Borobudur temple, Java

The World’s Largest Buddist Temple

Borobudur is located high on a mountain in Central Java. Although it is the largest Buddist temple in the world, Borobudur Temple was lost for centuries until it was found again in 1814. Today is a World Heritage Site, part of the UNESCO.

I found Borobudur one of the most impressive temples I’ve ever seen. Comparable in a way to the temples of Angkor in Cambodia.

Borobudur temple detail

The Borobudur Temple

The Borobudur temple is made up of five large square terraces, with three circular platforms on top of them, ringed by 72 stupas, representing the spiritual journey from the life of desire, through meditation to Nirvana. All platforms are covered with intricate carvings.

When you reach the very top there is a magnificent stupa.

The views from the top are absolutely stunning, surrounded by green and volcanic peaks.

Visiting Borobudur Temple

Because it’s a popular attraction the site gets absolutely packed during the day. The Borobudur Temple is the single most visited site in Indonesia. So make sure you arrive as early as you can.

If you plan visiting the Borobudur temple and the Prambanan temple is worth it to buy the combo ticket for $40, instead of buying the tickets separately.

At the entrance, after buying the tickets they have an area with complimentary drinks where you can have a cup of coffee, tea or water, and where they give you a sarong to use inside.

They also have wifi, so you can download the free app ‘cultural places‘ and use it as an audio-guide.

Is possible to before the official opening hours to get see the sunrise, although you pay a higher admission fee, and there is no public bus that can get you there on time. The first bus leaves at 06:00 making it impossible to arrive before the sunrise.

How to get to Borobudur

Borobudur is in Magelang, 40 km northwest of Yogyakarta and is not difficult to get there using public transports.

So to get the public bus go to the Jombor terminal in the north of Yogyakarta (takes roughly 1hour and a half to 2 hours) and cost Rp30,000 ($2.10). The journey is quite straight forward and the buses leave regularly to Borobudur between 06:00 and 16:00.

The Borobudur terminal is a 10-minute walk from the temple complex. The last bus back from Borobudur leaves at 16:00.

Alternatively, you can rent a scooter, find a travel agency offering tours, or hire a driver/guide to take you.

Most of the visitors are Indonesian and there aren’t many tourists on the bus either, so be prepared to pose and take some pictures with the Indonesian tourists.

The next most significant is another Unesco World Heritage Site, the 9th and 10th century Hindu complex of Prambanan, that can also be visited, located on the island of Java.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Batik in Yogyakarta, what to do and where to go on a budget

One of the best things about travelling is learning new things, and it would be impossible to visit or live in Indonesia and not to notice one of the country’s most highly developed art forms, the batik.

The Indonesian Batik is part of the Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Batik is a method originally used in Java of producing coloured designs on textiles by applying wax and them dyeing them.

 

Felling the Batik smell, admire its patterns and learn about its processes needs to be part of any visit to Yogyakarta because is such an important part of the Indonesian culture and heritage.

Where to learn about the  batik process

If you want to see and learn about the batik process the Batik Winotosatro in Yogyakarta, shows it for free.

The manual process uses fabric, hot wax, tjanting and colours. Tjanting is a bell metal tool used in outlining the design of the batik art.

 

The Batik can also be made by stamp.

 

Where to try the batik process

Mirota Batik is a fixed-priced store, located in the Malioboro, that sell batik fabric and clothing, but also has a small space where you can try this technique (Rp.30,000~$2)

 

Batik scams

Batik is very popular in Yogyakarta among tourists, making it a great opportunity for scammers.

Everywhere you go,  someone will be trying to sell you batik, or they have a friend that does it, or they know the most authentic place to buy it, or they are a teacher in the University of Batik… well… the stories are many and I assure you; you will hear them all. The important thing is to decline all offers politely and choose wisely where you want to go.

If you want to buy some batik my advice is for you to go to a shop with fixed prices.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

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Yogyakarta a special place

The special region of Yogyakarta often known as Yogya, Yoja or even Jogja, is located in the island of Java, Indonesia. Unlike Bali, Jogya is more traditionally Muslimwith a minority identifying as Christian and Hindu. 

Yogyakarta is a busy sprawling city with lots of narrow picturesque side streets in a maze-like formation, that makes navigation confusing at times but also exciting.

Many people will say that Yogya is not a city to fall in love with, but I did… I truly fell in love with this city to the point I have returned again. If you have been reading my posts about Indonesia I was quite disappointed with most of the places.

For the first time on my adventure around Indonesia, I didn’t feel like everyone had an agenda, I liked the vibe of the city, its people, and authenticity.

Location

Yogyakarta also has an excellent location whatever direction you go. The Merapi mount at the North, isolated beaches at the South, The Heritage site of Prambanan at the East and the ancient Buddhist temple – Borobudur at the west to where you can go using public buses.

The Arts

Jogya is the centre of many art forms including traditional dances, batik, ballet, drama, music, poetry, puppet shows, and cuisine.

