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I Left a Piece of Myself in Yogyakarta

The majestic ruins of Borobudur

On this day, exactly a year ago, I was living one of the most magical days of my life. Wrapping up a short but thoroughly enjoyable and memorable trip to Bali, my friend Anju and I had decided to take a detour to Yogyakarta in Central Java.

Taking a morning flight to Yogyakarta, the first wonder that revealed itself to us was the sight of a massive volcanic crater that we could see from our plane window. Reaching Yogyakarta at about 9 in the morning, we hired a car at the airport to show us the sights and drop us back to the airport for our flight back home in less than 24 hours. With very little time on our hands and an intention to make the best use of it, we chalked out an itinerary with our chauffeur Nuryanto.

The first stop was the massive and majestic ruins of Borobudur, known to be the biggest Buddhist monument in the world. As it was the holy month of Ramzan, there were hardly any tourirsts and we had the good fortune of having the whole place almost to ourselves. As our guide explained the philosophy behind the construction, I was struck by the sheer beauty and serenity of the 1200 year old monument. Through almost a millenia, Borobudur remained hidden from the world among dense forests and lava from eruptions of the nearby Gunung Merapi. The monument has 504 statues of the Buddha in different mudras but the tragedy is that most of their heads are now missing and, perhaps, adorning the collections of collectors and museums around the world. I will never again be able to look at a Buddha head and not think sadly of the destruction at Borobudur.

After a leisurely lunch at a wayside place, we headed to another ancient monument, this time a Hindu one, Prembanan. This was another fascinating complex where there were once 200 temples. Now only a few stood among a pile of rubble. The government has, however, undertaken to rebuild one temple every year. Again, quite poignant, as Indonesia is an Islamic country. We lingered here among the ruins well after sunset and then drove into the city of Yogyakarta.

After checking into our hotel, we were out immediately to enjoy the vibrant street life. The pavements were lined with food stalls selling the most delectable food at surprisingly cheap prices. We had our fill of eating, shopping and then on an impulse took a ride on the becak, a kind of motorized cycle rickshaw which I had seen for the first time. The ride turned out to be one which will be imprinted in our memories of being a time of gay abandon, a thoroughly enjoyable time in an unknown city at night, not for a moment wondering or worrying about where we were headed!

Early next morning Nuryanto picked us up to take us to the airport but we had a very important mission on the way to the airport. My cousin Moon had shown us an episode on the Netflix series Street Food and there was this lady Ba Satinem, on the show, a street food vendor who had an early morning stall in Yogyakarta, and we had to find her. And find her we did! At least we found her street corner but she was not there as she didn’t sell food during Ramzan. But that still didn’t take away from the experience. We spoke to her neighbour and tasted his gudeg, a delicious jackfruit gravy with chicken, eggs and rice. This at six in the morning!!

We finally departed with our hearts full, leaving behind a bit of ourselves in Yogyakarta. A memory to be cherished forever and the simple and friendly people remaining forever in our hearts.

At Prembanan

4 thoughts on “I Left a Piece of Myself in Yogyakarta

    1. As I was writing the piece, the little details kept popping up from nowhere in my head, things I had otherwise forgotten. I can now so clearly recall the gracious Nuryanto, Ali the becak driver who kept us in splits, the guy in the Nasi goreng stall and the gudeg seller. Not to forget Grandma on the bicycle… So rich and vivid the memories are…


  1. Such a fascinating place it appears to be! These off beat destinations seem far more interesting. Indeed, it feeds the curious soul!


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