10 things I love about central Java, Indonesia

Finally, my one week trip in the two cities of central Java–Yogyakarta and Solo–has come to an end. These seven days seem longer than they are and that’s always a good thing to feel when you’re having fun.

While my memory of Jogja and Solo is fresh, here are 10 things I’ll miss after leaving Indonesia. Items are ranked in priority and each deserve their own blog post.

1. Food

Feast at Mie Nusantara

Food in Indonesia is cheap and good. Most noodle dishes that we had didn’t cost more than S$2. Their noodles are good and the rice dishes are yummy. I even had siomay which we thought were siewmai posing as meatballs.

Surprisingly, we had Peranakan food for two (three?) times during our trip. We accidentally stumbled upon Kedai Tiga Nyonya while being lost. The avocado juice there made me think I went to heaven. Those were the more expensive meals that we had.

2. Avocado juice

Kedai Tiga Nyonya's heavenly avocado drink

Since my Bandung trip, jus alpukat reserves a special place in my heart filed under Things I Love about Indonesia. Almost all of our fruit and vegetable intake were from avocado juice.

In Indonesia, avocado juice is served in a glass that had been decorated with chocolate flavored condensed milk. It’s like the trademark of an avocado juice as even small stall owners would do the same!

I have a record of drinking 3 drinks in a meal with two being avocados.

3. TV

Oh, I was so in love with Indonesian commercials and TV programs. Being brought up by my television set, I’ve always had a soft spot for TV shows.

I laughed out loud at many of the Indonesian commercials as they are really hilarious. I’ve also grew fond of Julia Perez who is this sexy lady who appears on TV shows playing the sexy bimbo comic character.

Indonesia TV also has surprisingly sexy ads. One had a man with rippling chest and ab muscles who was showering. His super amazing body shampoo was so alluring that the lady staying at his place just had to walk over and drape her arms on him. Too hot!

On the bus to Candi Sukuh, the bus played music videos where girls were gyrating on table tops. That almost made me blush.

4. Historical sites

YQ the cyclist at Candi Sewu

Although this was the reason we chose to come to Yogyakarta, I think that history ranks a bit less than food and TV. Yes, the sites were amazing but I’m not sure if my breath was taken while seeing them.

The best site was actually Candi Sewu, which wasn’t as advertised as Borobudur or Prambanan’s main complex. Sewu was also a bit sad because the rubble from the earthquake showed how grand it must have been when 240 smaller temples surrounded the big one.

5. Cheap mobile Internet

Connecting...

I’ve put Internet as one of the “6 things I cannot live without” on my online dating profile. I’m really glad that mobile Internet here is so cheap. 500MB prepaid data plan costs 25,000 IDR (~S$3.60) for 30 days usage. Compare that to Malaysia’s DiGi or Singapore‘s super expensive prepaid data plans.

Even though some places such as Prambanan didn’t have 3G, the 2G speed was still quite amazing when compared with Malaysia’s more rural area. No wonder Indonesia has the highest concentration of Twitter users!

Mobile Internet is useful to hook my laptop to the Net, although I didn’t really needed the extra screen space.

6. Convenience stores

This way to convenience

Among all the countries I’ve been to, Indonesia ranks third in awesome convenience stores after Japan and Taiwan. There were so many convenience stores lining up the streets.

You could find everything you need in your daily life here. We got our toiletries, drinks and even medicine here. Our favorite is Alfamart, followed by Indomaret.

7. The people

We’ve met plenty of nice folks here, in fact there are more good people than bad ones. People who made my day include those manning the Trans Jogja bus booth who would point outed the routes we need to take, warung owners who charge us according to regular prices and the people at Global who cut my SIM card for free.

Other people who hadn’t helped us but made our trips more memorable are the pak (uncle) who would call out salutations as they guess our nationalities. The most common ones are Hello, Konnichiwa (multiple times), Genki desuka, Moshi-moshi, Aloha and Sawadeeka. The most hilarious one was Ajinomoto at the Prambanan terminal.

Also the old ladies who stroked D’s arm on the bus while they discussed how fair she is. That was hilarious. And the Indonesian babies with their big round unblinking eyes are terribly cute too.

8. Trans Jogja

Hop on Trans Jogja

We bought a prepaid bus card and took the Trans Jogja public bus almost exclusively in Jogja. They have a really neat system. They build little bus stop/booths where you either tap your prepaid card or slot in the ticket. Everyone waits in the little box for the bus to come. When it arrives, the person would announce the number of the bus and people would queue (sort of) to get in.

On the bus, the conductor would announce each stop, sometimes even telling which bus are available for transfer and the sites there.

There is a large map of the routes at the entrance and the folks there are always helpful with routes.

9. Language

Thankfully for our Bahasa Malaysia skills, we were able to travel in Indonesia quite easily. Still, there are somethings different in Indonesian and Malaysian Malay.

Some examples are encik–pak, puan–ibu, bas–bis, resit–bill, boleh–bisa, kanser–kanker. It took both us and them to process the different words for a while. Wikipedia has a bigger list

10. Ladies-only carriages in trains

No boyfriends allowed

We accidentally boarded the ladies-only carriage on our train to Solo from Jogja and deliberately went on the same carriage on the way back.

Standing or sitting in the green walled carriage, I looked out at the carriage next door and decided ours is a lot more roomier and fun.

The ladies brought their own folded stolls and settled down on the floor once the train began. It was really nice seeing them talking and laughing together.

One thing I do not love about central Java

While things have been great 95 percent of the time, there’s one thing that I will gladly erase from my memory: Money-minded, pushy business people.

The first person I interacted with during this trip was a lady at the information counter at the airport. Long story short, she was trying to sell me her taxi package and I didn’t want to. She practically ignored me after that even when I was asking her the same question. I gave her a :( in the feedback.

There are also strangers who would approach us and try to sell us tour packages. Fortunately, we know all our routes well enough not to fall for these folks.

Not only that, trishaw drivers and shopowners who would charge us super inflated prices. Well, that’s expected. What’s funny is that the ibu who sell us food would pause for a really long time when asked about the price. In their minds, they are calculating how much more they could charge us without being too much.

While the money that we pay them might not mean much back in Singapore (like $2?), it still doesn’t feel that good when you’re viewed as only the money tree and not a human being.

Still, it’s the good and the bad stuff that makes a trip memorable. And, I have 10 good things to remember and only 1 bad thing to forget. So this trip has been a success!

Other Indonesia posts on YQ travelling:

More about Liau Yun Qing

Yun Qing is a writer, improviser and curious person. She loves finding little adventures in life. In 2013, she went on a 130-day round-the-world trip. She wrote a book to help those who also want to go on a career break.

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