My first trip abroad: Yogyakarta, Indonesia

My first trip abroad: Yogyakarta, Indonesia

I’m not sure what I was expecting when we arrived in Yogyakarta but I experienced an incredible assault on all of my senses that stayed with me ever since. I was 15 years old and it was my first time traveling outside of Australia.

Yogyakarta, Indonesia

My first impression of Yogyakarta was of a strange co-existence between tranquility and chaos -from the green rice paddy fields and the hot sticky air heavy with exotic aromas to the swarming hordes of motor bikes and scooters laden with families, produce and livestock.

Yogyakarta was a world away from suburban Melbourne.

Travel to Yogyakarta Indonesia

Our itinerary was full of experiences that opened my eyes to Javanese culture. We visited the beautiful kraton or Sultan’s palace, the centre of culture heritage in Java.

I remember the wayung golek puppet show, markets full of batik and interesting snacks. It was there I discovered krupuk – crunchy Indonesian prawn crackers that are far superior in every way to their Chinese counterparts.

krupuk - indonesian prawn crackers

Borobodur and Prambanan Temples

But what made the deepest impression was our visits to the incredible temples of Borobodur and Prambanan close to Yogyakarta. These UNESCO listed sites are some of the most important archeological finds in Indonesia, if not the world.

Both serenely beautiful in their own right, they are an ancient reminder of the Buddhist and Hindu culture that existed on Java almost 2,000 years ago.

We spent a day exploring these beautiful sites on a day trip from the city of Yogyakarta. I will always remember the hot heat of the day as we clambered over the ancient stones surrounded by jungle.

An Indonesian guest house

On that trip to Yogyakarta we stayed in an elegant guest house close enough to nearby mosques that you could hear the daily calls to prayer.

Every day after sightseeing, we took afternoon tea and ate local treats with tastes and textures I had never experienced. A traditional gamelan orchestra played as we sipped our cool drinks in the shade of a colonial verandah.

Having a haven to relax in after the culture shock of our trips in and around Yogyakarta was a smart move by my mother who organised the trip.

Prambanan Temple near Yogyakarta

Prambanan Temple near Yogyakarta

Beaches close to Yogyakarta

That was many years ago and I can only imagine Yogyakarta is a much more bustling metropolis than it was then. While researching this article I discovered that the area is much better set up for tourists than when we visited with many hotel and tour options to choose from.

I am always looking for great value unique accommodation when traveling and found some amazing value Yogyakarta hotel deals available online. 

Perhaps the most relaxing way to visit this area would be to stay at Parangtritis Beach about an hour from Yogyakarta and a little further to the major sites.

There  you will find hotels by the beach like the Queen of The South Resort that has a swimming pool overlooking the sandy beach and enjoys beautiful sunsets over the Indian Ocean. Perfect for relaxing after a day of sightseeing.

I would love to return to Yogyakarta. An important reason why we travel with our kids is to introduce them to cultures that are different to our own. Certainly this trip had a strong impression on me and most likely inspired my future travels.

Have you visited Yogyakarta in Indonesia recently? I wonder how it has changed from when I visited many years ago.

Disclosure: This post was written in association with Traveloka. All opinions are my own. 

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Yogyakarta | Indonesia - the cultural capital of Java and one of the first places I visited outside of Australia


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  1. 7th November 2016 / 11:57 AM

    cool trip!

  2. 8th November 2016 / 7:35 AM

    What an amazing first trip abroad! I have never been to Indonesia but would love to. I love exploring temples and different cuisines. You are right about intruding children to new cultures too – I hope you get back soon


  3. 8th November 2016 / 8:07 AM

    That’s awesome your first trip out of Australia was somewhere so amazing! I would love to explore Indonesia one day! #CityTripping

    • 8th November 2016 / 4:11 PM

      My mum taught Indonesian and took tour groups there so she was keen for us to go too. It is an amazing country from Bali to Java and beyond.

    • 8th November 2016 / 4:10 PM

      Some of the most remarkable sights I have ever seen actually Rosie. I have not been to Angkor Wat in Cambodia but I suspect they are similar

  4. 8th November 2016 / 5:40 PM

    I’ve always dreamed of going to Borobudur and wished I’d made more of an effort to get there when I lived in Australia as it’s a long way from France! It’s funny though as it’s also a long way from Australia when you think that that was your first trip out of Aus no wonder you were impressed. Most English get to experience “abroad” for the first time in the form of France or Spain, maybe Ireland, which just can’t compare! Lovley to look back at your first trip. #citytripping

    • 11th November 2016 / 9:17 PM

      Thank you Phoebe – I think it’s quite easy to get to Java now with all the connections out of Singapore. In fact I heard someone saying today that they were going to Bali for a week from London. Seemed a bit crazy to me but I guess we need our culture fix somehow.

  5. 9th November 2016 / 10:57 PM

    This seems so exotic to me and I would love to visit. It reminds some of my first visit to the Yucatan when I was in high school and seeing the Mayan ruins there. How the jungle grew into them, it was quite an impression on me as well. I agree that sharing the beautiful things like this from unique cultures exposes and inspires and educates our children. Keep it up Katy! #FarawayFiles

    • 11th November 2016 / 9:15 PM

      The jungle overgrew these temples too Erin, only to be discovered centuries later by Dutch archaeologists. So Indiana Jones.. who is of course my hero!

