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INDONESIA | Friday, 5 December 2008 | Views [2377] | Comments [4]

From Bali I flew to Jobjakarta, known to the Indonesians as Jobja, and sometimes spelled with Y's instead of J's just to further confuse foreigners. Anyway, Jobja is a medium size city in central java, most famous for the Buddhist temple Borobudur.

I had no idea how long to spend there, so I scheduled myself for 2.5 days arriving at 6:30 AM on saturday, and leaving tuesday at 4 PM. When I arrived I found a fairly run-down, slightly muddy town. I soon discovered that I did make a mistake scheduling 2.5 days here. It was not nearly enough time! There are huge numbers of things to do here. In addition to Borobudur there is also Indonesia's greatest Hindu temple prambanan as well. Just outside of town there is a live volcano that last erupted 2 years ago, and offers great views when you can actually see it. In a different direction, there are sand dunes by the ocean. There is an amazing arts scene there. Jobja is known for the Batik style of artwork, there are also Gamelon shows daily at the sultan's palace, dance concerts performing the ramanyan story, puppet shows performed to Gamelon music, many universities and most importantly very friendly people.

Anyway, after arriving at my hostel (the excellent Seita Kawan), I scheduled trips to Borobudur and Prambanan the next day, and a ballet performance of the Ramanyan in the evening. Someone from the hostel was also going to take me to see Mount Merapi (volcano!) if the sky cleared over there (the weather at the volcano changes by the hour). Finally, at 9 AM he was going to take me to see some Batik art made. As it was before 8, I went wondering, and soon was "directed" into a batik gallery. The art work was great, but slightly expensive (ok no price was on the art, so the starting price probably depended on what country I was from and there read on me), and I ended up bargaining for 2 hours over 1 work. I empted the ATM, bought two works, shipped them, home then went back to the hostel. I soon got taken to where some batik was being made, and larger collection was sold and better prices than what I paid before (although none were quite as good as the painting I had bargained so long over). I bought some more art, and sent them home. Now, feeling very poor, I had lunch at a cafe near my hostel (and jointly owned) and then went to explore. The streets were a bit run down, but I did find a great childrens/science museum with nice areas for the kids to play outside, and a cool pair of parabolic dishs where you can talk from one to the other across a 100 feet area. Walking farther down, I found this old guy playing chess, so I watched a bit, and then hung out and played 2 games with him. We both sucked, but luckily, he sucked slightly more, and the score went 1-0-1 for USA over Indonesia.

I keep forgetting to comment that this is the best point in history for americans to be traveling to Indonesia. First, the dollar has surged. In fact there was a 15% change in the dollar vs the rupiah over my 2.5 weeks in Indoensia. Second, and more important, everyone in Indonesia LOVES Obama and wants to talk about him. (he went to school in Jakarta for a few years as a child). Actually, everyone all across asia loves Obama and hates Bush, but in Indonesia it was a special feeling. They would ask where you were from, and I would answer Los Angeles (or the United States or America) and whomever you were talking to would immediately yell, "OBAMA" in a congratulatory tone, actully it was almost as if they were cheering for there favorite sports team. It was very funny.

(BTW, as I am writing this, Obama has finished his selections for cabinet officials, and I think its probably the most distinguished set of advisor's ever. Well done, Mr President Elect!)

Anyway, after playing chess for a while I kept walking toward the Kraton (Sulton's palace). As I approached the palace, this nice guy starts talking to be and then starts showing me around. First he takes me to where the puppet shows are done, and where they also make some puppets (Oh no, I thought, they are trying to sell me something). But before I got there, there was a hut in the park by the palace, which was being used as a marketing event for something. Anyway, music was being played and these two women were DJing, and dancing. And for the second time in 2 days, I got called up, as I walked by, to go on stage. Again, I was asked where I was from, and then to dance to this next song, which was supposed to be about a cat. I tried to dance catlike. Anyway, after dancing for a while, I continued to see the puppets, didn't buy any, and yet the guy continued to show me around. We went to the bird market, and to a tower by the water palace (which I never did get to see), but as time was running out for me I had to go. O ffered my tourguide some money, which he refused, although he did want a US coin if I had any (I did not).

