What to Eat in Japan – More Than Sushi

    What to Eat in Japan – More Than Sushi

    If you visit Japan and just stick to eating sushi or ramen, you are doing it wrong.

    Japan is a foodie’s delight, with a plethora of food options that will please all tastes. Fresh seafood, flavoursome soups and delicious street food are just a small selection of the food options for travellers to Japan. I was fortunate enough to spend a week exploring Osaka, Sakai and Kobe and found myself looking forward to each meal along the way. Here is a small selection of dishes you should try when visiting Japan:

    Okonomiyaki

    This might be my favourite dish when I visited Japan in 2016. To describe it best, it’s a mix between a pancake or fritter, with its main ingredient being cabbage. Okonomiyaki is a popular dish in Osaka, however other regions also have their own take on the simple-but-satisfying dish.

    Okonomiyaki - A favourite Japanese dish

    My first introduction to Okonomiyaki was during my first day in Japan. After a long 10 hour flight, and bus trip to the hotel, we were ushered straight to lunch at Fugetsu in Universal City. They prepare the Okonomiyaki in the Osaka style, however they top it with noodles (which is technically not the traditional way of doing it in Osaka, but nevertheless, I loved it!). What really makes this dish is the mix of the okonomiyaki sauce (similar to oyster sauce) and Japanese mayonnaise.

    Okonomiyaki with noodles

     

    Takoyaki

    I’m still on the fence with this one, as I’m not a fan of octopus, but am quite prone to gooey balls of batter and cheese. Takoyaki is a popular street food in Osaka, however Takomasa restaurant in Sakai have turned this common snack into a locally loved dish, served as a course with rice, salad and crumbed oysters. If you don’t mind the texture of octopus (rubbery, for the uninitiated), then takoyaki is a great on-the-go snack.

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    Takoyaki - Japanese street food
    What to eat in Japan

    Udonsuki

    Udon noodles are one of my favourite types of noodles. Who am I kidding, I love all noodles! But, udon noodles have got a unique texture and are delicious in Udonsuki – a soupy mix of broth, vegetables, meat, seafood and, of course, udon noodles. Japanese eating culture is quite sociable and the art of sharing a large, communal Udonsuki is a great example of that.

    Udonsuki - Udon soup and veges
    Japanese food

    If you want to read more from my visit to Japan, read my posts Highlights of Osaka & Day Trips from Osaka at Mapping Megan.

     

    Shabu Shabu

    Another hot pot dish, this is a fun, social way to eat. You essentially order the type of meat you want (in our case, we had delicately thin slices of beef, pork and chicken) and the type of ‘soup’ you want. There are choices from a soy-based soup (which tastes nicer than it sounds), or your standard clear soups. Then, you pretty much cook your own meal, adding whatever vegetables and noodles you want to the bubbling liquid. Condiments are also provided, so you can add extra spice and flavour to your own individual bowl.

    Shabu Shabu ingredients
    Popular food in Japan - Shabu Shabu

    Kobe Beef

    I am a carnivore, through and through and love my red meat. After spending a week politely avoiding fish (which is harder than you think in Japan!), I was so happy to find out we were going to Kobe Plaisir, a restaurant that specialises in Kobe Beef on our final night. Perfectly marbled and seasoned just right, Kobe Beef is cooked in front of us by an experienced chef. Served with salad and rice, the beef is definitely the highlight, which just melts in the mouth. For our carnivorous readers, this is a must!

    Kobe Beef is a Japanese delicacy

     

    Katsu Curry & Rice

    This is one of my favourite comfort foods. It turns out it’s also a favourite for the Japanese Navy where (I’m told) every Friday is ‘Curry and Rice’ day. Typically Katsu is a thin, crumbed, pork or chicken cutlet, but with the deliciously rich curry sauce and rice, it brings the flavour to a whole new level. Although curry isn’t technically a traditional dish of Japan, they have certainly made it their own (and, in my opinion, made it better!).

    Bento Boxes

    Bento Boxes are extremely popular in Japan, with an assortment of meat, rice and vegetables, all beautifully presented in cute individual dishes in a box. Kinda like a happy meal, but for grown ups (and a lot healthier!).

    Japanese Bento Boxes

     

    Chawan Mushi

    When you think of egg custard, you think of a sweet, creamy dessert, right? Think again. Chawan Mushi is an egg custard dish, but savoury. It has a similar consistency of custard, but mixed with soy sauce, dashi and mirin, it is served as a dish with mushrooms and a meat. We had it at Kani Douraku (see below) as one of the crab dishes, and whilst a bit strange at first (as you expect it to be sweet), it is really delicious and smooth.

    Chawan Mushi at Kani Douraku

     

    Amazake pudding

    Whilst ‘fermented’ isn’t a word that brings deliciousness to mind, Amazake Pudding really is that (delicious). It’s essentially a fermented rice pudding, where the carbohydrates in the rice turn to simple sugars. It’s actually similar to the first stages of making sake. The result is a sweet, smooth and creamy pudding, often served with sweetened beans and jelly. This was one of my favourite dishes during my tour of Japan.

    Japanese Desserts - Amazake Pudding
    What to eat in Japan

    Delicious Crab at Kani Douraku

    If you happen to be visiting Osaka and love crab, treat yourself to a 5-course meal at Kani Douraku, the most famous crab restaurant in Japan. Kani Douraku is a very popular restaurant chain (with multiple restaurants found around Japan, with Osaka being the original and their main one). You can order individual crab dishes, or set menus. We had a 5-course set menu, and, let me tell you, each course was delicious.

    Crab dishes at Kani Douraku
    Crab at Kani Douraku
    Crab Sushi at Kani Douraku
    Crab Gratin at Kani Douraku

    You can find store locations on their website. Reservations are recommended.

    And, of course, Sushi

    The sushi in Japan is fresh and delicious. If you are like me, and are a bit of a wuss when it comes to spice, they put wasabi INSIDE the sushi, so don’t overload on the sauce before you have a taste. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! If you are a fan of sushi, a sushi-making-course is a fun and delicious way to pass a couple of hours!

