Tag Archives: yogyakarta

A Night with an Indonesian Legend

22 Feb

About halfway through my trip I saw a sign for a concert in Jogja. Having only seen it in a fleeting glance I scoured the town trying to find another one. The poster was for Iwan Fals- one of the greatest Indonesian musicians who was also voted a Great Asian Hero a few years ago. Sure enough he was performing in Jogja on my last night in Indonesia in a performance called Nostalgia Cinta Untuk Jogja. This was a strange coincidence as he was also in Jogja on my last night there last year but I missed out on tickets.

That was it. I decided I had to buy a ticket which itself was a somewhat confusing process and I headed to the Grand Pacific Hall last Saturday to witness what was one of the best concerts I have ever been to.

Iwan Fals live in concert

Iwan Fals is nothing short of a legend in Indonesia. You see graffiti around which says “Iwan Fals for President”. His music unites Indonesians no matter what religion or ethnicity they are in a career that has spanned from the early 80s until today. During the New Order Regime he criticised  Suharto, something that was almost unheard of without severe consequences.

The venue was packed with all kinds of Indonesians from government officials to student activists, young and old and of course a few Westerners. Then as the smoke began to roll across the stage and the first few chords played the cheering began and continued for the next two and a half hours.

So many camera phones

The audience sang along with every song and the backing band were great (particular mention to the drummer who did some epic solos). I had awesome seats about 6 rows back from the stage and dead centre. My highlight of the night would have been when he played his song Ibu which is a beautiful song but there’s a particular part halfway through where he powers out one of the verses which gives you goosebumps and I saw a few of my fellow audience members shedding a tear or two.

The concert was truly sensational. You couldn’t help but feel somewhat inspired by it and there is no doubt as to why the Indonesian government saw him as such a threat back in the 80s and 90s. There was a real energy in the room unlike anything I had ever experienced before and it’s a feeling I’ll definitely treasure for a long time.

Truly a Great Asian Hero


Roadtrip to the Beach

17 Feb

Last Sunday it was Nick’s birthday so we decided it was time to go exploring. After the polluted, rough beaches the week before I wanted to find the elusive white sand beaches of Jogja that I had heard so much about. Despite only having 3 hours sleep the night before, I threw my swimmers in my backpack, stocked up on sunscreen and off we went in our car. From Jogja it’s a bit over 60km down to the beaches of Gunung Kidul and it is a truly spectacular drive. As you start going up into the hills you are granted a view over the city and you realise how big it actually is. On the way through Wonosari we stopped by the side of the road and picked up some fruit (in fact several kilos of tropical fruits) for around $3.

The first beach we arrived at was Baron where we parked amongst several tour buses. This wasn’t exactly what we were looking for but we decided to check it out anyway.

Pantai Baron

There were thousands of people there and we were mobbed with requests for photos and people wanting to practice their English. After chilling under some palm trees and drinking coconut juice and eating some of the delicious fruit we set off in search of a quieter beach.

After driving about 10 kilometres we found Krakal beach and managed to find an amazing quiet spot with only a few other people. We went for a scramble over some rocks and found some incredible little bays where cliffs and rocky outcrops rose dramatically out of the water. We splashed around in the beautiful warm water and sat up under the palm trees playing guitar while looking out over the water in a very Jack Johnson-esque scene.

Pantai Krakal- truly beautiful spot

It was the perfect relaxing afternoon after a crazy few weeks.

Next it was time to eat so we drove around to Indrayanti Beach to a great BBQ restaurant and sat at the beach eating bbq prawns. I only started eating prawns recently so I’ve definitely been trying to make up for lost time at some of these places. This was the beach with all the foreign tourists and we ran into the first foreigners we had seen all day (including a couple who entertained us with their inventive ways to open a bottle of wine). After our rather lunch it was back into the car for the drive back to Jogja in the rain so there was nothing left to do but recline back in my seat and take a well-deserved nap.

