Yogyakarta and Borobudur

Once we were finally free of the Bromo Volcano tour, Amanda and I got in a mini van to Yogyakarta in order to see the temple of Borobudur. We were told the driver would stop in two hours for lunch, so that should have been 1:30PM. At 3:30PM, Amanda leaned over and asked me, “Did we stop for lunch and I somehow missed it? Because I can’t decide which I’m going to do first, eat my own arm or wet my pants.”

The driver finally stopped around 4:30PM at a restaurant in the middle of nowhere, allowing us to take care of two essential needs. In total, the journey took about 13 hours, two longer than what we were told.

Note: When in Southeast Asia, land journeys will almost always take longer than they tell you, so automatically add two or three hours to whatever they say and just accept it. And it’s always a good idea to bring a bottle of water and something to snack on to avoid starvation.

We were only staying for one night since we planned on spending the night near Borobudur the next night. We had the driver drop us off in the backpacker area of Yogyakarta and eventually ended up in another crappy room. It wasn’t as bad as the one in Senggigi but it was another one that wasn’t worth attempting to shower in.

The man who directed us to the hostel arranged our transport for the next day to Borobudur, one of the main things to do near Yogyakarta, and that guesthouse (surprisingly the sister property of the one we stayed at the night before) was gorgeous. Our room was giant, accommodating two queen sized beds and easily could have fit a third. The door opened onto a porch with a few tables for dining and overlooked farmland and palm trees. The guesthouse only had five or six rooms, so the two guys running the place had plenty of time to hang out and talk to us and some of the other guests.


The day we arrived, we walked about five minutes down the street to the temple. Borobudur is an ancient Buddhist temple with multiple levels. I had seen pictures but never expected it to be as big as it is. We paid our entry fee and an employee wrapped a sarong around each of us. Apparently this was mandatory for visiting the temple as we saw every single person wearing a identical one. Despite the heat, we climbed the stairs and explored the temple. Signs explained that you’re supposed to walk around each level in a clockwise direction, three times per level. Amanda followed tradition while I choose to just take one lap per level.


While I wandered around taking pictures, a family motioned to me with their camera. I thought they were asking me to take their picture, but it turned out they wanted to take a picture of me with their grandmother. This surprised me, but I agreed. Maybe 20 minutes later, I found myself in a similar situation. Then I saw Amanda, on the next level down from me, being asked to have her picture taken with another family. What we managed to piece together was that Westerners are sort of rare in this area, despite the huge tourist attraction. We saw a guy from Spain at the temple that day but everyone else was Indonesian or from a neighboring country.


The next morning the guys from our guesthouse took us to see the sunrise over Borobudur. We hopped on the back of their motorbikes after insisting they give us their helmets (why did they not have spares for this situation?) and rode up the mountain. The view was amazing but Borobudur looked rather small from this distance. We sat and talked while occasionally taking pictures until some local villagers brought us tea and coffee. Part of our fee went directly to help the local villagers, and the tea and coffee was a thank you. After riding back down the mountain, we got our laundry back (I can’t tell you how much I love laundry day now), ate breakfast and finished packing before walking to the bus station with a girl from Germany we met at the guesthouse.

Amanda and I, Borobudur in the back

Back in Yogyakarta, we got a much nicer room at a hotel we knew had wifi. The same man who set up our transfer to Borobudur two days earlier saw us walking down the street (how do they remember so many faces?), told us some other backpackers were going to the ballet that night, and asked if we wanted to join them. Since it was one of the only things we had heard about Yogyakarta, we decided to give it a try.

This was not a Nutcracker type of ballet. This was traditional Javanese ballet, in an outdoor theater with Prambanan Temple a few hundred yards beyond the stage. The setting was gorgeous, the costumes were gorgeous, but we were not impressed with the show. Three in our group loved it, but the other four of us struggled to not laugh or leave. I just find it hard to be impressed by a performance where even I can see people out of sync or fidgeting with their hair when they’re not supposed to be moving. Maybe it’s the marching band geek in me coming out. At least it was only US$8.


The next morning we took a taxi to the airport, which was a carnival of crazy. There were people everywhere in a mob in front of the ticket counters, not appearing to be in lines but somehow inching themselves and their huge luggage carts towards the agents. The signs above the ticket agents didn’t necessarily seem to correspond with the airlines the agents represented. Somehow the passengers all seemed to know which counter they needed to get to, but of course we did not. We could just feel chaos in the air.

We eventually had to get an Air Asia agent to help us print our boarding passes because no line seemed to be the right one, no one seemed to be able to tell us where to go, and the self check-in kiosk wasn’t working. Then we had to pay a departure tax. I wish I could tell you how much it was, but we didn’t have any Indonesian Rupiah left so we paid in US dollars and for some reason got Singapore dollars back as change.

We finally made our way through the passport check and waited to board our flight. We actually thought we left for the airport a little too early, but the whole process of check-in, departure tax and passport check took over an hour. After two weeks, we were leaving beautiful but chaotic Indonesia.

You might also enjoy: