I left Lombok for Java after a few weeks and returned in a couple of months. The second Lombok stay was not as peaceful as the first one and it was marred with mishaps, malaria, and a near-fatal encounter. From my camera getting completely broken to getting aggressively chaSed by a male adult Komodo dragon at the Komodo National Park, those Lombok days were full of adventures. Those events left me physically weak, emotionally battered, and mentally beat up. I mourned for the loss of my camera, tried to regain strength and spent my last Lombok days lying immobile under a mosquito net on my bed, aiming in getting better fast. Food and complete rest indeed helped to regain my strength and confidence and I left for my final Indonesian destination of Irianjaya in Papua with amazing ease. In retrospect, I am glad about my decision to give in to complete Lombok relaxation at that time because Irianjaya was like going back to the Iron Age.

bromo is a volcano in java

Mount Bromo at sunrise

Ruins, forests, and cyber cities..Java has everything

Java in comparison to all these extremes was a pleasing abundance of everything larger than life. The cultural city of Yogyakarta was my Javanese launchpad and batik, food, palaces, ruins and more volcanoes filled my Java days. Formed as a result of volcanic eruptions, Java is the world’s most populous island and one of the most densely populated places on earth. Home to super glitzy metros like the capital city of Jakarta, business giant of Surabaya, the cultural hub of Yogyakarta and intrepid Solo, Java is an island of volcanoes, surreal beauty, and culture. A string of highly active volcanoes snakes through its center, with the world’s most destructive and angry Krakatau, constantly fuming off its west coast.

Recommended Read: Why I loved Indonesia: a photo essay

borobodur is in java in indonesia

A beautiful Bromo sunrise

Java has the size and diversity of a country

I explored Java only in bits. This was due to lack of time. Our Java work base was larger than our office at Lombok and it hummed with activity. I had a lot of work, way too many team-members to deal with and by the end of the week, hardly had any time on my hands for leisurely trips. Plus, the hassle of long-distance inter-island travel also discouraged me from exploring Java much. While Lombok was easily navigable by a self-driven scooter, the vast expanse of Java made this impossible. Cities were spread out too widely and I was too time-crunched to avail the train service. My Yogyakarta days thus were spent in a happy busy pace and I hardly left it to explore beyond. Having said that, I did go for a few excursions around Yogyakarta and one a long weekend went all the way to Mount Bromo.

You may also like: Lombok and solo traveler blues

Silver jewellery shop in Yogyakarta in java

A silver jewellery shop in Yogyakarta

Yogyakarta is the food capital of Indonesia

Yogyakarta or Jogja as it is known is a very cosmopolitan city. It is a food lovers paradise and I loved wandering around its old city streets, sampling Yogyakarta’s awesome street food from different vendors. The city had plenty of things to do and on regular weekends, I checked out the colourful markets and rode on cute “becak” trishaws. Well preserved, touristy and bustling, Yogyakarta, especially Kraton has an incredible old-world feel and I loved its vibrant art scene. Surabaya in comparison was too glitzy and bland, but it did offer me a few days of luxurious indulgence at the Shangri-la.

Suggested Read: The gorgeous lesser-known Gili Islands

yogyakarta royal palace in java

Yogyakarta royal palace

Why Java is the beating heart of Indonesia?

A Borobudur side trip also happened while I was based in Java, but it was my Bromo-Ijen experience which completely transported me to another planet. Memories of smoking Gunung Bromo, the surreal sunrise at the Bromo-Tengger-Sumeru National Park and the unbelievable isolation of Ijen Plateau still take my breath away and it was hard to let Java go. Surreal, bewitching and spiritually fascinating, the Javanese charm is absolutely unforgettable and it is the beating heart of Indonesia.

Kraton area of Yogyakarta has beautiful old houses

Becaks are typical Indonesian trishaws found in Java

Becaks are typical Indonesian trishaws