Kuta, Lombok Travel Guide

Long overshadowed by Bali, its popular neighbor to the west, Lombok is quickly becoming the next hot spot for travelers visiting Indonesia. With its pristine beaches, amazing waves, friendly locals, and dramatic landscapes, Kuta, Lombok is the perfect base to explore the southern part of this exquisite island.

Unlike the city in Bali, which shares the same name, Kuta in Lombok is far from overdeveloped and overrun by tourists. It maintains it’s natural beauty with cliffs and mountains reaching the coasts to create inspiring views. Kuta is more than just beautiful though; it boasts some of the best surfing in the world and has a rich, vibrant culture thanks to very friendly locals, the Sasaks.

Selong Belanak, Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia

Soaking up the sun at Selong Belanak, Kuta, Lombok

Whether you’re looking to kick back and relax or be more active and adventurous, here are some of my suggestions when you are in Kuta/ Lombok:

What to Do in Kuta, Lombok

Surf – Kuta is a surfer’s paradise. There are over 17 different surf breaks that can be accessed from Kuta including baby waves for beginners to epic barrels for pros.

Mawun Beach, Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia

All alone! Mawun Beach, Kuta, Lombok

The best beginner beaches are Selong Belanak (40km away), Tanjung Aan (5km to the east of Kuta), and Mawun Beach (12km away). Gerupuk (10km away) is good for both beginners and intermediate surfers, though you’ll need to take a boat to reach the spot. Pros flock to Desert Point, a legendary left-hand wave, though it only appears a few times a year.

Tanjung Ann, Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia

Tanjung Ann.. only a short ride away from Kuta, Lombok!

Wander and explore Kuta and the rest of Lombok
 – If surfing is not your thing, the beaches listed above are all lovely to spend a day soaking in the rays. You can also spend some time snorkeling in Gili Naggu or Seger Beach or zip to the famous Pink Beach, which gets its color from the pink coral.

Pink Beach, Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia

Pink sand! Pink Beach, Kuta, Lombok

Hopping on a scooter is always my favorite way to explore any place I visit. You can stop by local Sasak villages including the pottery village of Penujak and the weaving village of Sukarare. Keep an eye out for the bulls that will wander slowly across the road in front of you! You can also easily book a trip to climb Mt. Rinjani or to Flores via Komodo… if you dare!

South of Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia

Exploring south of Kuta, Lombok on a scooter


Check out our Top 10 Things to Do in Lombok for more ideas.

Eat and Drink in Kuta, Lombok

Gado-gado at Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia

Local specialty, gado-gado (mixed veggies with peanut sauce!) at Kuta, Lombok

Still, in its tourism infancy (which is a plus in our opinion!) the center of town is mostly made up of locally owned warungs, homestays *, and surf shops mixed in with a few restaurants serving Western cuisine.

To stock up on food after a long day of surfing, sitting in the sun, or scootering around the island, all which can be equally exhausting, I love grabbing some local food at Warung Flora, Nana’s Restaurant and Nugget’s Corner. If you’re looking for something more Western, but just as tasty, El Bazar Cafe & Restaurant is our top choice, though Riviera Bar & Restaurant and Warung Drifters are up there too.

Nothing beats the view from Ashtari. The cafe is located up on the hill above Kuta with panoramic views over the bay. They host a morning yoga class held on the patio and in the evening, it’s magical to sip on a drink while enjoying the sunset.

Views from Ashtari, Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia

Views from Ashtari, Kuta, Lombok

After dark, I love going to Sunset Café, Reggae Bar, Gecko Lounge and Bar, and Surfers Bar for drinks and live music. Ask a local/fellow traveler where the hot spot is that night since there tends to be trade-offs depending on the night.

Beers at Sunset Bar, Lombok, Indonesia

Beers at Sunset Bar, Kuta, Lombok on a scooter

Safety and Travel Tips for Kuta, Lombok

While Kuta, Lombok may be a slice of paradise, one should be aware of the perils coming through some of the port entries. There are rumors of Lombok being an unfriendly, dangerous island, which is in large part due to the terrible experiences people have had with the Bangsal Harbor Mob, a very unfriendly welcoming party waiting to prey on tourists arriving from the Gilis at Bangsal Harbour.

