Yogyakarta 3 Days Itinerary

Yogyakarta is one of the must-visit place in Java, Indonesia. It is also known as Jogjakarta or Jogja or Yogya (you decide!) by travelers and locals alike. From all the places you must visit in Java, this is the one place you cannot miss.

If you have 3 days to spend in Yogyakarta, your itinerary would definitely include an in-depth tour of this interesting city plus visiting the two famous temples of Borobudur and Prambanan.

Here is our suggested itinerary in Yogyakarta for 3 days.

Day 1 : Yogyakarta city center

It is good to stay near the city center, as it helps for quick access to all the tourist attractions in Yogyakarta. It includes the experience living in a bustling city of Indonesia. If you arrived early in the morning from an overnight train, grab a typical Indonesian breakfast at one of the food mongers spread along Malioboro Street. Also, check out the famous Pasar Beringharjo (market), where you can find souvenirs. Bring out your bargaining skills here!

A lady sells Pecel, traditional cuisine, Beringharjo, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
A lady sells Pecel, traditional cuisine which combines some vegetables and served with peanut sauce dressing. Photo by : Manogamo

Without wasting more time, head to the famous Keraton Palace, a well-mainted palace from the days of the Sultans. Here you will find unique architecture and heirlooms of the days of glory. Everyone will be accompanied by a local guide who can speak all kinds of languages, and it is indeed a good experience as it gives you insights into the rich history and culture of Jogja.

Next head on to Taman Sari (Water Castle) which is not far from the palace. Use a back way from the other side of the castle and try to sneak your way in through rundown defense walls and scattered village houses. Once you got in, you will find yourself in mazes of underground water holes, secret chambers and gardens and pools. This castle is a huge complex that used to be a former royal garden of Sultanate of Yogyakarta used for various functions including bathing place.

 

Bathing pool at Taman Sari, Yogyakarta

 

Bathing pool at Taman Sari, Yogyakarta

 

 

After that, it is time to test your luck. Head to Alun-Alun Kidul (South Square park) in Yogyakarta, where an urban legend has it that anyone who successfully crosses between the two huge banyan trees blindfolded will get what they wish for. The amazing thing is apparently many people failed at this attempt despite the huge gap.

 -> Check out Top 10 Things to Do in Yogyakarta 

Day 2 : Museums, Gudeg and chill at a cafe

One of the popular museums here in Yogyakarta is the Art museum. It features the works of the Indonesia’s legendary painter Affandi, where he spent most of his life here producing many masterpieces while keeping it away from other painters.

Sneak in a lunch at a long standing establishment Gudeg Yu Djum for possibly the best Indonesian dish ever called Gudeg. This unique Indonesian dish is a stew made from young jackfruit (nangka) with palm sugar, coconut milk, meat, garlic, and spices. The special taste came from the slow melding of flavors and textures to the right perfection.

Gudeg Yu Djum, Yogyakarta

 

Gudeg Yu Djum, Yogyakarta

 

 

After that head to Sonobudoyo Museum,, another museum worth visiting. Do not forget to also watch the special leather puppet show featured here, available every day from 8- 10 pm. It is accompanied by Javanese Gamelan music and language. While waiting for the show, you can take a look at the collection of artefacts and collections of batik, keris, wayang, and antique weapons.

In the evening, return to Alun-alun Kidul park and find the new trend of bling-bling car. They are small cars decorated with bold lightings that will bring you around the city. The price is IDR 15,000 for one loop of the ride. Many locals love to give this attraction a try.

Bling bling car, Alun-alun Kidul, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Bling-bling car at Alun-Alun Kidul, Yogyakarta, each swith its own different characters. Photo by : Adnan Ali

For dinner, head to a traditional food stall, north of Malioboro street in a small alley, called Angkringan Lik Man. Angkringan is a typical roadside stall in Yogyakarta that you can find in almost every corner of the city. Lik Man is the most special as it has an anti-mainstream coffee to warm up your night, which is coffee served with a flaming charcoal. You must also try the Nasi Kucing and other side dishes here, such as chicken intestines satay, chicken gizzard satay, quail eggs and satay.

