Yogyakarta and Borobudur isn't your classic getway with kids. It's all about the culture, art and...temples. But our 5 days were actualy filled with great little moments: sculpting a Borobudur 'stupa' out of clay on a turntable, playing xylophone with the villagers and watching puppet theatre in the Sultan's palace! So keep reading if you'd like Philip's best tips on what to do in Yogyakarta and Borobudur.
Content by Philip Juul Nyegaard - written by Mathilde Moyell Juul
When you get a taxi from the airport, straight to the Phoenix Hotel, you don't actually realise what type of city you are in. Yes, there are a lot of scooters, cars and noise, but as you drive up to the hotel and walk in, it feels like you're in one of these old movies. My mum calls it 'like in colonial times'.
There are two courtyards, flowers everywhere, and you can hear the birds from the little cages competing with the sounds from the fountains and the locals men playing the xylophone. And despite this, it's still so nice and quiet.
I spent our first afternoon and night playing the xylophone with the local men, swimming in the lovely pool and sleeping in the old school bed. And then, the next morning, we went outside, into yogyakarta.
Ok, so my mum didn't take any photos of this...probably because she was too busy looking out for us. Because. There was a LOT traffic, a lot of motorcycles, a lot of people and NO sidewalks. A little too much for us litle one's AND my grandmother who was with us, so running for our lives half the time, but then...we walked into this little oasis:
Sienna and I had begged to get on a horse carriage down this area where no cars were allowed, only us, the horses and a lot of people selling stuff. We were in the Sosrowijayan quarter, with batik clothes everywhere (yogyakarta is apparently very famous for this)
Even though Sienna and I weren't so interested in clothes, we liked the atmosphere and liked to watch the people. Like the guy who had a whole table on his bike, the man shooing his horse and an the rickshaw man who was taking a morning nap.
Like with the Phoenix hotel, we felt like we had gone back in time. I imagine this place looked almost exactly the same 20 years ago, and that was fun. Another thing, were the cool sculptures everywhere...
And then, the colours, not only the batik clothes, but even the rickshaws were painted in rainbow colours:
And it continued at the market Pasar Beringharjo, where I've never seen so many onions, lime, beans, tomatoes and cucumbers and bananas in one place!
Back to the noise and the traffic, but this time in a taxi to Krata, the palace of the sultans. Krata is over 300 years old and another little quiet oasis in the noisy city of Yogyakarta. A guy was repairing the gold paintwork in a corner and my sister was drawing circles in the sand, when we suddenly we heard this music.
About 15-20 people, dressed up and with swords on their backs, were drumming away and singing these songs, all while they were moving these leather puppets behind a big white screen. It's called Wayang kulit and when you watch the show from the front the puppets are like shadows that perform.
We felt like we'd seen enought already, we were tired, but our dad, who is very much into art, insisted that we'd go to these galleries at the end. The places were quite cool - Yogyakarta is very big on their art - but for Sienna and I, it was too much in one day, and we were happy to get back our litle oasis at the Phoenix hotel.
After 2 nights in Yogyakarta, we were ready to move on to the actual reason for coming to this part of Indonesia: Borobudur.
We stayed in a very cool hotel, called The Plantaran, where we could see the Borobudur temple from our room!
Can you see Borobudur in the distance? The hotel was in the middle of a jungle-like forest and we loved to hang out there in the pool and chill with our grandmother. We'd arrived early to Plantaran and mum and dad wanted to see the Borobudur at sunrise, so to get an impression of our surroundings, we went on a little trip to a nearby village.
There were a lot of little houses and animals that were walking around, a lot of BAAAH sounds and COOKOLIDOOO. And we also saw a lot of kids playing around in the village.
After walking around for a little bit, we got to this clay-place where they made all things out of clay, but from a turning table! The guy said that I'd be able to do Borobudur in clay! So I gave it a try:
It was actually really good fun, and not as hard as it looked! I made a couple of different one's, and Sienna made a penholder shaped like a rabbit too!
Tada!! And you should see it now, Sienna and I have painted them in gold, so they look like they would have done 1.000 years ago when Borobudur was built.
The people in the vlilage were very friendly, and whereas some had their own bike, some also had to share - we saw a family of 5 on one bike on the way back! Can you imagine if grandma, dad, mum, Sienna and I all had to fit one bike?? I guess we're quite lucky, we even have a car that fits us all.
We went back and had an early night, because we were getting up EARLY...
It was aaaall dark. Mum and dad woke us up and went in a small bus for a short time and then we started walking. Up a lot of stairs, and we couldn't see where we were walking and where we were walking to, but then, as we reached the top, all these "Stupa"s appeared, but we could only see a couple because it was still dark!
Here we are by one of them, and as you might be able to see, there is a Buddha inside, like there is in all of them.
As the sun rose, all 72 "stupas" became visible and there was a misty carpet over the trees in the back, which made it all very magical.
We had a guide who was talking a lot and Sienna and were not paying too much attention, but we did wonder how these cats had come up here!
We got up at 5am and we were probably finished by 8am, so unlike Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Borobudur is quite painless - 3 hours compared to the 4 half days we did there!
That said, we did actually carry on to some other temples afterwards, Sienna and I were tired, so we played with a sleepy cat and we thougth we'd decorate the Buddha with Frangipani flowers for fun! At least it turned out that we were semi-celebs, or hanging out with one. Our guide had shown our Queen of Denmark, Margrethe the 2nd around Borobudur the previous month - and also previous President of USA, Obama and Prime Minister in the UK, Tony Blair. Nothing but the best for us, haha.
We felt like that cat when we came home. We had breakfast when we got back and then..sleep.
The rest of the day we just chilled at the hotel, hung out in the pool and admired our achievement treck from that same morning.
The next morning it was time to fly back from Yogyakarta.
One last view - and one last play on the xylophones for me...
Ding ding ding - shame my mum didn't catch it on video - or perhaps it was more fun to play than to listen to, haha. I hope you enjoyed my guide, as you can hear Yogyakarta and Borobudur can be done with kids, but you just need to get out of the traffic and into the small loopholes of quietness...or xylophone tunes!
TRANSPORT: Flight return Singapore-Yogyakarta, 30 min. to and from airport - Borobudur is about 1 hours drive in a taxi or bus.
REASON: Mum and dad had heard that the art scene was great in Yogyakarta and that Borobudur was a must-see.
ITINEARY: November 2015: 2 nights Yogyakarta, 2 nights Bororbudur.
PRICERANGE: Phoenix is high end, but great when you are in a hustle and bustle city like Yogyakarta. Plantaran hotel was exclusive and very expensive, but a gift from my dad to my grandmother why we were there. Less would have been fine.
STRETCH: 4 nights and 5 days.
PHILIP: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐ MATHILDE: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Hotel Phoenix; www.sofitel.com/Yogyakarta/Phoenix (now Sofitel)
Hotel Plantaran: https://www.plataran.com/hotels-resorts/plataran-borobudur