A lesson learned in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

April 9, 2010 at 1:17 pm 60 comments

As I write this Gary is running up and down a side-alley in Yogyakarta chasing after some screaming kids. Just as he catches up with them the kids stop abruptly, turn to face him and start growling like tigers defending their territory. Dressed up in bits and bobs of traditional costumes (a lion mask here, a Chinese dragon’s head there) along with their colourful hand-me-downs, they look like the cutest religious procession ever. I can see the delight in Gary’s face as he adjusts his light settings, snaps away and then offers the playback screen to the small cast who at once crowd around, laugh hysterically and strike a revised pose, consumate professionals that they are.

Yogyakarta may have been a let-down yesterday, but today it is everything we could have asked for – winding alleys filled with musty book stores; laughing locals trading gossip from their stoops; affordable restaurants where the service comes with a smile and some friendly travel advice; and that rare feeling of already being part of the furniture after only two days of residence. A lot of our initial loathing could have come from the fact that it was raining, Indonesia looked decidedly grimy after Singapore and the new addition to our entourage was putting us under pressure to be fun, friendly, eventful and well-organised – basically everything that we haven’t been for the last month or so.

Speaking of which, meet Annemarie, our new travel companion and first official third wheel. Occupying the position of Little Sister Extrordinaire, Annemarie’s superpowers include the power of persuasion, the energy to argue for hours on any topic however fictitious or unimportant and of course her indispensible secret backpacker weapon – an inhumane ability to sleep in any place, at any time, in any position. It has indeed been reported that Annemarie once fell asleep while standing upright on a chicken truck crossing the Chinese border, crammed between a pregnant Mongolian woman who was giving birth and two Russians in the middle of a knife fight. She awoke to find that, not only had she safely negotiated the border crossing for herself and 15 illegal immigrants, she had also delivered a healthy baby boy and negotiated a ceasefire between the waring Russians. Annemarie vehemently denies the above allegations but says that she did once get up in the middle of the night and get into the shower while fully dressed.*

But back to the story. While yesterday had us running for the hills (or in Yogya’s case the volcanoes) today reminded us that every city deserves a fair hearing and a touch of patience. Dying to get out of the city we negotiated a taxi to bring us out to Borobudor, the largest monument in the southern hemisphere and an incredibly important Buddhist stupa. Doubtful that anything could top The Temles of Angkor and more than a little concerned that any 16 year old girl could find anything of interest in a big pile of ancient stones, we didn’t build the day up too much, perfering instead to go with the ‘lets just get this day over with and head for the beach’ mindset. How wrong we were.

Before we even got to Borobudor it was obvious that we had been too quick to condemn Yogyakarta. As we zipped past smoking volcanoes, lime green fields and dripping palms, we wished that we had stuck to our original plan and made the time to climb Gunung Bromo for sunrise. Watching the morning break over a caldera filled with volcanoes and volcanic lakes would, after all, have been worth the extra few hours on a bus.

The monument itself was also spectacular. Impecibly complete for a structure first erected in the mid-700s, Borobudor towered over its vast green setting offering an imposing contrast with its soot black carvings, Buddhas and peaks. The view from the top was breath-taking with luscious fields and trees in the foreground eventually giving way to a deep blue volacanoe shrouded in smoke.

The best part of the trip though, was being reminded that we were in ‘real’ Asia. After so much time in Thailand where the locals are so used to tourists and the infastructure is so carefully organised around international visitors, it was a shock to remember that being white, blonde and relatively tall was pretty weird in this part of the world. Soon after we reached the top, two hundred or so students crowded the monument. They sniffed around us for a while, oogling at the two pale girls (one moreso than the other, ahem) and camera wielding boy that had somehow wandered into their side of the world. After sussing us out and arriving at the conclusion that we probably did not bite, they pushed one shy girl out of their ranks towards us. Proferring her phone as proof of intent, she asked us could she take a photo with us. Our agreement was met with widespread giggles and a rush of bodies vying to be included in the shot. After about 10 minutes of them taking turns to capture the moment on their mobile phones one by one in a variety of poses, it became obvious that we weren’t going to get out of there any time soon. Over the next hour Annemarie and I (Gary had wisely fled after the first few pictures) had at least one hundred arms put around our sweaty waists and we smiled until our faces started to freeze up and spasm like the onset of Torrets Syndrome.

