Our cultural time on Java: Yogyakarta, Borobudur and Prambanan

To be completely honest, it was hard for us to leave Jakarta after the VIP treatment we received. Putting our backpacks on meant that we would again have to take showers with flipflops (slightly challenging in Indonesia as many places require you to leave your shoes outside), that we would not know where we would sleep the following night and that we would spend a lot of time on overcrowded public buses or even more crowded bemo (mini van). As exciting as it might sound, this is tiring and we were clearly missing the needed motivation to rough it up but we knew that once we would be on the road, our enthusiasm would be back. We had discussed a lot about what to do during our month in Indonesia and it seemed that we would explore Java, Flores and Sulawesi islands, Bali as a maybe. Our host gave us a Bahasa (Indonesian lingo) crash course and we couldn’t linger any longer. It was time… An adventure full of temples, volcanoes and beaches was waiting for us.

To leave Jakarta and its (in)famous traffic jams, we decided to jump on a train to Yogyakarta. Since they only had the “exclusive” class, our first train ride in Indonesia was extremely pleasant: no delay, plenty of room for M’s long legs and very comfortable seats. We reached Yogyakarta rested and ready to discover the town known for its traditional arts, its cultural heritage and its temples. We were hit by the heat and the buzzing sound of cars and scooters dashing around. Fortunately, our hostel was located on a quiet(ish) street and the staff was extremely welcoming. They noticed that we tried to speak Bahasa and they spoke to us only in Bahasa, switching of course to English when our blank faces clearly showed that we had no idea what they were asking / saying. In our three days in Yogyakarta, we improved our Bahasa a lot and we hoped that this would help us along the way as the odds were that the locals wouldn’t speak Bahasa but one of the 300 languages spoken on the Indonesian archipelago.

After a well deserved sleep in (here I would like to blame on my jet lag, NOT my laziness), we left our hostel to explore Yogyakarta in the scorching sun. The city was alright and definitely not as nice as we had expected it to be. For its defense we didn’t go into the palace (which was supposed to be incredible) as it was closed in the afternoons (well done jet lag) so we visited an art school (known as ori) but later on we were told that we didn’t visit a real one, only a tourist trap, run by the local mafia. Ah! Well done us! Finance local mafia? Check! But let’s be fair, our main focus by staying in Yogyakarta was to visit the surrounding temples so the city served perfectly its purpose. After treating ourselves to nice restaurants and homemade food in Jakarta, we had yet to taste the local street food. We strolled through the city and after hours of wandering, we sat on the curb of a dusty street and ordered our first Bakso. This noodle soup with meatballs was delicious and cheap. What more does a backpacker, budget conscious and food lover, need?

Happy with our belly full of street food, we went back to our hostel where we bumped into a Dutch man who had just arrived in Indonesia. Finding him funny and nice, we decided to team up with him to discover the Borobudur and Prambanan temples. Over dinner (we ate our first nasi goreng or fried rice, another delicious and cheap meal. Win win), we met 3 other travelers (whom we also found funny and nice or funnice). You gotta love those days when you come across so many funnice travelers and our “holy” (yes a group needs a name and after all the next day would be dedicated to temples so holy it was) group grew bigger. We realized that Borobudur would need to be done with a tour operator not to waste any time but Prambanan could be visited independently.

Since sunrises are for us highly overrated, we opted to visit to the Buddhist Borobudur temple later in the morning, well late should not be used as it was a start at stupid o’clock to reach the temple by 6:30 am. Yes that ‘late’! It was not too crowded when we arrived and we were able to walk clockwise every floor to reach the top, taking our time to take pictures. It was very interesting to see all the Buddhas sitting inside many bells. Many of them had been beheaded, some were missing and a few were still intact. By the time we reached the top, there were enough tourists to make us want to flee the temple and Paul (one of the funnice members of our holy group) led us to the elephants. His original plan was to ride one of them and I tried to dissuade him to ride one of those beautiful creatures. Back in 2013, I was made aware of the treatment done to the elephants to make them docile enough to be ridden by tourists and it was a painful realization. Basically they need to be captured, tortured and tamed before a tourist can safely ride them. They were 5 of them, chained. They indeed looked well taken care of but I still couldn’t forget the images shown to me years ago. #saynotoelephantriding

After our early start, a nap was most needed and our holy group jumped on a public bus (#1A from the Main Street) later that day (and this mean I really mean LATEr) to go to the Hindu Prambanan temple. We couldn’t explain why but M and I liked Prambanan right away better than Borobudur. It was made of several temples to climb to and every one of them sheltered a statue. Unfortunately it was far more crowded than Borobudur (it got worse by the minute). After many attempts to take pictures and peacefully walk through the temples, we gave up, leaving the main temples to loud and obnoxious tourists with selfie sticks. We decided to exile to a nearby temple: Lumbung that was being excavated at the time before going to a warung (local restaurant) to get a Bakso soup while waiting for the rest of our group.

We went back into town and thanks to Nosa, our artistic German new friend, we went to an art festival. It was interesting to see another side of the city. Sadly, the evening went by too quickly and it was already time for us to say goodbye as the next day, another early start was waiting for us! Another train journey would take us to Probolinggo, Eastern Java. Time to say goodbye to temples and hello to volcanoes! Next stop: Bromo an Ijen!

Happy trails and remember: Carpe Diem!





2 responses to “Our cultural time on Java: Yogyakarta, Borobudur and Prambanan”

  1. […] the idea of spending a few days there until we met a very nice traveler from West Papua in Yogyakarta. As much as he loved his island, he warned us that we would waste a lot of time (and money) […]


  2. […] with the idea of spending a few days there until we met a very nice traveler from West Papua in Yogyakarta. As much as he loved his island, he warned us that we would waste a lot of time (and money) trying […]


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