Lesson learned – if your puppet wants to be an old man, let him be an old man. You can hide its gender by makeup and fancy hair but sooner or later, the truth will emerge.
Anyway, I was highly moved by watching whatever little performance I saw at Papermoon Puppet because of the way they portrayed the emotions. I am fascinated by the thought that their performances are not for children because they are of serious nature. Usually, they are very busy performing all over the world so I was lucky to have met them and seen them in action. I will do everything I can to watch one of their full shows with my husband. I highly recommend you check them out too here.
03 | Trying to spot a Volcano! Exploring Mount Merapi and around and experiencing a CRAZY Jeep Ride
Ever spotted a volcano? For me, it was the first time! Remember the 2010 news about volcano eruptions in Indonesia? That was Mount Merapi and it is on the border between Yogyakarta and Central Java. It was close to Desa Pentingsari so it was our next stop after paddy farming. Obviously, we did not go to the volcano but we explored the area around it on jeeps. I shared my jeep with Murni, Indonesia’s top blogger at Indohoy and Bressonia, an amazing photographer from Indonesia. They became my very good friends after the ride.
Mount Merapi Jeep Ride with Murni and Bressiona
Everything around was very green, not how I had imagined it to be. Our jeep driver told us that a few years back, there was no forest here and it was all black. He also told us that as many as 353 people had died here back in 2010 when it had erupted. The government had sent alerts and had asked the villagers to leave this area but many decided not to do so. Many houses burnt and one such house was later transformed into a museum. That place is called Museum Sisa Hartaku and this was my gloomiest moment in Indonesia.
Museum Sisa Hartaku near Mount Merapi
It started raining heavily as we stopped outside Museum Sisa Hartaku. It was as if the weather Gods wanted to match the mood of the inside gloom which we were about to encounter. A charred motorbike and a cow’s skeleton greeted us as we entered. Inside, what was once a cozy living room was now the biggest museum area with burnt remains of furniture.
Museum Sisa Hartaku near Mount Merapi
I felt shivers down my spine as I looked at a clock on the wall, which was stuck forever in time. It had stopped when the eruption had reached the house. On the other side of the house, there was a little room, which was once perhaps the kitchen. There was a table that displayed the family’s everyday things such as toothbrush, broken soda bottles, plates, spoons, etc.
What happened to the family that once lived here?
Within a few minutes, I got my answer. Thankfully, the family that owned this house once had left the village before the eruptions began. Mr. Kimin and Mrs. Wati, the owners had later decided to turn their house into a museum.
Mount Merapi Bunker Point and Viewpoint
As soon as the rain stopped, it was time to get back on the jeeps and explore the area around. We crossed what looked like a river but our driver informed us that it was created due to hot lava. We stopped by a viewpoint next to a bunker. A few people who tried to save themselves during the 2006 eruptions used this bunker but they were unsuccessful. Sad.
Mount Merapi Viewpoint
We couldn’t see Mount Merapi very well from here because of the clouds. It started raining again and we took shelter in the nearby tea shops. Again, Indonesia reminded me of India and I felt I was sitting somewhere in the Himalayas sipping chai in a little dhaba. The view from the cliff-side tea shop was spectacular.
A crazy jeep ride near Mount Merapi
Perhaps it was because we couldn’t see the famous volcano very well because of the clouds but all of a sudden, our jeep drivers decided that we needed a little rush of adrenaline. They sped the jeeps through the roads that resembled streams due to excessive rain to give us a ride to remember. I won’t say much, but here is a video by a fellow blogger Michael Turtle (Time Travel Turtle) who was there with us and captured it perfectly.
Book your jeep ride and a tour of Mt Merapi with Kaliurang Adventure by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
04 | Waking up at 2:30 to catch the Sunrise at Borobudur Temple – world’s largest Buddhist monument
Never in my life, I thought that I would wake up at 2:30 am just to watch an epic sunrise. The earliest that I did was 4:30 am in Cappadocia but I did the unthinkable on my second day in Yogyakarta.
Do I regret it? Read on to find out! Oh but let me tell a little about this famous temple first.
Sunrise at Borobudur Temple, Yogyakarta
Borobudur temple is the single largest Buddhist structure and temple on earth and the construction took 75 years. Wow! What blew my mind was that this temple was abandoned and hidden for centuries under layers of volcanic ash and thick forest. It was rediscovered when Java (this area) was under British administration in the early 1800s.
