Tuesday, November 24, 2015
photo diary: yogyakarta, indonesia


yogyakarta, java, indonesia
After our stay in Malang and our excursion to Mount Bromo, we made a long train journey to Yogyakarta. Being one of th biggest cities in Java, We were never really bored with Yogyakarta. Maybe because our homestay had a swimming pool for us to cool off, or because there were a lot of restaurants in the area of our homestay, but we always found something to do.


Taman Sari Water Place
On our first full day there, we took a long walk to Taman Sari, the Sultan’s Water Palace. Unfortunately we went when they were doing renovations so it wasn’t much of a water palace. We did a quick tour of it with a guide that we could barely understand but we could make out the gist of it. The palace architecturally draws influence from Eastern cultures, a mixture of Hindu and Islamic influences. The palace takes up a large I closed space and all the workers who work there also live on the property and are servants of the Sultan. We got to see some batik and Indonesian puppet making and finally figure out what Jak fruit was! It was very nice but I wish we could have seen it when it was full of water. It must look stunning.


Borobudur, java, indonesia
On our third full day in Yogyakarta, we decided to visit both Borobudur and Prambanan temples. We booked transportation and were up by 4am to leave at 5am just to have an early start.  After our driver picked up our fellow passengers, we made the 45 minute journey to Borobudur, where we were treated to tea and coffee before heading on our own to see the temple.

The temple was huge. We had to climb about ten stories up just to reach the top tier of Borobudur, where all of the bell shaped structures are. We decided to head straight up and work our way down. Borobudur is a Buddhist temple and on each tier is a different set of Buddha statues in different mudras or arm positions, all situated by direction, pointing North, South, East or West. Each tier represents human life at different levels until it reaches nirvana, the top tier.

We visited really early in the morning, so the whole temple was shrouded in fog. It was cool but really humid, so we worked up quite the sweat just walking around. At one point, my friend John and I got separated because a group of students kept stopping tourists in order to practice their English with. I was stopped by a group of three, two girls and one boy, Nevy, Ratih and Evan respectively. They asked me questions about my country and such, but I’m a horrible conversationalist, so I didn’t stay talking to them as long as John did. I wanted to see the rest of the temple before we had to be back at the bus.


Candi Mendut + Monastery, java, indonesia
We stopped at Candi Mendut on our way to Prambanan. Everyone one the bus was in consensus, so our driver gave us a few minutes to visit the temple. John and I opted out because we didn’t want to spend money on the entrance fee, and decided to explore the area around the temple. We found the best spot along the tall gate that encloses the temple and its grounds to take our photos, before wandering back to where the bus was parked in front of a Buddhist Monastery. Since we still had time, we decided to follow a few of the other people in our little bus group and explore the monastery.

Mendut Monastery was beautiful. The grounds were very quiet and absolutely lovely. There was no one in the monastery expect the few of us who were looking around and taking photos. Upon entering you pass through these lovely intricate gates that enclose the grounds, and around a small obelisk, you come upon a wide walkway lined with lotus ponds on both sides. The walkway leads to the main shrine of Buddha. There are a few temple-type shrines in the monastery, but I didn’t explore those because this was an active monastery and I wasn’t sure if I was dressed properly and there wasn’t really anyone around to ask. So I just walked around and marveled at the beauty of monastery and all of the different shrines and sculptures.


Prambanan, java, indonesia
When we made it to Prambanan, we were greeted in much the same way as we were in Borobudur, with tea and coffee. Since Prambanan is a Hindu temple, were required to wear a sarong to enter the temple. We headed off on our own once we were done and wearing our sarongs, and the first thing I noticed was that the main temple, Prambanan, was under construction. Apparently, all of the temples in the Prambanan complex were damaged from an earthquake that hit Indonesia sometime before we arrived. Prambanan wasn’t too bad, or at least they did a very good job fixing the majority of them up. But all of the other smaller temples in the complex were hit very badly and looked practically destroyed, which was very unfortunate. But we explored Prambanan for a bit until we decided to leave and go to the other temples on the complex.


