After Mount Bromo I took the train from Melang to Yogyakarta (Yogya or Jogja) . Trains are more expensive than buses because they are faster and a lot more comfortable. Economy tickets usually sell out fast so try to buy your ticket at least the day before you travel. Meal service is optional on the trains but it is more expensive than street food and closer to restaurant prices. There were a few vegan options but I had brought my own food from Melang. I arrived in Yogyakarta at night without a reservation but it was easy to find a guesthouse across the street from the train station in the Malioboro area.
Yogyakarta is known as the city of culture and education. It is also a good place to arrange tours of the Borobudur and Prambanan temples. There are many universities in Yogyakarta as well as batik textiles, wayang (puppet) shows, and gamelan orchestras. It is a good place to study the Bahasa language and there are many yoga classes and vegetarian restaurants to enjoy. You can easily get around the Malioboro area on foot but to get across town to Prawirotaman you’ll need to take the public bus or a short taxi ride. Please do not support animal cruelty by patronizing horse carriages, called andongs or dokars. There are plenty of men pedaling trishaws (becaks) who are happy to take you on a slower scenic route around town. Just make sure you agree on the price and exact destination first.
I booked a day tour of Borobudur and Prambanam for around $30. Unless you pay extra for the 5am departure time you are not going to see the sunrise over Borobudur. Some tours are marketed as sunrise tours but they depart too late to view it over Borobudur. I met three other women in my tour group who wanted to share the cost of hiring a guide. It is optional to hire a guide and can be done after you arrive at Borobudur. You should make sure the guide is an official or registered guide. Each of us paid around $3 for our guide. He explained each level of the temple complex and some of the stories represented in the carvings/ bas-relief sculptures which adds considerable meaning to a visit. Another way to see the temples is to take the local bus and plan to stay overnight in Borobudur. You can also rent a motorbike or car for the day. Tickets to enter the temples may be more expensive if you buy them individually whereas if you book a tour the tickets are included in the price and your driver will purchase them for you. I spent a few more days in Yogya with friends I met at a restaurant before catching another train to Jakarta.
One of the friends I made in Jogja had just traveled extensively through Sumatra. She told me about the forest fires happening while we were there. Last year’s fires were so huge they smoked out Singapore and could be seen from space. People were advised not to go outside due to the thick smoke. This year has not been any better and the fires are causing respiratory problems in many Sumatrans.
Jakarta is the capital and largest city of Indonesia. It is also the most populous city in SE Asia. 40% of the city is below sea level and is prone to flooding. I visited during the dry season and still ended up sloshing through rivers after a day of rain. It’s not very hygienic to wear flip flops when it floods because the rain washes all kinds of wastes into standing puddles. Rain boots or any kind of boot would be better. Jakarta has an extensive network of buses and trains but taxis are inexpensive and faster. I only had a few days in the Big Durian. I spent most of my time in the Jalan Jaksa area. Everything you may have heard about Jakarta nightlife is true. Everyone drinks a lot of alcohol and most women who are not tourists are prostitutes. I only saw a fraction of Indonesia but I would love to go back and explore some more. My next post will be about Thailand.