Sounds like an Indiana Jones movie, no? Needless to say, this 9th-century temple is a UNESCO World heritage site. Strangely enough, this temple remained intact during the 2006 earthquake in this area.
Anyway, we left our hotel at 3 am because Borobudur temple is in Magelang, Central Java – about 2 hours away from our hotel, which was in the heart of Yogyakarta.
Borobudur Temple Before the sunrise
We arrived here a little after 4:30 and were given torches because it was still very dark. I ran up the steps and within minutes I had crossed many steps and three levels to reach the top. I wanted the perfect sunrise shot here.
Just like the day before, the clouds did not permit us to watch the sunset. However, I can’t forget the view from the top. As I looked down, I saw many steps. Were they really 100? I never ended up counting. I looked up and I saw the topmost stupa. There were mountains around the temple and everything looked very green. From where I stood, everywhere around were more stupas. Borobudur temple is actually built like a single large stupa with many little stupas inside it. (Stupas within Stupa – just like Inception)
As if it doesn’t get crazier, this temple looks like a mandala from up above. Watch this crazy drone picture by my friend Will Cho.
Aerial view of Borobudur Temple, Yogyakarta by Will Cho
Another thing I can’t forget is watching how a lot of photographers lined up here for the perfect sunrise shot. Tripods, expensive SLRs and what not – but I stood along with them with my humble GoPro hero 4 black and my Samsung galaxy S5. Every one of us had to wait for a while for our perfect shot because soon there were too many people that came in.
Here is my favorite shot. I don’t know this girl but she was in front of me at the right moment.
Borobudur Temple, Yogyakarta
After spending most of our morning admiring Borobudur temple’s symmetry, panels, stairs, stupas and many Buddha statues, we finally decided to leave the temple complex.
On our way out, we decided to stop at Manohara hotel for a breakfast buffet. This hotel is in Borobudur temple garden area and was obviously full of international visitors. Unlike most of our earlier meals, this restaurant had local as well as international food.
Do you want to catch the sunrise at Borobudur? The gate opens to the general public at 6 am but you can buy a package from Manohara Hotel, which will let you enter at 4:30 am. The package costs around USD 30 and includes breakfast.
05 | Riding an Andong
Wondering what is an Andong? It is a kind of a horse pulled carts in Yogyakarta We decided to ride these carts from Borobudur temple to our next destination – Desa Bahasa . Andong carts looked like they could hold 4 people but I’m happy that we decided to ride them in pairs of two.
Andong Ride in Yogyakarta
Being an overly enthusiastic animal lover, I decided to pet the horse on its head like I would with a dog. The horse jerked its head in anger and made it very clear that it did not like it. Oops! Lesson learned – not every animal is like a dog. I picked a different cart and decided to completely ignore the new horse.
Our ride from Borobudur temple to Desa Bahasa was through the main village area. The scenery changed from historical buildings to green farms in just a matter of minutes. Rice paddies, colorful houses, and farmers with their bullock carts – this truly reminded me of South of India. Is this the area that I saw from my flight? I will never know.
About 15 minutes later, our picturesque ride ended and it was time to explore the village.
06 | Pottery Making at Klipoh village near Borobudur Temple
A few months back if someone would have told me that I’d enjoy making pottery, I would have laughed at that person’s face. Perhaps it was because I was sleep deprived or had my face a little too close to a bull’s stinky rear the day before, I felt strangely mesmerized at the sight of rotating pottery wheels. Maybe it is the rotating motion that had the hypnotizing effect but within seconds I was sitting next to a wheel. I was going to make my first masterpiece with the help of a local woman.
I wet my hands as per the woman’s instruction and held on to a ball of clay. As she rotated the wheel, I placed the clay on the wheel in the middle.
Learning Pottery in Klipoh village Yogyakarta – by Najii
“Do you want to make an ashtray?” she asked. Assuming an ashtray would be the simplest thing to make, I said no and decided to make a fancy vase. I enjoyed the hum of the wheel as I concentrated on my soon to be a masterpiece. I was lost in my dreams about Instagramming a pretty picture of the final product (life of a travel blogger) when the realization struck me – my piece was not going to be pretty!
In the end, I ended up wasted a lot of clay as I tried to make a fancy vase. I eventually decided to give up and settle for an ashtray.
Note: Klipoh village is near Karanganyar Village and is around 3 KMs from Borobudur temple.
