Arriving in Yogyakarta (Central Java, Indonesia)

We’ve taken the long way to fly from our home in Brisbane to Java. We flew from the Gold Coast over Indonesia to Kuala Lumpur, waited five hours at the airport and then flew back south to Yogyakarta. But it’s not all bad. The only direct flights from Australia to Indonesia go to either Jakarta or Bali, and neither of those places are that attractive to me. Besides, thanks to Air Asia’s amazing discounts, our long way flight was super cheap anyway. I actually don’t mind transit time either. When we’re up in the air the real world ceases to exist. There’s no email, phone or internet (unfortunately, this is about to change). There’s just time to chill out, watch movies and catch as many uncomfortable zzz’s as possible.

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Landing in Yogyakarta is so far removed from our regimented lives in the West. People mill around on the tarmac taking selfies with the plane in the background. There’s no bunting or security guards telling us where not to go. This is Indonesia. Things are different here. Fun … interesting … at times challenging … and totally different.

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Yogyakarta’s international airport is tiny; just as Semarang’s was a year ago. But there are more foreigners requiring visas on arrival here. We manage to get near the front of the queue though because I get in before the customs officers organise the chaos. Interestingly, the visa on arrival here in Yogyakarta is only $US35 while I payed $US70 in Semarang last year. Lucky us I guess.

We catch the public bus into the city. It costs just IDR3,600 each ($AU3.60). We could have taken a taxi but we both get the “go away” feeling when taxi drivers harass us. I know they are just trying to be helpful and make a living but it’s confronting when you just step off a long flight. Perhaps we are both just stubborn and independent so want to feel like we are making the decision not having it pushed on us. The bus turns out to be quite fine. We are going to a hostel south of the Kraton (Sultan’s Palace). We take bus 3B, get off at the next bus station, wait for bus 3B to park and then come back to pick us up again, then get off three stops later to walk to the hostel.

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After a rest and shower we set off in search of the first meal of our trip. We go out on foot, preferring to stretch our legs than be pedaled around in a becak (Indonesian rickshaw). It’s hot after a month in the Brisbane winter. Mild as our winter is, the temperature on the street here in Yogya is in the high twenties centigrade.

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The city’s streets are hectic and cramped. I guess that’s what happens when 143 million people live on an island just 1,100km x 210km (680 miles x 130 miles). Interestingly, the population of Yogyakarta is a modest 4 million people. So it’s not a heavily populated city by global standards. But it is hectic.

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We wander the streets taking in the uniquely Indonesian atmosphere. There’s a particular ingenuity here that I noticed on my last visit and it doesn’t take long to see it in action again when there’s an actual pot plant marking a pot hole in a road.

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The crazy loaded trucks of young men presumably traveling home from school or work prove we’re not in “Kansas” anymore.

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But it’s food we are looking for. I’m fanging after the flight and my favourite cuisine by far is Indonesian so the sights and smells make me drool. It’s still early in the evening (around 5:30pm) so the main food stalls and restaurants are not yet open. But that’s okay because there’s not much like the scent of chicken satay cooking on a coal fire to whet my appetite. Poor Paul. His first taste of Indonesian food comes from a dinky little satay stall … and he’s not even fussed on satay at the best of times. But he’s a good sport.

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We walk some more and let our senses get bombarded by the cacophony of noise. It’s loud here. Especially after our week out west where there was sometimes no sound but the wind. Paul proves to be the champion road crosser and is across every intersection before I’ve even taken stock of the traffic. It’s an impressive skill.

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I encourage Paul to stop at an angkingan stall for dinner. He’s not sure about eating cold pre-cooked foods but I convince him that this is the way it’s done here. His trepidation comes from getting sick in Thailand after eating cold food. Being a good sport he tries some rice with tempeh, green beans, fried chicken and fried egg. I go with the rice, tempeh, green beans, fried fish and fried egg. We wash it down with typically sweet teh panas (hot tea). This Paul likes very much … the super sweet tea.

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I am excited to see a terang bulan (pan-sized fresh made golden crumpet) stall. This time I think I will be on a winner introducing Paul to one of my all time favourite sweets and the biggest reason why I gained so much weight last time I was on Java. We order a chocolate and condensed milk variety. It’s almost torture to carry it all the way to the hostel to eat it. But, somehow, I manage. This Paul likes but doesn’t love because it’s a very fatty desert. There’s a truckload of butter smeared all over the crumpet and obviously a truck load of butter or oil in the batter. Me: I love it but decide I will not eat it every night like I was last time I was here. I do not want to carry that extra weight next month when I am hiking in Turkey.

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It feels late as we walk back to our hostel but turns out to be a little after 7pm. The streets are still alive with motorbikes and people. We are both tired from the long flight and our bodies haven’t yet adjusted to the time difference (it would be 10pm at home). But we’ve both had a lovely first evening in Yogyakarta and are looking forward to getting more familiar with Java over our next month here.

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