Scam artists, bare feet and a Hit and run.

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May 12th 2015
Published: June 12th 2015
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Do you know when you arrive at your new destination and you get a good feeling about a place. Well for us arriving in Yogyakarta, Indonesia gave us that same feeling and we knew that we were going to enjoy this country. And our gut feelings were right, we loved it.

You might be confused about the title of this blog then, but read on and all will make sense.

Arriving in Yogyakarta (pronounced "Jog-Ja-Karta") we were both itching with excitement, but also exhausted after our flight. Not quite sure what our next move should be we were torn between exploring further and getting some rest.

Before we begin you may be asking; why Indonesia? For us Indonesia offered us a chance to gain an insight into such a dynamic fascinating culture, into the rich religious history that moulded this country and a chance to visit the many geological wonders known to cause mass destruction.

In particular we were enticed by the Hindu and Buddhist temples like Borobodur and Prabanan, the many active volcanoes, the people who live their life in preparation for a death in the family, and the startling number of people that live here (being the third most populous country after China and India).

It took a day and a half to get here as there were no direct flights from Puerto Princesa, Philippines so we caught 4 in total. From Puerto Princesa our first flight was to Cebu, then another to Kota Kinabalu, and the third to Kuala Lumpur; where we slept uncomfortably in the heavily air conditioned airport overnight (may I add). In the morning we boarded our final flight to Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Arriving at Yogyakarta airport we purchased our visas and then caught the 1A bus taking us to the long atmospheric shopping street of Malioboro. Just off this street we found a range of budget accommodation and settled on a double room in Bladok Losmen with clean rooms, high ceilings and a pool for an added bonus. Not that we used it during our stay, we just like the thought, just in case.

Before further exploration we quickly tried to get our head around our 10,0000, 20,000 and 50,000 notes, such high denominations all lacking commas to quickly breakdown the money into thousands. We knew we had to be very careful.

When walking the streets, our attention was drawn in many directions by our senses. The array of stalls causing such a buzz with vendors trying to sell their beautifully coloured, intricate patterned garments, the large bicycle and horse drawn carriages (similar to those we saw in Penang) trying to offer people a ride, to the range of local food eateries with delicious smells all making our mouths water.

Walking around, we were stopped on multiple occasions by people offering to take us to an art exhibition that we had read about beforehand. We understand that half of the art they're selling is not genuine Batik art and fades overtime and they play many tactics (including emotional blackmail) to make you part with a good sum of money.

So many tactics were played out trying to get us there, with many people appearing genuinely friendly. "Hey, where you from?" or "My friends" "Where do you go?" or "Have you seen the local area?", "What are you doing today?". All with the same end goal - Some Art Gallery!! Some people were more bold than others and went straight in for the kill "Can I take you you to the local art exhibition"'. They might as well have asked us "Are you stupid/gullible?"we kindly declined and kept on walking.

First things first; Food. We walked the streets and ended up at a small stall with wooden tables and plastic stools. Not sure what was what, P tried to make clear she didn't eat meat and we eventually got to the point that most dishes at the stall were meat free.

P could not contain her excitement. Instead of one dish she agreed to have a mixture of about 4 vegetable dishes as the vendor kept pointing to different trays of food. In the end her meal consisted of a coconut vegetable curry, a callaloo mix, tempe, green beans with some unknown vegetable and rice. Chris ordered some fried chicken and some of the above vegetables and rice too. To say this was delicious was an understatement. The flavours had our tastebuds working overtime. There was so much flavour and it only cost us 29k (£1.40) with fresh fruit juice too.

For the rest of the day we relaxed at our place, researched and then slept a little until dinner. Dinner was even more delicious. P ordered Nasi Goreng which is spicy egg fried rice with chopped veg such as carrots spring onions, bean sprouts etc but was the most flavoursome yet spicy egg fried rice she had ever tasted. Chris ordered buttered chicken which was stewed chicken in a sweet sauce lined with onions and rice. We easily agreed that Yogyakarta (and hopefully the rest of Indonesia) had the most delicious food we have tasted so far on this trip.

The following day, we set our minds upon visiting the Palace and Water Castle and on the way making a stop at the Vredeburg museum. The Vredeburg museum was a collection of Dutch style colonial buildings now used as a museum, with little models depicting hostorical moments from the invasion of the Japanese and the Dutch. As the timeline displays went back and forth we quickly got lost in the history.

Walking to the castle so many people tried to stop us saying it was closed. Ha. We fell for that a few years ago in Bangkok, this was not happening again. We smiled and kept on walking. When we arrived outside the Palace we noticed the gates were shut. It was actually closed. At 2pm!! Shortly afterwards the heavens opened and it poured down. Like something was trying to say 'shame on you' for not taking note of what all those nice people had told us along the way.