07 | Learning Bahasa Indonesia at Desa Bahasa
Our next stop for the day was a language school surrounded by beautiful farms – Desa Bahasa. This little school runs many language programs and offers home stay in the village. Check the “where to stay” section towards the end of this post for more information about the home stay.
As some of you know I am learning German and regularly cry when I try to understand German grammar. In fact, it took me a month to say a few things that I could say in just a day after just an hour of learning Bahasa Indonesia. Why? 1) – The grammar is very simple and 2) the method of teaching at Desa Bahasa was a lot of fun. I will never forget how to say “I am hungry” or “I am sleepy” in Bahasa Indonesia for the rest of my life.
Learning Bahasa Indonesia at Desa Bahasa, Yogyakarta
After our quick class, I decided to explore the area around Desa Bahasa and walk to the lunch area. We saw more farms, colorful houses, cows and a few chickens crossing the street. If given a chance, I’d love to go back to this village and live here for a month. For now, I decided to find a quiet spot in the garden for a little nap.
Do you want to do it? Click here for more info.
08 | Watching archers practice Jemparingan
After a long day at Desa Bahasa, we decided to head to Royal Ambarrukmo for a massage. To be honest, watching archers was not a part of our plan but we were lucky enough to be at the right place at right time. Royal Ambarrukmo used to serve as the Yogyakarta Royal palace many years back but is now a hotel.
Outside the hotel building, we saw a row of men and women with bows and arrows. Each archer had a different bow that was appeared to be hand painted.
Riyanni informed me that it was Jemparingan, traditional Javanese archery. For me, it was beautiful to watch how their eyes, mind, and bodies were turned towards the target as they aimed in concentration. One by one, their arrows flew at their aim that was a little dot on the wall much ahead of where they were. I have never seen anything like this in my life!
09 | Watching Royal Dance Performance
As if right out of a storybook, four beautifully dressed women performed a traditional Javanese dance for us at the Royal Ambarrukmo hotel. It was a dance like no other because it didn’t seem like a celebration but appeared to be of a meditative nature. The seemingly serene dancers moved in slow and graceful motions.
Tari kraton – Javanese dance in Yogyakarta
They all wore elaborate headdresses that were made out of bright pink and gold. They wore roses around their hair buns. The rest of their outfits were black and gold. They swayed delicately on the music of bamboo music instrument. I couldn’t understand the words but it sounded like a prayer or a request.
Tari kraton – Javanese dance in Yogyakarta – Drifter Planet
We were later informed that it was the traditional dance from the time this hotel served as the royal palace. This dance was for the palace rulers and hence was a “Royal Dance”. I was later informed that back in the days, this “sacred” dance was a way of spreading moral enlightenment and Javanese cultural values.
10 | Experiencing a “Royal” body Massage at the Royal Ambarrukmo Hotel’s Nurkhadayatan Spa
Yes, the sunrise at Borobudur was fun but nothing can compare to a full body massage experience at Nurkhadayatan Spa, which is at the Royal Ambarrukmo Hotel.
Every massage room featured a bathtub made which was made from the stones of the Merapi volcano. As per the spa staff, the stones of Mount Merapi are considered to be sacred and are high in minerals. A hot bath inside one of these stone tubs is said to have healing power.
I don’t have much to write about the massage because it was truly blissful and I fell asleep during it.
11| Jamu Tasting in Jogja
Jamu is a kind of traditional Indonesian medicinal juice. The ingredients are always natural – such as honey, milk, flowers, tree barks, etc. We stopped by a roadside stall to try a few of them.
Jamu Tasting in Jogja
Most of these were bitter but there was one that was delicious. On asking, I got to know that the sweet one was for improving skin. There were Jamu juice medicines for many things such as upset stomach, enhancing stamina and even tightening of a woman’s vagina! Haha
To be honest, when I was informed of a Jamu tasting session in our itinerary, I imagined it to be a local alcoholic beverage. (Yes, I have been spoilt by too many wine-tasting sessions, hehe).
12 | Learning how to make Batik in Kotagede
As if the similarities between Indonesia and India were not close enough, the next activity in our itinerary was learning how to make Batik. I later found out that the art of making Batik is the most developed in Java, Indonesian.
My batic frame in Kotagede, Yogyakarta
The first step was drawing a pattern on a white cloth and putting it in a circular frame. The next was carefully dropping hot wax with the help of a pen-like tube to form an outline of the pattern. This appeared to be easy but was not so because we had to maintain a steady hand. This is the most important step because the wax obviously resists the color from penetrating when the dye is put, resulting in selective coloring. The wax can be later removed by soaking the cloth in boiling water.