NEVER let anyone carry your bag, even if they claim to be a taxi driver or a restaurant worker. I’ve witnessed people being driven about 100 meters and asked for $20USD for the “trip” and traveled with a girl whose bag was driven around the island and held at ransom.

Some guys will also be walking around with receipt books identical to the tickets you may have purchased on Gili. Our suggestion is to either enter through a different port or have your hotel arrange everything beforehand in order to avoid stress and confusion.

Silly times at Reggae Bar, Lombok, Indonesia

Silly times at Reggae Bar, Kuta, Lombok on a scooter

I promise, though, once you make it past the harbor, you’ll enter paradise and you won’t regret your decision! If you have been to Kuta or anywhere else in Lombok, share with us your favourite things to do, food to eat, hang out places or general advices to travelers looking to spend some fun times in Lombok.

-> Find the best hotel deals in Kuta, Lombok *

Related articles:
Top 10 Things to Do in Lombok
Lombok: Beaches, Surf and Diving that Rival Bali’s
Trekking Mount Rinjani, Lombok

Bintan Lagoon Resort Review

I would like to share my personal review of Bintan Lagoon Resort, as I have stayed there on my trip to Bintan Island. An easy ferry ride from the Tanah Merah port in Singapore will bring you to this plush resort that stands its ground on the shores of the Pasir Panjang Beach. It is one of the most popular weekend trips for Singaporeans and also other tourists from neigboring countries who are looking for some sun and sea, relaxation, family time, good food and some fun. Bintan Island is also known for its top-class golfing courses, making it one of the most sought-after golfers’ paradise.

Bintan Lagoon Resort boasts of 300 hectares (740 acres) of lush green grounds and, more importantly, a private beach.

Getting to Bintan Lagoon Resort

There’s only one way to get there i.e. by ferry from Tanah Merah. But in that, you have two options:

One, hop into the direct high-speed ferry ride operated by the Mozaic Ferry Lines that’ll take you straight to Bintan Lagoon Resort ferry terminal in all of 75 minutes. This way you can avoid the long immigration queues and hassles of a public ferry terminal, and enjoy a beautiful ride directly to your resort.

Boat ride to Bintan Island, Indonesia

Boat ride to Bintan Island

Two, opt for the public ferry services plying to Bandar Bentan Telani Ferry Terminal in Bintan. The ferry rides are pretty comfortable and, upon landing, you can either avail the public shuttle transfers or arrange for an exclusive ride to the resort.

The ferry ride fares differ depending on season and day of the week. So it’s best to look up the current fares before booking. I went in the month of November and paid close to S$70 for a roundtrip.

Note: The Bintan Lagoon Resort suspends its personal ferry service from December-February due to monsoons, and provides resort shuttles for guests landing at the public ferry terminal. Direct services resume from March.

Drive from the port to Bintan Lagoon Resort, Indonesia

Drive from the port to Bintan Lagoon Resort

We ended up experiencing both the options mainly because we booked too late and did not get tickets directly to the resort while going, but managed our return tickets via the direct Moazaic Ferry Lines. It turned out to be great! We took the public ferry on a beautiful, sunny morning in Singapore and reached Bandar Bentan Telani, and arranged for a car to take us to Bintan Lagoon Resort. It would take over an hour, we were told. Just as we were cursing ourselves for procrastinating over tickets, the busy town gave way to beautiful winding roads and red earthy scenes. The clouds had gathered in the sky, and it was one of the best car rides of my life.

Bintan Lagoon Resort Location

This modern resort is strategically located on the Pasir Panjang beach, which is approximately two hours away from both Bintan’s capital, Tanjung Pinang (73 km) and the Chinese fishing village of Senggarang (76 km), which are both major tourist destinations.

Getting around the island is easy enough, with most resorts offering to book taxis or help you rent a car for the day. You can look up Indorent Car Rent for rented vehicles, or Adventure Scooter if you want to go zipping past the countryside in a two-wheeler.

Bintan Lagoon Resort Review

The first thought that crossed my mind on reaching the resort was how big and green it was. All of 740 hectares and cradling one of Indonesia’s best golf courses, I could see why people throng to this place for short weekend getaways.