Yogyakarta is the beating heart of the Javanese culture. The city pulsates with creative energy, where artists from all over Indonesia come to join the community, making this city a feast for the eyes.

Street Art

Street art is just another way of expression, and finding the best street art is just one of the things you can do in Yogyakarta.  Jogya is a colourful, creative city full of surprises. There always seems to be something going on.

Local Markets

There are few better places to visit than the local markets in order to gain a sense of a country, its customs and culture than amongst the stalls and the people.

Most markets you will encounter are packed with people, are hot and sticky, have colourful foods and gods on offer, some are located in narrow alleyways full of the sounds and smells of a country waiting to be explored.

Whichever you choose, make sure you’re there early as most stalls close after 11 am.

Food

There are food stalls in every corner, and vegan and vegetarian food is abundant in Yogyakarta. Tofu and tempeh are super common and dairy, on the other hand, is rarely used in cooking.

The busiest area is on the north end of JI Malioboro where you will find dozens of street food vendors during the evening.

Look for nasi goreng (fried rice), gado gado (vegetable salad with peanut sauce), lotek (similar to gado gado), gudgeon (jackfruit curry), nasi Langgi (coconut rice with temple),  tahu and tempe sate (tofu and tempeh on skewers) and pecel (mixed veg salad with bean sprouts and peanut sauce).

Becaks

Becaks (cycle rickshaws) are used for public transportation in Yogyakarta. Around the Palace Quarter after the sun has set the streets are filled with a selection of illuminated vehicles decorated with everything from Hello Kitty to Pokemons.

Batik

Batik is an ancient waxing and dying process, very popular in Indonesia. In fact, it is here, on the island of Java that the finest batik in the world is produced.

Jogja being the Javanese cultural hub, is a great place to witness the process of batik first-hand.

Some batik workshops give free tours of the batik process. But please do some research and be aware of all the scams directed at tourists.

I’ve visited Yogyakarta twice and spent some considerable time there, and I can’t recommend it enough, I really loved it..

Have you been to Java or Yogyakarta? Let me know your thoughts..

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Malang: Villages With all the Colour of the rainbow

Malang is located in the east side of Java,  Indonesian. 

When I travel somewhere, one of my favourite things to do is to walk around to get a true feel for a place. I like to meet people, and experience what it would be like to live there, even if for a short time. I love to explore all the smells, colours and flours around me. I’m crazy about markets, food stalls and art. Malang has a bit of everything.

Malang’s colourful villages are definitely a must.

The three villages in Malang that were revitalised used to be slums on the verge of eviction. Poor areas without any basic conditions to live in.  Today they have a new face and the economy in this deprived neighbourhoods is growing and there is finally some money to support the community.

Colour Villages in Malang

Kampung Jodipan

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The Kampung Tridi

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Kampung Biru Arena 

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Separate entrance fees are asked to enter to the different neighbourhoods (Rp.3,000~$0.20)

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

 

Yogyakarta’s street art

Yogyakarta, or Jogja, is a hub for culture and arts in Indonesia, and hands down one of my favourite cities in Indonesia. 

First, because it’s full of art, culture, music, great vegan food, friendly people and has a great vibe that I found hard to find elsewhere in Indonesia.

Jogja is mostly known for its fine art scene, but not surprisingly, the cultural centre is also a bastion for street art activity. Here wherever you roam, you will stumble upon incredible street art that is brightening up streets and neighbourhoods.

Yogyakarta’s street art makes this charming city feel even more unique. You can find work of artists like Digie Sigit DS13 and Anti Tank Project. Both artists are using their painting to express their opinion on the social and political environment of their city.

The Jogja street art scene, along with the numerous contemporary art galleries in the city, makes Yogyakarta an absolute must-visit for any art lover travelling to Java.

To get a good overview of Yogyakarta’s street art scene, you will need at least a couple days in the city.

Have a look at the photos and get inspired by this small fraction of what Jogja has to offer, and let me know what you think of the street art in Yogyakarta.

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photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

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Malang a charming Javanese City

Malang is an East Javan city, that I went to just because I had time to spare, is not really a touristic destination, although Malang is where Surabaya’s residents would come to get away for a day or two. Malang moves at a more slow and enjoyable pace than the regional Capital, Surabaya.

Located 90 km south of Surabaya, the capital and largest city of East Java (Jawa Timur), Malang is the second largest city in Indonesia’s East Java province, but you don’t fell the  rush of a big city, Malang is a place that welcomes you with open arms.

Malang is one of those cities that a lot of people love, and it’s easy to understand why.

My suggestion is to skip all the attractions that you see mentioned on the main sites and the lonely planet guide, and head to the amazing neighbourhoods.

On top of that you can admire some historical Dutch buildings, and sample delicious vegan food, that can be found easily anywhere in the city from street stalls to restaurants.

There are a few traditional markets in Malang that you can visit, and also night market at Jalan Kyai Tamin but don’t expect much for the food here.

