“Now It Starts Crashing” Pandemic Prowling #5

About Pandemic Prowling: In this series, Pandemic Prowling, I share stories about my travels across 4 continents (Asia, N. America, S. America, Africa) amidst the outbreak of Covid19.


(late March 2020)

During the last entry of Pandemic Prowling, I was trying to comprehend the pain and dejection of taking a 10 hour bus to only find out what I wanted to see was shutdown because of the government response to the CoVid19 outbreak in Indonesia.

Nonetheless, I decided to push onward with the trip. This time just taking a short bus ride down from Magelang in Central Java to the special administrative region of Yogyakarta

The heart of Java in Indonesia

I was told (well read on the internet) that Yogyakarta was the cultural capital of the island of Java so I wanted to check it out, hoping that the closure of the Borobudur Temple was a one off.

Well I did get to see some of the sights such as the palace complex of bygone Javan kings:

It’s said that the reigning Javan king would be in the tower in the back overlooking the pools. One for his children, the other for his concubines where he would pick one for the night.

Some of the sites were open (such as the one above), but most were closed and I was left with too much time on my hands. It was at this time that I began getting pressure from close family members to come back home to the US. I was resistant, despite them telling me borders were being shutdown and economies locked. I didn’t want to believe it.

My mother told me she was unable to purchase surgical masks anywhere so I decided to ask around the numerous pharmacies in the central Javan city I was in. My rationale was that even before this virus, it was common in many Asian cultures for people to walk around with masks, so they must be plenty here.


I was met with no after no. Friendly store clerks would become cold upon my inquires of wanting to purchase surgical masks.

Uncomfortable with the prospect of my mother back home remaining unprotected, I purchased an overpriced box of masks on eBay to be delivered to her.


At the same time, I was wandering the streets of the Indonesian city, a peculiar thing began happening, temperature checks were implemented by many stores. Strange. I contemplated if I should continue eastward and eventually jump over to the island of Bali that is all the rage amongst westerners.

The way things were going down, coupled by pressure from family back home, I made the hard choice to return to the States.

But there was one more thing I wanted to do, I had been staying in a 5 dollar a night hotel up until this point. While the non English speaking folks were kind and always provided a simple but thoughtful breakfast, I realized these would be my last few days in East Asia for a long time, plus I missed having a “real toilet” and running shower.

So on my last day in Indonesia, I booked a night at a 5 star hotel. My first time experiencing such luxury. And I paid…

25 dollars.

I was smug with pride.

The front desk staff commented on what a terrible time it is to be traveling right now.

Tell me about it.

Maybe that’s why the hotel was so cheap.


My flight from Yogyakarta to Jakarta to Taipei to San Francisco was scheduled for March 22. It was going to be an early morning flight. So after finally getting a hot shower in what felt like ages, I went to bed, with so many fond memories of SE Asia.

Posing for one last picture in SE Asia. This time in a fancy hotel lobby.

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