Yogyakarta Weekend Escape

Must admit, we have been doing a lot of these mini getaways lately. With increasing likelihood of my stint working in Singapore coming to an end, there’s been more ‘urgency’ to visit more of the nearby attractions that I wanted to, but haven’t gotten around to. For this past weekend of 8th Oct, I decided to cover Yogyakarta / Jogyakarta in Indonesia. Unlike most other weekend getaways, this is perhaps the first time Ethan’s grandpa/grandma came along with us!

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I can only assume Yogyakarta isn’t particularly high on most travellers’ list, as our flight on Friday heading there wasn’t a full flight! Reading around websites on this part of world, I did expect that it won’t be as developed as other parts of Indonesia. It’s a good thing though, as I knew we weren’t coming here for shopping! With that, it was then a deliberate choice to stay in hotels away from the town centres.

For the first leg of the trip, our stay was at Amata Borobudur Resort, which was a good 45 minutes away from the airport. We had the hotel organise a car to pick us up, and the driver ended up driving us around for the next 2 days as well. My dad’s Bahasa Indonesia turned out to be extremely useful to help negotiate with staff and locals for anything from food and tour recommendations to directions, or just keeping the driver entertained! First impression of the hotel was very good though, with decor better than we expected for the price we paid! Highly recommend to anyone!

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We didn’t waste much time at all, and headed straight to see the UNESCO heritage listed site.. the Borobudur temple only a short drive from our hotel. Only myself and my parents went though, as we opted for the early sunrise tour requiring us to get up at 4:00am! Being pitch dark, it probably added to the atmosphere of mystery and slight spookiness. Eventually, light started to brighten the surrounds to reveal these so called ‘stupas’ (giant bell) everywhere..

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Each stupa is suppose to have a buddha statue inside it, until you realise most are either headless (stolen, or in museums) or the entire statue missing. Quite unfortunate really.

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It’s interesting to discover that the initial builders of this religious site were actually started by Hindus, and eventually taken over by buddhists in AD 800. The site then spent a significant amount of time buried in volcanic ash until it was dug out by the Europeans in 1973. Yeap there is an active volcano nearby, and it’s the same volcano (Mount Merapi) that we visited later on during the day.

Anyway, we were suppose to be here for the sunrise, and the best we were able to get was this…

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Knowing now, it’s probably not worth the extra money for it. By the time we got back to the hotel, it was only 7:30am where we had plenty of time for breakfast before moving on to the next tour destinations..

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Then it was a trip to Mount Merapi, the active volcano that last erupted in 2010. For something different, I opted for this Toyota Landcruiser jeep tour around the sites for a couple of hours. No one seemed unhappy with VERY bumpy rides for a couple of hours. My dad could probably qualify to drive it himself, if he were allowed, given the years of driving experience during his stint working in the timber industry. Our driver though, was this young chap, that occasionally gave most of us more than just a little ‘scare’, e.g. when he swerved off to the side for this shot.

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It was too cloudy for the volcano itself to be visible that day. Eventually we realised it wasn’t so much a tour of the volcano, but rather a tour of the nearby sites that was impacted by the last eruption in 2010. We saw plenty of wrecks and remnants of the damages done by the volcano, including this now abandoned bridge..

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Eventually the cloud gave way and by the afternoon, it was pretty much bucketing rain the rest of the day. We had to abandon the other temple tour on the schedule. I did get to sample one of my favourite fruit… salak! Somehow, it’s like durian, in that not everyone likes it. Fortunate for me, as the only ones eating it was me and my parents..

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By the evening, we also discovered just how “Bakso” dish which is essentially meatballs, served with noodles can be found everywhere. It’s THE fast food of this region! Wifey was a little wary and sceptical about hygiene, but hey.. I had plenty of it over the next few days and had no problems whatsoever!

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Best of all.. it’s about SGD$1.00 a dish. Where are you going to find something like this in Singapore/Australia?? Hugely satisfying and filling!

Fortunately the weather improved the next day, and we were able to visit the Prambanan temple (the other UNESCO heritage listed attraction).

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It didn’t take me long to be all ‘templed out’ already. Having said that, it did remind me of the temples that I visited years ago at Ang Kor Wat with similar architectures. Unlike the Borobudur temples, the architecture is 100% Hindu. It was crumbled by earthquake way back, which just goes to show how volatile this region is from natural disasters. What we see today was mostly re-constructed in the 1950s.  The site certainly felt more ‘alive’ with a lot more tourists, complete with a market, kids playground, and even a deer park nearby. At least Ethan had a little bit of fun that day..

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By the afternoon, we moved on to our next hotel in Bantul, called D’omah hotel. It had a rice field right in front of us, which was rather relaxing if you ask me.

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Dad complained that it wasn’t quite as good as the one at Borobudur, and I probably agree. To begin with, it is located much closer to a mosque, so we were definitely blasted with morning prayers during our stay here every morning around 3:30am – 4:00am. To be fair to the hotel, they did supply us with earplugs! Strangely, Ethan slept through it all.

There weren’t quite as many touristy things to do around Bantul, and my intent was really just to spend time in the hotel itself and do some ‘local’ things. Perhaps the highlight was the cooking class which we all did together. It included a tour to the local market so that we get to check out the ingredients that we were going to use for the class.

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Once we got back, it was straight to business. Wifey made such a big deal of this moment, and declared this to be the first time I’ve ever been in the kitchen, apparently!

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Our chef didn’t speak a word of English. Luckily, through the help of Dita (very nice hotel staff), and my dad’s handle on Bahasa Indonesia, things went pretty smoothly.

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Ethan was entertained without us, busy either chasing cats, or just toying around with gloves.

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By lunch time, our dishes were served.. which included fried chicken, terancam (Indonesian salad), pulut hitam (black rice dessert, not pictured), and finally an extra dish at the request by my dad, stir-fried petai (stinky beans).

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Admittedly, these dishes weren’t going to win any food critic awards. But I suppose in the end, it was more the experience, and the family bonding time that I treasured more. If I’m going to ‘get into a kitchen’ again, it would have to be another cooking class!

The rest of the time spent at the hotel was either at massages (first one for mum), and swimming around at the pool, which wifey declared as ‘too dirty’.

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It was then a very early morning flight back to Singapore on Tuesday. Got to admit, Indonesia have continued to impress me each time I come here. This is our 3rd visit to Java island alone (previously Jakarta and Bandung), and yet they each have unique characters that I would go back for. Whilst I wouldn’t come to Yogyakarta for food (that one goes to Bandung), I probably would come here to explore the salak orchards some day, given my cravings for that fruit 🙂

 

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