The colourful villages

If you walk away from the centre of the city you will be amazed in the most unexpected way. What a few years ago were slums are now vibrante and colourful places, full of life, wrapped in a magical vibe.

As part of a project to revitalize the area that was on the verge of eviction the riverside slum was transformed into a rainbow village.

Nowadays  virtually every corner has colour. This project was an initiative of some students from Muhammadiyah University of Malang. The students were inspired by the favelas of Rio.

You can easily spend a day exploring the different neighborhoods, immersing yourself in the narrow pathways, walking around and observing the surroundings.

Kampung Warna-Warni  – Indonesian for Village of Colour

The Jodipan village and the Kampung Tridi village are connected by a yellow bridge over a small river and are coloured with bright colours, on the opposite side of the highway is the village Kampung Biru Arema, named after the popular Malang football team where everything is coloured blue.

These colourful neighbourhoods are not in the foreigner’s tourist route yet, but they are really popular among locals. The rise of local tourism is spurred the local economy. The tourism is giving women (who are generally uneducated), an opportunity to make a living out of selling food, drinks and souvenirs.

Around Malang, you can find great Hindu and Buddhist ruins and beautiful pal-dapples rice and corn fields. Malang is surrounded by active volcanoes, mountains, rivers, and the rough Indian Ocean.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Mount Bromo, for Free & Without a Tour

Mount Bromo

Mount Bromo stands at 2329-meter-high and is an active volcano from east Java, Indonesia.

On Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, you can find 2 active vulcanos the Mount Bromo and Mount Semeru surrounded with a sea of sand.

For me, Indonesia was never about the beaches but about the luxurious greenery, mountains, traditions, culture, food, and the volcanos.

Going close to a volcano was for a long time on my bucket list, and I finally had the opportunity to visit one in Indonesia. My favourite one was by far the Mount Bromo.

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If you are planning to visit Mount Bromo, remember that you can do it for free, and without joining a tour. Here is how to do it.

How to get to Cemoro Lawang

Wherever you are in Java you need to head to Probolinggo. That can be done by bus, taxi or train.

In Proboling they are quite good at scamming tourists, so be careful and go to the bus station. Don’t believe if they say that there are no buses and that the only way to go is by joining a tour.

Outside the bus station, you have the minivans (called Bemos) that will take you to Cemoro Lawang (a village right next to the crater of Mount Bromo).

Unfortunately, there is only one option here. These minivans don’t have a schedule neither depart regularly so you need to wait for sufficient passengers to arrive. They charge Rp.35.000 ($2.50) if the bemo is full with 15 people, but they are happy to leave early without waiting to have 15 people as long as you pay the difference.

The ride from Probolinggo to Cemoro Lawang takes approximately 1 hour and a half always up the hill. Sometimes felt like the minivan wasn’t going to be able to go further up, but in the end, we arrived safely.

To go back to Probolinggo it’s the same route you came,  find a bemo in the centre of the village, and wait for more people to arrive.

At Cemoro Lawang

Once at Cemoro Lawang its easy to find a place to spend the night, it felt that everyone in town had a room to rent. Just make sure you have hot water because it’s really cold there, and you will not want to take a cold shower when is 5ºC outside. Cemoro Lawang is a village high up in the mountains, 2217m above sea level, so you can imagine how chilly it is.

Cemoro Lawang doesn’t have great food at all neither accommodation options, and because of the lack of offer, the prices are a bit higher than in other places in Java.  We paid Rp.200,000 ($14) per night for a basic mouldy room. We didn’t struggled to find plant-based options.

How to Hike Mount Bromo for Free, Without Using a Tour or a Guide

It can’t be easier to visit the Bromo for free. Just find the passage next to hotel Cemara Indah. Walk through a narrow passage near the hotel, and this way you don’t pay any entrance fee (Rp.350,000~$25). The path is quite straightforward, you go down the path, cross the sea of sand and then go up the volcano. It took me around 1hour and a half to get to the crater.

I recommend using the free offline map app – maps.me so you don’t get lost.

Both crossing the sea of sand and peeking inside the crater was definitely an experience of a lifetime.

How to avoid the crowds

Mount Bromo isn’t the highest peak of Indonesia, but it is very popular among tourist and locals. If you don’t plan your visit carefully, you might end having your experience ruined.

Avoiding the tours is the key and the only way to have a nice time exploring the area. So keep in mind that all tours go to see the sunrise first and then visit the volcano, so from late morning and afternoon the place is empty, there will be close to no people around it, and you can thoroughly enjoy your walk on the moon like landscape in the company of the wind and some clowns.

Be kind to all kinds

You will get a lot off offers for a horse ride up to the volcano, please don’t use the poor horses to transport you, they look sick, malnourished and tired. These horses are severely mistreated, and they are too small for riding up slopes with people on their backs… Please don’t support animal abuse 🙏 be kind 💚

Must have
  • Warm clothes
  • Decent shoes
  • A scarf or a buff,
  • app – Maps.Me
  • snacks and water

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

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