynasty (the most powerful dynasty in Central Java) in medieval times. Beautifully manicured gardens add to the magical feel. The museum consists of four different rooms, including Ruang Selamat Datang (the guest reception) and Ruang Seni Tari dan Gamelan which displays several sets of gamelan (traditional musical instruments) and an array of traditional dance paintings.
The third room, Guwa Sela Giri, is built under the ground and houses a selection of portraits of key figures from the four kingdoms of the Mataram dynasty. Kampung Kambang, a unique building built on top of the water, is followed by the last section, Retja Landa, an outdoor museum that exhibits God and Goddess statues from the 8th and 9th centuries. Guides are available to take you around the museum. After the tour, indulge your taste buds by dining at Beukanhof Restaurant, the museum’s Dutch style restaurant that will give you a memorable and regal dining experience in serene surroundings. Bring home some memento from MUSÈ boutique and souvenir shop before you leave the museum.
Toward the end of the tour, you will be heading to Bale Nitik Rengganis for a short break, where we you will be served Ratu Mas Jamu, a concoction made from a secret recipe of seven herbs, created by the empress to Sultan Pakubuwono X. a herbal drink that promised youth and beauty. You will then subsequently led to the final room, the Bride and Groom room, where your guide will explain in great detail the different costumes and traditions of Yogyakarta and Solo’s wedding cultures.
Your tour will be ended as you reach the garden. From the outside, Ullen Sentalu is equally majestic. Designed by local architect Haryono, it has mixed elements of medieval European gothic architecture and Javanese style. The building’s facade is covered with vines. A European-style garden amid the misty air that characterized the Kaliurang region.
Opening Hours Monday : Closed, Tuesday – Friday : 8.30 AM – 4 PM, Saturday – Sunday : 8.30 AM – 5 PM
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