It’s almost 9 am, and the girls and I are crammed into the backseat of a Toyota Avanza. Frida is sleeping on my shoulder, Ronja next to her, and Mads is in the front seat talking to our driver, Dendy. We are on our way out of Yogyakarta where we spent the last three days, which are also the first days of our vacation here in Indonesia.
First Day in Yogyakarta
We arrived Monday morning at the airport and were picked up by Anton, the driver who runs the company with several other drivers.
Heading into the city traffic from there was our first peep into the reality of a myriad of scooters, mopeds, and motorcycles weaving in and out between each other and the cars – often with literally millimetres between them. They seem to manage elegantly, though – without the aggression that you see in some countries with busy traffic.
The first few hours in the hotel rooms were spent sleeping. None of us had slept reall well on the plane, and since we lost 6 hours of the day on the way to Indonesia due to time difference, we were tired. We reserved the last part of the afternoon for the swimming pool, and the girls were thrilled.
In the evening, we had dinner in the hotel restaurant – this was also where we had a glass of white wine that tasted mostly like apple vinegar. We may just stick with beer.
We went for an evening walk in the very busy main street. It seems like every house has a booth selling some kind of homemade local snack that they prepare on the spot – some of them look delicious but we are a little careful when it comes to food, because we don’t want to spend our vacation having stomach problems.
We basically walked along the main street, taking in all the impressions. The street was packed with people – walking, talking, eating, singing, dancing. One thing that really surprised me, was that we were stopped several times by people who wanted their picture taken with the girls or all of us.
Apparently, quite a few of the tourists in Yogyakarta come from provinces in Java where they have just never seen white people (as one of our guides later put it), besides in movies. Generally, the Indonesians we have met are heartwarmingly kind, and the ones who have asked, have had their photographs. Typically, they want pictures with their entire family, so while we’re being photographed, more family members are joining. It is great fun – and even more when you get a thumbs up from the great-grandmother afterwards.
The Prambanan Temple
We met with Anton at the hotel at 11 am – after a long night’s sleep and a nice dip in the swimming pool. We had a blue sky and around 30 degrees Celsius, and the plan was to go to the Prambanan Temples – an area with several smaller temples built in Java’s period of Hindu culture from the 8th to the 10th century.
The main temple complex is the Roro Jonggrang Temple, consisting of three main shrines, dedicated to the three Gods Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Keeper, and Shiva the Destroyer. Our guide, Dwi, showed us around the temples, telling us about the different hinduistic Gods and the stories surrounding them. He also told us about how the temples have been almost destroyed by earth quakes several times, and have had to be put together again like puzzles. Dwi was quite a pleasure to be with, really nice, great at telling stories, and a good sense of humor. We took a shuttle train from the main temple area to a smaller temple, called Candi Sewu. This one was being reconstructed at the moment, and it was fascinating to get a view into the hard work they are doing to match the many stones.
We had late lunch in a restaurant in Yogyakarta, recommended by Anton, and afterwards marvelled at the silver jewellery at the nearby silversmith. By then it was just before sunset, and we went back to the hotel to relax and spend time cooling down in the swimming pool.
In order to catch the sunrise at the Borobudur Temple, we were picked up by Anton’s colleague, Dendy, at 3.30 am from the hotel. It was a 1 hr drive to the temple, and a little chilly that early in the morning. We were shown to the arrival building to buy tickets and meet our guide, Budi, who proved to be the wackiest guide of all time, as well as the most talkative – unfortunately with a rather bad English. Equipped with flashlights and cameras, we took off to the top of the temple, accompanied by Budi and his constant, and lightly strange giggling. Most people went directly there, but Budi took us around the dark temple in the early morning darkness, showing us stone carvings, and insisting to take nonstop pictures of us with Mads’ smartphone, creating light effects with the flashlights. He was a big fan of smartphone photos, and kept telling us that we were victims of his hobby. I don’t think we ever had that many pictures taken of the 4 of us together.
Following his very personal tour, he found us prime places for watching the sunrise. There were loads of people up there, but a very fine atmosphere of quiet expectation. I’ll let the images speak for themselves.
After the sunrise and even more Budi-stories, breakfast had been arranged for everybody at the arrival building, overviewing the beautiful area around the temple.
That day, before going on a bicycle tour of the country side with Dendys wife, we had time to see the Sultan’s palace and Tamansari, the water palace, both in Yogyakarta. It was really hot, and we’d been up early, so we were all a bit tired, but especially the water palace from 1758, where the Sultan and his wives would go to bathe in earlier times, was quite a beautiful place with a funny story.
For a few days, we had trouble finding halfway clean toilets, which bothered half our little family a bit. Standing toilets are the norm, and when you find toilets for sitting down, they are often pouring wet, due to the shower hose they use for cleaning themselves after the toilet visit. Toilet paper is usually nowhere near. Well, well – we’ll manage. 😉
Bicycle Tour near Prambanan
In the early afternoon, after having lunch, we met up with Dendy’s wife Iduk, who had prepared bikes for us all, and readily let us try them out before we left on the tour. This tour was quite a little gem. Iduk was a great narrator, and told us vividly about the places we went through, the rice fields, shops, and the different functions in the villages. She showed us a well, which almost all houses have, we saw the fascinating process in a tofu production, which is very similar to how you make cheese. We dug up peanuts in a peanut field and had a taste, and we tasted very sour star fruit from a tree, and fresh coconut milk from a coconut. She told us about the issues Indonesia has with getting rid of rubbish and learning to recycle, and shared stories about the ways of life in the villages. What an experience.
Arriving back at the hotel in the evening, we were too tired for words, so we had two pizzas brought to our hotel room, and packed a little to get ready to leave the next morning.
So here we are – on our way to the next hotel where I’ll hopefully be able to share this post – if the wifi is decent.