 -> Check out the Best Places to Stay in Yogyakarta 

Day 3  – Borobudur Temple and Prambanan Temple

Now it is time for our day trip to the two anceient temples of Java, Indonesia. Borobudur temple is located 1-hour drive from yogyakarta and it is well worth the trip. Try to get there early to avoid the crowd, and to enjoy the silent beauty of the place with respect. This 9th-century temple is an Indonesia UNESCO Heritage site and one of the largest Buddhist temple in the world, consisting of six square platforms with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha status. Thousands of Buddhists do their pilgrimage here in Borobudur during Waisak day.

-> Read our Guide to Borobudur Temple

 

Borobudur Temple Compounds upclose

 

Borobudur Temple Compounds upclose

 

 

After visiting this temple, you can grab a quick lunch in Borobudur city before heading back to Yogyakarta but with a stop at the next temple – Prambanan Temple.

It is a well known ancient Hindu Temple in Indonesia built during the 9th century for Trimurti as an expression that God is the Creator (Brahma), Preserver (Vishnu) and also the Destroyer (Shiva). It is also one of the Indonesia UNESCO World Heritage Site, being one of the largest Hindu temple architecture in Southeast Asia. At the same time, don’t forget to check out Candi Sewu, located just 15 minutes walk from Prambanan temple. This place is a good respite from the crowds of Prambanan, featuring many hidden structures and carvings for self-exploration. If you are here on the right day, there would be a Ramayana Ballet show, with 200 artists playing a role and dancing to classsical Javanese music. This show does not run every day so check online if you want to catch it. The ticket price starts from IDR 125,000 and the show begins at 19.30.

-> Read our Guide to Prambanan Temple

The Ramayana Ballet, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
When the spotlight makes the show even more beautiful. Photo by Deep Goswami

With that is the end of your full 3 days itinerary in Yogyakarta. There is always something more to explore in Yogyakara if you have the time, there are a lot of cafes to check out in the city and there are a number of options for day trips, such as to Mount Merapi, Gunung Kidul, Jamblang Cave or Mangunan Fruit Garden. Check out our Yogyakarta 5 days / 4 nights Itinerary for the expansion.


Best Accommodations in Yogyakarta

Booking.com is a good choice as most of the bookings can be cancelled right up to the trip, allowing flexibility. While Agoda.com * has one of the most extensive listings in Asia with great deals.

In Yogyakarta, staying in the city center would help to save time in visiting all the must-visit places, but if you are looking for also some relaxation, just a little off center to north or south are some great choices. Here are a few of the best accommodations that we recommend to stay in Yogyakarta:

Luxury (from 150 USD)

Mid-range (50 – 150 USD)

Budget (below 50 USD)


Related articles:
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Top 10 Things to Do in Yogyakarta
Yogyakarta Travel Guide

Yogyakarta 5 Days / 4 Nights Itinerary Blog

Yogyakarta has long been my must-visit place in Java, Indonesia. It is also known as Jogjakarta or Jogja or Yogya (you decide!) by travelers and locals alike. From all the places you must visit in Java, this is the one place you cannot miss.

If you have 5 days to spend in Yogyakarta, your itinerary can include a city tour, visiting the two famous temples Borobudur and Prambanan and also some nature trip nearby. Here is my own itinerary in Yogyakarta for 5 days and 4 nights.

Day 1 : Yogyakarta city center tour

It is good to stay near the city center, as it helps for quick access to all the tourist attractions in Yogyakarta. It also offers to experience the hustle and bustle of every day from the morning till night. If you just arrive early in the morning from the overnight train, you can grab a typical breakfast of either Soto, Jenang, Nasi Liwet, or Pecel. All of those food mongers are spread along the Malioboro Street and Pasar Beringharjo (Beringharjo Market). You can easily find some souvenirs at Pasar Beringharjo too. Do not forget to test your bargaining skill here. Also, a tip is to not easily agree with the first price they offer. You can start bargaining with 50% markdown.

A lady sells Pecel, traditional cuisine, Beringharjo, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
A lady sells Pecel, traditional cuisine which combines some vegetables and served with peanut sauce dressing. Photo by : Manogamo

If you are already tired from walking, you can choose to take the “becak” (local trishaw) to go around the city. You should also bargain so that it would not be overpriced.  They will start with IDR 10,000 to visit some stores like Bakpia and clothes store but be aware that they will be unhappy if you end up not buying anything at the store. This is because they are hoping to get some percentage from the things you buy at certain stores. Therefore, it is better for you to confirm from the beginning whether if you would want to shop for bakpia and clothes. If you are not, then you can bargain for a more reasonable price to go around the area (maybe around IDR 30,000). You just need to tell them where you want to go.