Entering Bintan Lagoon Resort, Indonesia

Entering Bintan Lagoon Resort

Boasting around 470 Indonesian-style rooms, the resort features two outdoor swimming pools, a state-of-the-art indoor gym, an indoor gym for kids, a tennis court, and two world-class golf courses – the Jack Nicklaus Seaview Golf Course and the Ian Baker-Finch Woodlands Golf Course. The fine-dining restaurants and cafes serve some delicious Asian, Japanese, Indian, and Western cuisine along with the local Indonesian dishes. The pool-side bar called the Verandah looked quite tempting as did the Terrace Sports Bar which was quite packed with many guests chilling with drinks and watching live games on the big-screen TVs, although we did not get the chance to visit them.

My friends and I headed for our lunch at Haskell’s, a charming 12-hour cafe offering food and light snacks anytime between 10:00AM to 10:00PM. Our eyes feasted on the spectacular view of the golf course, while we finally sat with some food and beer after the long journey. I settled for burger and fries, and my friend went for their buffet that was a mix of Indonesian and Western cuisine and was pretty decent too.

The buffet was close to Rp700,000 per person, while the a-la-carte menu offered various items starting from Rp150,000.

Golfers at the Bintan Lagoon Resort, Indonesia

Golfers at the Bintan Lagoon Resort

The resort rooms were quite nice; we had taken sea-view deluxe rooms and it was very refreshing to sit on the balcony and take in the view. The rooms had all the standard amenities like a flat-screen TV, four-poster bed, Wi-Fi facilities, tea and coffee makers, hair dryer, minibar, but what caught our attention was the private massage space. It was a big Indonesian-style space with pillows and formed a part of each room.

Of course, you could always get your senses soothed at one of the resort’s luxurious spas that include the Javanese and South China Seas special body treatments, along with the more common foot reflexology and neck and back rubs. They even have a massage area by the sea for guests preferring an on-the-beach experience. The prices of the treatments start from S$60 and go on up to S$350.

Tip: Should you look for cheaper spa treatments, go exploring the neighboring parts of Pasar Oleh and indulge in a full 90-minute body massage for as much as Rp500,000, although you may have to compromise on the ambience.

Our deluxe sea-facing room with in-room massage space at Bintan Island Resort, Indonesia

Our deluxe sea-facing room with in-room massage space

Though we didn’t have any time to order any room service in our one-night visit, we were comforted by the fact that it’s a 24-hour thing and kept that as the fall-back option. Some suites and private villas also have whirlpool tubs: something we read about while looking for budget rooms in the resort. Maybe, next time!

We spent a part of the evening in the entertainment zone which wasn’t the best we’ve seen. For starters, it was empty and didn’t exactly leave us spoilt for choices. You can give this a miss. Since we had a kid with us, we spent some time playing pool and air hockey. It also had a foosball table and a bunch of bikes for rent.

Entertainment zone at Bintan Lagoon Resort, Indonesia

Entertainment zone at Bintan Lagoon Resort

However, the lobby seemed to be quite the chill-out zone and was buzzing with guests simply lounging in the chairs or snacking on something from Mojo Café that serves light nibbles and fresh coffee. The reason might also be that the Wi-Fi connection is strongest in this area! You can also while away your time at the quaint shops selling souvenirs and swimming gears, though we suspect they are at a much higher price than that available outside the resort.

Tip: If you’re a golfer, carry your own equipment as the resort charges an excruciating price for both rent and sale.

Review of the Resort’s Private Beach

Stretching over 1.7 km, the private beach is absolutely beautiful. This is definitely a plus point in my review of Bintan Lagoon Resort. The white sandy beach complements the clear blue sea which is ideal for both a leisurely swim and some water sports. The resort offers packages for everything from banana boat rides, jet skiing, kayaking, snorkelling, surfing, boarding, and canoeing.

Private beach at Bintan Lagoon Resort, Indonesia

Private beach at Bintan Lagoon Resort

We spent a great evening picking shells, getting our feet wet, and watching a glorious sunset, after which we headed towards the beautiful Nelayan café for some great seafood. Formerly known as Rice, this dining space is right on the beach and offers a cosy ambience amid the sound of crashing waves and soothing sea wind. We enjoyed their pork ribs but the Wasabi prawns sent us to food coma, and I wouldn’t mind going back again just for those jumbo prawns.

