1. Take a ride you’ll never forget, on the Merapi Lava Tour.
Java currently has 45 active volcanoes ……FORTY FIVE! And throughout the years it has moulded the landscape for better or for worse into the Java we know today. During the Merapi Lava Tour you will visit Mount Merapi which literally means Fire Mountain in Javanese, and is the most active volcano in Indonesia. But no need to worry it’s all quiet at the moment. This means you can ride in a jeep and see the beauty of the mountain but also the destruction it can cause.
First stop is the Museum Sisa Hartaku where a local family set up a memorial in their former home to remind people of the devastation of the last eruption in November 2010 where homes, cattle and sadly lives were lost.
Now I know this doesn’t sound like ‘fun’ but I’m getting to that, and it’s important to understand the area, and what local people live with on a day to day basis. It is a sobering reminder of the brutality of mother earth, but it also has created some interesting landscape to drive around….this is where the fun starts.
It turns out that our driver happened to be completely NUTS! But also a kick ass driver I might add. He loved driving fast, over taking the other jeeps on the tour and most of all – getting wet. Really Wet! It just so happened that it was a pretty wet and grey day that we were on the tour, and while this does hinder any awesome shots you might want of Mount Merapi, it does mean that you will have some serious fun!
Driving full steam ahead into anywhere wet and wild that the jeep would go (which is pretty much anywhere) we were taken on a finger clenching, knuckle whitening ride of our lives, as our driver just cheered and shouted woo hoo!
The finale is where they take you to a flowing river bed and just let loose! Driving around in circles, making the biggest splashes they possibly can, all while trying to avoid getting bogged.
2. Visit Papermoon Puppet
Visiting the home of a puppet company was not something I expected to do be able to do in Yogyakarta, but this quirky little theatre is a must visit.
Blending together the ancient Indonesian art forms of Wayang kuilt (shadow puppetry) and Theater Boneka (children’s puppetry) Maria Tri and her husband Effendi created a new whimsical puppetry style with an important message. Originally the company was started to recreate personal accounts of the mass mailings and executions that took place in Indonesia in 1965, these days they still tell important historical stories but also focus on stories about values, moral choices and conflict and dealing with everyday life. The puppets bring to the world local inspired entertainment with a very strong social conscious.
The puppets are so beautifully made and full of expression that it doesn’t take long to be wrapped up in their world. Also if you have the opportunity to join in on a workshop and learn how to make a puppet of your very own, I highly recommend you sign up. Contact them in advance to see if you can learn to make a little puppet to take home as a souvenir.
3. Explore Kota Gede
Kota Gede is a historical and upmarket suburb of Yogyakarta known mostly for it’s silver industry. It is also a great area to walk around with a guide to discover the fascinating cultural aspects of this part of Jogja both historically and in modern times.
Explore the local markets with people selling everything you can possibly imagine. Fresh fish, herbs, fruits and vegetables, day to day household goods and more. The people were all lovely and if you ask nicely they are more than happy to let you take a photo or two.
Another interesting aspect of this tour is learning about the architecture of the area which shows the past settlers from days gone by, with remains from the 16th century original settlement, also the colonial era where you can still spot the Dutch architecture in may buildings, up to modern times with many islamic buildings now standing side by side with the colonial.
If you get a chance you MUST experience the “magic juice” – it might sound lame, but it will actually make you go “ohhhh”. And try some local herbal juices that can cure anything from back pain, to helping with memory, to keeping your ‘lady bits tight’. Yes that’s exactly how how it was described to me….I politely declined that one.
4. Borobudur Temple
If there is one thing you must do in Yogyakarta its visit the Borobudur Temple.
Borobudur is a Mahayana Buddhist temple that dates back to the 9th Century. This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the most important centres for Buddhism in Indonesia and is up there with Angkor Wat (Cambodia) and Bagan’s (Myanmar) temples in importance to Buddhism in the Sth East Asia region, and is the largest Buddhist monument in the world.
Sunrise and sunset is the best time to go to capture some truly spectacular shots. We personally had a bit of a rubbish morning weather wise but I still managed to get a nice pic or two of this stunning temple.