-> Check out Top 10 Things to Do in Yogyakarta

Do not forget to tell the becak driver to take you to visit the popular tourist attractions in Yogyakarta, such as the Royal Palace (Keraton). It has an open pavilion extravagantly decorated with the golden colored ornaments. There are also galleries which keep treasures of the royal family and also showcased of historical batik fabrics.

After that, head to Taman Sari (Water Castle). Only a step away from the palace, this castle used to be a historical bathing complex for the royals. It is built by Sultan Hamengkubuwono I but finished by Sultan Hamengkubuwono II. Since this place is aimed at resting and relaxing, its four areas are consist of an artificial lake, pavilion, and the bathing complex itself.

Bathing pool at Taman Sari, Yogyakarta

Bathing pool at Taman Sari, Yogyakarta

Since Javanese is well known with its Batik, you may also want to try a Batik workshop, just stop by in one of the small alleys around Taman Sari. Here, you can learn how to make all kinds of stuff using Batik patterns such as bags, purses, or any other accessories.

Creativeness in making batik pattern, Taman Sari, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Show your creativeness by trying make any batik pattern as you wish. Photo by : Martijn Nijenhuls

Then it is time to test your luck. When the night comes, go to Alun-Alun Kidul (South Square park) in Yogyakarta. An urban legend has said that those who can successfully cross between the two huge banyan trees blindfolded will have their wishes come true. The amazing thing is apparently most people failed at that attempt, even though the gap is substantially big enough between the trees.

Urban legend about Banyan trees, Alun-Alun, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Close your eyes, get twirled around by your friends, and walk following your intuition. Photo by Isti

Day 2 : Art Museum, Bling-bling Car, Charcoal Coffee

Today you can expand your knowledge of art by visiting museums. Start your day enjoying art paintings at Affandi Museum, which consists of three galleries. This place is located at Jalan Laksda Adisucipto 167. Take a look at the work of Indonesia’s legendary painter, Affandi. This is also the place where he spent most of his life, produced many of his masterpieces and kept them all away from other painters.

-> Check out the Best Places to Stay in Yogyakarta

Another museum to visit is the Sonobudoyo Museum, located at Jalan Pangurakan Yogyakarta No. 6, Ngupasan, Gondomanan. Do not let your visit here go by without watching the special leather puppet show. The show is available every day from 8 PM – 10 PM. Accompanied by Javanese Gamelan music and Javanese language, this show is the epitome of the art and culture of Yogyakarta. While you are waiting for the show, you can take a look at the collection of artefacts and collections of batik, keris, wayang, and antique weapons.

Special leather puppet show at Sonobudoyo Museum, Jalan Pangurakan, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
When the show is on, a Dalang is controlling all the puppet chraracters. Photo by : Hermitianta Prasetya Putra

On this night, go back again to the hip main square from yesterday. Again at Alun-Alun Kidul, you will find a bling-bling car decorated with bold lightings. Although it is such a small car, the lights will bring you to it from afar. The loud music makes the car even livelier. The price is IDR 15,000 for one loop of the ride.

Bling bling car, Alun-alun Kidul, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Bling-bling car at Alun-Alun Kidul, Yogyakarta, each swith its own different characters. Photo by : Adnan Ali

For supper, we head to a traditional food stall. Heading north from the direction of Malioboro Street, you will find a small alley where Angkringan Lik Man is located. Angkringan is a typical roadside stall in Yogyakarta and I bet can find it in almost every corner of the city. But this one is special since Lik Man has an anti-mainstream coffee to warm up your night. This place will introduce you to a coffee served with the flaming charcoal. You must also try Nasi Kucing and other side dishes such as chicken intestines satay, chicken gizzard satay, quail eggs and satay here.

Coffee with flaming charcoal, Angkringan Lik Man, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Challenge yourself to drink a glass of charcoal coffee. Photo by Ivan Lanin

Day 3  – Borobudur Temple and Prambanan Temple

Borobudur Temple is not actually located in Yogyakarta but in the Magelang Regency, two hours drive away from the main city area. It is designated as a World Heritage by UNESCO. and consists of 72 stupas, each with statues of Buddha. Borobudur is built based on Buddhism, depicting three levels of the universe (Kamadhatu, Ruphadatu, and Arupadhatu).

