The People of Yogyakarta

Indonesia, Photography

One of the first things that you notice about Indonesia, and something you are reminded of all through the day, is that these are some of the friendliest, kindest people on earth.

Wherever we go, we are greeted by Hello!, salamet pagi/siang/sore/malam or OBAMA! (accompanied by a big thumbs up). Meeting the people is a great joy and I only wish I could speak Bahasa Indonesia so as to interact more deeply.

Below are a collection of photos from the bustling city of Yogyakarta in central Java, accompanied with a little story about the person or how I got the picture. One thing I love about countries like Indonesia is that people are open, and often eager, to having thier photo taken. For a naturally shy person like me who usually photographs Alaskan landscapes, this makes it easy.


My wife is a school-girl magnet. On our first real day of sightseeing we met this group of school kids outside the Sultan’s Palace. The grown man is their teacher and it was the first time they’d ever spoken English to a westerner. The girls gathered around Kristi and I chatted with the three boys. Kristi is now Facebook friends with the girls.

“What is your favorite Premier League football player?” one of the boys asked me. That was a trick question for an American.

They all seemed like really good kids. I hope the are successful in life.

These students stopped me on the street and asked me to do a survey about clean air.
STUDENTS: Where are you from?
ME: USA, America, United States (I always toss out all three. One is bound to stick, with two others drawing blank stares.)
STUDENTS: What do you think of Yogyakarta?
ME: It is great. Nice people, great food.
STUDENTS: How many country have you wisited?
ME: 45
STUDENTS: (Wide eyed, not sure if they heard correctly) 45?
ME: Yes
STUDENTS: What do you think of clean air?
ME: (pregnant pause) Um…It is good? Clean air is good?
STUDENTS: One final question. How much money do you have?
ME: (looking to Kristi for help) Um, repeat the question? (After the question was repeated like 3 times)
ME: We are middle class in America/USA/United States?

Peddle taxi driver taking a nap.



Standing on a street corner, we suddenly realized we’d drawn the attention of a large Muslim family. Someone in the family finally worked up the nerve to ask for our photo, then we all took turns getting photos taken together.

The funny thing: before each photo was taken, they all sported beaming smiles and open body language. As soon as the camera went up, they all assumed rigid poses and stoic facial expressions. You wouldn’t know they were laughing instants before the pics were taken.


After we took photos with the family, the floodgates opened up. Everyone wanted a photo, including these two boys and a relaxing pedi-cab driver.

The family vehicle in southeast Asia.

Street food vendors are everywhere in Indonesia, and Malioboro Street in Yogyakarta is especially busy. This lady was repositioning her mobile cart perhaps looking for a better place to set up shop.

A warung, or street food stall. We had a meal of fried fish and jackfruit curry. The bowl of chili sauce that accompanied our meal was some of the hottest I’ve ever tasted, causing rivulets of sweat to pour down my face. I love hot food, by the way. The young children liberally slathered their food with the fire sauce and ate it like it was no big deal. When I was like two years old I evidently ate a jalepeno and cried for days. These kids are tough.

Minion sandals outside the warung. (We will see if my sister read this post.)

Everywhere else I’ve been in Asia, the motorcycle taxi, or Tuk Tuk, is configured in an opposite way. The motorbike portion is in front and pulls the carriage. I like that better. Riding a tuk tuk in Indonesia is not for the faint of heart as the driver swerves into oncoming traffic to overtake bikes and pedestrians and vehicles hurtle towards you overtaking from the opposite lane. If I suddenly stop updating this blog, that is probably how I died.

Gym class.

Seen near the Tugu train station.

So, the guy with the tripod in the center arrived about 45 minutes before sunset, scouted his location, adjusted his graduated filter and waited for dusk. Meanwhile, a tour group of about 75 locals kids mobbed him, wanting to get the same photo. They shouted at the numerous people who dared get in their way. Their shouting was futile – I don’t think they ever got the shot without others in the way.

If you looked at all these photos and read the captions, you probably feel like the girl on the back of the bike, who looks a little tired and bored. Life is lived out in the open here, which makes for great people watching and close interaction for the locals, but is hard when you are a tired kid fighting off sleep on the back of a motorbike.

Planet Bell Note: Wifi has been very elusive on this trip even though we’ve been in the more touristy and populous islands of Java and Bali. It may take a while to answer comments and posts may be a little sporadic. And to my fellow bloggers: I’ll catch up on your adventures when I get a chance.

Follow us on our trip through Indonesia by liking my Facebook Page or Following me on Twitter.

Comments? Thoughts? Join the conversation by writing something below.

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Currently living in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I travel, write, take photos, and stalk street cats. ~

25 thoughts on “The People of Yogyakarta”

  1. Marilyn says:

    Great Pictures .. Great Stories .. Now I know what Yogyakarta has to offer. Happy you have a break and can share your travels.

  2. love to read or listen a foreigner’s point of view about my country. i visited yogyakarta about a couple months ago. i guarantee you will experience more from what you wrote when you visit other places in indonesia, such as the eagerness of locals to be pictured (especially with “bule” or caucasian people, trust me), spicy and rich flavour food and so on. jackfruit curry, you mean “gudeg”? great choice, as visiting yogyakarta without eating gudeg would be an “incomplete” experience. have a great adventure! easy on the wifi thing…. it doesn’t always work well, the connection could be that slow though you use the best local provider for dataplan 😉

    • You are right – I am sure we will get many more photos with Indonesian people as we mone on. Yogya and Java has a lot of “bule” and even so we drew a lot of attention. We like it because it allows us to get thier photos also!

      I like how spicy the food it. I have learned how to say “Sows Chabe” and get some sambal or chili sauce when it isn’t spicy enough. Thanks for commenting. I have a post about thoughts on our time in Java coming up that you may find interesting.

  3. Wonderful to get this post Jeff and thank you for continuing the search for elusive Ms Wifi. No need to catch up on my posts just send us what you can. Amazing shots and narrative. I read every word! Loved it and the fact the people are so friendly and keen.

    • The people are really nice so far. We were hiking yesterday and many shop owners or locals helped us find where we were going without asking for anything or expecting us to buy something which has happened to us before. A wonderful place so far.

  4. Hi Jeff. Great to know that you’ve already been hitting the road in Indonesia. I have a feeling that your experience of being asked to take photos with won’t stop in Jogja. Indonesians in general are very curious with foreigners. Wish you a safe and memorable trip!

    • Hi Bama, I am sure we will be asked to pose for many more photos. We don’t mind – it allows us to get thier photos also! Are you excited about the new president, Jokowi?

      • Ha, it’s funny you asked about him. 🙂 Actually I am. In the beginning I was not a big fan of him, but compared to Prabowo, Jokowi was an obviously better option. Now it’s all down to proving his promises, although the fractious parliament might hamper some of his programs.

      • It sounds like the situation in the USA. Nothing can get done right now with the Republicans hating Obama so much. I hope things work out. I hate it when the politics of a few powerful, self-serving people hamper progress and hurt the people.

  5. Who knew you could fit so many people on a scooter!? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people everywhere were that friendly and kind?

    • We have seen so many crazy things on scooters. I’ve seen five people on one, a buy carrying a bed on another, and scooters laden with baskets of fruit and veggies.

  6. Adventures in Kevin's World says:

    Kristi looks like she’s having a great time!

  7. Lovely, Yogyakarta is a friendly city, everything moves so slow there – in my view but oh well I came from Jakarta. Great photos Jeff.

    • It is all relative, right? Yogya seemed like a busy city to me but I am from a small town. The people were all really nice, but that has been true so far of everywhere we’ve been in Indonesia!

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