Eventually the school tour was herded back onto the bus and we fell down the steps and into the nearest shady corner where we gulped down air that was mercifully free of the odor of teenage hormones and sweat. “Why did they all want my photo?” demanded Annemarie once we had regained the use of our lips. “Because my dear, they think you are just the most exotic and fabulous-looking thing that they have ever seen.” I replied.  “What wierdos!” she snorted. “Indeed.”

*Note: Annemarie does of course object to any mention of her name but from the second that she joined us on this trip, she waived all rights to privacy and any future legal cases concerning slander or physical injury.

More pictures from Yogyakarta are available in the gallery


Entry filed under: Travel. Tags: , , , , , .

Slings on a shoestring. Singapore Here’s looking at U(bud), Bali, Indonesia

60 Comments Add your own

  • 1. dancingirja  |  April 9, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    nice photos, looks like you get to see a lot of different things 🙂

  • 2. ahmadnaufa  |  April 9, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    wow………vey funtastic…i like it…
    u’r phooto, its very life……………..!!!!

  • 3. A friend  |  April 9, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    It’s Borobudur.. Not Borobudor..

    • 4. yearlongbreakup  |  April 11, 2010 at 4:25 am

      Thanks for pointing that out. I will correct it later today.

  • 5. slamdunk  |  April 9, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Amazing photos.

  • 6. deky kurnianto  |  April 9, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    Indonesia is the best place to travell.

  • 7. jonathanbara  |  April 9, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    nice post…welll this makes me….miss jogjakarta…

  • […] A lesson learned in Yogyakarta, Indonesia […]

  • 9. purwianta  |  April 10, 2010 at 4:23 am

    I’m bad in english but I’m just want to say thanks for visiting my country. I hope you can visit many other interesting places too. Keep take a greats photoes!!!

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Travel News Feeds, Shendy Ardaneswari. Shendy Ardaneswari said: I just read this post https://yearlongbreakup.wordpress.com/2010/04/09/a-lesson-learned-in-yogyakarta-indonesia/ surprised me 🙂 […]

  • 11. Rohit  |  April 10, 2010 at 5:38 am

    Very colourful. Enjoyed reading it.

    Both of you look like hollywood actresses, so no wonder you had so many people wanting to take pics.

  • 12. Prawira Weka Akbari  |  April 10, 2010 at 6:05 am

    keep traveling to indonesia,guys ! indonesia is the most interest place to visit in asia and there’s so much place else to enjoy ur trip there,like bali,lombok,jakarta,or if u wanna dive,Bunaken is the most fantastic site ! thanks guys

  • 13. lace wigs  |  April 10, 2010 at 7:40 am

    Different chart style, so beautiful and pure so long for people to read, time to go to enjoy a certain

  • 14. keynar  |  April 10, 2010 at 7:42 am

    Hi, I can’t help but notice your blog when I visit wordpress. I am indonesian, and it’s nice to see you enjoy your visit here 🙂

  • 15. batikmania  |  April 10, 2010 at 8:01 am

    Great travel journal, nice pictures. Come and visit Bandung (West java) later. I believe you’ll find another great experience to be written on your journal/blog. Enjoy it.

  • 16. mujahid  |  April 10, 2010 at 8:27 am

    this is very good

  • 17. Inawarminister  |  April 10, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Hahaha! Tough luck!

    >.< And thanks for the 'Real Asia' remark…

  • 18. Drechthuis Loosdrecht  |  April 10, 2010 at 9:42 am

    I have been in Thailand myself and I can totally relate to what you are saying. The locals there are so used to tourists, I never felt like seeing the real Asia. After reading about your trip, I regained hope! Thank you.

  • 19. fahrezy  |  April 10, 2010 at 10:35 am

    hahaha………..nice shot, I feel proud to be Indonesian citizens

  • 20. soepri  |  April 10, 2010 at 11:03 am

    oh my baby, cute child, inspiration story, tanks for visit to Yogyakarta

  • 21. Am-Nuel  |  April 10, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    i love your blog. im indonesian.
    you know, the reason why the teenagers want your photos is that they dont find foreign people everyday.

    sorry for my bad english. thanks for visiting indonesia 🙂

  • 22. lily  |  April 10, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    thank you for you’re coment for my town.and about the teenage girls who wants annemarie’s picture,i want to tell u something about this,now,there is some virus name’s “teenage narcissism”,they take their own picture and always upload the picture in facebook or twitter.for example,u can show it when u r at yogyakarta’s tugu (at night),there are many people,take their own picture.so i think annemarie’s pictures will be on internet tomorrow.i hope u r happy when u r in my town.and i hope u apologized them.thank you i hope u are understand what that i have explain to you,because i,m a twelve years old girls,and i’m not fluent in english.thank you.lily love jogja

  • 23. titi  |  April 10, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Thank You, You are write Yogya very interesting. I am one Indonesia people, and I like your article. Nice posting and so beatiful photo, thanks alot!

