The internet is full of oversimplified travel articles, and Huffington Post is a master at publishing such clickbait. They recently published an article of little substance titled, “Skip Bali, Head To Yogyakarta Instead,” written by an associate editor who must’ve been in a rush to fill space after travel bloggers turned down requests for articles without pay.
I was curious to see what reasons the writer gave for visiting Yogyakarta rather than Bali. I was given no real comparison between the two. Superficial destination profiles are the equivalent of using Wikitravel as a source — I can get this info anywhere, but what I’d really like to read is some analysis. HuffPo’s associate editor spent a full 348 words on this lazy piece of “journalism.” I’ll more than double that word count for my readers.
As I have been to both tourist destinations in Indonesia, albeit almost 8 years ago in Bali and for only a brief stay in Jogja, I’ve most likely seen more of the two than HuffPo’s staff. While I didn’t see all the best of either destination, I did see highlights and got to experience what there is for travelers.
Obviously Bali overshadows Yogyakarta as a tourist destination, and there’s good reason for this. Bali is beautiful. It’s not just a city — it’s an island with multiple areas to explore. Of course, most tourists end up in the cultural center of Ubud and the polluted beaches of Kuta. While the former is worth seeing, the latter should be avoided at all costs (there are much nicer beaches at Nusa Dua).
There are also plenty of crowded tourist spots like Uluwatu and Tanah Lot, both of which are crowded with tourists for good reason. They are spectacular sites to see. It’s the beaten path for a reason.
There are also pristine regions of Bali where you can avoid the tourist crowds, like Gunung Kawi Temple in Tagalalang. This amazing temple was a hidden marvel, and there weren’t any other tourists when I was there. The town surrounding it is home to woodcarving shops as well as small restaurants overlooking the terraced fields.
Bali is also more accustomed to tourists than other destinations in Indonesia, which means it’s easier to get around when you don’t speak Bahasa Indonesia. Of course, this also makes the island a bit more pricey.
The method HuffPo’s editor employs to entice travelers to head to Jogja instead of Bali is this simple sentence, “While most visitors stick to Bali, the tried and tested Indonesian destination, adventurers up for a challenge should look into Yogyakarta.”
“Up for a challenge”? Really? How is going to Yogyakarta a challenge? Unless you include the delightful experience of flying into the international airport or possibly arriving by train from Surabaya or Jakarta. Or Maybe it’s the challenge of figuring out the buses in case your hotel isn’t near the main street through town.
Also, the description of Prambanan in the article is exactly what you get for reading the first line of a Wikipedia description. While the main temple, Candi Prambanan, is a 9th century Hindu temple, the area is also home to older temples including the oldest Buddhist temple in Indonesia, which predates Prambanan.
The article also doesn’t state the fact that Borobudur is the largest single Buddhist temple in the world. One would think that’s an important point to make when convincing travelers to visit. And why not emphasize that sunrise is the best time to visit the temple, partly because the view is amazing and also because it would be unbearably hot afterwards?
And the city of Yogyakarta is not home to an abundance of art and culture — there are some cultural and art-related activities around the palace, but I wouldn’t call that an abundance. Unless, the article is referring to the contemporary sculptures that line Jalan Malioboro (many of which are hidden from view because of the hawkers) or the more child-friendly murals around the alleys.
Also, why wouldn’t the article mention food? While Bali has plenty of tourist-friendly restaurants, Jogja is home to plenty of delicious street food. Unfortunately, travelers have to be a bit more cautious eating cheap street food as it could lead to painful bouts of intestinal problems, thus ruining the journey.
Other than the major tourist attractions, which aren’t near the center of Yogyakarta, there isn’t a lot in the city to keep a traveler’s interest. It is not a city with nightlife other than eating outside at makeshift restaurants along Jalan Malioboro while listening to wandering musicians. It can, however, be a relaxing city if you find the right cafes and restaurants.
Of course, the same can be said of Bali. Although Bali has many more restaurants with exquisite views than Jogja — restaurants in Jogja are more for people watching than scenery.
And if you’re looking for the more friendly of the two destinations, I’d say both are fairly equal. I certainly had more interactions in Jogja than Bali as I was on a tour in the latter, but I found people to be polite in both. Of course, because Bali is more accustomed to tourists, there will be more hawkers and even some scams and rip-offs, but that’s part of traveling sometimes.
Bali and Jogja have different vibes for travelers as well as different draws. There’s adventure and fun to be had in both Indonesian destinations; it depends on what you want to see and do. The deciding factor for many would be the ease of finding flights to Denpasar in Bali as opposed to the small international airport of Yogyakarta, which will usually require a long layover elsewhere in Indonesia or a nearby country.
Which would you prefer to visit?