    Home-made Sushi tastes better
    Japanese food is Oishi!

    We can’t wait to return to Japan in June and continue our food journey.

    What Japanese dishes do you like and think we should try?

    Tell us below!

    Bali Without The Bogans

    Bali Without The Bogans

    “Ling, I’ve been told to call you a Bogan”, my friend Ara said to me at Denpasar airport, eagerly waiting for my reaction. “What!?” I yelled, as the others around us began to giggle. After the laughter passed, Ara turned back to me and sheepishly asked, “What’s a Bogan?”

    What is a ‘bogan’?

    For our international readers, a ‘bogan’ is used to describe someone considered loud, unsophisticated and of bad taste (similar to a hillbilly, redneck or a chav). They are typical to Australian culture, often depicted in white singlets, mullets and ‘pluggas’ (aka thongs or flip flops); southern cross tattoos are optional. They also happen to frequent Bali.

    Bingin Beach, Uluwatu - no bogans here

    To Australians, Bali is known as Bogan territory. If you’ve been to Bali, you would have seen them, Bingtang singlets, cornrow hairstyles, alcoholic beverages and boisterous voices in tow. This was one of the main reasons I had been hesitant to visit Bali. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing particularly wrong with bogans, but they are normally not my crowd. But I’m here to tell you that there is so much more to Bali than just the bogans. I’m talking about awesome beaches, historic temples, dreamy sunsets, friendly locals and cheap, tasty food.

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    Bali without the bogans
    Penglipuran Village, Bali

    My friends were surprised to hear how much I loved Bali. Especially since I was, to be frank, a travel snob and had previously voiced my disdain for Bali and all the bogans that would frequent there. But here I am, unequivocally apologetic and eating my words, as it turns out Bali is amazing and I love it there!

    The coasts of Bali are spectacular

     

    Where to go

    If you are like us, and want to avoid the ‘bogans’, our first general advice is to stay away from Kuta. Even Seminyak is looking more commercial and overrun with Bintang singlet, and Southern Cross tattoos these days. If that’s your crowd, by all means, enjoy! However, if you prefer the quieter, less touristy areas, then we say head north or south.

    Rainbow sunsets of Uluwatu, Bali

     

    For Breathtaking Beaches: Uluwatu

    Uluwatu is approximately 1 hour south of Seminyak. There is a very cool surfer-hippie vibe here and Bingin Beach is really laid back. It’s where the ‘beautiful people’ go. The beaches are pristine, offering a decent swell for the surfers and the warungs (small family-run cafés/restaurants) offer delicious food-with-views, including smoothie bowls and nasi gorengs, for reasonable prices.

    Bingin Beach, Uluwatu, Bali
    Smoothie Bowls in Bali
    Bingin Beach is a must visit in Bali

    Think Bali has the best beaches in Indonesia? Check out our post on Raja Ampat to see true paradise.

    For Temples & Tradition: Penglipuran Traditional Village

    Imagine paths lined with bamboo archways, Balinese temples and traditional houses, barely touched by time. Penglipuran village is a highland village, located approximately 2 hours north-east of Seminyak (although this time can vary substantially on traffic). The locals are friendly and will often invite you into their home to look around, but be warned that they will try to sell you souvenirs at the same time.

    Bamboo Archway of Penglipuran Village
    Penglipuran Village, Bali
    What to see in Bali
    Local's store in Penglipuran Village
    What to do in Bali, Indonesia

    If traipsing out to Penglipuran Village is a little far from where you are staying, worry not, as you will find opportunities to see Balinese culture and tradition all over the island. In fact, there are over 6,000 temples spread out all over Bali. The popular ones are Uluwatu Temple, Tanah Lot and Besakih Temple. The Kecak and Fire Dance can be seen at Uluwatu Temple most evenings. With hypnotic chanting, elaborate costumes, enchanting flames and a plot that rivals the Bold and the Beautiful, this ritual is interesting and unlike anything I had seen before.

    Kecak Fire Dance, Uluwatu Temple
    Balinese tradition and culture

    If you do go attend the performance though, please, please don’t be one of those people who leave while the performance is still going. We saw so many groups of people awkwardly try to manoeuvre their way through the crowds whilst the performance was underway, bringing more attention to themselves than the performers. If you are going to watch, stay until the end. It’s just rude (and dare I say, ‘bogan-like’?) to leave beforehand.

    Love sunsets in Bali

    Love destinations with a mix of culture, adventure and beauty? Check out our 25 Things to do in Yogyakarta post for inspiration!

     

    For Luscious Surroundings: Ubud

    Ubud is increasingly getting popular for tourists, thanks to Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love. Luscious rice field terraces, Hindu temples and craft stores are definitely part of its appeal. The air is also a lot cleaner and cooler up there, making it the perfect setting for yoga and a nature retreat.

    Ubud, Bali
    Bamboo in Penglipuran
    Bali without the bogans

    Where to stay

    A visit to Bali, no matter where you decide to visit, is incomplete without a stay in your very own private villa. You will truly feel like royalty when you have someone come and deliver your meals to you, away from the hustle and bustle outside the private villa walls. A villa with a pool is an absolute must (swimmers optional)!

    Private pool villas, Bali

    We stayed at the Kamaya Villas in Sanur and The G Villas in Uluwatu and loved both of them. There is no shortage of villa options throughout Bali, so pick one that suits your wants and budget.

    Kamaya Villas, Sanur, Bali
    The G Villas, Uluwatu, Bali

    If a villa stretches the budget, our tip is to stay somewhere within walking distances to where you want to visit, as traffic jams are all too common here and you will find yourself sitting in traffic for far longer than it may take to walk! During my Trip of Wonders with the Ministry of Tourism, I stayed in the Golden Tulip Devins Seminyak and could walk to the stores, clubs and restaurants nearby. If you do stay here, check out the rooms with Jacuzzis!