The next morning, right before we returned home, we revisited the beach – this time to try our hands at some of the exciting land activities the resort offers, like ATV tours, beach volleyball, electric car/bike rides, and Segway among other things. Given limited time in hand, we decided on a 15-minute ATV ride through the jungles lining the beach. The guide took us on the ATV trail, which was both scary (for first-timers) and exhilarating, and left me with a very satisfying sense of accomplishment on completing it.

We took single-seater rides, which cost us around S$40 for 15 minutes, while a 30-minute ride and a 60-minute ride would cost S$66 and S$110 respectively. The costs will jump another S$20, approximately, if you go for the double seaters.

ATV ride at the Bintan Lagoon Resort, Indonesia

ATV ride at the Bintan Lagoon Resort

And then, just like that, it was time to go back home. As we dragged our feet back to the Bintan Lagoon Resort ferry terminal, we longed for one more night – usually the sign of the end of a wonderful holiday. There was so much more to explore within the resort itself that I’m definitely going back for more.

To sum my review up, I would recommend staying at the Bintan Lagoon Resort as it’s a one-stop shop for all holiday activities. Irrespective of whether you are going there with your friends or family, there’s something for everyone. Although the room rates are higher than other resorts, watch out for their super deals online. It was how we managed to get great rooms at a very reasonable price – around S$88 per night per room.

There are negatives and positives for every holiday resort. My recommendation is based on direct ferry access from Singapore, nice rooms, great private beach, water sports and land activities, kids’ play area, and delicious seafood at the beachfront restaurant. So, next time you’re planning a short trip, give this destination a thought.

Going Local in Sumatra: Berastagi and Lake Toba

While Bali and Jakarta are high on most people’s must-see lists in Indonesia, the culture, mountains and waterfalls of North Sumatra were calling my name more than the beaches and cities crowded with heaps of tourists. By getting off the beaten track, I wasn’t only able to get a deeper feel for the country; I was able to leave my own impression on the nation as well.

Although my destination was only 40 miles from the Medan airport, crude roads and the occasional bovine traffic jam meant that getting to Berastagi took around 2 hours. The public transportation system also meant that this time was spent in the back of a crowded van painted with such vibrant colors that I could have sworn its original use was for transporting clowns.

Finally arriving at my destination, I found myself facing a dusty street lined with shops that seemed to be acting as venues for card games and lively conversations more than actual retail outlets. The fronts of houses were worn and many featured badly chipping paint, but their inhabitants carried a friendly and pleasant air that floated through the streets.

Mangosteens at Berastagi Market, Sumatra, Indonesia

Mangosteens at Berastagi Market, Sumatra

Almost immediately after getting out of the van, I was greeted with a lively wave by a fit man of 30. He looked upon me with kind eyes as if he was looking upon an old friend. After a brief moment, he introduced himself as Abdy Sitanggang, my host from Nachelle’s Homestay. My mind then clicked back to the endless emails we had exchanged prior to my arrival. Abdy had always been enthusiastic in his communication and was even more so in person. This seemed to be something the man carried in endless supplies as he immediately began to urge that we take off and explore the traditional market. Eager to see something that still excited a local, I promptly agreed. Pleased with my decision and bursting with pride, Abdy began explaining that as “Berastagi” means “rice store”, the town’s market is vital to its 40,000 residents.

I quickly found this importance to be far from an exaggeration as the moment I entered the market; I was met with open-air stalls, bursting with vibrantly coloured fruits and lively chatter. Abdy’s excitement fit right in as he bounded towards a large pile of round purple fruits topped with fluorescent green leaves. “Do you know what these are?” he asked excitedly. I made a guilty face in response; fearful my lack of knowledge would come as a disappointment. However, Abdy smiled on to explain: “they are mangosteens,” winking at the stall owner and taking a fruit off the top of the pile “see how this one is purple and squishy? That means it is the tastiest,” he explained as he peeled the purple skin to reveal a white interior.

