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

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    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!

    Mermaid school in Bali: So you want to be a Mermaid?

    Mermaid school in Bali: So you want to be a Mermaid?

    Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve dreamt of being a mermaid. In fact, after seeing The Little Mermaid, I was convinced that being a mermaid was my life’s destiny. I’d spend hours in the pool, practicing my mermaid swimming technique, until my skin turned wrinkly and the sun would set.

    Flash forward 20+ years and that dream still lives strong. So when I found out that there is a Mermaid School in Bali, I jumped (or should I say swam) at the chance to live out my dream!

     

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    So you want to be a mermaid?
    Mermaid school, Bali
    We took a boat ride to different waters for swimming

    Mermaid school in Bali will take you to some beautiful locations around Bali

    Island Mermaids

    Island Mermaids was created by fellow mermaid, Chelsea, who swapped her life in Jersey for the island life in Bali. And we don’t blame her, as there are some truly gorgeous beaches, fit for a mermaid there. Initially starting out ‘mermaiding’ (that can be a verb, right?) as a fun pastime with friends, Chelsea saw a wonderful opportunity to spread the joy of being a mermaid with others. She started to design and create mermaid tails for herself, before expanding the business into selling the mermaid tails and products worldwide. She even supports the Balinese community by using small local businesses to manufacture her products.

    I was definitely in my element as a mermaid

    One of the amazing tails you could wear at Mermaid School!

    Why be a Mermaid?

    Mermaiding has become a massive thing recently, with many more people dreaming of ‘under the sea’. Mermaid schools are beginning to pop up all over the world and you can even order your own mermaid tails and accessories online. On the back of this worldwide interest, Island Mermaids was created to offer half-day tours where people can venture out into the lovely shores of Bali and Gili Trawangan and swim like a mermaid! You will be picked up from your hotel in Bali and, with Chelsea’s inside knowledge of all of the best spots, get taken on a boat ride to amazing ‘Instaworthy‘ locations. She even offers photo shoot packages, including styling and a professional photographer.

    Chelsea from Mermaid School Bali will make you look amazing in the beautiful tails

    Becoming a mermaid

    Despite how beautiful and glamorous some mermaid photos can be, there is nothing glamorous or graceful about the process of becoming a mermaid. First of all, you need to put the tail on around your feet and slowly wriggle and squeeze your legs, hips and bum into the tail. It was at this point I really regretted eating all of the yummy mi goreng and gelato on the trip so far! Thankfully, the tails are made out of super stretchy material and are forgiving. Once the tail is on, Chelsea helps you secure your feet into the monofin, before stretching the bottom of the tail over it. Then, voilà, I was a mermaid!

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    Mermaid lesson 101

    Chelsea provides expert instruction on heaps of cool underwater tricks like twirls, flips and gliding underwater, mostly utilising your core. Chelsea demonstrates how to swim, dive and do the tricks underwater while you watch (snorkel masks were provided to see better) and then dutifully watches my own attempts. Depending on your confidence and ability, Chelsea offers varied guidance and assistance until you feel like you are free to swim on your own. In my case, not too much was needed, so we had more time to swim and take underwater footage.

     

     

    Island Mermaids, Bali

    There’s something special about exploring the ocean as a mermaid

    Being a mermaid

    So what was it like being a mermaid? Well, for me it was quite easy. I mean, I had been preparing for this moment my whole life, so I took to it like a fish to water (pun intended). Chelsea was quite surprised, even exclaiming after my first attempt, “wow, you are a natural”. I think it helped that I’m all about that bass and had plenty to work with. If I was to pick any song that could be the perfect analogy of swimming like a mermaid, it’s the chorus from Ice Cube’s “You Can Do It”. Legit.

    You can do it put your back into it...

    You can do it put your back into it…

    I have to admit, at first it was a bit odd not being able to kick your legs individually, but for me it was easy to get used to. Despite making you feel slightly heavier, wearing the monofin really helped with swimming, and it was surprising how much more speed and strength is gained from wearing one. The only trouble I had was holding my breath long enough to do all the tricks and swim the distances I would have liked in one breath. Something to work on for next time!

    Mermaid swimming is a skill
    Live out the mermaid dream

    Mermaid Modelling

    After a good deal of swimming, we headed over to the shore to take some photos. Chelsea loves mermaid styling and was eager to help set up poses and suggest spots. Again, this was a fun experience and way to finish up my day of being a mermaid. Chelsea brings a range of her handmade tails for you to pick from. My favourite had to be the one I wore on land. If you love them as much as I do, you can also purchase tails and accessories from her store (something I’m still convincing Guy I need to do!).

    My mermaid dreams became a reality

    I was totally in my element as a mermaid

    The verdict?

    Swimming like a mermaid is a lot of fun but hard work! If there were a gym class for this, I would hand over all my money. I absolutely had a ball and felt muscles working out that I never knew I had! Sadly, the water clarity wasn’t the best on the day we did it, but it didn’t stop me from having a ball. I would definitely love to do it again at Gili Trawangan, as Chelsea said the water clarity and beaches are far better there.

    If you are headed to Bali and want to live your dream of becoming a mermaid, head to Island Mermaids to get in touch with Chelsea and get prices on the different packages. The packages include transport, use of the various mermaid tails and half a day of being a mermaid. The other thing I loved about this day is that each booking is private; you are not placed in a group with strangers (although, I’m sure that could be arranged), and we could do whatever we liked during the day. That being said, it’s best to book in advance so you don’t miss out. If you aren’t so keen on swimming, but want to look the part, you can do the photo shoot package or purchase her tails online. I must warn you though, mermaiding is addictive!

    Mermaid for life

    Are you a fellow mermaid? Would you go to Mermaid school in Bali? Comment below to let us know.

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