    Golden Tulip Devins Seminyak, Bali

    If your typical hotel isn’t your thing (us neither) and you do want to escape the crowds, you can’t go wrong with the bungalows lining Bingin Beach. We absolutely loved our stay at The Inn Possible. Located at the end of Bingin Beach, the bungalow has stunning views of the beach, where you can enjoy your breakfast from the balcony. Be warned! The only way to get to Bingin Beach and the bungalows is down a massive flight of uneven stairs, so be prepared to test your fitness and pack light!

    Smoothie bowls with a view at The Inn Possible
    Bingin Beach, Uluwatu, Bali

    What to do

    Island Mermaids

    For something a little different, you can live out your mermaid fantasies and do a half-day tour with Island Mermaids.

    Ever dreamed of being a mermaid? You can! Read about Island Mermaids mermaid school in Bali here!

     

    Go-Jek scooter to other beaches

    You can hire your own scooter quite cheaply in Bali for 80,000 rupiah (approximately $10), but if you aren’t confident in riding, I’d warn against it. So many tourists end up in accidents, and don’t get me started on the lack of concern for helmets! If, like me, you aren’t great at riding a scooter, you can always hire a GoJek. They are essentially like Uber (which is illegal in Bali), but on scooters. You can even order food, massages and other goodies by GoJek, and it’s a cheap and easy way to get around.

    TIP: Bali is not easy to get around! Between the lack of public transport and traffic jams, hiring a personal driver is one of the better options. If you decide to take a taxi, make sure you go for a Blue Bird taxi and make sure it’s metered or you agree to a price before setting off! Taxi drivers are renowned for ripping off tourists and saying, “the meter’s broken”, to then charge whatever they want.

    Cave beach near Suluban, Bali

     

    Day clubs

    If you want to really treat yourself, purchase a ticket to one of the many day clubs in Bali. The Karma Kandara Beach Club is our favourite, located on a spectacular private beach in the south of Uluwatu. For Rp500,000, you get entrance and use of the facilities and Rp300,000 food and drink credit (so it really only costs Rp200,000 = AU$20). They also offer beachfront massages, spa treatments and water activities, but the exclusive beach is the main attraction.

    Karma Kandara Beach Club, Bali
    What to do in Bali
    Private beach clubs, Bali

    If you have a late flight departing Bali, the VIP Boarding Lounge Experience from Sundara in Jimbaran Bay is an absolute must! Show your boarding pass/e-ticket to the concierge and purchase Rp750,000+ (AU$75) of Food and Beverage credit  and you will get full use of the pool, loungers and facilities for the day. For the coveted day beds, it’s first in, best dressed, so get in early to nab yourself the best seat in the house. The food is half decent too, and what better day to finish up a trip to Bali, than to relax by the pool, with a tropical cocktail. With the airport only 15 minutes away (subject to traffic), you can laze the day away, right through to the night.

    Relax at Sundara, Bali
    Where to drink in Bali
    Sundara Bali

     

    Night clubs

    Don’t say I didn’t warn you, but you are bound to find bogans here (like anywhere, really). But… the night clubs in Bali are pretty amazing. On our last night in Bali, we visited La Favela and I was blown away. The décor was unlike any club I had seen and it was a maze of mirrors, plants, ponds and vintage items. Drinks aren’t cheap, but the free entrance, music and atmosphere make up for it. The other club that looks amazing is Mirror. We only saw it by day, but it’s also popular with the techno crowd at night.

    La Favela, Seminyak, Bali
    Mirror, Seminyak, Bali
    Beaches in Bali

     

    Massages!

    You can’t come to Bali and not indulge in a massage! You can either take the cheap route and get one off the street (average prices between Rp6,000 to Rp120,000), or spend the extra and really get pampered. Having experienced both the cheap and more expensive (but still far cheaper than what we pay at home) massages, I would advise to cough up the extra as the saying is true: You get what you pay for. The upper end massages are normally in opulent settings, with tea and wet towels provided, and the lower end may end up leaving you with burn marks or in more pain than when you started (but what can you expect from a $6 massage?). The best massage I had in Bali was at Prana Spa in Seminyak. With exotic trimmings, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in an Arabic palace when you are there, and the treatments are heavenly.

    Prana Spa Seminyak, Bali
    Photo spots in Bali

    Having had such wonderful times in Bali on both occasions I visited and posting the ‘Insta-worthy’ photos from my trips, my friends (who also had avoided Bali up until now) have since decided they need to give Bali a go as well…

    Insta-worthy Bali

     

    If you want to avoid the ‘bogan crowd’ and see the absolutely beautiful surroundings Bali has to offer, basically avoid Kuta and the more touristy areas of Seminyak. Having stayed in Seminyak, Sanur and Uluwatu, our pick is definitely Uluwatu. It’s a bit further away from the hustle and bustle, but if you are seeking a relaxing and tropical getaway, this is the place to be.

    Sunsets in Bali

    What do you think? Have you been to Bali before? We’d love to know what you thought of your time there! Comment below.

    A huge thanks to the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism for inviting me on their #TripofWonders and showing me some of Bali’s beautiful features.

    This post contains some affiliate links. Booking via these links won’t cost you any extra, but will help me get closer to my dream career, so thank you in advance!

    Raja Ampat – True Paradise

    Raja Ampat – True Paradise

    Imagine a place where sunsets are so vibrant and perfect, they look like they’ve come out of Salvador Dalí’s dreams.

    A place where time is not counted by minutes or hours, but by the caress of each wave against the shore.

    Where luscious, green forests are broken up by fine grains of sand and clear, aqua water. Paradise.

    Well, my friends, you don’t have to imagine it, for this paradise exists. The place is called Raja Ampat in Indonesia.