Traditional Market, Berastagi, Sumatra, Indonesia

Traditional Market, Berastagi, Sumatra

I then took off to explore the market on my own and while wandering past a shop bursting with cheery flowers, I heard a group of school children call out “miss, miss” from behind me. When I turned towards the group, they began fiddling with their hands and whispering nervously to each other. Finally, one of the girls was pushed to the front of the pack and asked it I would practice English with them. I wasn’t going to deny them something as simple as my time, so I agreed. With this, the kids immediately began rummaging through their school bags to pull out notebooks filled with perfectly handwritten English phrases.

Their meek demeanours immediately vanished and I received inquisitions about things like: “what is your favourite colour?” and “do you like Indonesia?”. As I had only just arrived in the country, I told the kids they were my favourite part of Indonesia and was met by beaming faces.

The region offered more than traditional marketplaces however, and the next morning, Abdy and I embarked on a trek up Mount Sibayak, a stratovolcano three miles out of Berastagi, at 3am the following morning to reach its peak for sunrise. We headed towards the summit in the pitch dark while being guided only by a small flashlight. Despite having summited several mountains in the Canadian Rockies, all of my previous climbs had been during the day and trekking at night was a completely different experience. Despite my hiking boots, the lack of lighting meant I almost lost my footing on several occasions and instead of the usual treetop vistas, the sky was the main attraction, hosting the largest collection of stars I had ever seen.

The peak offered more surprises as we were greeted by groups of local children also eagerly awaiting the view with more zeal than I thought was possible for anyone to have at such an early hour. When the sun began to peak over the horizon, the sky erupted with pink and orange light. With each passing minute, more of the landscape was revealed and surrounding mountains seemed to appear from out of thin air.

Sunrise at Berastagi, Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia

Sunrise at Berastagi, Sumatra

Once the sun had fully risen, I began my descent back down. The trail was incomparable to what I had experienced on my way up as I could now see the dense foliage and sharp outcropping of sulphuric rock that surrounded it.

My final excursion then took me to Lake Toba. Abdy explained this site as a caldera from an ancient volcano, which over time became inactive and flooded from a stream flowing down the tallest waterfall in Indonesia. This Sipiso-piso falls drop down a height of 360 feet before releasing their waters into the largest volcanic lake in the world at 702 square miles.

After trekking around the falls and witnessing the water rush powerfully off the cliff-face, Abdy took me to the small village of Tongging for lunch along the lake’s shore. Here, we entered a bright blue building overhanging right into the lake. There was a selection of tables, but I opted for a seat on a mat by the windows in order to get a full view of my surroundings. Rugged green mountains met trees with bright violet flowers before plummeting into shimmering turquoise waters. With a slight haze in the distance, the lake seemed to extend infinitely into the horizon.

Shops at Lake Toba, Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia

Shops at Lake Toba, Sumatra

As much as I wanted to gaze simply upon the calm waters and breath the clean, crisp air, Abdy pulled me away to introduce me to “the best cook on Lake Toba”. To my bewilderment, this cook turned out to be a spunky young girl of 13, Lina. Despite her young age, she lived up to her title, giving me a full demonstration on how to catch, cook and season Tilapia to perfection.

The process began by using a large net to remove the fish from their pen. Then, a couple of incisions were made and rubbed with lemon juice, onions and curry paste. Once the fish had been fully coated, Lina then placed it in a pan a top a wood burning stove to grill for about 5 minutes on each side. Once the fish was prepared, we all sat down to enjoy our creation. Although full sets of cutlery were put out, Lina and Abdy dug into their saucy fish with bare hands and I decided to dig right in as well. While enjoying crispy and spicy mouthfuls of fish and picking out a surprisingly large amount of bones for such a small animal, Lina asked in broken English about my favourite colours and what I liked most about Indonesia. Clearly wanting to practice her English, I told her my favourite thing about the country was her fish and asked her about her favourite colours and what she liked most about Indonesia. Without hesitation, she replied: “I like to teach nice people like you how to cook fish here”.

Tilapia fish at Traditional meal, Lake Toba, Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia

Tilapia fish at Traditional meal, Lake Toba, Sumatra

We continued to chat as a gentle lake shore breeze wafted across the restaurant. I looked out over the lake and couldn’t help but get caught in the infinite aquatic beauty that extended around me. As I admired the crystalline waters and the lush arbours mountain-scape, I realized the landscape wasn’t the only besieging allure at Lake Toba. There was also a kind, welcoming beauty in the new friendships that were forming.

