Working title: that time a temple broke my camera.

In my opinion, rarely is getting up at 3am worth anything you care to offer me. When I organise travel, I will never get an early flight. For me, it’s just not worth it. I might get a few extra hours at my destination, but if I end up napping through them what’s the point?

So when the travel agent in our hotel advised us of the horribly early start to see the sunrise at Borobudur, I was sceptical. I am not my best in the morning as it is, and visions of the sunrise at Angkor Wat swum before my eyes (I got covered in mozzie bites, the crowds ruined the atmosphere, and the sun rose behind clouds anyway), swiftly followed by memories of the sunset on Santorini (see my extended and somewhat controversial thoughts on the whole thing here). I was ready to cancel the whole idea.

However, temples were why we had come, after all. And we were assured the trip would be worth it. We compromised by choosing a shorter tour, meaning we’d be back at the hotel in time to catch the end of breakfast.

Of course, getting up at 3 was miserable. What we hadn’t anticipated were the dreadful road conditions – the road was twisty, traffic was unpredictable at best, and potholes abounded. We arrived a little bleary eyed but still keen. Our helpful guide shepherded us where we needed to go, grabbing us torches and entry stickers. The entrance is via a grand hotel forecourt with nicely paved or gravelled paths the whole way. It turns out Borobudur, significantly restored in the 1970s, is a pretty professional outfit.

We puffed our way up the steep steps to the top of the monument in darkness, still fairly unsure of what we were climbing. All I knew was, it was big.

As we reached the top and scoped vantage points, our guide knew the best places to stand. The sky was beginning to turn from inky black to midnight blue, and we stood in anticipation.

And then the heavens opened.

Once again our guide came to the rescue, taking us to an archway that provided some relief from the rain. We still ended up fairly soaked, although I was more concerned about my poor camera than I was about myself (it was so hot I quite appreciated a cooling shower). A few others arrived to share our dry space, and we smiled across language barriers.

The last photo my camera ever took 🙁

Soon enough it passed, and we cautiously edged back to our previous vantage point. On the way, our guide pointed out an excellent vantage point for photos just as the sky was becoming a shade of sapphire and the beautiful architecture of the monument could be appreciated. He was so excited about the photo, and the fact that the rain had stopped, and I was trying to take it and get out of someone’s way, that when I slung my camera over my arm to reach into my bag to change lenses, I missed my arm.

Yes. I basically just threw my camera on the solid stone floor of a temple.

No, it did not survive. The thing was completely, irreversibly stuffed. Therefore, all pictures after this point are taken by my husband, on his nice camera, while I felt very annoyed with myself.

Me, in perplexed early morning disbelief

Our guide, slightly mystified by my apparent callous disregard for my expensive possessions, waited with us until the sun rose. The earlier rains had left the sky carpeted in clouds, which you’d think would be a bummer. However, it made the most beautiful atmospheric shots.

Each of the stupas houses a statue of Buddha. There are 72 of them!

The clouds soon dispersed, as did the small crowd who had gathered to watch the sunrise, leaving an incredibly peaceful atmosphere behind. Our guide took us around the rest of the site, pointing out the best statues, telling us the stories behind the reliefs.

It’s an absolutely massive site, and we felt like we had the place to ourselves. The temple tells the whole story of the life of Buddha, so it’s quite extensive. You might see some scenes from stories you’ll recognise, or you might just see some beautiful carvings.

So do I think sunrise at Borobudur is worth the 3am start? Actually, I do. The temple is breathtaking in size and beauty, and sunrise was a serene and appropriate way to start the tour.

There weren’t loud or pushy crowds, no hawkers, no mozzies. There were a few folk about, including one man in a high-vis who I daresay ruined a fair few photos that morning, but hey. Safety first.

 

Things to note

> The edges of the temple on the upper levels are unfenced, and there’s a fair drop to the next level. I found out first hand how hard the floors are. If you are mobility impaired, accident prone or a child, I would not recommend climbing to the top levels.

> There aren’t any hawkers in the grounds of the temple, but you’ll go past a few just outside the gate. They seemed pretty un-pushy compared to the usual – maybe because we were with a guide?

> The crowds honestly weren’t so bad. You’ll want to arrive in plenty of time if you absolutely must get your tripod set up in the perfect position. But if you just want to enjoy the sunrise, it’s not so important. Importantly, people were chilled, friendly and happy.