    Magical sunsets Raja Ampat

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    Paradise in Raja Ampat
    Arborek Village, Raja Ampat

    Raja Ampat isn’t a single island, but a group of approximately 1,500 small islands, located in West Papua. Known amongst divers for its excellent diving opportunities, Raja Ampat has spectacular beaches, friendly locals and views that will take your breath away (literally, as you have to climb a number of stairs to get to the best ones).

    Getting the perfect photo in Raja Ampat

    I’m a huge fan of Lost, and in some ways, Raja Ampat reminded me of the island in the tv series. It seems like it’s in the middle of nowhere, isolated from the busy world outside and once you’ve been there, you can never quite get over it. In fact, since leaving Raja Ampat, I have moments where I feel like the main character, Jack, with an ingrained need to go back. With every deep breath I take, I can feel the islands calling me and drawing me back into their enchanting existence.

    Mesmerising sunsets of Raja Ampat

    Like the island of Lost, Raja Ampat has an almost mystical-like power to heal and restore one’s soul. I, for one, left Raja Ampat somewhat changed. I don’t know if it was the time spent bathing in the milky blue waters surrounding the islands, the late nights laughing with newly-made friends, or seeing the locals live a richer life than all of us, but it sparked a fresh vivacity in me that I’ve since held desperately onto.

    Gazing at the stars from the pier, with only the sounds of gentle waves lapping into the wooden poles and a distant chatter from the beach was therapeutic. For the short time I was there, I felt so removed from the pressures and stresses everyday life places on us and completely at peace. I felt weightless. The fast-paced world of technology, bills and deadlines were meaningless here. When I asked one of the locals what stresses they faced, they responded with, “During the storm season, we don’t know when our food deliveries will arrive. They could be delayed by days or weeks.”

    Raja Ampat sunsets

    His response struck a chord with me and made me realise how much we take for granted. It also helped me realise that true paradise isn’t just an idyllic beach or place, but an attitude and positive frame of mind. That to find true paradise, you have to let go of the unnecessary stress and hold onto whatever it is that makes you happy – a Raja Ampat state of mind.

    I choose happiness

    How to get to Raja Ampat

    So how does one get to this paradise? Well, it’s not cheap or easy, but I can assure you, it is worth it. In general, the best things in life don’t come easy, and Raja Ampat is no exception. But if it were easy for everyone to get to, it wouldn’t be the perfect untouched paradise that it currently is.

    Air

    The closest airport to Raja Ampat is Sorong. You can fly there from many Indonesian cities, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, via Makassar or Manado.

    Getting to Raja Ampat

    Land

    From Sorong Airport, you need to make your way to Sorong Pelabuhan Rakyat harbour, about 20 minutes away (approximate taxi cost: $12).

    Sea

    Depending on where you stay, you can arrange a boat transfer from the hotel to pick you up from Sorong harbour, or you can take a 2-hour ferry ride to Waisai and then a separate boat ride to your accommodation.

    Pianemo, Raja Ampat

    The ferry costs approximately $17 and operates daily (times seem to vary, so it’s best to contact the Sorong Tourism Office to confirm trip times when you plan to travel). It’s better to aim to depart Sorong during the week, as the ferries often don’t run on weekends and religious holidays. Be sure to check all travel times, as depending on flights and ferries, you may be required to overnight in Makassar or Sorong. The best advice is to contact your accommodation or the Tourism Office for advice. As it can take up to a day or so to get here, I suggest making the most of your time here and stay for at least a week (or however long your money or ability to go without social media can last).

    How to get to Raja Ampat

    Entrance Fees

    It’s also important to note that there is an Entrance Fee, introduced as a way of supporting the conservation and community projects of Raja Ampat. The entrance fee is IDR 1,000,000 (approximately $100) per person and you can pay for the fee at the Tourism Office in Sorong or Waisai (or check if your accommodation or dive operator can organise it for you).

    Raja Ampat paradise

    If you want to check out more of Indonesia, read our posts on Yogyakarta and Island Mermaids.

    Where to stay in Raja Ampat

    There are a few different options in terms of accommodation at Raja Ampat, from ‘budget’ to luxury. We were fortunate to stay somewhere towards the upper end of the spectrum, at Raja Ampat Dive Lodge. Think of air-conditioned bungalows facing the beach, luscious tropical gardens and water activities right at your doorstep. There are diving, snorkelling, kayaking and boat tours on offer, and they even have limited wi-fi, but really, who needs it when you are busy sunbaking and snorkelling, right?

    Where to stay in Raja Ampat
    Raja Ampat Dive Lodge

    For the budget conscious, there are ‘homestay’ options in various villages such as Arborek Village and Sawinggrai Village, and if you really want to treat yourself and splurge, there’s even overwater bungalows on offer in Raja Ampat! You can find a great range of accommodation choices here. For more in-depth information on accommodation, entry fees and getting to Raja Ampat, check out Stay Raja Ampat.

    Accommodation in Raja Ampat
    Arborek Village, Raja Ampat
    Homestay in Raja Ampat
    Raja Ampat accommodation

    What to do in Raja Ampat

    If you do start to feel a little stir-crazy from sun baking and swimming at pristine beaches all day (is that even possible?), I suggest the following:

    • Kayaking – The waters are relatively calm for some lovely kayaking around the islands. Going at sunrise or sunset are my picks.
    What to do in Raja Ampat
    • Snorkelling – sadly, a lot of the coral close to the shore was bleached, but the further out you go, the more vibrant the coral and fish got.
    • Diving – This will allow you to see more colour and marine life. You can also get your diving certificate here.
    Snorkelling in Raja Ampat
    What to do in Raja Ampat
    • Climb the stairs of Pianemo for the ‘money shot’ of the islands. The stairs are a little steep, but the view is worth it.
    Amazing views in Raja Ampat
    • Take a trip to the most stunning sandbank you will ever see – Pasir Timbul. At the right time of day, when the tide is low, you can walk along a picture-perfect sand bank. It’s hard to believe just how perfect it is, but once you are there, you will understand. It seriously looked like it was straight out of a movie scene.
    Paradise at Pasir Timbul, Raja Ampat
    • Meet the locals – The locals are very warm and friendly and always happy for a photo op.
    Friendly locals in Raja Ampat
    • Bird-watching – The rare Bird of Paradise resides here, and if you are lucky (and an early riser), you might get a glimpse of its beautiful auburn feathers and unique tail.
    Bird of Paradise by Zeebachi
    • Explore the marine life – The walking shark also exclusively lives here, and we were lucky to get a glimpse of it one night, during feeding time. If you are a fan of marine wildlife, Raja Ampat is a great place to see it.
    • Yoga – What better setting for some positive mantras than the backdrop of a pastel sunrise or sunset and soft rolling waves.
    Yoga in Raja Ampat

    What do you think? Does this sound like paradise to you? How long could you leave social media and technological baggage behind? Do you think the destination is worth the effort? Give us your feedback below!

