In Southeast Asia, ten thousand miles (and 27 hours!) from my 1,000 sq. ft Austin condo lies Indonesia, a country made up of crystal clear waters, 17,000+ volcanic islands, hundreds of ethnic groups and many religions and tongues.
On the Island of Java lies the vibrant, scooter-heavy and bustling city of Jakarta and its less flashy, more cultural sister city of Yogyakarta (pronounced Jogyakarta). This is where we’d be spending the first 8 days of our 18- day adventure across Indonesia.
While frantically itinerizing our last minute trip to the capital city, I spent hours combing through blogs and pinterest pages in search of the city’s top attractions. When many searches and clicks lead to dead ends, it fed my fear that our first scheduled stop might be a bust. Boy was I wrong!
After entering the highway leaving the airport, we were met with motorbikes buzzing in every which direction. I instantly got Bangkok deja vu—bright lights, large skyscrapers and a dense population (so dense that its predicted to be unlivable by 2050!) . We saw very little traffic control, very few stop signs and even less sidewalks. Despite its overpopulation lives a young nation that grew too fast and lacks desperately “big city” infrastructure. I officially dubbed Jakarta “Honk City” for obvious reasons. My ears are still ringing from the endless honks of taxis, scooters, bemos and becaks coexisting on the main drag situated feet from our hotel room.
Here, you’ll find the most friendly and humble locals made up of all generations. Their heart for their country and eagerness to share it with us was so inspiring. Our guides and drivers turned quickly to friends. We talked about our respective countries, our families, our passions and our dreams. No language barrier posed big enough to stop us from meaningful conversations wherever we went. This was a hopeful reminder how much people of all types, color and nationalities have in common at their roots.
We were inspired by the rich history and cultural and religious traditions. We visited the National Museum, historical Dutch-inspired colonel buildings, old port of Sunda Kelapa and Glodok—Jakarta’s Chinatown.
Yogyakarta, (the only city still controlled by the Sultan) was one of our favorite stops. Here we were approached by kids on several occasions and corners requesting an ‘English interview’. In the spirit of globalization, Indonesian schools are currently requiring a variety of English classes in their curriculum as early as elementary school. With our participation we were able to help grant these students bonus points for their extra credit. What some would look at as just a mere homework assignment, brought us so much joy. We would have done one hundred more interviews if we could!
Immaculate open-aired pavilions on every corner, palaces nestled in curious places and late-night markets won my heart. On our second day in Yogyakarta, we tackled the iconic Jalan Malioboro Road—one of Yogyakarta’s biggest attractions. This 24 hour and 1KM long market makes the Mall of America look like child's play. Here, locals and tourists alike flock the streets testing their haggling skills in search for the best deals from hundreds of vendors selling everything from rattan bags and Batik prints to Nasi Goreng and Kerak Telor—the official street snack. You could spend all day here picking up souvenirs and grubbing on deep fried street snacks, but we had a strict curfew in order to get some sleep in preparation for the next morning’s 4am Panguk Sunrise and Jomblang cave. That morning we repelled 60 meters deep into a dark, muddy cave for a trek to one of the most beautiful attractions where the sun hits the cave creating a beautiful postcard-worthy display of light known as the "Light of Heaven.”
Next up, the hub for vegans, surfers, beach bums, yogis, temple go-ers, eat-pray-lovers and more as anyone can find their way here. While Bali may seem small, you can spend weeks here and still leave the majority of the island untouched. My favorite? Ubud.
More than anything, I was anxiously awaiting the rainforest terrain and endless rice fields. April is considered the last month of the rainy season, so the fields were especially green and bountiful. In Ubud, we got sporty, cultural, outdoorsy and caffeinated! We rafted our way down the Anug River rapids and visited Pura Lempuyang, one of the most highly regarded temples in Bali. We skipped through the trails of the Tegallalang Rice field and cozied up to some attention seeking- monkeys. We toured a coffee plantation that was home to one of the world’s most expensive Luwak coffee (make sure you google to learn about the unorthodox way they produce it). We took a day trip to the beautiful island of Nusa Penida where we took in the scenic and breathtaking views of Broken Beach and Angel’s Billabong.
Although the sites were breathtakingly majestic (and even more beautiful in person) and the cuisine was next level flavorful, the Indonesian people made the trip for me. The kind souls and gentle spirits will have an everlasting impression on me and I've never felt so welcome in such a short period of time.
Lindsay works Event Production at a local Austin firm. She loves traveling internationally, supporting local businesses and volunteering with local non-profits.