Pantai Indrayanti

A lot of people heading to Jogja only really go down to Parangtritis an while that beach has amazing spiritual background to it and is incredibly important in Jogja culture, it’s dangerous, black sand beach has nothing on the beaches at Gunung Kidul. While it takes a bit of effort to get to them due to their remote location it’s definitely worth the effort. It’s remarkable to think that here, on the most densely populated island in the world you can find a beautiful secluded beach all to yourself.

The Jogja Clubbing Experience

14 Feb

Some Southeast Asian nations have reputations for their nightlife. Bangkok is famous for its wild clubs just like the party islands of South Thailand. I’ve been to bars in Jakarta which are pretty crazy but when a few friends (Australians studying in Jogja) suggested we check out a few Jogja night clubs I couldn’t resist. The image of Jogja is not one that lends itself to clubbing with the ever present call to prayer from the mosques and traditional Javanese culture. Little did I know I was going to be in for a massive surprise.

We met up at 11 which was incredibly late by Indonesian standards at a Café near one of the big universities, there was a massive group of people from my university back home who had been having a farewell celebration for one of their friends. Massive coincidence number 2 of the trip occurred when I heard someone call my name only to run into someone from Sydney who I met at Uni Games way back in my first year of university and hadn’t seen since. A few beers and an introduction to the card game hitam atau merah (black or red) got the night off to a good start before we piled into a bunch of taxis to take us to a few clubs out near the airport.

When we got there it was madness. We paid the cover charge (55 000 Rp inc 1 drink) and were let into the smoky club (which was actually 2 clubs joined together). Slowly moving through the packed club I was shocked to get into the second bar where we saw paid dancers grinding around in very little clothing (read underwear) up on the stage. Now this is just your standard night club not anything intentionally seedy but this is something I wouldn’t expect in Australia let alone in the middle of Java! I should say from what I’ve been told this isn’t a common occurrence in other clubs. Then we ordered some drinks (which were ridiculously expensive- we only ordered one round) more shocking was when I tried ordering a bottle of water and they charged me 35000 Rp for a 300ml bottle as opposed to the 1.5 litre bottle I bought on the way home for 3100 Rp. We had a bit of a dance alternating between the two clubs and hung out on the lounges before heading home just shy of 4am.

The one thing I found a bit scary about the clubs here was the complete lack of Responsible Service of Alcohol which is such a big deal in Australia. It’s not surprising that this doesn’t exist in a country where drinking is done by a minority, due to religion and it being super expensive, and somewhat frowned upon (for Indonesians not so much bules) but seeing paralytic Indonesians dragged out of the club unconscious and being bundled into cars was shocking. There was no help whatsoever from the bar staff or bouncers while we watched and a complete lack of understanding of what to do in that situation by the general patrons. It’s barely surprising when you see people swigging from bottles of spirits in the clubs. I won’t deny that I like to drink when I go out with my friends but I’m just glad that my friends and I have been taught what to do to help someone in that situation (standard lesson in PE in high school) and that clubs have the legal responsibility to prevent that from happening.

That aside, I had an awesome night. I wouldn’t say Jogja is my favourite place to go clubbing compared to places in Thailand or even Canberra but it truly was an interesting experience and we had a great group of people out with us so it was definitely fun. I wouldn’t say no to going again but I think I might stick to the chilled out bars of the backpacker district from now on.

Dealing with a Dangerous Land

13 Feb

It’s funny coming from the west how we tend to over think things in terms of what is best for a country. We look at an area that we view as “undeveloped” and think well they don’t have cars or infrastructure or malls we need to develop this area! Send in the aid organisations and let’s bring them up to Western standards!

This morning I went to a village. It was tiny and while I’m bound to forget it’s name I will never forget the village. We rode for about an hour from Jogja into the hills of Bantul down truly atrocious roads to this house where we sat down with the head of the local farmer’s organisation. He was an old Javanese man, fit from years of working the fields but his face was worn and his teeth broken and stained. Over five years ago there was a severe earthquake in the area which left over 5000 people dead and completely destroyed over 35% of the building in this village with not a single structure escaping damage. This man’s house was totally destroyed twice, both in the initial earthquake and a more minor one in the following months.

