What a Trip: First-timers in Indonesia


Borobudur is a 9th-century Buddhist temple on the Indonesian island of Java. (Chris Vaccaro)
August 22, 2013

Our readers share tales of their rambles around the world.

Who: Chris Vaccaro of Washington

Where, when, why: Breaking from my tradition of traveling to European countries, I went to Asia for the first time last fall to visit a globe-trotting friend, Jeanne Gobat, who was working temporarily in Singapore. Together, we chose to visit Indonesia, where neither of us had been before, spending four days in Bali and three in Yogyakarta, on the island of Java.

Highlights and high points: The stunning settings, history and detail of the temples, from Bali’s Pura Tanah Lot (Temple by the Sea) to Pura Bratan (Temple by the Lake) to Yogyakarta’s Prambanan, were a high point. A contrast to these bustling tourist destinations were our walking tours of the lush and tiered rice fields, dotted with peaceful, methodical workers wearing conical hats to shade them from the sun. The Jatiluwih rice fields — a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Bali — are especially vast and serene.

Cultural connection or disconnect: The starkest moment was landing in Bali. We’d spent the afternoon at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, with their extensive orchid collection; that evening, we landed in Bali at an airport in desperate need of remodeling (parts are under construction). Our sense of serenity quickly evaporated as we stood in long lines to get a visa and then walked past the long row of currency exchangers shouting and waving feverishly through their windows to attract attention. Finding a cab to the hotel was easy, but the ride along a road congested with cars, motorbikes, people and animals was another disorienting experience.

Biggest laugh or cry: Walking amid the street vendors and the free-roaming monkeys in Ubud in Bali and hearing “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen was a laugh. And the exchange rate makes it easy to become a millionaire in Indonesia: About $100 will get you seven figures in Indonesian rupiah.

How unexpected: Westerners are something of a novelty, so at Borobudur, a 9th-century Buddhist temple on Java, some Asian tourists took the liberty of grabbing me and my friend to pose for photos with them. (I like to think that they mistook me for Brad Pitt.)

Fondest memento or memory: The unforgettable comfort and pleasure of relaxing on the beach beneath a tree canopy as a soothing sea breeze blew. After hours of reading and napping, as my inoperable personal and work phones sat idle in the suitcase, I found it difficult to peel myself off the chaise longue as the sun set and the hotel cocktail hour rose.

To tell us about your own trip, go to www. washingtonpost.com/travel and fill out the What a Trip form with your best memories, finest moments and favorite photos.

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