    A huge thanks to the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism for inviting me on their #TripofWonders. 

    Special thanks to ZeebachiR_Djangkaru and Holding Wind Photography for capturing me in some of my favourite photos. 

    This post contains some affiliate links. Booking via these links won’t cost you any extra, but will help me get closer to my dream career, so thank you in advance!

    25 Things to do in Yogyakarta

    25 Things to do in Yogyakarta

    I have a confession to make.

    I had never heard of, let alone considered visiting, Yogyakarta prior to being invited there by the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism. However, from the moment I arrived and realised all of the many things to do in Yogyakarta, there was something that drew me to the place and I was surprised that it hadn’t been on my radar until that point. 

    Yogyakarta (pronounced ‘Jogjakarta’, and affectionately known as Jogja) is a city located on the Indonesian island of Java. While it’s not as famous as its other Indonesian counterparts such as Bali, it is a place that deserves to be explored. Culture, heritage and art run prevalent here, with a funky vibe flowing through its core. I must warn you though, once you’ve been drawn in, you’ll never be able to forget it. In fact, there’s so many unforgettable things to do in Yogyakarta, you will find it hard to walk away without having done them all!

    Here’s 25 things you must do in Yogyakarta (in no particular order):

    1. Get your adrenaline rush with a Jeep tour

    Merapi Lava Tour by Pratik from Sadak_Chap

    If you are somewhat of an adrenaline junkie, like myself, then you will love the thrill of speeding through rivers and the mountainside. Make sure you have waterproof gear though, as the jeeps were known to leak! You also visit both Merapi Volcano and Sisa Hartaku (see below) on the Lava Tour, so you can cross a few things off the list in one hit!

    25 Things to do in Yogyakarta - Jeep tour

    Badass Jeep by Bressiona

    25 Things to do in Yogyakarta Indonesia

    The adrenaline junkies post-joyride

    2. Visit Borobudur temple

    Borobudur, Indonesia

    Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world. Built in the 9th century, it is nine levels high and covers 2,500m2. There are three zones, each covered with stone carvings depicting different teachings of Buddha.

    The carvings of Borobudur, Yogyakarta

    The 72 bell-shaped stupas are the most eye-catching, with each one containing a statue of the Buddah, and representing eternity. If you are into the details, it’s easy to pass the time studying the many carvings, searching for each of the 504 Buddha statues or simply enjoying the majestic views of the green valley below. It’s quite spectacular, and if you are lucky enough to capture it at sunrise, you may leave a better person than when you entered.

    The entrance to Borobodur, Yogyakarta
    Borobudur things to do in Yogyakarta

    Want to see what to do in Yogyakarta condensed down to 4 minutes? Check out our video and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel!

     

    3. Strip back to nature – rice paddy processing

    Rice Paddy processing in Pentingsari, Yogyakarta

    Pentingsari Village is a remote village, surrounded by luscious tropical forest and rice paddies. Here, you can have a go at cultivating the ground on the back of a buffalo and even have a go at planting the rice. It was actually harder than I thought! If you love the feeling of mud between your toes, you are in for a treat. If mud isn’t your thing, you can wander between the buildings and trees, and forget about the world you left behind.

    Connect to nature at Pentingsari Village, Yogyakarta
    Planting rice in Pentingsari, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

    Feeling Pinspired? Hover and click on any of the images to save them to your Pinterest gallery!

    25 things to do in Yogyakarta
    Exploring Borobudur, Indonesia

    4. Visit the House of Memory in Sisa Hartaku

    The House of Memory in Sisa Hartaku, Yogyakarta

    It may have been due to the storm that hit when we were there, but this place is an eerie reminder that nature can sometimes be a force to be reckoned with. An open-aired museum, the House of Memory has a collection of items destroyed by the 2010 volcanic eruption of Merapi Volcano. Sadly, 353 people lost their lives in that event as they had stayed in their homes instead of evacuating. Melted glass, twisted metal bikes and even a clock that stopped at the time of the eruption sit silently in mourning for the lives lost in the devastating event. 

    The devastating remains of the 2010 Mt Merapi eruption
    The eruption frozen in time
    Mt Merapi volcano melted glass and twisted metal
    House of Memory Yogyakarta Indonesia

    5. See a volcano

    Mount Merapi is the most active volcano in Indonesia, with its last eruption occurring in 2014. It is also quite the tourist attraction, offering sweeping views of the landscape. Visiting Mt Merapi is easy enough with a Lava Tour from Yoes Adventure Kaliurang or by hiring a driver. Unfortunately for us, it was storming when we went there, however if you are blessed by the weather gods, you may get a shot like this.

    Volcano at sunrise by Larissa Dening

    6. Wander through Kotagede

    Kotagede is the cultural epicentre of Yogyakarta

    Kotagede is a maze of traditional Indonesian houses, painted in eye-catching colours such as green, pink and aqua (my favourite was the aqua!). Wandering through the narrow streets, you will come across friendly neighbours, happy to stop you for a chat and a photo and fall in love with the fine details of the doors, local art, windows and alleys. Oh, and it’s the perfect place for a spontaneous photo opp.