We started chatting with my questions in Indonesian being translated into a hybrid of Javanese and Indonesian by one of my friends from the office. I was really surprised by the answers. He said they were lucky. An earthquake doesn’t destroy your livelihood as a farmer. The fields are still there to tend to unlike in the case of an eruption or flood. I asked him what were his hopes for the future, what did he want for his village? He replied, “We want to be independent, to be able to overcome these disasters by ourselves. We receive aid from the local government but it isn’t enough, it’s much better if we receive more independence.” then he added, “and maybe the road could get rebuilt.” This road I mentioned before was horrific. You would struggle to get a car down it and it was a constant struggle to actually stay on the back of the motorbike from all the bouncing around. The road is essential for every aspect of life. Improving the road means better access to education, healthcare and to the markets in other towns to support the local farmers and home industries. All it takes to improve life there exponentially is a simple thing like a road to be fixed.

Overlooking Bantul and Gunung Kidul

Driving around the village you noticed the dramatic landscape of the area, steep terraced hills which present a real risk of landslides and constant green as far as you could see. It’s really not the safest area to live but for these people, the locals told me, there are no other options. They’ve lived here for decades and have nowhere else to move so make the most of their situation.

After looking around a bit more and drinking the obligatory glass of tea we headed up on the bike to the top of a hill at a fruit orchard. From there we overlooked both Bantul and Gunung Kidul, two of the five districts of Yogyakarta (The other 3 are Sleman, Kota- the city and West Prog) and as far as you could see there were forests, rivers and steep terraced hills as well as tiny villages. Such a beautiful area which faces dangerous threats from natural disasters constantly. It was an eye opening morning to say the least. It’s really easy to look at a disaster and think the recovery effort ends as soon as you rebuild the houses and that financial aid is the solution to everything. Almost six years on we still see ongoing issues in this area from a threat we really can’t do anything to prevent. I really hope that village gets the road and the independence that it needs.

Exploring the Special Region

6 Feb

Last weekend I finally found myself in Jogja so it was a perfect opportunity to really explore Daerah Isitimewa Yogyakarta (Jogja Special Region). Coincidentally one of the girls from my tour in Cambodia and her boyfriend happened to be in town so it was a chance to see some of the tourist attractions that I haven’t been to in several years as well as a few new ones.

Friday night was fairly quiet thanks to a sudden torrential downpour where I forgot both my umbrella and raincoat and proceeded to get drenched. We retreated to the old faithful, Via Via Cafe for dinner and a bintang to make plans for the day ahead. Deciding that we would get an early start and head out to the temples at 7am we had an early night and I came home to play some cards and hang out at the house.

The next morning was an early start. After brownies for breakfast (delicious but not very nutritious) I got the car we had rented for the day and went to pick up Sarah and James. First stop was Borobudur a UNESCO world heritage site and the largest Buddhist temple in the world. The temple itself was built in the 8th century and features hundreds of stupas and Buddha statues.IMG_5859 Interestingly it disappeared for hundreds of years only to be rediscovered and restored by Stamford Raffles in the 1800s. This was my second visit to Borobudur and despite heading out there early it was still ridiculously hot as you are smack bang in the middle of a plain with the sun bearing down on you. Also you are constantly bombarded with requests for photos and people wanting to practice their English with you which is amusing to start with but eventually becomes rather annoying. Generally the conversation goes a bit like this;

Indonesian student- Where are you from?
Me- Umm Australia
Indonesian student- What do you think about this temple becoming a 7 Wonder of the World?
Me- I’m not sure about that really.. It’s alright
Indonesian student- Can I take a photo with you? IMG_5873

Don’t get me wrong, Borobudur is an incredible, spectacular temple but after visiting Angkor Wat it’s hard to compete with that. Plus I prefer Prambanan (which I’ll get to later).IMG_5878 So after hours of questions and photos (what do all these people do with the photos of us?) we explored the grounds and found potentially the strangest, most out of place museum I had ever seen. The Unique Art Museum was mostly just a collection of pictures of world record feats and a bunch of miniature versions of Indonesian culture items. Let’s just say I’m glad they let us in for free.