Before it started to rain we got talking to a local guy who was telling us to be aware of the Batik Art Gallery scams. After some small chat, he did go on to tell us about a 'genuine' art centre whereby you can see young artists at work. He seemed very persuasive and pretty genuine especially telling us to avoid the scams, saying that other places charge in dollars whereby this was local inexpensive art that the locals could afford too. There was only 2 flaws in his approach. One, he stopped on his motorcycle and came to speak to us (big tell tale sign as he sought us out), secondly, in a gentle way he kept reminding us that a tuktuk in front would take us there for as little as 5k (25p which is less than a quarter of the normal price). The little man in the tricycle sat there waiting looking very hopeful, with a toothless grin. When we said we would find it ourselves he told us it would be better to catch a tricycle as the gallery is in an unmarked university building. Ha, yeh right you scammer. These people are so insistent.

Scammers 0 - Chris and P 1

Later we got talking to an Australian guy who was taken to the same gallery and told us he was emotionally blackmailed into buying something. Glad we avoided such encounter.

Borobudur: The following morning we decided we would try to get to Borobudur ourselves so hopped on 2 buses to Jombor Station (30mins) then caught a bus directly to Borobudur (1hr 25,000 rupias each).

We wanted to get there as early as possible, not quite in time for sunrise (as it is only possible to enter the site at this time if you are with a tour group) but not too late as to be visiting with all the crowds. We arrived at 9am. Unfortunately this was too late. The crowds had descended on this site like bees to honey and worse of all they were big tour groups. Nooo!!

Okay, we said to ourselves we could do this, all we needed to do is walk round the side to a quieter staircase. So we did and it was actually slightly quieter despite the huge crowds just on the other side of the temple. As we were taking pictures of the beautiful wall carvings of Buddha on the ground level a group of school kids surrounded us, wanting to interview us to practice their English and then take a picture.

We thought to ourselves if we were in the same position it would be helpful if people took part. So we did. One after the other. Between us, we must have been interviewed over a dozen times by different school kids. This was extremely exhausting and we simply could not hide from them. One after the other the same questions were asked. Word for word!!

What is your name?
Where are you from?
How long are you in Indonesia?
What is your purpose in Borobudur?
Plus about 10 more!

Over and over again. With these questions we were starting to believe these kids were undercover immigration officials. That was until a girl asked if we liked music and if we knew any Indonesian songs. We really disappointed this young girl when we said no. The look on her face was of shock, disgust and empathy in that particular order. Lol. To make up for us lacking, she decided to sing an Indonesian song for us. She was the most adorable little girl we had met.

In between interviews we struggled to take our own pictures as most of the people visiting (local and Chinese groups alike) wanted pictures with us. Not one picture per group. One with their children, one with the mum, one with the dad and to top it off, one group photo! Once we said "yes" to one group we had a queue of other people forming to take our pictures with them next. We asked ourselves whether this was a joke as the first time it happened we thought it was funny. However 2 hours into it when our cheeks burned from smiling and we could no longer take our own pictures, we had to leave. If we said no, the look on their faces was like we had thrown them the biggest insult. This was a joke. Overall the temple of Borobudur is truly captivating; it had a pyramid like shape with 4 straight staircases on either 4 sides and various levels where we could get closer to the intricately carved stone walls with carvings of Buddha. The higher levels had the stand alone carvings of Buddha in different positions.

Some of the Buddhas on the highest levels were cased in a bell like stupa, only visible through diamond shaped holes.

However despite the beauty and fascinating nature of this place, our experience was easily overshadowed by being constantly approached and surrounded by school kids and people wanting our picture. Such a shame for this historical UNESCO site.

The following day we decided to try our luck visiting the Kraton palace once again and the water castle. We opted to walk. Once again people told us it was closed as it was a national holiday. Bugger. Okay call us idiots but we both agreed that 'just in case' they were diverting us we would find out for ourselves again. No harm right?. And what would you know. It was open.

Scammers - 0 Chris and P - 2.

Walking around the Palace we were generally unimpressed. It all seemed a little disjointed with many buildings holding portraits of former Sultans and musical instruments.

Water Castle next. Now this was good. On the way however one of the toe straps on Chris's havianna flip flops (genuine brand may I add) snapped and he had to walk a good 2 hours bare footed. Chris muttered that people would be convinced he was from some developing part of the world now (certainly not England).

The water castle proved to be very interesting and a guy that worked there offered to show us around taking us to the old ruin palace suite, the underground mosque and the grounds that still belonged to the sultan, once a lake now containing the homes of all the people who inevitably work for him or are a part of his extended family. The underground mosque was truly mesmerising with its outdoor staircase, and arched windows letting in light and creating beautiful shadows inside. It was however difficult to get a clear photograph we had in mind as locals took pictures on it one after the other. If we didn't have a guide maybe we would have waited for that shot.

One interesting thing our guide shared with us was that the tower in front of the 2 pools was where the previous sultans would watch the women. Every evening he would either choose 2 women to bathe with him in a separate pool behind the tower or throw a coin in the pools so all the women could search the pool for this coin. The 'winner' gaining some alone time with him. This must have been mayhem. A practice the current sultan does not adopt as he (unusually as guide pointed our) has one wife. Our guide thought that this was a shame as he has only conceived daughters and not sons and should marry a few more wives.