> You will be given a breakfast at the fancy hotel by the entrance. It was a rice cake thingy with maybe palm sugar in the middle that was gluten free… but I didn’t like it ☹ It was too sweet at that time of the morning.

> If you can afford the fancy hotel, I reckon that would be a great way to see Borobudur. You won’t have to get up half as early! The hotel did look very nice.

> There are lots of steps. Goes without saying. They were in fairly good shape, but still. Stairs.

> Your guide will ask you to pose for cheesy photos. Go with it.

> You don’t need a guide to enter, of course. However, ours was so reasonably priced and added so much value with the helpful relief explanations, history of the site, insider knowledge, hawker avoidance and of course pro photoshoot skills, I say it’s well worth it.

Are you generally a fan of sunrise tours? Or not so much?

-Rachel

Expats. Have there ever been times you’ve desperately wanted to ask some fairly personal questions of your fellow expats, but have been too polite to? I know I have.

So I thoroughly enjoyed reading Emma’s run down of some fairly personal questions about her expat journey. She kindly tagged me to answer the same questions, so here we go.

NB photos taken from a trip to Featherdale Wildlife Park for some local flavour* 

[Kookaburra]

1. Where were you born, where did you grow up and where do you currently live?

I was born in the UK, and lived there for the first thirty one years of my life. In May this year, I moved to Sydney, Australia and plan to be here for at least the next 16 months.

2. What made you leave your home country?

I wrote a post about it! It’s actually quite interesting (for me anyway…) to read that back now I’m actually here.

 

[Especially for Erin, who didn’t believe penguins live in Australia]

3. What type of reactions do you get when you meet new people and tell them where you are from?

Most people are pleasantly interested, but nobody is particularly surprised. There are a lot of Brits around here, and apart from the usual questions about why did you come, do you know anyone here, people usually move on fairly swiftly. That’s ok with me.

4. What was the easiest/hardest part in adjusting to your new country?

The easiest part has been how similar it is to the UK in many ways. The hardest part has been how different it is to the UK in many ways! Things usually work in a similar way, but perhaps it’s called something different or works a slightly different way, so you find you need to learn most things from scratch anyway even though they’re generally fairly similar. If that makes any kind of sense.

5. Images, words or sounds that sum up the expat experience you’ve had so far.

The bird calls. The light (clear, crisp, bright). Gum-tree-green and the smell of eucalyptus.

[Rock wallaby]

6. Your favourite food or drink item in your new country

Anything gluten free in the food department (recent discoveries include gluten free doughnuts, YES) and of course my favourite drink here that nobody has heard of in the UK, lemon lime and bitters.

7. What’s the one thing you said “yes” to in your new city that you wouldn’t say “yes” to, back home?

So far there hasn’t been anything I’ve done here that I wouldn’t do back home. We’ve been lucky to assign more time to ‘tourist’ type activities here than we would back in the UK, which I think everyone should do as much as they can. Tourist stuff is popular for a reason and I feel like people always think ‘oh we’ll go another day, it’s only down the road’ and then end up never going. Hands up if you’ve done that where you grew up.

[Dingo pups!]

8. Are there any cultural norms/phrases in your new country which you cannot stand?

Starting sentences with ‘look’! In the UK that’s quite an aggressive way to start a sentence, so it always gives me a little start because I feel like I’m about to be told off. But here it’s just a normal way to start a sentence and people don’t mean anything negative by it at all.

9. What do you enjoy most doing in your new country?

Enjoying the beautiful scenery, the new and interesting flora and fauna, and learning about the history of the country. I also like eating lots of good food but that’s the same wherever I go!

[A really pretty and absolutely huge bird that I don’t remember the name of. Sorry, bird]

10. Do you think you will ever move home for good?

Quite possibly. I’ve only lived in Sydney for a couple of months so I think it’s a little early to judge, but I’m keeping an open mind for as long as possible. At the moment I can easily envisage us staying in Australia indefinitely, and I can just as easily envisage us going back to the UK in a couple of years. I have no idea how things will pan out – and as things stand, my visa situation is very up in the air so our hand may be forced anyway.

For more existential blathering, I write monthly updates on my expat journey, which you can follow along with here.

Thanks again Emma for the tag and sorry it took quite so long for me to fill in my answers!