Afterwards we had lunch before deciding to head up to Merapi, the volcano which looms over Yogyakarta and erupted in 2010 killing over 350 people. Exhausted we all fell asleep in the car on our way up there and as we went further up the mountain the destruction became more evident. We eventually reached a village called Kinahrejo only 4km from the peak of Merapi.IMG_5881 From here we went up the hill a bit further on motorbikes to see the home of Mbah Maridjan the gatekeeper of Merapi. The Kraton (Sultan’s Palace) in Jogja traditionally appoints a gatekeeper for Merapi whose job it is to communicate with the volcano. He refused to leave during the eruption so not to abandon his post despite being seriously injured in the 2006 eruption and sadly was killed during the 2010 eruptions. This is a symbol of how important tradition is in Jogja. The whole city is built in a straight line from Merapi to the Kraton to Parangtritis Beach on the south coast. Being around Merapi however made me feel somewhat uneasy as the village we visited despite being completely destroyed and having several villagers killed has been turned into a tourist attraction. The completely inappropriate tshirt award goes to a t-shirt you could buy with Merapi Volcano Tour written on it to look like blood. Walking through the lava flows it was fascinating to see the destructive effects of the eruption with us all agreeing that it was like something out of another world and a grim reminder of the dangers people in this area face. Riding back down the mountain it started to rain resulting in a freezing cold trip which was a bit of a welcome relief after Borobudur.


Next it was off to Prambanan which is undoubtedly my favourite temple in Jogja. Once the screaming kids of a school group had left the complex was quiet which creates a really relaxing atmosphere. The Hindu complex built in the 9th century features temples to Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva and is a bit similar to Angkor Wat in style. It also has heaps of big shady trees and if you explore a bit there are a bunch of other temples in the complex. IMG_5894 The other temples were a bit disappointing. Following the 2006 earthquake they suffered a lot of damage and have been rebuilt in a fairly shoddy manner with new pieces of stone being placed on them which don’t really fit in with the rest of the temple. After exploring for a bit and having a funny debate with some little kids about whether I was a londo or bule (both words for white person). We headed back to Jogja exhausted after 11 hours of exploring.

The following day I’d arranged to meet up with my friend Rayi who studied at UNY in Jogjakarta and I met in Canberra last year. The plan for the day was to go down to her house in Bantul. After getting picked up around lunchtime we headed south towards the beaches and I was rather impressed by the Gamelan (traditional Indonesian instrument) in her lounge room, more impressive was the spontaneous performance by her father which was brilliant. It was a beautiful day with the sky bright blue and no rain and the landscape down near the beach a stunning green. IMG_5942 We walked around, ate some gado gado and sat around drinking tea and chatting before deciding to go down to the beach. We drove a few km before we reached a less well known beach called Goa Cemara. When seeing the sign saying No Swimming Danger I didn’t know what to expect thinking it was just the government being overcautious (a lot of people can’t swim very well) but seeing the beach I understood straight away. Heavy shore break probably 6 foot high and a lot of very visible rips as well as waves slamming sporadically into sand bars- no place for a dip in the sea. It was a little bit sad to see how polluted the beach was with rubbish everywhere tainting the black sand shorelines but was still a fun afternoon and very interesting to see. After that we headed back into town for another game of cards at home and a bit of Top Gear. IMG_5948

So that was it for my weekend. This time in 2 weeks I will be back home in Canberra so there are still some adventures to be had I’m sure while I’m over here. My hand is still numb and on a completely unrelated to anything, note I just finished reading Life of Pi which was a fantastic book, one of the best I’ve read for a while.

