Vegan Adventures In Yogyakarta
Yogyakarta is the old capital city of Java and is firmly on the traveller route for people exploring this part of Indonesia. Although we are normally a bit uninterested in traditional sightseeing, we really wanted to see the ancient Buddhist temple at nearby Borobodur and so we packed ourselves off to stay in this busy city in Central Java for a couple of weeks. For our first week in Yogja, we booked a homestay which turned out to be a real stroke of luck because it meant we got to meet Shinta and Andy, our lovely home stay hosts. Here began our days of vegan adventures, awesome vegan food, meeting fellow travellers, huge amounts of laughter and (this may surprise some of you) cute kittens.
Turns out Paul is like a magnet for kittens…
Some of you may remember back to our time in Bali where Paul took a scooter for a test drive and promptly drove it into a wall, so you’ll be pleased to hear that Andy was kind enough to teach us both to ride scooters safely, without any incidents of crashing into things (OK Caryl nearly drove into a policeman but unless you properly knock them over this doesn’t really count).
Caryl and our scooter teacher / homestay host Andy
Our first day of learning was rewarded with a drive out to a cool spot for lunch where we stopped for ‘nasi campur’ (rice with a bit of whatever is on offer) and with the help of people who actually speak Indonesian, we were able to eat loads of the dishes in the cabinet where all the food was displayed. It was so cheap that 5 of us ate for less than £3 / $5 including 2 drinks each, which is insane.
A whole plate of vegan goodies
Our second scooter day was spent driving out to Borobodur, taking the scenic route so we could stare with wonder at the beautiful scenery and play Pooh sticks off the bridge crossing the river. We had been starting to formulate a theory that we attract vegan food in some kind of weird magical way and, as if to prove our theory correct, Andy (our scooter chaperone) produced 3 vegan ice lollies from his bag, so here we are, on a bridge in the middle of nowhere in the immense heat of the Javanese sun eating lovely cold, vegan ice lollies. Bliss.
Andy, vegan ice lolly magician, and us
It turns out that our accommodation for our visit to Borobodur was not only right up the road from the temple but also right around the corner from a warung (small restaurant) that is famous in Indonesia for it’s ‘tonseng jamur’ (mushroom curry). Imagine how happy we were when our lovely host spoke to the cook and communicated our vegan needs to make sure that we’d get a feast made from lovely locally grown oyster mushrooms (we were VERY happy).
These were so delicious that there wasn’t ‘mushroom’ for anything else (sorry!)
Borobodur itself was an experience that we’re glad we had but it wasn’t quite what we were expecting. True, it’s the world’s biggest Buddhist temple and a sight to be amazed by, but (as is all too often the case) it’s full of visiting human beings who don’t know how to behave themselves (according to rules set by Caryl of course). It’s ironic that this ancient spiritual location, where thousands have sat and contemplated life peacefully throughout the years, is full of noisy tourists who’ll do anything to get that perfect photo. But even with all this noise and commotion, it is a beautuful place and it is very photogenic and so we did wait patiently to get some amazing picutres (and we promise that we were quiet and considerate and quiet whilst doing so).
The amazing Borobodhur
Our visit to Borobodur was followed by our third scooter day where we met up with Andy who brought with him a slightly jet-lagged Argentinian named Pato. Armed with a plan to drive up to Merapi (the most active volcano in Indonesia that last erupted in 2010), we sat down to a long lunch full of all our favourite Javanese vegan foods: fresh vegetables, tofu and tempeh.
We are committed worshippers at the temple of tempeh
We left slightly later than we had planned but with the sun on our backs and the wind in our hair (for those of us who have hair) our little convoy set off. A few slight detours (petrol, a chat at the side of the road about a vegetable garden and one wrong turn) and we were getting high up the volcano.
It doesn’t take much to distract us…
Cue rain. Lots of it. Cue rapidly disappearing daylight. Cue the revealling of Andy’s adventurous plan to go off-roading up the side of the volcano. So off we went on our scooters, in the dark and rain (clad in big plastic ponchos by now) through rivers, up hills, over rocks, down hills, in volcanic mud (a lot of it)… Our new scooter riding skills were seriously put to the test. We laughed, we cried (OK only Caryl cried) and we screamed with fear (OK this was also only Caryl).
We got as far as an eerie deserted village where the signs of the last eruption could still be seen; derelict houses, melted and mangled bits of bikes and a whole room where the volcanic ash had been left as it had fallen. After repeating our off-road scootering in reverse (with the same screaming, laughing, tears, falling off etc.) our Merapi Off-Roading Scooter Adventure was at an end. Most importantly, we survived and made it home safely to well earned beers and lovely company, including ‘The 2 Charlies’ who live 5 minutes from our house in Southampton – it’s a small world.
From left to right: Charlie, Andy, Pato, Charlie and Paul
We can now say with total conviction that Caryl is more of a tea and vegan cake kinda girl, as opposed to a vegan adventure sports ethusiast; Paul remains a Bintang enthusiast. Read on to find out how we spent the rest of our time in Yogjakarta (involves us helping to open a vegan pop-up restaurant!)