The life of a “celebrity” in Yogyakarta

Sampai nanti Indonesia! It is time for the real adventure to begin!

Tomorrow we set off for Cambodia, via Kuala Lumpur for a 2 night layover. So far it hasn’t seemed like we have been ‘backpacking through South East Asia’, and KL is definitely not your typical backpacker’s destination. However the consequence of using cheap airlines is that you often have long layovers – and AirAsia’s flight from KL to Siem Reap required a 6 hour layover at the budget terminal (from 1am till 7am, with uncomfortable seating), or an overnight layover, flying into KL earlier in the day for some sightseeing. So I turned the overnight trip to two nights, just to make it a bit more worth our time. Also because I have never been to KL (I have flown through KL, but the Malaysia Air Lounge doesn’t count!) it means that we have more time to explore the sprawling bustling city, and more time to indulge in Malaysian cuisine. I am not ready to say goodbye to tempeh just yet!

We surprisingly packed quite a lot into our two days of Yogyakarta. Our first day began early at 4am – to leave for the airport at 4:15 for our 6am Jakarta-Yogya flight. But upon arrival in Yogya, our hotel allowed us to check in at 8am. Fantastic! Even got to choose between two rooms – which was good because the second one had a bit of a weird smell. This place is probably the worst we have stayed at yet, but that is reflected in the price, and the fact that it is in the backpacker’s district of town. But hey it is a bed, and it has a huge pool. And free internet. So can’t complain. Except we are here for two days and neither of us have had a shower yet – we used the pool to clean/cool ourselves off. The shower and bathroom in general is just not very nice. So neither of us have braved the shower quite yet. The shower by the pool looks nicer than the one in our room – so maybe I will use that, in my bikini. Either way, I am looking forward to a hot shower in KL as soon as we can check in!

While being shown our rooms here, I arranged with one of the receptionists to take us to Prambanan that afternoon on the backs of motorbikes. So at 2pm, two motorbikes showed up ready to take us out! I had a bright pink helmet. It was pretty awesome. I have been on motorbikes before, but they never get old. They are just so much fun! Last time I was on one was in Bangkok, same set up as ojeks, where you hire a motorbike instead of a taxi. But on an ojek you either bring a helmet or you don’t wear one. Luckily these guys had brought helmets. It is about a 30 minute ride out to Prambanan, but we split it up with two other temples – Candi Sambisari and Candi Sari. The first was large but pretty boring – the second was a bit boring but it appears to act as a playground for all these local children. They were playing soccer, flying kites, and chasing each other around. They even posed for photos and wanted to talk to us – but the cute little girls were too shy and kept running away!!

We finally got to Prambanan – a Hindu temple built in the 9th century. It is the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia, originally consisting of 240 temples but now only 8 full large temples remain. The others were destroyed by earthquakes and by people stealing rocks to build homes, so the compound is filled with rocks or quarter tall temples. There are some that have been reconstructed, but there is still a lot of work to be done. However we barely got to even look at the temples because the minute we came into view of the temple, and the templegoers, we were accosted by Indonesian school kids (primary school, high school and maybe even college) wanting photos of us. I told El this would happen, and she dismissed the idea saying that it hadn’t happened yet in Yogya. Was she wrong.

It is really the oddest thing – asking a complete stranger to be in a photo with you purely because you have white skin. If you are blonde as well, you are even more of a celebrity. Blonde, white AND good-looking – jackpot. Some of the Indonesians spoke to us and asked us questions – so taking a photo kind of (but still not really) makes sense because you can show friends who you met and ‘became friends with’. But when you just pose with random people, or when people surreptitiously take photos of you on their cell phone while you walk past – I just don’t get it. However I am used to it now. I grew up with it, and when Amanda and I were younger it was much worse as we were two cute girls with white blonde hair. Nowadays I pose for a few, then tire of it, because we paid to see the temple, not to become the tourist attraction.

However they get so sad when you say no to them – they try to justify it by saying they are from Kalimantan (heard that one a few times) or “just one! Pleeeeease?”. So you just have to ignore them. I did this today when we visited Borobudur. I was taking photos and had people approaching me asking for photos. After already taking lots of photos, talking to students learning English, and climbing several levels higher just to escape school kids, I told them in Bahasa that I was taking photos and I came to Borobudur to see the temple. That didn’t stop their sneaky photos of me walking around or taking photos though…I know, 1st world problems, but really the people at the temples are not overly poor because the children are still at school – so they must have seen white foreigners before. Why is it such a big deal? We don’t take photos of Japanese or Italians in New Zealand. It would never even enter my mind to take a photo of an African-American, no matter how dark his or her skin color is.

Sadly, despite being in so many photos, I have no photos to add to this post. I no longer have my laptop with me and I am being careful of what computers I plug my SD card into. so as to avoid viruses. Today we woke even earlier than yesterday, at 3:45, and were picked up at 4am for a sunrise tour of Borobudur. Well, a 10 minute hike to a viewpoint on a mountain to see the sunrise, and then 2 hours at Borobudur. The hike I did not expect to be so steep or difficult, but I survived, I just took it very slowly. It is surprising how unfit you can become with 3 weeks of no exercise. And how much you rely on turning your knees when descending from a hill down steps – the most difficult bit was trying to walk down without twisting my knee! I did it though, and the view was worth it.

Although I have done Borobudur countless times, it was interesting to do with the sunrise tour, and to also go in the museums there. I would definitely recommend the sunrise tour to anyone going to Borobudur – it adds something extra to it, and you beat most of the crowds (except when there are school holidays, like today!). For 100,000 rupiah each we had a “VIP” tour, which included our ride there and back plus a bread snack and water for breakfast. We shared the car with 5 others but still cheaper than a 800,000 rupiah shared car (70,000 is equivalent to NZ$10). Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world, and is surprisingly mostly in tact (after rebuilding post earthquakes that is). There are multiple levels of carvings, then some domes and large Buddhas at the top. There also exists a level of carvings currently hidden underground – and before they reburied the carvings they took photos of them all. You can understand why they buried the carvings – they aren’t the holiest or purest of carvings. However unless you had the little piece of paper below each photo, you wouldn’t know what each one was!! The most extreme carving was of a woman giving an abortion (although you only knew this from reading the caption and really analyzing the photo), and others represented crimes (such as stealing fish), consequences of such crimes, and what heaven and hell both look like. They were very interesting, and you would have no clue they existed had they not documented them!

We then returned to town around 11am, where we have been since. Which is my cue to now log off and explore the city a bit more and have a very late 2pm lunch.Hopefully once I find a trustworthy computer, I will upload some photos and update this post with my pretty sunrise photos. Until then, Google will provide one:

5 thoughts on “The life of a “celebrity” in Yogyakarta

  1. Pingback: Photos of Yogyakarta, Borobudur and Prambanan | Where to next?

  2. jimmyrayreid

    I was in a series of photos too. It’s odd, being both really flattering and also massively annoying. With pictures and all the English lessons for teenagers hanging about it eats up hours

    1. Jen Post author

      I know, I have been subjected to it since I was 5 years old with white blonde hair in Jakarta. I still find it odd after all these years. But at least they get some enjoyment and satisfaction out of it. I met a Canadian couple who joked it is like pokemon cards – they trade them amongst friends, a photo of a blonde is worth 3 photos of a brunette, with red heads the most sought after and rare.

      1. jimmyrayreid

        lol. We were wondering what they did with them. We were wondering whether they show them to people and say “yeah, this is my English friend, aren’t I cosmopolitan?”

  3. Pingback: The art of travel in Vietnam – in and out of Hue in 30 hours | Where to next?

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