At the end, what do you know; our guide brought us to his art exhibition. Not feeling obliged to buy one but happy with the information he offered we tipped him and caught a tricycle back to our hostel. Let me remind you Chris was bare footed this whole time lol.

Feet washed trainers on Chris was a happy man and we were back out for our journey to Prambanan.

On the way to the bus stop a horse drawn carriage came trotting past us and with too much traffic on the road came too close to the road side and knocked right into P. This was a near miss as apart from a badly bruised and painful lower back P was okay. We were both however in shock at what had just happened as we sat down trying to get past the shock. This could have ended very differently. It is far too dangerous to have these horse drawn carriages trotting down the narrow roads at a fast speed. Annoyingly the driver saw what had happened as he looked back to find Chris holding P up but kept right on not wanting to make sure P was okay or not.

Not wanting to dwell on it and realising nothing was broken after we rested on a nearby wooden bench we made our journey to Prambanan.

Prambanan; unlike many temples we have seen is a hindu temple with over 50 temples on site and statues of Shiva and the elephant faced Ganesh throughout. As we walked through the stone temples more triangular in shape (unlike borobodur that was a gradual set of squared platforms), we noticed that sadly many of the temples had been affected by a recent earthquake leaving some areas to be nothing but a crumbling pile of stone.

It gave the site an eerie untouched feel and with only a few people at the further temples within the site. We felt like we had the time and space to really appreciate our surrounds. Something we did not find possible in Borobudur.

Just before sunset we headed to the main Prambanan temples to take some beautiful shots but unlucky for us it was an overcast day and such pictures were not possible. As darkness overtook the sky, the lights illuminating the temples gave it a magical look and we stayed until the security guards ushered us and the last few others out of the site for closing time.

Getting to Borobudur. 2 buses. Local bus to Jombor station (3,600r/30mins) and then a another bus to Borobudur (20,000r/1hr).
Getting to Prambanan 1 bus ( 3,600r/90minutes).

Accommodation: Bladok Losman

Additional photos below
Photos: 43, Displayed: 32


12th June 2015

same, same!
I'm glad you enjoyed Indonesia. We were also there and I didn't enjoy that much, mainly for the dirt and the scammers. I got tired of saying "no, thank you!", every other step and being grabbed and pushed into shops I didn't want to go. We also had lots of kids taking pictures with us and interviewing us for their English class (even though we are not English!), it was quite funny!! The place I truly enjoyed in Indonesia was the Gili Islands, specially Gili Air.
12th June 2015

same same
Thank you, we really did enjoy ourselves although not so much in in Jogja. We can definitely relate to saying no thank you often, sometimes being mimicked when we said so as we refused their offer. The scammers were relentless, its a shame that they are leaving people with a sour taste when it comes to the country, jogja and even the art. For us the diversity of the country kept us intrigued and we never got bored. We were a bit skeotical at first about the Gili's but we loved our time there especially Gili Air our favourite too. Although I think I am developing a phobia of those horse carriages. They come far to close for comfort.
12th June 2015

I remember this feeling all to well =)
Especially from my time in Thailand, scammers, so many scammers! But my time in Indonesia was very different though, probably because I was living with the locals including a member of their royalty which meant I was left alone by scammers. Same in Malaysia. =) Thank you for taking the time to write this up, was a very good read. =)
13th June 2015

I remember this feeling all to well.
Thank you for taking the time to write such a lovely comment. Wow, we can imagine you had some great experience, living with the locals and someone royal. I guess that's the only way around it really being in the know or with the right people.
12th June 2015
Amazing views on Borobudur

The patience of Buddhas!
While I've traveled in many places of scammers, kids interviewing me in English and outright liars, I'm afraid the onslaught you encountered was among the worst. It's so bizarre to be in a place where you feel as if you can't trust people. It says so much about your traveling spirit that you were able to still enjoy the sites, trust the water castle worker and savor the fabulous food! Hope P's back is better and she's enjoying the veggie food!
13th June 2015
Amazing views on Borobudur

The patience of Buddhas
Thanks Tara. P's back seems fine again although she is a little traumatised by horses now. It is a shame that these scammers are creating a negative perception about visiting as the country really has a lot to offer. The veg here was especially delicious with all the fried Tofu, Tempe and Vegetables to choose from.
14th June 2015

A hit and run?!?
What a scary incident with the horse carriage! So glad P wasn't more hurt... on the plus side the glorious food must have helped to make you feel better. I was a vegetarian the last time I was in Indonesia, and I really loved it.
16th June 2015

A hit and run.
Yes it was. Although I am back to my usual self now just a bit more weary of those horse drawn carriages. 😕. The food was indeed Glorious, the vegetarian food was soo wide ranging and tasty and for P especially the food made the country even more enjoyable.
22nd June 2015

Undercover immigration officers....cute
Strange photo shoot. Glad you finally got away from all of that. Saying no all day can be exhausting. The temples are lovely. The food sounds divine. Thanks for another well written blog.
23rd June 2015

Undercover immigration officers
Thank you for a lovely comment. It was exhausting and left us with very mixed feelings at this point about Indonesia but we soon quickly began to enjoy it much more.

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