Courts xx

Home Cooking and Hospitals- Week 4 in Jogja

3 Feb

This week has been interesting to say the least. The first two days of the week were pretty straight forward. Monday we decided to go get a snack of Gorengan (fried tofu, tempe etc) before dinner and ended up driving all over town trying to find a stall that was open eventually finding one just down the road from our house. After that we went to the angkringan for dinner (you pick different meat, rice, tempe etc and they heat it for you) and ate chicken heads then provided entertainment to the other patrons by re-enacting a chicken noodles commercial off the TV with said heads. Good filling meal for only 6000 Rp (9600 Rp = $1 AUD)

Tuesday after work Nick and I decided some vegetables were in order so we drove down to Milas (I’ve written about here before- delicious vegetarian restaurant) It was closed. So we head to another tourist favourite Via Via where I ended up eating a lamb pita pocket with salad (so so so delicious) before we sampled some of the dessert menu.

So a normal start to the week. We had made plans to cook for the dinner on Thursday night and had made a shopping list when at about 5:30pm on Wednesday we thought hey maybe we could just cook tonight. A mad rush around town to buy ingredients followed and we headed to a specialist butcher/western food store which was AMAZING! Can we make meatballs out of hamburger patties? Turned out we could and I also found Tim Tams (the Australian ones not the Indonesian version) and BBQ Shapes. Then we set to cooking. IMG_5841 The menu for the night was spaghetti and meatballs followed by apple pie. Despite the lack of recipe/measuring utensils both turned out really well and we gave the pie an Indonesian flavour by decorating the top with a Garuda (the Indonesian coat of arms) Unfortunately we misjudged the timing of the cooking and ended up eating the pie after 11pm. It was delicious the next day as well!

Thursday was another interesting day. I had woken up a few days before with half of my hand numb and pain in my elbow. Assuming it was a pinched nerve I thought it will go away. It didn’t. So I spoke to the doctor at our office who recommended I see the nerve specialist at the local hospital. So off to the Neurology department we went to see a lovely doctor who spoke wonderful English who checked out my arm and told me he wanted to run some tests so come back the next day. We also had a hilarious time with one of the admin officers who constantly joked around with us. He knew I could speak Indonesian so teased me (playfully) in Javanese so I replied in English using obscure Australian slang. Very funny and we had a cool handshake at the end. This morning I went in for the EMG (electromyography). After reading horror stories about how this test involved electric shocks through needles into the muscles I was pleasantly surprised to see it just was a few light (kind of ticklish) electric shocks through sensors on your skin. All the tests came back normal so probably just a pinched/inflamed nerve now it’s a case of waiting and hoping it goes away with the medicine he gave me.

As this is not my first time visiting an Indonesian hospital (I’m building a collection of membership cards) I was once again really impressed by the service on facilities. Sure it’s not as fancy or streamlined as a top hospital back home but you get to see a doctor quickly, most (in my experience) are very well trained and it’s super cheap- two visits to the doctor, drugs and tests only $50 give or take. Plus I got to keep the cool squiggly lines which are my nerve reactions.

So that’s my week! Tonight I should be meeting up with one of the girls from my tour in Cambodia and off to see Borobudur and Prambanan. Preparing for the swarms of people wanting photos!

Courts xx

Living la vida Jogja!

20 Jan

So week 2 of the internship has come and gone rather quickly. Life in Jogja is fairly easy and work is rather interesting plus my Indonesian is becoming so much better from all the translating I’ve been doing here. Because we had the Annual Meeting this week which I didn’t attend and rather hung out in Jogja after going to Jepara, not much exciting has been happening work wise (unless you want to know about regional disaster risk reduction programs in Indonesia- very interesting stuff!)

