Jumping Around Java: Our plans (or lack thereof) for 13 days on Java

Turtles and Beaches in Southeast Javaby Michael

On this trip and prior trips, we talked with many people who loved travel in Indonesia. “It’s cheap, people are friendly, and there is a lot to do,” they said. But as we neared the end of our travel in mainland Southeast Asia and our planned date to meet Elizabeth’s parents in Jakarta for a planned scuba trip, we realized that nobody had told us specific things to do except scuba diving, surfing, and Komodo Dragons. We figured we would start in Java since we had to go to Jakarta anyway, but had no idea what to do. We ended up planning as we went, and while that made things take longer, we hit the main sites and ended up mostly satisfied with our visit.


Borobudur: Java’s giant Buddhist temple.

Java is relatively small — about 20% larger than Cuba — but has a population over half of the population of the United States. We had heard about traffic problems, so we started by flying into in Yogyakarta (in the middle of the island) rather than the giant capital city of Jakarta (near the western end). I picked Yogyakarta (also spelled Jogjakarta or Yogjakarta) because it is located near Borobudur and Prambanan, both centuries-old temples that today are “must see” tourist sites. From there we went east, away from Jakarta, to visit the steaming volcano of Mt. Bromo, view the mesmerizing blue flames of the Ijen crater in the middle of the night, and to release baby turtles at Sukamade beach. This ended up being a pretty good itinerary despite our lack of prior planning. Here’s a preview followed by photos — for the story of how it happened, stay tuned for the next posts.

Part I: Great Temples of Java: Yogyakarta, Borobudur, and Prambanan

We spent a great three days/four nights in Yogyakarta.  We took more time because we were figuring things out, but we saw three great sights that any traveler in Java should visit.

Part II: Bromo: Java’s Burping Volcano

Sometimes the 3am train is the right choice, and gets you to an amazing place just at the right time. Plus, Elizabeth makes fun of my fear of heights.

Part III: Ijen Crater: Blue Fire in the Night

We said we were done hiking in the night to be at a mountaintop for sunrise. But hiking in the middle of the night to see a blue flame rising from the crater wall? Sign me up.

Part IV: Turtles and Beaches in Southeast Java

What’s cuter than a baby turtle? How about thousands of them? Plus relaxation at a nice beach, with rain.

Part V: How I learned to stop worrying and love Jakarta

Traveling with family requires extra care. So of course we decided to start in a loud, large, and chaotic city.

All of these things (except Bromo) took more time than they would have if we had a plan. We built our plan from guidebook info, blogs, and talking to people. In the end, we felt like we hit the major highlights. We got the impression that most foreign travelers to Java were making a beeline straight to Bali and hitting the sights as quickly as possible. While, a traveler starting with a plan could do the trip in much less time, we found that some of the arranged trips would have probably been miserable because the days were filled with repeated 10 hour drives through the night followed by sunrise sightseeing. No bueno.

A quick note for readers considering a visit to Java: bring multiple debit cards, and stock up on cash (Indonesian Rupiah, over 12,000 to the dollar) when you can. Java is a cash economy. Sometimes the ATM machines don’t work with one card or another. According to my bank, Indonesia is one of the highest risk countries for credit fraud, so cards are also more likely to be flagged as potentially compromised (even with a travel notice in place). And Javanese seem to operate on the assumption that white people (and probably other non-Indonesian travelers too) have plenty of money to pay for whatever they are selling — this assumption is probably correct most of the time. But it creates a strange situation when someone trying to sell you something doesn’t take seriously that you need to use an ATM. Just because travelers have money does not mean that travelers have cash.

Now a few teaser pictures:


A dancer at the Kraton in Yogyakarta.


Temples at Prambanan.


Selfies at Borobudur.


Bromo crater.


Bromo caldera, photographed the next morning.


Ijen crater at night.


Ijen crater in the morning.


Turtle at night. Full moon, 10 p.m., and an amazing new camera. Thank you Singapore Airport.


Baby turtle free!


“Red Island” is backlit.



[This blog post describes our trip to the island of Java in Indonesia from January 4-16, 2017.]

5 thoughts on “Jumping Around Java: Our plans (or lack thereof) for 13 days on Java

  1. Pingback: Great Temples of Java: Yogyakarta, Borobudur, and Prambanan | two backpacks, no plan

  2. Pingback: Bromo: Java’s Burping Volcano | two backpacks, no plan

  3. Pingback: Ijen Crater: Blue Fire in the Night | two backpacks, no plan

  4. Pingback: Turtles and Beaches in Southeast Java | two backpacks, no plan

  5. Pingback: How I learned to stop worrying and love Jakarta | two backpacks, no plan

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