Indonesia - Yogya blew us away in the most positive way
Updated: Aug 19, 2020
We arrived with Air Asia early evening in Yogyakarta International Airport. Getting the free visa on arrival for 30 days (which can not be extended) was easy. No questions, no comments we did not even have to show our ticket of transport out of the country. We gave the customs our passports, without looking we got the stamps - that was it. Here we were - first time in Java!
It just started to pour down when we wanted to leave the airport. A real tropical thunderstorm. Problem with the storm: no WIFI which meant no grab car for us. But as we did not want to wait in the middle of really annoying taxi drivers we went through it and found a taxi driver with an ok price. Not as cheap as grab but still quite good. So we took the taxi and off we went for our 30 min. drive through the downpour in the city. When we arrived at our accomodation it was already dark.
But what an accomodation did we get. We lucked out! It was probably the best one we have ever had in Asia so far. A house that was so beautiful it could have been a museum. Lovely hosts (brother and sister), frinedly staff, a fantastic room, everythin impeccable clean, a cozy courtyard with tea, coffee, ginger water and fruits for free all day long, fast WIFI..... We couldn't have wished for more. We unpacked our stuff and tried to find a bite to eat. With that we have not been so lucky. Just found a bad pizza place that had not a single veggie pizza. Communication was difficult, but somehow we got a bad pizza with veggies. Well, we survived and still had fruits in the guesthouse for the tastebuds.
Our first full day in Yogya was a friday - and as we wanted to visit Borobudur Temple with the least amount of people possible, we descided to go there on friday (weekends are supposed to be packed). As it was rainy season we skipped any plans about going there for sunrise. So after a lazy breakfast we took our rented scooter. And in what a terrible condition this scooter was! I think it had had an accident before - we had no chance to drive on a straight line, it was really wobbly. But here the adventure began. Our guesthouse was in a quiet side street in the middle of time meaning, the moment you leave the safe parking of the guesthouse, the fun begins. Driving on the left side was not a problem for us, but the amount of scooter approaching you from all directions - well, that was something. There are no rules of traffic it seems: scooters come from left, from right, from behind and - most surprisingly, from the front. It took me (Nina) a few minutes to sort out what to do and how to deal with the wobbly scooter. Well, I drive a scooter at home, I have driven a scooter in many different countries (also in Asia) - but downtown Yogya seemed crazy. So, after a few minutes I realised that driving is in fact quite smooth and not aggressive at all. People take care of each other. Just horn a bit to show that
you are here and go with the flow. After half an hour we had the greatest fun driving through town. It was crazy but we met so many people and after a while, Markus also wanted to drive. The one in the back was giving the direction by using google maps and the one in the front enjoyed the driving fun. It took us 1,5 hours to reach Borobudur. We took the main road which is not really nice but quicker. We reached the Temple by midday. As foreigners, yes, you pay 10x more than locals - welcome to Asia..... At least we got a free drink (coffee, tea or water). So we freshened up and then went to have a look around the grounds. This temple is indeed really amazing. It is so huge! We spent a full 2 hours walking around the temple in the midday heat. To be honest, we thought in rainy season we will probably catch some rain - so we had no sunscreen with us but good raincoats. Needless to say that we got burnt a bit (and it turned out that we did not need the raincoats at all). It was super hot, but we enjoyed every single minute. Even Mount Merapi showed up in the background. Wonderful view from the temple, a beautiful temple with so much detailed stone work and only few people. We were apprraoched only by a couple of girlies for a selfie. It was good fun to take them and we were left alone again. No hassle, no noises but a really relaxed day at this wonderful UNSECO World Heritage Site. After visiting the temple we walked around in the grounds a bit. But seeing in what kind of condition the elefants are kept for the tourists we felt like not taking any pictures there. We are so sick of animals being used for the fun of humans - it is sad to observe.
Our drive back to town was a breeze. We took some backstreets through wonderful rice fields, river valleys and enjoyed the tropical nature and the fresh air. Approaching Yogyakarta again, the traffic craziness started again. We stocked up with mossie spray, water, eggless cookies, nuts and some fruits in Indomaret (local supermarket chain all over Indonesia). In the evening, we checked out the famous Malioboro Road at night, it is THE thing to do in Yogya. It is fun, but for us too many people in one place. Anyway, in Malioboro Mall in the food court there is one of the few vegan restaurants around Yogya. Food was fresh and really nice at the Padang Vegano. They made like a stew out of jackfruits - a speciality of the regions and so tasty! Portions are on the small side but cheap, so 3 portions for the two of us and fresh juices made for a perfect evening.
The following day we spent around Yogya. After a delicious breakfast we drove to the Kraton. We walked through some small alleys in the village (Kampung), tried some Luwak Coffee and finally visited the Taman Sari, the water palace. It was full of people but really beautiful. On old gentlemen (a local) started talking to us. And he showed us around the Kraton for free! He was just happy to have some company and did not accept any money. His family lived in the Kraton for generations. It was really interesting and we walked together to the underground mosque. Afterwards, we went to the Alun Alun Kidul. Theses are 2 big trees on a square, magic trees as the locals say. If you manage to walk in between the trees blindfolded, you will have good luck. Sounds easy, but it is not. Many locals even say it is impossible. Markus and I failed, to be honest. But it was great fun to do it and also to watch others!
We were tired and sat down for a fresh juice. What a treat these fresh juices are every day! Finally we went to Malioboro Road again. It was packed with indonesian tourists (it was holiday season). But it soon started raining and we jumped into a Mall and finally waited with a hot kopi till the thunderstorm had passed. In the evening we drove outside Yogya to another vegan restaurant. We got more fresh juices and nice vegan food. Yes, it is possible to get vegan food, but you have to drive a while to find it.
On our last full day in Yogya we made another trip outside of town. First for 1 hour we drove up a hill to Raku Boki. This is an old castle on a hill with horrendous entry prices as we realised. Many people come here for beautiful sunsets. But we were more interested in the views than in the castle. So we were more than happy when we found out that the restaurant was free to enter and offers stunning views. So we had the most delicious avocado juice with vegan chocolate sauce (by far our favourite fresh juice!) enjoying the view over the famous Hindu temple Prambanan and Mount Merapi surrounded by ricefiels and villages. Later we visited Pramabanan. The temples there are beautiful and the area is huge. But it was sunday and it was packed and noisy. We visited some of the temples and were lucky enough to have one temple, the vishnu temple, all to ourselves. So we sat down, did some meditation and
just enjoyed the time. Prambanan is the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia - but at lot of smaller temples here have been destroyed by an earthquake a couple of years ago. Renovation is in progress but it looks impossible to built up every single temple again. At the moment you can just find piles of stones. We were just about to leave the temple grounds and look for a coffee place when a huge thunderstorm started. So we could hide in a cafe, enjoy some vegan sweets and wait till the downpour was over after 1 hour. We also visited Candi Sewu, but rain started again and we finally decided to drive back to town. So it was our first drive through a tropical downpour. Our raincoats safe us (we got them supercheap in Indomaret) and somehow this was good fun. In the evening another nice meal at Padang Vegano and it was already our last night in our beautiful guesthouse in Yogya. We really loved the people here. They were so polite but very open and nosy. They love to talk, learn new things and joke with you. Wonderful.
When I (Nina) left Indonesia, or better Bali, 9 years ago, I was happy to leave the country. I did not understand why people are really Indonesia-fans. But I always wanted to give the country a second go outside of Bali. And my feeling was right. We had an amazing start here and loved eyery minute. Let's wait and see what else there was waiting for us in Indonesia. Still, we had 26 days to come here. The following morning we left Yogya by train......