On the other hand outside of work I’ve managed to fit a fair bit into this past week. Generally we spend most nights hanging out at the house, chatting in English and Indonesian and sometimes having a bit of a jam on the guitar as well as watching some hilarious tv.IMG_5703 It has also rained a lot. A few days ago it poured for hours and Thursday morning it rained which was unusual but meant there was an amazing view of Merapi in the afternoon. The rain is great as it gives you about 2 hours of reasonably cool relief from the sweltering heat afterwards. A few days without rain and the humidity is enough to send you mad or at least walk around the office and house yelling PANAS! (hot)

Wednesday night I caught up with a friend from back in Australia who is studying in Jogja for 6 months and some of her Australian friends studying here. We went to a very nice restaurant at the mall sitting out on a balcony (Funnily enough it’s called The Balcony) and ate some delicious food (duck!) as well as some cocktails which were far too strong. It was very expensive by Indonesian standards (150 000 Rp or about $16) but it was nice to catch up and I had a wander around the mall afterwards as they don’t close until 9-10pm generally.

A few posts ago I was complaining about how expensive Jogja was- turns out I was completely wrong as we live in the student area meaning pretty good prices.IMG_5715 For example a few days ago 4 of us went to a kaki lima (food stall which basically consists of just a cart) and had some delicious mie ayam (chicken noodles) and es jeruk (cold orange drink) and it cost us 27 000 Rp or $3 for all 4 of us. Most meals I’ve had here when we’ve gone out have cost about $1-$1.50 tops and most have been incredibly delicious. Water costs about 40c for a 1 litre bottle and beer is also cheap but seeing a large Islamic university is up the road there is very little of that around. Even catching a taxi from the mall to my house is only about 9000 Rp or $1 but normally I just walk.

I’ve also been eating a lot of rice. Indonesian food 3 times a day sounds hard to get used to but is actually quite nice. I’ve also learnt that you can do amazing things to a packet of mi goreng with a few extra ingredients. Barely drinking any coffee here (although I’m having one as I write this) as sweetened tea is the drink of choice and it is incredibly addictive. Never imagined I would go from drinking black tea and coffee to overly sweet tea and milky, sweet coffee. Jogjakartans sure like their sweet food.IMG_5744 So back to my week, Thursday night I had arranged to go to the Ramayana ballet at Prambanan with one of my friends from the UNY group that came to Australia as he was performing in it.IMG_5761  It turned out a fair few of them were performing so it was great to catch up with them. We had a look around the grounds first and took some photos of Prambanan before I met some people from the office to watch the show. It was incredible! The one in Canberra was good but this was mind blowing. The music, costumes, dancing and acrobatics were amazing. For those unfamiliar with the story it is based around Rama and his wife Sita who is kidnapped by the evil king Rahwana. Rama then launches a rescue mission with the help of Laksmana and the white monkey Hanuman. In the end he wins back his wife and I presume they live happily ever after. IMG_5786 The plot is of course much more complicated (they call it an Epic for a reason) but it was a fantastic show. Also Hanuman’s monkey soldiers were played by kids probably only 10-12 years old and they were amazingly good and super cute.

Afterwards we rode home (Prambanan is maybe 20 minutes from Jogja) and were cruising along on the motorbike until suddenly da duh da duh da duh – tire puncture. Queue a good 20+ minutes of sitting on the side of the road while someone fixed the tire making what was already a late night even later. All good fun though and its amazing that you can find someone to fix your tire on the side of the road at 10:30 at night. IMG_5774 That’s about it for now. Exciting news is I have an amazing interview lined up in Jakarta next week so I have booked flights and will also get to spend 3 nights with my friend Kelly which if the last Jakarta trip we did is anything to go off will be a lot of fun. Booking flights was a struggle trying to pick an airline. As someone in the office said “They’re all just as good as one another just go the cheapest” so I ended up paying only $73 for return flights on an airline with a reasonably good international reputation (although I just read an article saying several pilots have been arrested for crystal meth possession). Also heading up to Salatiga this weekend and looking forward to catching up with everyone up there. It’s a public holiday on Monday for Imlek (Chinese New Year) so long weekend!

Courts xx