Candi Sewu, java, indonesia
Since all of the other smaller temples were practically destroyed, we passed right by them on our way to Candi Sewu. We weren’t sure if the temple was even open, because no one was walking in that direction except us, but of course, curiosity got the best of and we continued on, even if it was just to take a photo from the outside. But alas, the temple was open and it too was under construction, appearing even more damaged than Prambanan, but not as badly as the smaller temples we passed along the way.

The temple grounds was completely empty. We had the whole entire place for us to explore and it was quite amazing. When you enter the complex, you first come upon two gigantic Buddhas on each side of the walkway that leads towards the entrance of the main temple. Candi Sewu was probably my favorite temple, and I’m not going to lie, it was mainly because we got the explore it without the distraction of other people. Tourists with selfie sticks are just awful and they all have selfie sticks. I’ve never seen Tomb Raider, but this temple was very Tomb Raider…or very Indy. We walked into all of the really dark temple passages, which were super creepy since it was so dark, but it was very cool and I really enjoyed that we got to wander about without any interruption from other people. It was very nice.


Saturday, November 14, 2015
photo diary: mount bromo, indonesia


mount bromo, java, indonesia

November 5, 2015 at 12:30am.

We get into a tiny teal green Toyota-branded jeep, driven by a very nice man named Hary, for what will be a 3 hours journey up the side of a mountain at night. Hary looks us over we settle ourselves in, glancing at my friend John’s pantless legs, telling us “Bromo is cold” so matter-of-factly we somehow don’t believe him. I wrap my jacket a bit tighter around myself and lean against the pillow in the back seat as Hary propels the vehicle forward and off we go.

We decided to stay in Malang and extra two nights and do Bromo from there. We would have stayed three extra nights hadn’t they been fully booked, because that’s what we alloted ourselves for Bromo. We were originally gonna do Bromo via Propolinggo then head up to Surabaya for a night or two before making our way to Yogyakarta. But things happened.

Okay, let’s be honest here. The reason we didn’t leave Malang for Surabaya or wherever we were thinking of heading after doing Bromo on our own was because of a horrible–quite comical in retrospect–Mafia bus ride from Bali to Java and the fact that I got sick like a dog. I don’t know and can’t figure out for the life of me what got me sick, but I got whatever it was out of my system and am completely fine and back to normal. But let me just say, even though I felt alright for Bromo, being even slightly ill and climbing that high up in altitude leads you to almost fainting on top of a summit in the midst of a crowd, anxiously waiting for the sun to rise over the horizon and illuminate the sky over one of the world’s most beautiful active volcanos. No climbing to the mouth for me. But it was okay. I’m okay. It was a life experience and one hell of a story to tell.

Anyway, our hotel in Malang was really nice and comfortable and even though their Mount Bromo tour was a bit overpriced, it was convenient and it eliminated a ton of hassle we just weren’t in the spirit of dealing with. So we stayed in Malang for an extra two nights and did Bromo with a really nice private driver as arranged by our hotel.

Mount Bromo though, it was magnificent. Really it should be illegal to allow people to walk around the base of an active volcano. Bromo was smoking the whole time we were in that crater and even though everyone who operates or organizes these Bromo excursions know when it’s safe and when it’s unsafe to traverse the crater, still the world is a very unpredictable place and something could happen at any time. But what a beautiful sight and experience it was! Nature is just so majestic, it’s a shame we all take it for granted.

After watching the sunrise from the viewing summit, we made our way down to the crater to be up close and personal with the volcanos. We walked about the ash filled crater, taking photos and videos and even posing with our jeep because our driver Hary encouraged it. We tried to climb up the side of Bromo to the smoking mouth of  the volcano, but I became really dizzy and a bit ill halfway up, so we went back to the jeep, took more photos and left Bromo a bit earlier than expected. It was fine though. I was a bit disappointed that I became so I’ll up there on the mountain range. Really, if there weren’t so many factors at play, especially if I hadn’t been sick to begin with, we could’ve probably made it through the entire morning just fine.