  • 24. Art Erickson  |  April 10, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Great article. I loved it. Thanks.

  • 25. Candra  |  April 10, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    I live in Yogyakarta. I like the last paragraph when Annemarie asked “Why did they all want my photo?”.
    In indonesia, the Blonde Girl and foreign tourist like artist in here. Most indonesian very excited when they can take a photo with tourist like you are. 🙂

  • 26. unstranger  |  April 10, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    Excellent as ever.

  • 27. 25fahmi  |  April 10, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    Simply of story and it’s a real Indonesia.

  • 28. James  |  April 11, 2010 at 1:16 am

    Wow… I was in Yogyakarta / Borobudur about 10 years ago and reading this brings back a lot of memories!

    I’ve just spent the last hour and a half having a read through the entries on China & Japan – the two of you are living my dream, and Lonely Planet (or any other travel publisher for that matter) would be crazy not to hire you to do this full-time!

    • 29. yearlongbreakup  |  April 11, 2010 at 4:22 am

      Thanks James, that’s very kind.
      We are proud to say that LonelyPlanet has listed us on their blogs we love section so that’s a start.
      It is Ro’s untimate ambition to become a full time travel writer. Lets hope this blog is a step in the right direction.
      Thanks again and I hope you continue to enjoy the blog.

  • 30. al619  |  April 11, 2010 at 1:53 am

    nice article, nice shots…sounds like you had great fun!…i especially love the street shots..

  • 31. nurhidayanto09  |  April 11, 2010 at 2:04 am

    it’s great idea, that you have been posted an article about yogyakarta. Continue!! and “Maturnuwun” (thanks).

  • 32. Katarina Ningrum  |  April 11, 2010 at 2:32 am

    Wow! It just so proud of me of Indonesian and…Javanese, to look at the blog! 🙂 By the way, beautiful photographs. You like travelling around the world, aren’t you?

  • 33. hilda  |  April 11, 2010 at 2:52 am

    hei ! i am hilda from indonesia and i am so glad that you like yogyakarta. come visit again, you are very welcome 🙂

  • 34. moe  |  April 11, 2010 at 3:21 am

    hi ! nice touch on yogyakarta.
    why don’t you give a shot on medan ?
    that’s city quiet awesome.

  • 35. agustri  |  April 11, 2010 at 3:52 am

    jogja never ending asia…

  • 36. Joanico  |  April 11, 2010 at 5:37 am

    halooooooooooooooooooo every one haw are u 2 day
    i think this imagen so nice but i wana 2 know haw abaout ur posision

  • 37. b  |  April 11, 2010 at 6:25 am

    Great pics!

    love Cambodia—work there as often I can and visit!



  • 38. catatanbujangan  |  April 11, 2010 at 7:26 am

    the beauty of Jogjakarta..

  • 39. adi  |  April 11, 2010 at 7:34 am

    yeah, indonesia! my home
    very nice pictures there

    next time, visit bandung, west java

  • 40. Ina  |  April 11, 2010 at 8:24 am

    it is never enough visiting Indonesia, in every part of my countries you will find different panorama, cultures, tribes,foods, even languages. I hope you can visit Indonesia again, someday.

  • 41. Brenda K of The Panache Orchestra  |  April 11, 2010 at 8:58 am

    I have fond and mixed memories of Jogja (and several other destinations in Indonesia from a variety of voyages), and have great admiration for people who can gracefully handle the abundant attention lavished on those of us who are there while western, relatively young and female.

    Having lived for many years in Asia, I am very familiar with the facial contortions and Tourette Syndrome they tend to cause. In fact, I had a similar experience today in Los Angeles during a show, as I had to force my face into a happy smile whilst struggling to quell an urge to murder my bandmate on stage and mentally rehearsing my resignation speech during the performance, with the singular goal being to survive to the end of the set.

