After getting our Indonesian flippers wet on the island of Sulawesi we ventured over to Java on the fourth day of our trip.  Though we had to pass once again through Jakarta’s somewhat unsavory Soekarno-Hatta Airport, we did not stay in town too long.  (Overcrowded streets and smog DO NOT equal a vacation for us.)  Instead we headed directly to Yogyakarta, Java’s undisputed cultural center, and the jumping-off point for a number of interesting attractions.  Yogya (pronounced “Joeg-ja”) was perhaps a bit more rough ‘n ready than we anticipated, but it ended up being a great training ground for us to get better accustomed with the local foods and customs of Java, an island that may share the same nationality as Bali and Sulawesi, yet ultimately fosters a unique culture all its own.

Like most, we came to Central Java to check out Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist temple dating from the 8th century.  Others make a similar pilgrimage for the nearby Hindu structures of Prambanan.  And yet, Java is at the heart of Indonesia’s Muslim majority, a fact that is punctuated time and time again through its beautifully maintained mosques, and its more easily accessible “musholla” prayer booths.

After a couple days chewing through other “must-see” sights in Yogya, it was time to head into the countryside on a personally-guided tour of the island’s most notable volcanoes.  With our trusty fount of knowledge Herman Jaya by our side, we ventured first to incredible Mt. Bromo.  The sunset from inside the massive Tengger Massif was certainly a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience, though ultimately still not the apex of our time on the island.  For that, we give you Kaweh Ijen, an aquamarine lake positioned high up within one of East Java’s ancient craters.  Here, local villagers spend their days trekking up and down the steep mountain with heavy baskets full of poisonous sulphur!  Witnessing the danger and determination with which they work showcases just some of the juxtapositions we witnessed while in Java.

For nature enthusiasts, cultural fanatics, shopaholics or simply friends of good food, there is much to devour on the island of Java.  Still, it is the people that are the island’s best asset.  The interactions we had here, particularly with Tenggerese villagers in Tosari, were some of the most genuine and rich we’ve ever had.  While it may not be as flashy and colorful as Indonesia’s top tourist attraction (Bali), it’s certainly worth your time.  Just let the magic wash upon you!