While pottery making may not be my strongest point, I felt I did much better when it came to making batik. Here is my batik handkerchief. Do you like it?
If I get over my laziness, maybe someday I will make a few batik clothes and sell them at psytrance music festivals. Would you like to buy?
13 | Getting surrounded by schoolgirls while exploring Kotagede (Or Kota Gede) and getting featured in the local newspaper
Sights in Kotagede, Yogyakarta
Did I mention Yogyakarta is an overdose of art culture and history? Well, you can glimpse all of these factors in just a few hours when you visit Yogyakarta’s historic neighborhood, Kotagede (or Kota Gede).
In Javanese, Kota Gede means big city and trust me you need to take out a lot more than just a couple of hours to explore this area. I’m happy that I was carrying extra GoPro batteries here because I ended up taking 100s of photos. I couldn’t help it because every corner here is worth a photo.
We started by exploring a local market that had spices, baskets, meat, tea, coffee, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Interestingly, most of these shops had women owners. Most of them didn’t speak English but understood the universal sign language. As we got out of the food market area, we saw several silver shops around us and later I found out that Kotagede is known globally for its silver crafting. The local market many other interesting shops too such as pottery, batik, flowers, etc.
Beautiful people of Kotagede, Yogyakarta
Next, we decided to get lost in Kota Gede’s many lanes and realized how the old town is just like a maze. Little alleys led to interesting old looking houses and this is where the photographer in me went a little crazy. Many houses were brightly colored and featured elaborate gardens.
My Japanese friend Naoko on the streets of Kotagede, Yogyakarta
If you are into “door porn”, you will absolutely love Kotagede because every house had a beautiful door. Most of the doors had ornate panels on top and looked like they had a story to tell from a forgotten era.
Under normal circumstances, I would have loved to blend in to get lost in the old town. But the fact that my Yogyakarta visit was a press trip with 30 Instagram obsessed social media influencers, things were a tad different. Wherever we went, people knew we were visitors (obviously). The best was seeing smiles and excitement on school children’s faces as they photo bombed us and posed with us. Aren’t they adorable?
Getting surrounded by schoolgirls in Kotagede, Yogyakarta
This didn’t happen just once but happened at many places of Kotagede where I was surrounded by some really adorable school girls who wanted a picture.
Can you spot me? – the streets of Kotagede, Yogyakarta
We crossed a few places of worship as well such as an old temple with a massive gong and a 16th-century mosque. It was then we saw a few artists that were sitting by the road and drawing what was in front of them. After asking around, I got to know that Yogyakarta is Indonesia’s art capital and a lot of artists live here. (yes it gets better and better).
Urban Sketcher, Yandi Prayudhi on the streets of Kotagede
Next day, I got to know I was quoted and featured on the front page of a leading Indonesian newspaper – Jogja Tribun. This picture was taken while I was exploring Kotagede.
That one time I got featured on the first page of Indonesia’s leading newspaper – Tribune Jogja
How did this happen? Agus Wahyu, who accompanied us to Kotagede is a journalist with Tribun which I didn’t know. He saw how I went a little crazy with excitement while exploring the street and asked me a few questions. Next day, he quoted me in his article, most of which is in Bahsa Indonesia and I can’t understand!
Where to stay in Yogyakarta:
Greenhost Boutique Hotel:
It is a very beautiful hotel with a massive swimming pool inside the building. Everything is very green, peaceful and serene inside. I love their handmade soap, which is made with rice and coconut milk. It smelled so good that I almost ate it. A room for two is usually as low as USD 35, which is an excellent price for the luxury this hotel offers. The location is perfect because many restaurants are walking distance from here. Click here to book
Desa Bahasa homestay:
Remember the language school in point 7? Well, they offer homestay in the village at affordable prices. At USD 6-10 per night, it is definitely an affordable option that is only 3 KMs away from Borobudur temple. Click here for info.
Royal Ambarrukmo Hotel:
This is a five-star hotel, which once served as the royal palace for Yogyakarta. This hotel has an amazing spa, beautiful gardens and a mini museum in it. This is the same place where I saw archers practicing Jemparingan and a local Javanese dance performance. Click here to book.
Have you visited Yogyakarta and have a few tips to share? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to see your recommendations for things to do in Yogyakarta.
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A big thanks to the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia for inviting Drifter Planet to visit their beautiful country.