  6. 10th November 2016 / 8:44 AM

    I used to visit Indonesia quite a bit when I was a child, though I can’t remember if I visited Yogyakarta specifically. The only memories I have are of Borobudur and Lake Toba and the Indonesian folk songs that the locals sang for us. It is indeed a culturally rich country. #FarawayFiles

  7. 10th November 2016 / 10:28 AM

    What an incredible place to visit for your first-ever overseas trip! No wonder you were bitten by the travel bug. And yes, your mum was very smart indeed, organising for such a nice guest house to return to after all those young mind-blowing experiences.

  8. 10th November 2016 / 10:30 AM

    What an amazing first abroad, mine was a Youth Hostel somewhere just outside Brussels!

  9. Clare Thomson
    10th November 2016 / 11:39 AM

    I can’t help but echo everybody else’s sentiments here – what a wonderful, eye-opening experience for a first trip abroad. As children, we went regularly to France which felt like another world – but goodness me, nothing like the difference between Australia and Indonesia. #FarawayFiles

    • 11th November 2016 / 9:13 PM

      It was a magical trip. My grandmother came with us and would enjoy her gin and tonic on the verandah as we had our tea. Special memories and a joint love of g&ts!

  10. 10th November 2016 / 12:53 PM

    Those Temples look incredible! I can’t believe this was your first trip! Sure fire way to catch the travel bug. #Farawayfiles

  11. 10th November 2016 / 4:26 PM

    Your writing is very atmospheric and evocative – makes me feel as if I’m there! I’m sure this did inspire your future travels. I think visits abroad in your formative years do make you into a traveller. I actually went abroad for the first time at age 15 but it was less exotic – it was on a bus trip to Italy from Lancashire: it must have taken days and I remember going through the borders that don’t exist any more (for now!). Lovely post.

    • 11th November 2016 / 9:12 PM

      Hey those bus trips can be cool. I remember our Grade 6 camp in the Grampians (Australia – we are so unoriginal with place names!). We sang Aha all the 4 hour drive there. Take on Me is still one of my favourite songs. It is well worth remembering that it wasn’t so long ago that we had so many restrictions and inconveniences traveling in Europe.. I hope somehow all this mess can be resolved sooner rather than later

  12. 10th November 2016 / 4:36 PM

    Wow, those temples look amazing, but so do those shrimp crackers! I’ve never been to that part of the word, but I’m hoping to someday in the near future. I’ve discovered so many new places since joining #farawayfiles I love it!

    • 11th November 2016 / 9:08 PM

      Amazing Hilary! That’s what we were hoping would happen with our Faraway Files group. South East Asia is a fantastic place to explore. We took out then 9 month old twins to the hills of Bali for their first trip and had an amazing time. Hope you make it there soon

  13. 10th November 2016 / 4:52 PM

    You’ve left me with such a real sense of Yogyakarta. I feel as if I can smell the humid air and taste those prawn crackers. That’s quite a destination for your first foreign holiday and what a wise mum you had, providing you with the oasis of calm after each exhausting day.

    • 11th November 2016 / 9:07 PM

      Thanks Trish. Mum had been on a couple of similar trips prior to this one so she was well prepared. I am sure I didn’t appreciate that at the time though

  14. 10th November 2016 / 7:19 PM

    Not a bad first trip abroad 🙂 #farawayfiles

    • 11th November 2016 / 9:04 PM

      I was very lucky!

  15. 10th November 2016 / 8:13 PM

    Wow! You still remember that trip from way back then? I don’t even remember what I ate for lunch yesterday. LOL. My first international trip was to Hong Kong when I was 11 years old, all I remember from that tour was we were walking around so much trying to keep up with our guide. (sounds familiar? :p)

    Do you remember if you got woken up by the call to prayer early in the morning?

    • 11th November 2016 / 9:04 PM

      Ooh these guides like to test us eh? Love it. I do recall being woken by the call to prayer and being quite unimpressed in a way only 15 year old girls can be. After a while it becomes quite comforting as it signals the rhythm of life and the daily activities in Yogyakarta and other Muslim cities and towns.

  16. 10th November 2016 / 8:39 PM

    What an awesome first trip abroad. I’m impressed that you remember so much about it. I found myself staring at the picture of the temple for quite some time. So beautiful! #farawayfiles

  17. 10th November 2016 / 8:40 PM

    Those are such great memories – Indonesia keeps cropping up with reasons to tempt me there in 2017, but I’d love to include some of the culture and Javanese history and way of life as well as those amazing beaches, so I think this has to go on the list too. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

    • 11th November 2016 / 9:02 PM

      Thanks Cathy. Bali, Lombok and the Gili islands are beautiful, have those famous beaches and are mainly Hindu so the contrast with Muslim Java is interesting. The list keeps growing right?