Fellow expats, would you answer these questions so I can be extremely un-Britishly nosy?

-Rachel

*I actually don’t want to talk about the day we had there because I was horrified by the way a lot of people thought was acceptable to behave around animals. So I’m posting a couple of photos here instead and have vowed not to return to your average wildlife park again. I will instead donate what I would have spent on admission fees to the conservation charities I already support. Sorry to end on a rant but it really upset me.

Pin me:

We’re now 3 whole months into this expat journey and I’ve had a few people ask whether I feel settled in yet. The truth is, I never really felt like I had to settle in. We just arrived and carried on as usual – things have been incredibly easy so far. Either I’ve got a big shock to come, or the UK to Australia move is a pretty easy one. We’ll see, shall we?!

The Good

Settling into our flat ¦¦ We now have pretty much all the furniture, electronics and other sundry nonsense that you need when furnishing a new place. It’s beginning to feel like home which is very welcome for this nester here.

This is one of my very favourite possessions, the painting that belonged to my Granny. I am so, so glad it survived the journey over from the UK and it makes me so happy every time I look at it.

Our first visitor ¦¦ Hand in hand with furnishing our flat comes the ability to host visitors! And I’m so excited to welcome our first visitor, my cousin Emma. She has come here to study so she’ll be in Sydney for the next few months – even better! We had her to stay briefly before she moved into her accommodation in the city and it’s been so good to see her. We had a welcome dinner together with my sister, and Emma made the most delicious pavlova (how appropriate) whilst heavily jet lagged. What a pro.

Meeting moar blogging buddies ¦¦ I’ve loved meeting some more internet friends; I had a drink with Sam who lives just down the road from me and who was so friendly and helpful with all thing expat related. She moved here from the UK herself almost 10 years ago so everything I’m going through, she’s been there, done that and well and truly got the t-shirt. It was a very comforting chat! Last weekend I met Courtney, Travis and the adorable Leighton (she’s cuter in person than in pictures would you believe?!) who kindly gave up their one free Sunday in months to have lunch with us and welcome us to Brisbane. Once again I’m so grateful for how nice people are on the internet!

A new project at work ¦¦ Things are FINALLY picking up for me at work! I’m so excited about it! I may not be for long as this one is going to be a lot of hard work, but at this point in time I’m just so happy to have something to sink my teeth into again that I really don’t care. I’ll be staying in Melbourne 4 or 5 nights a week for about 6 weeks, with a week in Adelaide thrown in for good measure. I’m excited to explore Melbourne in the very small amount of free time I’ll have, so any recommendations please let me know.

We also had a great team meeting, which happen quarterly, and this time it was hosted by the Sydney office. We had a pretty nice view for the day.

That was definitely a pinch-me moment. I live here!

Celebrating S’s birthday ¦¦ This month was S’s turn to celebrate his birthday in Australia. This one isn’t his first, unlike mine, but we did celebrate in true Aussie style with a barbecue in the park. Our local park has free barbecues (as do many parks in Australia) so we made full use. It was a beautiful day and we sat out and enjoyed the sun with some family and new friends for a surprisingly long time.

Then I took S to a cat cafe because #cats. A fun time was had by all, especially this guy who took my coat hostage. Yes, that’s my famous Tarjay coat. Loved by all, feline and human!

Look at that face. He wasn’t giving up without a fight.

The Bad

Missing my best friend’s wedding ¦¦ Enough said. I’m still sad about it. Thanks for all your kind messages, they really helped. And just to update any interested parties, my bestie sent me a sweet photo showing the opal bracelet I gave her that she wore at the wedding. I bought it from the same shop here in Sydney that S and I got my engagement ring from (also opal), so I’m pleased we were connected in that way at least.

My sister is coming to visit… but I’m going to Melbourne ¦¦ After months of sitting around working from home, of course the minute my sister visits from the UK I’m going to be spending all my time in Melbourne. Still, we’re not going to let this stop us and I think she might be keen on a Melbourne trip herself so watch this space!

I’m finding the time zone challenge really hard! ¦¦ When you just have one person to call in a different time zone, it’s not so bad. But when everyone is in a different time zone, scheduling catch ups becomes very tricky! With a 9 hour time difference I can only really call the UK on Saturday or Sunday evenings, so that’s two people a week. When I’m not otherwise travelling, out, or not paying attention. So basically I just need to get my act together and start properly planning in calls, I think. Sounds a bit clinical but otherwise it just won’t happen.

