Millisphere (noun): A discrete region of approximately one 1000th of the total world population - a bit over 7 million people but anywhere between 3.5 and 14 million will do.

On our way home from Wellington we called in on some fellow "retirees". Lyndsey and I were in the Castlecliff Surf Life Saving Club together in the 1960s, and his partner Gerda was born in the Netherlands and is a well known NZ painter of landscapes.

Both were keen travellers and had been to Bali on a number of occasions where Gerda had painted some landscapes. Gerda had been offered an artist's residency in Yogyakarta, on the island of Java, but they were apprehensive (as many New Zealanders are) about going anywhere other than Bali in Indonesia. "Is it safe to go there?" they asked us.

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"Yogyakarta is artistic, a plant-lover's paradise and a 'millisphere'," I told them.
The metropolitan area of Yogyakarta and Magelang contains just over four million people.

The "Special Region of Yogyakarta" is the only region of Indonesia still governed by its pre-colonial monarchy.

The Sultan of Yogyakarta, Hamengkubuwono X, reports directly to Jakarta and the official name of Indonesia is: "The Republic of Indonesia and the Special Region of Yogyakarta," recognising Yogyakarta's historic independence.

During the Napoleonic Wars Yorkshireman Stamford Raffles was sent from Penang to take control of the Dutch East Indies for Britain (Raffles' first wife, Olivia, is buried in Jakarta).
Raffles was the Lieutenant-Governor of the Dutch East Indies from 1811-1815 and mounted an expedition to subjugate the Javanese princes to British rule.

In June 1812 the British invaded Yogyakarta. The sultan's kraton (royal palace) was badly damaged and extensively looted by British troops. The event was unprecedented in Javanese history, being the first time an indigenous court had been taken by force by a European army.

During Raffles' time, the Dutch amateur archeologist, H C Cornelius, surveyed and cleared the vegetation from Borobudur (the world's largest Buddhist monument) near Magelang.

Having spent 1000 years covered in jungle, Borobudur had dramatically subsided and in the 1980s Unesco and the Indonesian government dismantled the stone-carved monument, built to represent the Lord Buddha's journey towards enlightenment, and rebuilt it straight and true.

The four big Indonesian tourist destinations are the Bogor Botanical Gardens, Borobudur, Mt Bromo and Bali; there is a hotel in the Borobudur grounds which, like everywhere in Indonesia, is cheap by New Zealand standards.

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The class place to stay In Jogja (the local shorthand for Yogyakarta) is the Phoenix Hotel, a restored heritage hotel like the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, only much cheaper. The Jogja backpacker district has lots of accommodation and warungs, cheap roadside food stalls.

Jogja is also known for its batik fabric, dance, music and puppetry, such as the Papermoon Puppet Theatre, and there are quality tailors to sew fabrics into garments by world-class designers.

Jogja has an annual arts festival around July and August when the weather is dry and there is an annual Gamelan festival and the Yogyakarta Film Festival. Jogja's Kampong Cyber is famous for its street art.

Nearby Magelang is known for its silversmiths and the OHD museum with its collection of works by contemporary Indonesian artists. Magelang's nickname is "the garden of Java" because of its fertile volcanic soils and the region is one of the most densely populated parts of Java (itself the most populous island in the world).

To the south there are beaches fronting the Indian Ocean and hot springs on the volcanoes.

For those wanting to get off the beaten track homestays can be found in the villages.
Based simply on the number of tourists killed in Islamist bombings, Jogja is much safer than Bali and the New York Times rates Yogyakarta as number 20 on its list of the top 50 places in the world to visit.

The historic Kampongs (village/suburb) of Jogja feature courtyard houses which are rewarding to look into and Yogyakarta is a must-see destination for the serious art pilgrim, if only to visit Borobudur.

Fred Frederikse
Fred Frederikse

When Fred Frederikse is not building, he is a self-directed student of geography and traveller, and in his spare time he is the co-chair of the Whanganui Musicians' Club