    Kotagede and its pretty facades Yogyakarta

    Kotagede and its pretty facades – and a couple of travel bloggers!

    Colourful doors in Kotagede Yogyakarta

    Ling in Kotagede by Trishita from Overrated_Outcast

    Colourful doors in Kotagede Yogyakarta

    7. Visit Legi Market

    Things to do in Yogyakarta - visit Legi Market

    Legi Market, hands down, would have to be the best local market I’ve visited. There was a really cool atmosphere here, and better yet, stunning light for any budding photographers. The aisles are closely packed and filled with a range of items, including Batik fabric, cooking utensils, local produce and the largest variety of prawn crackers I’ve ever come across. I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a ‘grazer’ when it comes to markets, so sampling the food here was a tasty experience.

    Legi Market in Yogyakarta
    Legi Market in Yogyakarta

    8. Learn Bahasa

    Bahasa is an interesting, melodic language and doing a class at Desa Bahasa is a fun way to get down the basics. Not only will you be entertained by the zestful enthusiasm of your teacher (I want whatever he’s on…), but if you can master a few phrases the locals will love you. They also offer homestays here, for a truly authentic local experience.

    9. Make your own pottery

    Pottery in Klipoh Village Indonesia

    Whilst Patrick Swayze’s character was not around to help my fingers glide through the soft, wet clay, making my own bowl on a turner was a lot of fun and very therapeutic. You can have a go at making a clay keepsake at Klipoh Village. If getting your hands dirty isn’t your thing, you can admire the local pottery and watch how they make them from start to finish.

    Clay pottery in Yogyakarta Indonesia
    Klipoh village pottery making in Yogyakarta Indonesia

    10. Check out waterfalls

    Yogyakarta boasts some stunning waterfalls worthy of an Instagram snap. The best way to visit them is to hire a driver to take you, and you should consider visiting Air Terjun Perawan (also known as the Virgin Falls), Sidoharjo and Sri Gethuk. Be prepared for an easy, picturesque trek through a little nature along the way.

    Air Terjun Perawan by Larissa Dening

    11. Eat!

    Eating the local food at Legi Market in Yogyakarta

    Our introduction to Yogyakarta started with a whole heap of food, and it never ended! The art of cooking and eating is taken seriously here, with an array of different exotic flavours in the mix. Sadly, for me, I’m not a huge fan of spicy food or seafood, so I often had to settle for rice and crackers. Thankfully, prawn crackers seem to be in their own food category, and are served in an abundance of amounts and flavours at each meal. 

    Delicious food in Yogyakarta Indonesia
    Food in Yogyakarta Indonesia

    They also like sweet food here, which is something I can relate to. In saying that, some dishes just DID NOT work, including a dessert dish called Es Teler that could only be described as a nasty combination of random textures such as avocado, coconut and jackfruit, and tasting like the fermented juice you find at the bottom of a food scrap pile (check out my reaction in the video!). However, if that’s your kind of thing, enjoy! 

    12. Try jamu

    Local lady making jamu in Yogyakarta

    Jamu is a traditional herbal medicine, often with turmeric as its base ingredient. There’s different types of jamu each with its own medicinal properties. Made from a mixture of herbs, spices, honey and even eggs, these drinks offer different benefits such as curing a cold, assisting fertility, enhancing libido and even tightening your ‘lady parts’ (just in case they were feeling a little loose). Spoiler alert: it was not delicious!

    My reaction to beras kencur jamu

    13. Make and admire Batik

    Freshly-printed Batik by Michael from Time Travel Turtle

    Yogyakarta is famous for its Batik. Batik is fabric with intricate designs made from wax drawings on a cloth prior to dying it. When the cloth is dyed and the wax is removed, the dyed fabric is left with the complex designs drawn in the wax. Wander through the streets of Kota Gede and you’ll see locals wearing the printed fabric with a casual sense of style. You can even have a go at making batik yourself, however it looks easier than it actually is!

    Locals in batik by Jonathon from Easternsuns

    14. Check out the street art

    Street art in Yogyakarta Indonesia

    I was pleasantly surprised at the random street art I stumbled upon in Yogyakarta. If you are a fan, keep your eyes peeled for colourful works, often depicting historical or social messages.

    Things to do in Yogyakarta - Street art
    Things to do in Yogyakarta - Street art
    Things to do in Yogyakarta - Street art
    Things to do in Yogyakarta - Vibrant murals

    15. Visit a royal cemetery

    As macabre as sounds, the royal cemetery of the Mataram Kingdom is worth a visit. Within the bowels of Kota Gede is a beautiful stone wall, which encloses the graveyard of important historical figures, such as Sultan Hadiwijaya and Panembahan Senopati. Unfortunately for us, the graveyard was closed (public opening hours are: Monday 10:00am – 12:00pm & Friday 1:30pm – 4:00pm), but you can still wander through the grounds and admire the Hindu architecture and ruins. You might be lucky and spot kingdom guards guarding the graveyard, wearing the traditional Javanese dress. Yogyakarta’s oldest mosque, the Kotagede Mosque, is also found here.

    The traditional entrance to the royal graveyard complex in Yogyakarta Indonesia

    16. Take a becak ride through the streets

    A becak (also known as a bike taxi or trishaw) is a popular form of transport for tourists, a fun way to explore Yogya and the one of the many interesting things to do in Yogyakarta. Sit back and enjoy coasting through the narrow streets while someone else does the hard work. You will either feel like royalty, or incredibly fat and lazy (especially when the driver has to push the becak up a hill).

    Ride a becak through the streets of Jogja

    17. Ride a neon flashing beetle

    If you are a ‘Belieber’ or a Hello Kitty fanatic, then you may just go giddy over the neon beetles in Southern City Square. Imagine a street lined with beetles adorned with bright, flashing neon lights, often in the shape of the aforementioned Biebs and Hello Kitty, blasting music and carnival sounds. I’m not sure I’d call it a ‘tough lap’, but you can take a ride in one of these crazy jukeboxes on wheels. If only I had my light-up sneakers on me!