Despite coming from upbringings half a world apart, I was able to create honest connections with Abdy and Lina. Since my visit, I’ve kept in contact with both of them and have come to see that it only take a few days to lay the foundation for a lasting friendship.

I had come to Sumatra to hike volcanoes in the middle of the night and visit waterfalls. While I accomplished both these feats, neither was the highlight of my journey. Instead, the new friendships I made took centre stage and opened my eyes to a whole new aspect of travel.

Guest Post by Judi Zienchuk
Nachelle Homestay
Address: Jalan Kenanga No. 82, Berastagi, Indonesia
Phone: +62 821-6275-7658
Website: https://www.facebook.com/NachelleHomeStay

Related articles:
Lake Toba Travel Guide

Encountering the Heart of Yogyakarta

Lola and I were on a one-month expedition across Indonesia to explore its timeless identity. A cornerstone of the journey would be witnessing Vesak / Waisak at the world’s largest Buddhist temple, Borobudur, near Yogyakarta.

Each year on the full moon of the 5th lunar month, thousands of Buddhist monks gather at this Indonesia’s UNESCO World Heritage Site to perform a colorful, spiritual ceremony that celebrates the Enlightenment of the Buddha. The ritual climaxes in the lighting and release of over a thousand lanterns from the 8th Century temple into the moonlit night.

Though only 1% of Indonesia is Buddhist, this wonderful spectacle in this unique setting promised to reveal another key to understanding Indonesia’s fascinating history and identity; I set our sights for Yogyakarta so we would not miss it. The Universe then collaborated by connecting us to a Yogyakarta woman who invited us to join her and her friends for the ceremony. We were to meet at her house, number 10C, at 11 a.m. on 25 May 2013.

Waisak in Borobudur, Indonesia

Waisak in Borobudur, Indonesia

On the morning of the ceremony, I rose at 4 a.m. unable to chill my excitement. Until Lola woke up, I studied the pictures and read the histories of Vesak / Waisak of Borobudur, of the Buddha–everything I could Google. I triple checked the camera, the memory cards, and the battery life. At 9 a.m. I pushed us out the door in case we should get lost.

The taxi dropped us in front of a broad one-story house that was once white. It sat amid a neighbourhood of apartments but had a spacious corner lot overgrown with knee-high weeds. A great banyan tree, fat and intricate with fateful roots dangling from its branches, obscured the house. Separating the property and the street was a cement and rusted metal fence. We walked up the side street to the gate and read the address, “10.”

Statues and Street Arts, Yogyakarta Indonesia

Statues and Street Arts, Yogyakarta

Back on the main street, we searched for 10C without success. We walked three blocks and with sputtering English asked a shop attendant. He shook his head. We pointed to the address on the torn paper where I had scribbled it. He shook his head again, pointed to his address, “22B,” and pointed back toward the squat, obscured house. The clock’s minute hand rolled on.

Back at the dilapidated house, I pushed the squeaky gate open and went to the door. Green algae grew on the stone entrance. Cobwebs covered the door’s hinges. I knocked, waited, and knocked again. Nothing. Lola said we should check the back.

I dodged the hanging banyan roots and turned the corner to the opposite side. It was all weeds and grasses, clouded windows, and vigilant lizards. There were no side entrances, no mailboxes, and no 10C. Vesak was floating into the sky without us.

Fruit sellers, Yogyakarta Indonesia

Fruit sellers, Yogyakarta

As we rounded the corner to return to the street, a small hunched woman with tan skin and the sun shining on her white, pulled-back hair stood with her hand on the gate. Seeing us, her crinkled face showed confusion. We stopped, put our hands together at our noses, and bowed our heads. “So sorry,” I said. “Excuse us; we are lost.”

A warm smile overcame the tan face. Bahasa words came from her mouth.

“So sorry,” I said again, bowing my head, “no Bahasa.”

Her smile brightened. “What are you looking for?” she said in crisp English.

A gentle and inviting presence seemed to surround her. We approached with smiles of our own. The strong tropical sun rays reflected a pale blue tint in her cataracts. Her thin, delicate hands embraced our forearms as though she wished to speak through them. Her name was Anna.