  18. 10th November 2016 / 8:44 PM

    The photo of the temples is breathtaking! They look very well preserved. What a trip to mark your first time abroad – a completely different culture. Good on your parents for exposing you to this place. I would love to visit Yogyakarta. Thanks for linking to #citytripping

    • 11th November 2016 / 9:00 PM

      Thank you Elizabeth. The temples were found by Dutch archaeologists hidden under forest and damaged by several earthquakes. They are on the UNESCO world heritage list and the conservation efforts are ongoing. Truly beautiful sights I feel privileged to have seen

  19. Ruth
    11th November 2016 / 1:35 AM

    To be honest, I think I cannot comprehend how it feels to visit places like these. I can see pictures and read stories but in my mind this is still an “unknown” part of the world. I can imagine how much one can learn by visiting. Great you had that experience. #FarawayFiles

    • 11th November 2016 / 8:58 PM

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment Ruth. I feel the same way about Central and Southern America where I am yet to visit. We are so lucky to be able to explore these places even for a brief while

  20. 11th November 2016 / 3:59 AM

    WOW! This place looks incredible! Adding it to my bucket list now 🙂

  21. 11th November 2016 / 6:59 AM

    The first time I went to Yogyakarta (or Jogjakarta or Jogja in short) was 2009 before my blogging days. At that time I used a crappy digital camera that caused all my pics of Jogja looked grey even though it was sunny throughout the trip! When I started blogging, there were many occasions I was tempted to write posts on Jogja but when I saw my pics again, I decided not to. Maybe I should return to the city to explore, this time, with a better camera hahah! Hope you also get the chance to visit the city again with your family 🙂 #citytripping

    • 11th November 2016 / 8:57 PM

      Oh Kat digital cameras weren’t even thought of when I was there.. and it wasn’t actually that long ago.. ok it was! I have mixed feelings about the camera these days. Who knows if my memories would be this strong if I was busy taking photos

  22. 11th November 2016 / 10:37 AM

    I’ve never visited Yogyakarta (or Indonesia), but I loved reading about your first impressions of this place. I can imagine how eye opening it would have been for a 15 year old from Melbourne to experience the Javanese culture, the food and the temples. #FarawayFiles

    • 11th November 2016 / 8:53 PM

      I think I realised that I was a tiny tadpole in a huge ocean on that trip Ali.. which is probably a good thing to realise as a teenager!

  23. 11th November 2016 / 6:28 PM

    I always think of Indonesia as an exotic faraway location but I know parts of it are pretty popular holiday destinations for Antipodeans! I’d love to revisit many of the places I travelled to 20+ years ago too but I fear they’d have changed too much. #Farawayfiles

    • 11th November 2016 / 8:52 PM

      Unfortunately parts of Bali are our equivalent of Benidorm Christine and unfortunately the main change there has been an almost suffocating increase in traffic. Both the temples are UNESCO world heritage listed and away from the centre of the city so I feel confident their beauty isn’t impacted too badly

  24. 11th November 2016 / 8:09 PM

    Yogyakarta seems like a fascinating place to visit. I have yet to travel through Indonesia. I can imagine it would be a huge change from Melbourne! What made the prawn crackers so good? Those temples are simply breathtaking! Such intricate designs.

    • 11th November 2016 / 8:48 PM

      Thanks Juliette. Yogyakarta was a bit of a culture shock but my mum used to teach Indonesian and spoke the language fluently. So we were spared a lot of miscommunication and frustration. But yes, a whole galaxy away from Melbourne! The prawn crackers are super tasty and very crunchy. Yum

  25. 12th November 2016 / 2:04 AM

    The very first country I traveled to with my family was Indonesia so the country does have a special place in my heart. I did not visit Borobudur but was always fascinated by the photos that my father had taken during his visit there. And, I agree kripik/ krupuk there is the tastiest I have ever had. Have you tried salak fruit, which is indigenous to Indonesia, and tough to find elsewhere? That used to be my favourite fruit.

  26. 12th November 2016 / 10:43 AM

    Beautifully written, as always. I often wonder which of our travel experiences will leave the greatest impressions / have the most influence on our kids as they grow up. However, being married to someone who has a fear of flying, Indonesia is truly one for our #FarawayFiles. (Sigh…) Greetings from Luxembourg

    • 12th November 2016 / 12:04 PM

      Thank you! Given one of our children’s first words was croissant I think the food they have tried on their travels has had quite an impact. I would describe myself as an uncomfortable flyer and find turbulence really scary. If it gets worse I will think about enrolling in one of the airline programs aimed at helping people overcome their fear. I understand they are very successful. I know QANTAS has one.

  27. 15th November 2016 / 7:38 PM

    You brought me back some brilliant memories. I went in ’97 and arrived in Yogyakarta by very uncomfortable boat from Pangandaran. Saw all the places you did. I will never forget the live portrayal of the Ramayana at Prambanan – a very special memory indeed. Thanks for your post, a timely reminder of a magical trip. Wilbur

    • 16th November 2016 / 2:33 PM

      Ah yes the Ramayana is a beautiful experience and I can just imagine how magical it would have been at Prambanan. Glad you enjoyed my post Wilbur

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