    The neon beetles in Yogyakarta are hard to miss

    18. Take an Andong ride

    Forget the horse & carriage ride in Central Park, ride an Andong through the picturesque green villages whilst waving to the locals and you will be left speechless.

    Things to do in Yogyakarta - Take a leisurely andong ride through the villages

    19. Connect with the locals

    Things to do in Yogyakarta - Locals
    Things to do in Yogyakarta - Meeting the locals

    The locals of Jogja are incredibly warm and friendly, and are more than happy to chat and have their photo taken. In fact, at times I felt they were just waiting for a tourist with a camera to walk past and to have their moment in the spotlight (not unlike myself!). You’d be surprised what you can learn from talking to the locals, like when we learnt that bone marrow was the perfect aphrodisiac for making babies!

    Things to do in Yogyakarta - Meeting with the locals
    Things to do in Yogyakarta - Meeting with the locals

    20. Visit a Hindu temple at Prambanan

    UNESCO World Heritage Site, Prambanan, is Indonesia’s largest Hindu temple, also dating back to the 9th century. With the central temple rising 47 metres to the sky and surrounded by other smaller temples, intricate stone reliefs and luscious gardens, the whole complex is a stunning site that will please a history buff and temple addict.

    Prambanan by Michael from Time Travel Turtle

    21. Learn history through puppets

    Paper Moon Puppet Theatre originally began as a fine art studio and presented entertaining puppet performances for children. It has since evolved, and now uses puppetry to often teach about the dark history of Indonesia. The performances have proven to be a great success, and the company have since been featured in festivals and even toured America. The puppets themselves are intriguingly adorable and it’s often easy to forget that they aren’t real people. You can even participate in workshops and make (or at least attempt to make) your very own puppet to take home.

    The adorable puppets from Paper Moon Puppet theatre

    The adorable puppets from Paper Moon Puppet theatre

    Making puppets at Paper Moon Puppet theatre

    Making my puppet by Noah from Zeebachi

    22. Get a massage

    It would be a tragedy to visit Indonesia and not indulge in a massage treatment. For a portion of the price we pay back home, you can have your stresses and tensions kneaded away from $5-$40 (dirt cheap). The massages are so relaxing and you will feel like a new person when you finish.

    23. Stay somewhere ‘green’

    Stay at Green Host Hotel, Yogyakarta

    The eco movement is becoming more and more popular in tourism and the Green Host boutique hotel is at the forefront representing eco-friendly accommodation in Yogyakarta. Not only that, but it has a very funky design and ambience about it. There’s a few boutique eco-friendly hotels in Yogyakarta, so there’s some nice choices for the greenie.

    Where to stay in Yogyakarta
    Green Host Hotel, Yogyakarta
    Arty interiors at Green Host Hotel

    24. Order a Go-Jek

    Love Uber? You might just go crazy over Go-Jek. Go-Jek is an Indonesian start-up where you can order a ride via a scooter (don’t worry, all the drivers are registered and provide helmets!). Not only that, but since starting in 2010, they’ve expanded their services to provide food delivery, ticket purchasing, on-call massages and beauty treatments and more! Indonesians love it, and if you try it, you will too!

    25. Explore Jomblang Cave

    Ok, so technically we haven’t made it to this amazing natural wonder yet, because they only release something like 25 tickets per day to visit it. But, it is something I would be SO keen to get back to Jogja to do next time! Formed by a sinkhole thousands of years ago, the cave houses some incredible vegetation, some 50+ metres below the earth. If you happen to be lucky enough to visit when the sun is overhead (between 10am – 2pm) the sunrays create a heavenly stream of light into the cavern below. If you want to get that awe-inspiring Insta shot, make sure you book a driver and a ticket well in advance.

    Jomblang Cave, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

    Jomblang Cave by César González Palomo via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

    If you manage to get through all of these and still have time and energy (well first, let me applaud you!), you can get more ideas here. In fact, this list has a whole bunch of adventurous stuff I would be keen to go back and do!

    Getting to Yogyakarta

    Getting to Yogyakarta is easy with domestic flights from Indonesia’s main airports such as Jakarta and Bali. AirAsia also fly there from Sydney via Kuala Lumpur. If you want to take the ‘scenic route’ you can take a train from Jakarta, with 11 trains running each day (it’s an 8 hour ride though!).

    25 things to do in Yogyakarta Indonesia
    25 things to do in Yogyakarta

    Have you been to Yogyakarta? Can you think of other must-do activities? Share them all below!

    This trip was part of the #TripofWonders by the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism. I’m super flattered to have been part of this trip, but all opinions are still my own.

    This post contains some affiliate links. Booking via these links won’t cost you any extra, but will help me get closer to my dream career, so thank you in advance!

    Unique Australian Romantic Getaways – Part 1

    Unique Australian Romantic Getaways – Part 1

    We might be biased, but Australia is the land of plenty. There are a variety of gorgeous landscapes from red deserts, pristine beaches, luscious rainforests and bustling urban centres. So we thought we would put together our romantic getaway wishlist of the most unique and exciting accommodation around Australia.

    We feel very spoilt to live here and try to take mini romantic getaways when we can, particularly looking for something unique and a little different. If there’s a quirky room, an option for glamping or a unique experience to have, we are there!

    I’m always trawling the internet to find something a little special and different for our romantic escapes, so we thought, why not share some of our picks with you! To kick the series off, we’ve picked one from each state! Some of these places we’ve had the pleasure of staying in and the others are on our wish list!

    Photo courtesy of Thorngrove Manor

    Photo courtesy of Jamala Wildlife Lodge

    Nestled in luxurious rainforest in northern New South Wales, Mt Warning Rainforest Retreat offer three types of accommodation; each one individually unique. The ‘Air’ option is a handbuilt yurt nestled in the side of a secluded hill, the ‘Water’ cabin is Asian/Balinese themed and overlooks a serene pond with numerous wildlife, and the ‘Earth’ cabin is a secluded cave built into the side of a hill.  