-> Read our Guide to Borobudur Temple

Borobudur Temple Compounds upclose

Borobudur Temple Compounds upclose

Another must visit historical temple other than Borobudur is the Prambanan Temple. The most suggested thing to do here is to watch the Javanese culture show, the Ramayana Ballet, preserved since the olden days. The show is available indoor at Trimurti Theater and it is also possible to watch in an open air theatre. Do not forget to check the schedule online because the show is not performed every day. The ticket price starts from IDR 125,000 and the show begins at 19.30. Ramayana Ballet will showcase 200 artists combining their skills to play a role and dance along with the classical Javanese music.

-> Read our Guide to Prambanan Temple

The Ramayana Ballet, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
When the spotlight makes the show even more beautiful. Photo by Deep Goswami

Day 4 – Day Trip from Yogyakarta with Mountain peak, Caves and Beach

Now it’s time to escape the city of Yogyakarta to look for some dose of nature. We will be visiting Gunung Kidul, about 40 km west of the city of Yogyakarta. We will start at Ancient Volcano of Nglanggeran. If you are quite a fit hiker, you may need only 1 to 1.5 hours to reach the peak. While walking uphill, do not forget to enjoy the serene surroundings and the fresh air. The cold breeze here is great as it is located approximately 700 meters above the sea level

Ancient Volcano of Nglanggeran, Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
A place for serenity and you can feel togetherness here more.. Photo by Isti

Next on our day trip from Yogyakarta is the Goa Jamblang (Jamblang Cave). This vertical cave is typically known as a collapsed doline, formed from a geologist process resulting in a sinkhole about 50 meters square. It is advisable to get a guided tour here to explore the caves. This guided tour will cost you around IDR 600,000-700,000 per person (including all the equipment rental cost). You need at least 2-3 hours to finish this caving adventure. The best time to explore Jamblang Cave is in the morning, finishing before lunch. You will meet a beautiful sunlight trickling onto the stone down at the cave.

The vertical Jamblang cave, Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Follow the light, that’s where you can find a way out. Photo by M. Reza Faisal

After a tiring morning of trekking and caving, it is time for you to just sit and relax, waiting for the sun to set at Indrayanti Beach. Located still in Gunung Kidul Area, this beach offers you a panoramic beauty which is completed by the white sand, majestic hills of coral rocks and sparkling blue sea. If you are a water sports lover, you can try jet ski here, costing IDR 250,000 per 15 minutes.

The panoramic beauty of Indrayanti beach, Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Beach is such a best place to catch the sunset. Photo by Indra Kurniawan

Day 5 – Mangunan Fruit Garden before leaving

Have a visit to the increasingly famous Mangunan Fruit Garden. It is in the area of Bantul, which is 35 km away from the city center. Here you can learn about various kinds of fruits. All fruits are placed in accordance with the slope of its area such as durian, mango, orange, rose apple, orange, and mangosteen. You will also find a beautiful view here on the viewing dock, surrounded by the pine trees. This is one amazing spot for some selfies! Just stand up at the edge of the dock for the backdrop of greenery hills.

The Fruit Garden, Mangunan, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Morning mist will welcome you above the clouds. Photo by Yopi Priatna

After this visit, head on back to Yogyakarta for your onward journey. Although you may have done quite a bit here for 5 days, there are always still much more things to do in Yogyakarta. There are always reasons to return to visit this area of Java Island of Indonesia.


Best Accommodations in Yogyakarta

Booking.com is a good choice as most of the bookings can be cancelled right up to the trip, allowing flexibility. While Agoda.com * has one of the most extensive listings in Asia with great deals.

In Yogyakarta, staying in the city center would help to save time in visiting all the must-visit places, but if you are looking for also some relaxation, just a little off center to north or south are some great choices. Here are a few of the best accommodations that we recommend to stay in Yogyakarta:


Next destinations:
Malang – pitstop to Mount Bromo, with beautiful landscape and some more ancient temples
Mount Bromo – the most popular volcano crater in Indonesia, particularly for its breathtaking sunrise

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Prambanan Temple Compounds, Yogyakarta

Candi Prambanan or Prambanan Temple Compounds, also known as Candi Rara Jonggrang is a well known ancient Hindu Temple in Java, Indonesia. This 9th-century temple built by Trimurti as an expression that God is the Creator (Brahma), Preserver (Vishnu) and also the Destroyer (Shiva) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Most travelers will gape at its magnificence as they approach the temple from the walkway as it loomed nearer. This is one structure to be noted with, being one of the the biggest Hindu Temple in Southeast Asia. It towers at 47 m high with a wide compound surrounding it inclusive with many temples arranged all around.