Either way, we had a great time and here are some photos of Bromo and Co. in all their marvelous glory.


Thursday, November 5, 2015
photo diary: ubud, indonesia


ubud, bali, indonesia
After Kuta and a day of temples, we finally made it to our next stay in Ubud. We stayed at Jangkrik Homestay run by a lovely family with two very adorable dogs. We stayed for about a week, which I think was just a bit too long in terms of finding new things to do in Ubud, but it was very relaxing.

On our first full day, we took a short walk to the Ubud Monkey Forest, which was just around the long block from where we were staying. We arrived there quite early in the morning, which is the best time to do the Monkey Forest as it’s not too hot and not crowded at all. The Forest is very small. You only need a few hours to walk it completely and see everything. We were able to do just that and by the time we left the Forest around 1pm, there was a line of people waiting to purchase their entrance tickets.

Walking the Monkey Forest was really cool. We were literally walking alongside the macaque monkeys because they roam free everywhere. Adult, children and baby monkeys, all of them walk free around the forest, eating bananas and yams and sometimes jumping on humans as they walk by. They are generally harmless monkeys unless they feel provoked. But if you followed the rules that were posted all over the forest, walking through should be fine.

We had a great walk through the forest. The monkeys didn’t really bother us much at all as we respected their space, seeing as the forest is their home. The whole place is sort of magical. Very relaxing and what a great way to start our first day in Ubud!


We visited Ubud Water Palace the following day along with various other spots on Jl. Raya Ubud, the main road.  What a gorgeous palace! The entrance to this lovely palace is neatled between The Lotus Cafe and a Starbucks, so from the main road you can’t even tell it exists until you walk through the inconspicuous archway and around an alter and see the temple at full view. You come upon a long walkway with two huge lotus flower ponds on either side. It’s just so stunning! The walkway leads right up to the entrance of the temple.

Ubud Water Palace is probably the most beautiful temple in Ubud. While we visited it during the day, I can just imagine how even more stunning it must look at night when all of the lights lining the walkway are light and a Bali dance performance is being held.

Also on the main road, we visited Ubud Palace and Ubud Market. Ubud Market reminded me a lot of The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Every little shop sold the same things, quite generic Bali souvenirs, nothing special.

Ubud Palace was okay. When we first tried to visit, they were setting up for some ceromony so we had to came back. When we were able to enter the temple courtyard, is was full of Asian tourists and not as nice as the Water Palace, which was completely empty when we visited because of its obscured location. But it was still nice to visit.


The last two places we visited were Tjampuhan Temple and “Signature Street” on Jalan Kajeng. Tjampuhan Temple was unfortunately closed when we went, but we were able to marvel at the small ravine nearby, which was quite lovely. “Signature Street” is by far one of my favorites. It’s sort of like a Hollywood Walk of Fame, with tons of plaques on the ground. Except it’s where travelers to Bali from all over the world can purchase a block of concrete and leave their mark–their signature–on Bali. It was really cool walking down this street and looking at all of the decorated blocks tiling the floor.


Ubud was very nice and lovely change from busy touristy Kuta. John and I bought really loved how laid back and chill the city is. Besides all of these places we visited, we also hit up Yoga Barn, which is this huge yoga studio complex on Jl. Hanoman, where I participated in my first ever yoga class. I wasn’t really interested in it, but they were giving a free class and John was really keen on taking it and with me. It was great, even if I didn’t know what I was doing. I learned that I have horrible flexibility and that the scoliosis affecting my legs really hinder me with certain poses. It was fun though!

Along with yoga, we hit up The Melting Pot, a bar pool lounge that had flags of every country covering its walls. If you by a drink and find your flag, you were able to sign it. John ended up signing the Dominican flag, which was so high up on the wall, he had to climb up a ladder to sign it. We ended up playing a game of pool before heading back to our homestay.