My husband is English – Indonesian and most of his family still lives in Jakarta. It was a second time visit for our 4 and a half-year-old son (we took him at 3 months) and a first for our 2-year-old daughter. We have visited Bali plenty of times so decided to explore Jakarta and Yogyakarta (Jogjakarta) this time.
The journey there
The last time I was on a plane with ‘Miss 2’ she screamed non-stop for 45 minutes so this trip was met with trepidation. I kept thinking to myself, if we can just get through the flight it would be smooth sailing from there.
I am not the most prepared mum on the planet; my friends put me to shame with their packed lunches, treats and assortment of beverages. Usually my children are helping themselves to their food, while I line up to buy them something. That said, I made it my mission to carefully prepare for this flight.
I packed a small backpack for each of them full of new activities; colouring books, sticker books, magic pens, small puzzles and we put children’s games and movies on our ipads to keep them entertained. To my surprise Miss 2 was amazing. She loved discovering new activities in her pack and sat still for the entire 7-hour flight (she even had a 2-hour nap).
RENEE’S TIPS: Bring your own headphones for the children; the ones the airlines provide are way too big and it made it difficult for them to watch the in-flight movies.
Our time in Jakarta was mostly spent catching up with family and shopping. The shopping centers are extremely child friendly. A number of them have mini train rides, play centers and I was even able to take my son roller blading at a little indoor rink which was great fun. Other highlights included Taman Mini, a beautiful miniature park that takes you through life in each of Indonesia’s provinces, Seaworld and Batavia. We also got to visit the main Mosque, Istiqlal, which is the largest mosque in South East Asia and well worth a look.
Next on the list was Yogyakarta. We met Pak Eko, our taxi driver at the airport and he became our driver for the entire stay. The Phoenix Hotel, a beautiful colonial landmark dating back to 1918, was our new home. My husband and I enjoyed a Gin Sling, their signature cocktail that was created by the original owner for the gentry of the 1900’s. It was basically gin with raspberry cordial.
Pak Eko collected us the following day at 4am for sunrise at Borobudur. We dressed the children in their clothes the night before and asked the hotel to prepare a picnic basket for breakfast. Many of our friends said we were crazy for dragging the children out of bed at 4am and perhaps we are but it was well worth it. The children slept in the car on the way there and as we arrived light was just beginning to break. We donned our batik sarongs, torches and backpacks and arrived well in time for sunrise, which was a magical experience. I must say we were the only people there with children but they were extremely well behaved and loved exploring the temple and looking for Buddha.
After Borobudur we ventured to the volcano, Merapi. Our son was bursting with excitement as he has been learning about volcanos at daycare. When we arrived, we decided to go on a tour of the area decimated in 2010 when Merapi erupted.
We bundled into an old army jeep and sped our way through the channels left by the flowing lava, which saw entire villages reduced to ash. Our guide from one such village told us how haunting it was for him to drive past it each day as he conducted these tours. We finally arrived at the crest of the crater and were asked if we would like to take a motorbike into the crater itself. My son and I jumped on and bounced 1km into the crater itself. Our guide dug a hole in the ash about 10cm deep and the ash underneath was extremely hot. He then used a rock to drum another and you could feel the echo and vibrations underfoot making me realise the sheet of land we were standing on was just that – it was time to go.
Other things not to miss include the Sultan’s palace, the Water Castle and Prembanan. Although our son was over temples by this point, we created a story about how an ancient space rocket was hidden somewhere in the grounds. After that he loved exploring the area trying to spy the rocket!
Not your typical family holiday, this one was jam packed with adventure, which the children loved and so did we! It was wonderful to experience the different culture, food and lifestyle as a family. There is another side to Indonesia other than Bali that not many people see and I would highly recommend it.