Entering to Prambanan Temple Compounds, Yogyakarta

Entering to Prambanan Temple Compounds, Yogyakarta

History and facts

Prambanan is the largest Hindu temple in ancient Java and this royal temple is probably built during the Hindu Sanjaya Dynasty. Historian suggests that this temple marks the return of the Hindu Sanjaya Dynasty to power in Central Java after almost a century of Buddhist Sailendra Dynasty domination. It also signifies the focus from Mahayana Buddhism to Shivaist Hinduism.

Upclose with Prambanan, Yogyakarta

Upclose with Prambanan, Yogyakarta

In the Prambanan Temple compounds, there are 3 Trimurti temples – Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma, 3 Vahana temples – Nandi, Garuda and Hamsa, 2 Apit temples , 4 Kelir temples, 4 Patol Temples and 224 Pervara temples. There are also many reliefs on the walls of these temple that depicts many ancient stories.

This temple is also known for the Rara Jonggrang legend, where it is said that Prince Bandung Bondowoso fell in love with Princess Rara Jonggrang, daughter of King Boko. The princess rejected his marriage proposal because he had killed her father but after his insistence, gave him an impossible condition – to build thousands of temples in one night. With the help of supernatural beings, the prince managed to build 999 temples but the princess fearing his success, had the village maids to began pounding rice and set a fire in the East to fake the sunrise thus cheating the spiritual helpers to leave. The prince was furious about the trick and cursed Rara Jonggrang into a stone which she became the last and most beautiful of the thousand statues. According to the legend, this last unfinished thousand temple is the Sewu temple (means thousands) nearby to Prambanan and the Princess statue is in the north cell of the Shiva temple in Prambanan.

Where is it

Prambanan Temple compound is located 18 km east of Yogyakarta in Central Java, Indonesia.

Why visit

For the magnificence of one of the largest Hindu Temple in Southeast Asia and the rich legend behind these foreboding temples of ancient times.

Reliefs / carvings on Prambanan Temple, Yogyakarta

Reliefs / carvings on Prambanan Temple, Yogyakarta

When is the best time to go

Most times is good for visiting Prambanan, whether it is the dry season (April – October) or wet season (November – March) of the two seasoned Indonesia.

Dry season will have a peak of tourists and also can be really hot while wet season will see rain later in the day so go early for your visit.

Where to Stay

It is best to stay at Yogyakarta and do a trip here to visit Prambanan temple. Read our Where to Stay at Yogyakarta guide.

Fees

The entry fees for Prambanan is 30,000 Rp for Indonesian adult and 12,5000 Rp for children. For foreigners it is 18 USD for adult and 9 USD for children under 6 (as of 2016).

Opening Times

6am to 6pm daily.

Inside Prambanan Temple Compounds, Yogyakarta

Inside Prambanan Temple Compounds, Yogyakarta

Get in and get around

Best way to get here is first fly to Yogyakarta, and then use the Transjogja public bus to visit Prambanan. You can also hire a car from Yogyakarta to Prambanan and stop by various temples on the way.

Nearby tourist attractions

Candi Sewu – just 10-15 minutes walk from the Prambanan temple, it is worth a visit as the temple ruins are eerily captivating and as a good respite from the crowds in Prambanan.

Candi Sambisari – a good stopover temple on the way to Prambanan, it had been buried underground for more hundred years before the discovery in 1966. Reconstructed, it now stands as a testament to archeologists efforts to restore the glory of the past.

Borobudur Temple Compounds – A 9th-century Buddhist temple is the largest Buddhist structure in the world and is an Indonesia UNESCO Heritage site. It consists of six square platforms with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha status.

Yogyakarta – packed with all the intricacies of a good travel place with hidden treasures of bygone days, narrow alleys and main streets of delights, large array of delicious food to try, arts and cultures dotted everywhere and rich in history.

Prambanan Temple Compounds, Yogyakarta

Prambanan Temple Compounds, Yogyakarta

Travel Tips

Just like Borobudur, it is best to enjoy it at earliest hour possible to simply admire the grandeur in peace and quiet.

At night there might be a performance of Hindu Ramayana in the temple, you may check with the place you stay for an arranged tour.

-> Find the best Yogyakarta hotel deals at Booking.com *

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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

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