She asked our names and origins and reasons for being in Indonesia. As she spoke, she looked up at us, smiled, laughed, and squeezed our forearms. “Is this your daughter?” Anna asked.

“She’s my wife!” I said laughing.

Lola said, “Thank you so much!”

Anna covered her mouth and laughed. “I’m sorry,” she said, “but she looks so young.”

“And I look so old?” I said with a smile.

“No, no,” said Anna, laughing, smiling, squeezing our arms. “Oh, please, won’t you come inside?”

People of Yogyakarta Indonesia

People of Yogyakarta

Anna sat us in her main room upon solid ornate wooden chairs. The floor was rose marbles that desired a polishing. The yellowing plaster walls had carved-wood art and photographs of children and men in suits from the 70s. The house seemed to hold stories and memories of a happy home of children and parties.

Soon the radiant Anna returned with a wooden tray and tea for us three. She asked about our families and how we met and told us about herself, always smiling and reaching those thin, delicate hands toward us. Anna would get going on a topic and mid-sentence forget the English word. Then she would bend over laughing, and when she sat up, she would wave her hand and ask a different question.

She told us about her travels as a young woman with her husband, an English Literature lecturer, through Europe and Australia and America. She spoke five languages, including Japanese, which she had learned during the Japanese occupation, a time she disliked recalling. Her three children were married, and each had children of their own in Jakarta, Melbourne, and “Ohio…maybe Ohio…I never can remember the name of that city.”

More people of Yogyakarta Indonesia

More people of Yogyakarta

When we finished our tea, Anna asked again what we were seeking. “Address 10C,” said Lola. Anna waved a hand and said it must be near because she was number 10. Then she stood and escorted us to the gate.

We thanked her a dozen times. Lola hugged her and asked if we could take her picture.

Anna covered her hair and forehead. “Oh, no,” she said smiling, “I’m not made up.” Then she grabbed our forearms once more and said, “I think you’re a lovely couple. You will last a long, long time.” Lola hugged her again. We thanked her once more and stepped outside the gate.

As we walked toward the main street, Anna waved both of her thin, delicate hands goodbyes. Then she returned to her house.

It was almost noon, and we still had not found 10C. The only place left was the alley down the side of Anna’s house. At the end of the alley was an apartment complex. The mailboxes read “10A-S.”

Our host, Zita, waved off our apologies because the group was still incomplete. Two others had not arrived from Bandung.

Tubers at Pindul Caves, Yogyakarta Indonesia

Tubers at Pindul Caves, Yogyakarta

At 1:30, the others arrived, but we had to drive across town to get them. At 2:30 we were finally leaving Yogyakarta, heading away from Borobudur. Zita and her friends wanted to take us to the Pindul Caves first.

A heavy rain started to fall as we mounted inner-tubes and floated a river through the bat-friendly cave. At 6 p.m. we headed down the mountain in the driving rain. We cleared the traffic-choked Yogyakarta at 7 p.m.

At 8 p.m., still in traffic, still listening to the tropical downpour on the car windows, Zita received word that the ceremony had been cancelled due to rain.

The next morning Lola drooped her sympathetic eyes and asked if missing Vesak had upset me. “Vesak happens every year,” I said. “Yesterday, Yogyakarta showed us its heart through the kindness of a lovely woman.”

A traveler can get caught up on the bucket list. The temples, the palaces, the shows–they can display a place’s majesty and tradition, but its soul can only be found in unanticipated encounters with its unique people.

“So what should we do today?” I said.

“Wander and get lost,” said Lola.

Eva Indonesia Travel Guide
M. Myers Griffith writes fiction, poetry, and travel literature. His published work includes poems, contemplative essays, and travel tales. Mr. Griffith earned a B.A. in Latin American Literature and a Master of Public Health. His decade as an international public health professional makes him uniquely adept at understanding and describing social and cultural phenomena. M. Myers Griffith can be found at Asia Sketches.

Photo credits from top: Carl Ottersen, Lola Pava, Lola Pava, Jonathan Lin, Jonathan Lin, Lola Pava

-> Find the best hotel deals in Yogyakarta *

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Waisak at Borobudur
Yogyakarta Travel Guide
Top 10 Things to Do in Yogyakarta