    We opted for the Air cabin and absolutely loved it. In fact, Guy went away convinced that we need to move to the rainforest and build our very own yurt. Fully self-contained, with the wonderful aromas of polished timber and slow-burning logs on the fire, fused with the fresh crisp air of the surrounding rainforest, this cabin was the perfect haven to unwind and relax. The outdoor spa bath and hammock on the deck were also a nice touch, and if you are a little adventurous, you can even take an outdoor shower amongst nature.

    Rating: Highly recommended. $$$

     Imagine glamping in trendy Melbourne with a view like this!

    Like the idea of a glamorous safari tent, but can’t quite get over the fear of creepy crawlies in the night? Then, St Jeromes is the answer. Set in the heart of Melbourne, St Jeromes have rooftop glamping, complete with a breakfast hamper and freshly brewed coffee from an onsite barista. Inside your safari tent, you can feel a world away from everything, but if you still want the connection to wi-fi and a bustling city, then all you need to do is step outside. This is glamping for the millennial digital nomad.

    Rating: This is still on our wish list

    Longitude 131 by Roderick Eime via Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Uluru is one of Australia’s greatest icons. So it should come as no surprise that we had to include Longitude 131, set right at its base, as a must-stay for a romantic escape. You can’t go wrong between the Dune Pavillion (think upmarket desert glamping) or the Luxury Tent (which is more of a cabin) and the location is superb. If you can drag yourself away from the room, there are plenty of activities such as camel riding, tours of local cultural sites and visits to the nearby gorges.

    Rating: This is still on our wish list

    Photo courtesy of Sal Salis

    If Australia is famous for one thing, it would have to be the perfect beaches. We’ve been blessed to grow up on the east coast and explore the beaches that stretch along Queensland and New South Wales during many a family getaway. The east coast gets a pretty good wrap for its beaches, but don’t let that fool you; the west coast also has some of the greatest beaches and scenery Australia has to offer. Sal Salis offers luxurious glamping in safari tents set right on a beautifully pristine beach. When you feel like it, simply walk out of the tent onto the beach and explore the superb snorkelling in Ningaloo Reef right from the shore – no boats required!

    Rating: This is still on our wish list

    Photo courtesy of Jamala Wildlife Lodge

    Canberra is widely known as the place of politicians, and sadly, not much more. In fact, when we were travelling overseas, 90% of the people we met didn’t even realise Canberra was the capital of Australia. But, as our (current) hometown, we believe it deserves a bit more credit.

    Canberra is not the sad, boring place you probably remember it to be. I mean, where else can you feed giraffes from the balcony of your accommodation?Or have you ever dreamed of waking up next to lions? Believe it or not, you don’t have to travel all the way to South Africa for that unique experience, as Jamala Wildlife Lodge in Canberra offers some incredible accommodation options where you do all the above and more!

    You’ve got three options for accommodation: the giraffe treehouses, a jungle bungalow (where only a pane of glass will separate you from bears, lions, or cheetahs!) and a seven room lodge with a variety of ‘get-close-to-wildlife’ opportunities. Our pick is the treehouse or the jungle bungalow.

    Rating: This is still on our wish list

    When I hear the word ‘Glamping’, my ears instantly prick up and I’m at full attention. Glamping, or Glamorous camping for the uninitiated, is the perfect balance of luxury and nature. I love the idea of escaping everyday life and getting in touch with nature, but the idea of putting up my own tent to sleep on a slowly-deflating airbed on uneven ground is not my idea of a good time.

    So when you get the benefits of beautiful secluded surroundings AND your own shower and comfy bed in an already-erected safari tent, well where do I sign? We are big followers of the Glamping movement, and plan to explore different glamping options all around the world! But why go overseas, when there are plenty of glamping options in the best settings of Australia?

    Nightfall Wilderness Camp is located in the Lamington National Park of the Gold Coast Hinterland and really puts the Glam in Glamping. You’ve got an opulent safari tent set amongst beautiful rainforest, complete with a heavenly bed, relaxing bathtub and shower, kitchen, fireplace and even fluffy robes. If you really want to splurge, Nightfall also offer delicious organic meals, cooked by the fire and set up by the relaxing sounds of the rippling creek, by the fire tepee or the comforts of your own tent. You will feel so at peace here, you won’t even remember to check your Facebook feed….

    Rating: Highly recommended $$$ – Check out our review of 5 Activities for Adventure and Beauty on the Gold Coast

    Photo courtesy of Thorngrove Manor Hotel

    I love castles, and even after having visited many during our travels in Europe (and even staying in one!), I still am not ‘castled out’. So when I came across Thorngrove Manor Hotel, I couldn’t help but put this place on our romantic escape wish list. Located in South Australia’s oldest wine producing region, Thorngrove Manor looks like something out of a fairytale. This place screams opulence, luxury and romance. And within an easy drive from the centre of Adelaide as well!

    Rating: This is still on our wish list

     Pumphouse Point by Shaun Versey via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

    Tasmania, in general, has been on our travel wish list for some time now. Luscious scenery paired with delicious food is a winning combination. We’ve actually found a few places we would love to stay when we eventually get down to Tassie, but a luxurious standout would have to be Pumphouse Point. Looming over Lake St Clair is the Pumphouse building. It screams industrial opulence and provides the perfect escape from a hectic life. With large windows boasting views of the lake it sits on, this place really lets the stunning scenery in, without compromising comfort.

    Rating: This is still on our wish list

    If you live in Australia, or are planning to visit, we hope you get a chance to try one of these places for a quick romantic getaway. These places are just the start of a list we have been compiling for Australian romantic escapes, with plenty more to talk about in a follow-up. There’s plenty more ‘glamp sites’ and special rooms to mention, so I think this will be an always-evolving series!

    Have you stayed in any of these places? Know of any others to add to our list for Part Two? Comment below!

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