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Trip of a Lifetime

Author: Emma Temple
Date of Trip: April 2015

I went on this trip to visit my long-distance fiance who is having to currently live in Yogyakarta in Indonesia (Island of Java!), who I also hadn’t seen for nearly 8 months at that point.

Admittedly I was totally unprepared for this trip – all I had buzzing around my head was “Oh my god I get to see Jay…” typical sort of excitement I think (hope) you’ll agree. I got my plane ticket booked a couple of months before the flight, the next month I saved £450 to be converted into Rupiah and $50 to pay for the visa.

The trick is to convert once you’re out there as you do genuinely get more for your money, but don’t convert it all in one go as converting it back doesn’t often have the same effect. Find somewhere reputable, usually at the airports or at some of the hotels there are places to convert

Word of warning – don’t be suckered in by the too-good-to-be-true exchange rates as they usually end up charging commission on it. That’s where they get their money and how you end up losing it!

For the visa, depending on where you are from and which passport yours is issued from, usually you can buy on entry. At the time of travel, they were $35 and make sure that you have small notes on you – one man in front of me handed over a $50 note and didn’t receive any change, this is apparently quite common.

In Jakarta (much like other Asian countries I’ve visited), you’ll be surrounded by taxi drivers asking you if you’ve booked, where do you want to go etc. in the hopes you’ll go with them. Bluebird is one of the most reliable and highly vetted taxi companies there so keep an eye out… it’s easy to spot the bright blue taxis anywhere! The traffic can be pretty awful, even by a native Indonesian’s standards, but the taxi fare is rather reasonable for the duration and the distance you’ll cover.

Jakarta is, in a word, amazing. When I went, there was still the excitement in the air over having won the chance to host the Asian version of the Olympics. The shopping malls are like nothing I’ve ever seen in Britain, the food choices are sublime and the experience is just one to experience over and over again.

We next ventured onto Bali, for this we had hired a private villa and rented a car – this is so much better for exploring. Plus, if you get lost, the Balinese people are the friendliest and the most obliging people I have ever met – we didn’t meet one that refused to help. Quite often you’ll find that they know someone who ‘has a nice place to eat’ that they’ll recommend them just to bring in a bit of extra cash, but at the same time, it would be rude to refuse. Just as a reminder though, most private villas will come with hired help, usually a maid or two with possibly a gardener to keep the property in check. It’s usually best to clear this when in the process of booking the villa in case you desire complete privacy for your stay – could lead to an awkward skinny dip encounter otherwise!

We didn’t have a lot of time in Bali as we only were able to stay there for a coupe of nights, but I do highly recommend it and would urge all travelers to try to taste more of the local cuisine. Being a Brit, mostly we all get tarred with the same brush when it comes to expecting our bland British food over in a place like Indonesia, a place where food is highly revered and just astonishing. The more traditional Indonesian foods can be quite spicy, so if it’s not your thing, you can always ask to not have spices in it.

Most of the time, a bit of self-deprecating humor can work wonders when not able to speak the local lingo. If you’re like me, a white foreigner, you’ll probably hear ‘bule’ (boo-lay) quite a lot. Don’t be offended by it, if you go outside of the regular tourist haunts then you’re likely to be venturing into areas that a lot of foreigners go… naturally it would be a new experience.

In Kuta in Bali, it is quite popular with Australians and so the nightlife is something of an Asian take of Malia, but with escorts in plain view and plenty of police around, expecting some sorts of trouble. Play it safe, don’t do anything that could cause a bit of a scene and don’t do anything that could end up with you on the wrong side of the law. An important thing to know is that Indonesia do have the Death Penalty and a zero-tolerance for drug smuggling, regardless of whether you’re importing it or exporting it.

This is highly advertised and even mentioned in the pre-take off flight demonstrations.

Flying around Indonesia sounds scary, especially if, like me, you have a grandmother who watched a particular documentary on it being the world’s most deadliest place to fly. The reality is a little different.

Yes, Indonesia has some of the worst flight accident records around, but this is purely because of the terrain and the slightly unpredictable weather the entire country experiences. But at the same time, every flight I went on throughout the trip was perfectly pleasant, maybe one was a little late, but just as good as an easyJet flight! Some of the announcements can be a little hard to understand when listening out for Gate Info, but stick close to the boards and you should be fine! They have good duty free shops (even a WHSmith in Bali!) and the lounges are quite nice and easily accessible too.

Yogyakarta (Jogjakarta or Jogja to locals) is a wonderful place to visit and should be on everyone’s list. Close to the Borobudur Temple (a must-see) and other interesting museums like the museum of Javanese Royalty, it is a great place to visit in order to take in some of the traditional Javanese culture and history. The Sultan’s Palace was a particular highlight for me, however it is important to plan your outfit before you go… so this means no bare legs. Keep yourself covered in your dress – a little hard to do because of the heat – but shorts are not allowed.

Most of the places will have English speaking tour guides, even for the areas a little more obscure such as the Taman Sari Royal Bathing Pools – however it is a good idea to keep 50-100,000 Rupiahs to hand for tipping your guide. This is roughly £2.50-5.00 GBP.

From the most incredible lunch in the hills surrounding Jogja, to the treetop restaurant in the Royal Museum, the food is a delight and rather easy on your wallet too. You will never be short of ideas as to where to go, but if you fancy staying in, most of the large fast-food chains like McDonalds and KFC do deliveries.

As if that isn’t enough to persuade you to live there right?

The beach in Solo (about an hours drive from Jogja City) is one of the best beaches I’ve ever been too – even with topping Aussie beaches and Phuket. And the best part is that it is golden soft sand, not the typical black sand usually associated with a volcanic region. For barely 30p you can have a refreshing drink of coconut milk served in, you guessed it, a coconut and a spot under the shade but in front of the sea.

My area was a rather outrageously pink Hello Kitty awning, but it did the job and was overwhelmingly relaxing.

Quite frankly, this was one of the best trips I have ever been on, and I’ve been on many that at one point, totally eclipsed the other. However, this trip to Indonesia for a few weeks was just incredible and I cannot wait to get back.

Suppose I struck the jackpot by being engaged to someone from Indonesia then?!

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