  • 42. Cahya  |  April 11, 2010 at 9:12 am

    Well, Jogja is an interesting place, isn’t it?

    I myself love to stay in Jogja these last years, it has a nice atmosphere… 🙂

  • 43. sahara07  |  April 11, 2010 at 11:59 am

    thank u for making this article, i think this article might help my friend to get much know about jogja because he really want to go there but shame to myself as an indonesian i can’t help him to describe jogja haha(it’s because i never been there,hehe.. i know shame of me)

  • 44. yutsa  |  April 11, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    really some beautiful snapshots! 🙂

  • 45. salimagination  |  April 11, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    ha ha ha
    I love to see pictures taken by tourist in Indonesia. They have different point of view that can frame our daily view to wonderful scenery in photos. I wish I could see the same way.
    thanks for your visit at my hometown

  • 46. Kushal  |  April 12, 2010 at 4:54 am

    Nice photos, esp. of the kids.

  • 47. nova karmita  |  April 12, 2010 at 7:23 am

    hi there!

    I’m so happy that you got a crush with Yogyakarta, as a part of beloved country here..Jogjakarta was one of my favorite place for its friendly people and pleasant culture…hopefully u will always love Indonesia!

  • 48. C.K.  |  April 12, 2010 at 7:31 am

    LOL! You’re a great story teller. One mistake I want to point out though. It’s Borobudur, not Borobudor… ^_^
    LOVE your pictures too!! Especially the kids at the beginning!! ^o^

  • 49. omnoba  |  April 12, 2010 at 7:48 am

    welcome to jogja miss, i sure we somehow meet at malioboro. tell me when you came to jogja again, this time i will be your guide^^

  • 50. Aisha  |  April 12, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Hi I liked Yogjakarta too to see a Borobudur ? I also had great time there and kids were so adrable! I was so impressive by that !
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • 51. mstinygirl  |  April 12, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Lovely and cute kids!

  • 52. world news  |  April 12, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Really nice photos 🙂

  • 53. ram  |  April 12, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Budda is great monk. he saw the world through he soal>>>>>
    Excellent Photographs

  • 54. Didit  |  April 14, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    If I met you in Borobudur…of course I want to make some photos with you and get your phone number …LOL

  • 55. marithaputri  |  April 16, 2010 at 6:05 am

    wow ..
    i’m really gladknow you enjoy my home town ..
    hope you visit here again ..

    btw .. did you know that Jogjakarta also has beautiful beaches ??
    but its located in the south of Jogjakarta.
    Bantul and Also Gunung Kidul ..
    In gunungkidul there are more than 13 beaches in a coastline ..

    in BAntul there are some community based on TOurism,
    so you can stay there and mingle with the community,
    in Gunungkidul there is a custom like thanks giving ..
    its only held on Gunungkidul,
    people gathered in village hall and share food,pray togheter say thanks to the God for the harvest and for all he Gives to us..
    every people prepare meal in their own house, they willinvite friends and relatives to come and enjoy the dish..
    its also celebrate by reog dance by the community and it willbe end with puppet show in the nigth ..
    sometimes thereis Ketoprak also, its like traditional drama ..

    i really hope you will see this traditional thanks giving .. ehhehe
    bye ..

  • 56. BB themes  |  April 18, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    Nice Post, i like the article in your blog…
    i will visit this blog more often…
    Nice info in there…

    Keep Up the Good Work!


  • […] The rest is here: A lesson learned in Yogyakarta, Indonesia « Chronicles of a year … […]

  • 58. Mr. Bali  |  April 23, 2010 at 3:57 am

    Wow nice pic 🙂

  • 59. Broospipt  |  May 17, 2010 at 2:48 am

    Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Christian, watch south park online

  • 60. Helmi Paling Iseng  |  June 20, 2012 at 7:47 am

    LOL yeah many Indonesian people still see American/European tourist as aliens :))
    It’s always interesting to see what foreign tourists write about Indonesia…
    Btw, we just made a video about leather craft “tatah sungging” made in tourism village Wukirsari, Yogyakarta. Make sure to check it out if you have time 🙂 http://youtu.be/8IUdUrdHOTU
    It might not have detail information about how you can get leather souvenirs directly from the craftsmen. But we already summarize how it is actually made, by steps. Enjoy 🙂


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