Avoiding The Tourists

By Jane Mountain | June 19, 2014

14,974 km so far.

Borobudur, a longish bus ride from Yogyakarta, is one of the most important Buddhist sites in the world. It is also Indonesia’s biggest tourist attraction and a must-see on any visit to the region.

Which is precisely why we decided to skip it.

Given the choice between spending the day exploring Yogyakarta on our own, or paying hefty fees to ride a bus to join hundreds of other tourists at a sight which is supposed to be almost as impressive as Angkor Wat – which we were not all that impressed by – it’s no surprise what we chose.

To Market To Market

Our first stop this morning was out to get a decent breakfast. The homestay we’re in, the Mango Tree, like most hotels and guesthouses in Indonesia, offers white toast and budget jam for breakfast. This provides so little energy, there’s really no point in even eating it. Instead, we stopped in at Via Via cafe, which was to be our second home for the day.

Wooden bell in Yogyakarta.

Wooden bell in Yogyakarta.

Fast forward to lunch and dinner, and you will find us sitting here, enjoying the range of tofu, tempeh, and chickpea dishes they provide. The food we’ve had in Yogya, at Via Via and Milas, a vegetarian restaurant around the corner, is better than anything we had in Jakarta, and only about a third of the price.

After a hearty breakfast, we sought out the becak driver we’d promised ourselves to earlier and hopped into his little three-wheeled pedal cart.

becak yogayakarta indonesia

Becak driver waiting for a fare, Yogyakarta.

Lucky for him and us, his ride was equipped with a motor, so our trip up to Pasar Beringharjo, the great big food and goods market in the centre of town, was a quick one.

Just before we arrived, we passed by an art installation of life-sized dolls, representing the Members of Parliament of Indonesia.

art and women yogayakarta indonesia

Posing with the dolls, Indonesia.

Included in the group was one doll with a hole where its heart should be, and another with a suicide vest strapped to its chest.

We’d heard Yogya had some serious political activism going on, but still we were surprised by this open criticism of the government.

Wax Poetic

Pasar Beringharjo was much like other markets we’ve visited on our trip: busy, smelly, poorly lit, and fascinating.

The main hall at Pasar Beringharjo, Yogyakarta.

The main hall at Pasar Beringharjo, Yogyakarta.

Here, it is impossible to walk around without picking up a “helper” who will take you on a tour of the market until you find what you’re looking for.

Since we weren’t looking for anything much in particular, our helper took us to see some tea and spices, some seriously Game of Thronesy daggers, all wavy blades and hand-carved scabbards, and finally, the batik.

Batik is an Indonesian art form, and it is a specialty of the Yogya region. This market had every pattern you could possibly imagine, and many you couldn’t, including Chelsea and Liverpool Football Club t-shirts in batik.

Products ranged from the deliriously cheap – $2 for a men’s short-sleeved shirt – to the surprisingly expensive – $100 for a hand-printed sarong. The real fun was weaving our way through the narrow aisles, which, except for us, were entirely bereft of tourists.

It was our helper’s lucky day, since Stephen did end up buying something. We assume our helper gets a cut from the stall where we bought the secret thing (which is a secret, since it’s a gift). We didn’t see the stall owner pass him any money though, and he gave no indication that he wanted a tip from us for his time.

More city art, a tree of plastic bottles and seedlings.

More city art, a tree of plastic bottles and seedlings.

When we finally emerged from the market, we were pleased to see that it was raining. It’s been so hot here that a little rain is a welcome relief, allowing us to walk around and see the streets of the city, without feeling like we’re melting.  

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  1. Comment by Cassie

    Cassie June 25, 2014 at 8:21 am

    Lovely. I really think you should’ve gone for the embroidery, time to spruce up your riding attire. ;)

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane June 27, 2014 at 4:23 am

      We were tempted, but I’m not sure how lace and embroidery do on a hard saddle. Might have gotten ugly!

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