I went back to my hostal, had a shower, dinner, and then went to see a wonderful ballet, with Gamelon music playing, and learned the story of the Ramanyana (ok, don't quiz me). What a great day.

The next day, I went to see the two temples. They were both very good, although not incredible. The interesting thing for me was that there were lots of Indonesian students there (especially at Borobudur), some who traveled for 6 or 7 hours to get there, and had no interest in the temples. They were there for there English final exam, since its someplace where they can practice talking with foreigners. I asked one person what was he doing today, and the answer was "hunting tourists". Anyway, I had a nice conversation with one group of college CS students, who wanted to understand the US governmental system, and wanted to know why I supported Obama who has different color skin than I have. And I also enjoyed the terrific relief work on the temples. As I was with some folks from the hostal we shared tour guides at the 2 temples (at borobudur for 6 of us, it was $4 total for a good hour tour, at pambanan it was only 2 of us and the tour was not that good. He kept talking about the book he wrote, and the delegation he was on. Soon it started to rain, and the tourguide just disappeared. Anyway, I had fun with the locals. Indonesia, outside of Bali, was more like China in that westerners were somewhat unusual, but unlike China most people, and almost all young people, studied English and wanted to talk with you. This is a great place to visit!

After the full day trip, I went off in search of a restaurant in town. Well, this is the weakness of Jobja for the traveler, there really are not many places to eat, outside of grubby looking street stalls. Eventually, I had a bad dinner, and went to see the puppet show. Here the gamelon concert was mezmorizing, and you just went into a trance, whatching the puppetier with is colorful puppets. There was a screen, so you could also go on the otherside to watch the puppet show become a shadow puppet show (there was chairs all around). I walked around the stage a lot. It was very nice. Eventually, I took a bicycle driven cart home (I could have walked faster) and went to sleep, having been up at 4 AM 2 straight days.

For my last day I woke up and went off with this guy from the hostel who was giving me a tour on his motorbike. We saw some great views of the countryside which appeared to be MUCH richer than the city. We also saw amazing views of the farms, I saw someone plowing the field with a buffalo, I saw rice patty fields, and I just saw great pastoral life. I saw street signs directing you to other nearbye cities such as Solo which I would like to visit. I did like the fact that the signs always said Jobja, and not Yobyakarta. We saw a number of distinguished universities. What we did not see was the volcano. After driving all the way to the viewing area, we saw lava, but the volcano was clouded over. We walked around for about 40 minutes but the cloud cover was getting worse. Oh well. One funny thing was a few people were building homes on the lava field were many homes were destroyed 2 years earlier. Some people never learn... Oh well, I had to get to the airport. But this was a great town.

Tags: jobja batik




I went to Jogya in 1979 for a few days. I have a lot of fond memories too. We befriended a young TukTuk driver (I think that's the name, the rickshaws with bikes) and after a few days we gained his trust and took us to his house. 13 people, 3 generations lived in 2 rooms. I think from memory 10,000 people lived along a 1.5km stretch of road. He was a main breadwinner for his family while also at university. We used to send him books for years.


  Nick Dec 5, 2008 5:34 PM


I am still confused about what a tuk-tuk is. different types of vehicles seem to be called tuk-tuks in the different locations.

Anyway, thats a great connection you made. Jogja was just a really friendly place.

  jsherdc Dec 5, 2008 10:40 PM



do you have the contact information for the Seita Kawan? I would like to travel to Jogya for 3 weeks to check out the puppetry.

  halishazaam Jul 16, 2014 1:19 PM


I found their website: http://www.bedhots.com/

  jsherdc Jul 16, 2014 5:27 PM

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