Last weekend we took a quick trip to Yogyakarta (locally called Jogja) in Indonesia to see the temple complex Borobudur and to enjoy a smaller town Indonesian adventure (at least smaller town compared to Jakarta).
We were only there for two days and we made the most of both those days, as luckily we had direct flights on AirAsia into and out of the Jogja airport.
It was quite an experience arriving into the airport that had two immigration counters, one visa window, and not much else to the entire airport. The only terminal consisted of a few counters for check in, a single baggage carousel, and doors leading to the 4 gates. It made the scene very crowded, extremely chaotic, and a great introduction to the fun of Indonesia. We were prepared for traffic, people yelling, and inefficient travel after 5 minutes in the airport.
We picked up our visa on arrival for $25 US Dollars a person and then hopped a taxi into town to our guest house (Prambanan Guesthouse). This was a shot in the dark pick, as most of our friends had never been to Jogja and those that had weren’t overly positive on their guesthouses. However, I would recommend this place as a good option for about $30 night. It had nice rooms, a great balcony for lounging, a decent pool, and wonderful breakfasts (including a to go breakfast for our early morning touring). The only major downside is that is was a little removed from certain parts of town (but it is cheap to hire transport).
After checking in and dumping our bags, we got lunch (see food post to follow) and then decided we had to go see the temples called Prambanan, which is a Hindu temple about 20 kilometres outside of Jogja. We tried to find a taxi but quickly got hounded by the Becak drivers (Becak are bicycles with seats attached to the front, see photo below). These Becak drivers are everywhere in Jogja and seemingly had not much to do besides hound the few tourists in town. It made finding transport easy and cheap but also annoying when you just wanted to walk somewhere in peace.
Below is a video from one of our night Becak rides so you can see how crazy it is as we almost run into the back of a bus and nearly crash into motorbikes.
Anyways, a very enterprising Becak driver actually tracked down a taxi for us, by using his mobile phone and we were on our way to Prambanan temple.
Prambanan temple is actually a Hindu temple complex of a variety of temples with the main temple called Prambanan temple or Candi Prambanan in Indonesian. The main temple was dedicated to Shiva (the destroyer) because of the earthquakes and volcano eruptions that historically, and still do, impact this part of Indonesia.
The temples themselves were quite interesting with some intricate Hindu and local Javanese stories carved into the side of the temples. We also got to experience something we had never encountered before, which was a little bit of fame. Yep, as the only Caucasian tourists there that day we were asked by two (maybe three) groups of local Indonesian tourists to take pictures with them. We posed and smiled and then were asked for our names so we could be located on facebook. It was fame that was odd, intriguing, and in some ways shocking when we realized that we were just a little bit off the beaten tourist path and that very few western people get the chance to come to Jogja and the surrounding temples.
We spent almost three hours touring these temples and then caught a taxi back into town to do some eating, shopping, and relaxing before our 5am morning pickup for Borobudur.
That night we stopped into a backpacker bar for a quick bite and some Bintang Beer and had some very interesting conversations. We met a french lad who was touring Indonesia for two months, we met some other Europeans who were traveling for a couple weeks, and a British gentleman who has lived for ten years in a village in Northern Thailand. We felt like we just didn’t have enough vacation…but I think we are making the most of it.
The next morning we woke up at 4:45am and grabbed our to go breakfast before settling into an hour ride on a bus to Borobudur so we could see the sunrise over the temple. We had been told this was slightly overrated but we had to do it anyways.
I would say that while it is not the most amazing experience ever, it is definitely worth getting up early to beat the crowds, stay away from the heat of the day, and to wake up with the jungle, the mist, and the conical shape of the volcano creeping into sight as the sun lights up the day.
Carrie and I raced through the entrance doors and walked swiftly to the top of Borobudur to get some time without tour groups in the temple.
Borobudur was absolutely stunning. It is the largest Buddhist Stupa in Southeast Asia and felt purely Buddhist and not nearly as mixed as some other temples like Angkor Wat which mix the Hinduism and Buddhism along with other religions. Borobudur was also amazing because of the restoration work that had been done on it to make it more secure after earthquakes and it had not been sacked by other armies or invasions and the Buddhas actually had heads (whereas other temples usually have Buddhas without heads). The thing that really made it special though was the location.
When we reached the top of the temple we looked out and realized we were surrounded by jungle and mist. The sounds of birds, monkeys and other creatures awakening in the morning was magical as was the clearing of the mist. We also enjoyed seeing the volcano in the distance with smoke coming out of it (as it is still active). It was a very unique an rewarding experience. Again we were asked to take photos with the locals and tried to steer clear of this but they did manage to get us into a few photos.
|The lead up to Borobudur|
|My New Indonesian Friend–actually he just wanted a photo!|
|Borobudur with Volcano in the Distance|
We then stopped briefly at a Buddhist Monastery shown below.
That was the first half of our day and we arrived back at our guesthouse around 11am (after meeting a US State Dept employee that was in Jogja for language training because she had started three weeks ago in Jakarta).
We dropped off some gear at the guesthouse and then our friendly Becak driver from yesterday provided us a tour around town. Below are some photos on from various trips on Becaks from the weekend.
|Becaks lined up for our service|
|Becak Wheel Covers|
|Our night time ride on a Becak with our visor for protection|
|Not a Becak…but another form of transport|
We saw the Bird/Pet market which was fascinating and sad. See below.
|Birds and Bird Cages for Sale|
|Anyone need a hawk?|
|Colorful Chicks (Natural color?)|
|Prairie Dog? Ground Hog? Our New Pet?|
Then we saw some Batik paintings at an exhibit (beware when in Jogja everyone is an artist or knows an artist and wants to sell you some Batik painting or Batik clothing). We did find a painting we liked and for $10 USD we were willing to chance it and Supposedly, with a capital S, the money went back to the students who produced this art.
Our tour guide/Becak driver then took us to the Sultan Palace or Kraton which was very interesting. Especially knowing that the Sultan still resides there and rules today, as one of the few sultanates still operating in Indonesia.
After getting kicked out of the palace as the last tourist of the day (it closes at 2pm) we went to a puppet factory. Where we saw handmade leather Warang puppets being made. These are traditional Javanese shadow puppets and seeing them being made by hand out of water buffalo hide was fascinating. We did not end up buying but were definitely pushed by our friendly salesman.
|The Leather before painting|
After those numerous adventures we were famished and had our lunch for the day (again see food post).
It was already late by this time, especially after our early morning wake up call so we headed back to guesthouse to enjoy the pool and relax before some last minute touristing and shopping before getting a few hours of sleep and then back to Singapore early the next morning.
The evening consisted of getting caught in a massive rainstorm, see video below.
Then off to Batik shirt shopping where we were again the only white people and Carrie literally got a thumbs up on her shirt purchase from some local girls, and then had a beer and some food late night before a 7am flight.
|The last but definitely not first Bintang Beer of the trip|
That was the whirlwind weekend in Jogja.
I would highly recommend going to Jogja to tour Borobudur. It is a way to experience Indonesia in a very unique and charming way. It is a hidden gem that is easy to reach from Singapore. The town was small but beautiful with nice people, wonderful art, and perfect for a weekend. Westerners like us even get some rockstar status and are likely all over facebook now. I would say the only downsides were that the food was not as good as expected and the lack of tourist infrastructure can make it hard for people who are not very experience travelers. You have to be ready to bargain for everything and not fall for any of the scams to see Batik, take taxi rides without meters, etc. As Carrie and I know, just par for the course in Southeast Asia.