The Ugly

In case you’re new to these updates, I’ve decided to share The Ugly side of things via email. That way, I can share a bit more honestly on things like work and personal matters that I don’t want searchable on t’internet. Seeing as you’re all my friends, I’d just feel a bit happier doing it this way.

So if you want to know The Ugly, just put your email address in the box and I’ll add you to the list. You’ll get mail from me 2-3 days after you see this post, just to give everyone a chance to sign up who wants to.

Anyone miss The Ugly last month? No..? Well I didn’t send one. So you’ll get a bumper edition this month. Aren’t you lucky?!

Rachel

Linking up with Kristen and Gretch for What’s New With You 

We always knew our trip to Yogyakarta (aka Jogjakarta or just Jogja) would be something different. That’s exactly why we went. While we were there, we made notes about some things we wished we had known before we arrived – and here it is for you. Reading it back, it comes off a little ranty and I’m sorry about that. It wasn’t supposed to be – read this from the perspective of two people experiencing a place very different to their own. Liveblogging culture shock, if you will.

1. When entering the country, bring proof you are leaving again.

2. Check your entry requirements carefully and don’t get siphoned off into the wrong visa lane. An attendant took us to the wrong arrival queue and tried to make us pay for a visa on arrival, which we didn’t need with British passports. Sub-lesson: don’t automatically trust people just because they’re wearing a uniform.

3. The airport is small, and very busy. Expect a hectic baggage reclaim experience, and have your baggage ticket ready for inspection (this is to make sure you’re taking bags which are rightfully yours). On departure, all gates leave from one big room which does have a few places to buy snacks and drinks at, although not enough places to sit.

4. Don’t fall for the art exhibition scam. This is where a local on the street will try to strike up conversation with you, asking where you’re from. No matter where you say, they will miraculously have a relative who lives there too. After attempting small talk, and possibly passing on some genuine tourist information, they will tell you about an art exhibition happening nearby. Would you like to go? At this point we smelled a rat and left, but were informed by a tour guide later that at said exhibition you’ll be essentially prevented from leaving until you’ve bought some ‘art’ (usually very basic batik) at vastly inflated prices.

5. The traffic is quite bad. There’s not much that can be done about this, but factor it into your plans. For example, the airport is very near the town centre but make sure you allow plenty of time to get there all the same.

6. Becaks are neither cheap nor fun. They are uncomfortable, slow, and your driver may try and pull the art exhibition scam on you. Don’t be fooled into taking one. Get a taxi instead. And if you absolutely must get one, agree the price clearly upfront.

7. Taxis are cheap and efficient. Book one using your hotel or an official stand, often found in malls, or hail one on the street. Always use the meter.

8. Uber exists, but only for motorbike taxis. If you are in a hurry and brave, that’s probably the quickest way to get around. We didn’t feel it was worth risking it. The local equivalent to Uber is Grab, which is widely used. However be aware your use of the app will be a much better experience if you can speak Bahasa Indonesia.

9. Don’t plan on buying swimwear here. The strict Muslim culture means you may find a burkini… but you won’t find anything else. The locals don’t really swim here, and they certainly don’t approve of showing so much flesh.

10. You can’t drink the tap water and I wouldn’t brush my teeth with it, either.

11. The pavements are rubbish: that is the only consistent thing about them. I wouldn’t recommend walking unless you have to, given the heat, and given that…

12. If you are white you will very likely be accosted by multiple (well meaning) people who will want a photo with you, to talk about how white you are, to touch your skin, to talk some more about how white you are, and maybe to practice their English. This was embarrassing and slightly overwhelming when it happened with a group of about twenty tiny Indonesian ladies in headscarves, but downright scary when a man grabbed my arm as he cycled past me. Hence, I would not recommend walking along pavements.

13. Catching the sunrise at Borobudur is definitely worth it (vs Angkor Wat, which I was not 100% convinced about, and vs the sunset in Oia which I was 0% convinced about).

Have you been to Jogja? What would you tell someone who had never been to the city before?

-Rachel

Images taken from the alleyways behind Taman Sari.

The welcome oasis we stayed in.

Linking up with with Erin, Clare and Katy for Faraway Files

Pin it for your trip planning: