Yogyakarta, Java

March 30, 2015

The final day of our tour only had one activity scheduled, a guided tour of the sultans palace. In the morning we checked out of our hotel and moved our bags to Duta Guesthouse before we drove the short distance to the palace. There Bambang got us a guide before he left for a long drive back to Carita.

We started the tour with a traditional puppet show. We only stayed for a short time as we couldn’t follow the story at all but it was cool to have seen it as we had read about the puppet shows in Yogya. Behind the puppets were a big orchestra playing music throughout the show.

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Then we walked around the temple complex. There were some areas we couldn’t go as they were the living quarters of the sultan and his family. The sultan seemed pretty important to the people there, or it could just have been our guide doing her job. She said he was a very good sultan and his praying had helped protect Yogya in Merapis last eruption.

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We spent an our or two in the palace and then we tried walking into town, but had trouble finding the way. All the time the becak (trishaw) drivers were bugging us wanting to drive us somewhere even when we kept telling them no and “jalan jalan” which kind of means “walking walking” in Indonesian. In general in Java, people can be quite annoying trying to sell you items or transport. In the end we got talking to a man who was working in the tourist office. He recommended us a few places to go in Yogya, one was this batik workshop where some students showed people how they worked with batik. It was free and sounded interesting so we finally got a becak and went there. We got there and were greeted by a guy who took us to see this girl working on a batik painting while he explained the process of batik to us.

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They had a lot of paintings for sale there, made by both professionals and students, the latter being a lot cheaper. We spent quite a long time looking through them all and in the end I bought a student painting I liked. Since it’s batik it’s made on a fabric that can easily be folded and washed so I thought it wouldn’t be too hard to carry with me on the rest of my travels.

We then walked to a mall where we visited another branch of Bread Talk and bought maybe a few too many cakes… We brought them to a nearby cafe where they gave us each a free donut with our coffee on top of all the cakes.

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After that we walked around the city center for a bit. It’s definitely the nicest city on Java I’ve been too and I wouldn’t mind visiting Yogya again. We walked back to our hotel, it turned out to be pretty far and we agreed not to do that walk again. Being a nicer city it’s still not that nice to walk longer distances through.

In the evening Olivia had a massage and I went and got a pizza at a recommended Italian place close to our hotel. I brought it back and watched some Swedish television in front of the pool. After I finished my food the lovely staff brought me a cake and a tea.

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The rest of the evening we spent in the hotel. For a while we tried streaming a movie but the internet connection just wasn’t good enough.

 

The Java Tour – day 6, Merapi and Prambanan

March 30, 2015

The 6th day of our tour was a day trip from Yogya. We started with the volcano Merapi where we had to get a jeep to reach it’s attractions.

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The first stop was a small museum set in the remains of a house from Merapis last eruption in 2010. Most of the people living on the volcano were evacuated before the eruption but whole villages were destroyed and buried. Now some of the people who used to live there makes money from the museum and shops they have set up around the main points to visit. On display in the museum were what remained of their possessions after the eruption (including two cow skeletons).

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Then we drove onto the next thing to see: The alienhead. This was a stone that was supposed to resemble the head of an alien. I think this was just another case of trying to crate a tourist attraction to get people to pay for the entry permit for the volcano.

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Then we drove up to the last stop: The bunker. This was a bunker in which two people were killed during the eruption, the door apparently didn’t hold against the power of the volcano. Overall the volcano was interesting to see as it’s active and still have a big impact on peoples life. We also enjoyed the jeep drive and the landscape.

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We left Merapi to go to Prambanan, Javas biggest hindu temple. On the way there it started raining, and this time we weren’t as lucky with the weather as we had been earlier in the week; it was still pouring down when we reached Prambanan. We put on our waterproofs and had a meal hoping the rain would soon stop, however it didn’t and we had our guided tour in the rain.

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Our guide was really good, he told us about hinduism and the different temples in the complex.

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He also told us some of the hindu stories that were carved on the walls.

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After the temple we went back to Yogya where we had dinner at ViaVia, also on the same street as we were staying on. The next day was the final day of our tour and we decided to stay in Yogya a couple of days more after that, but to change hotels. The hotel we were at were ok, our room had two big beds so we had a lot of space but the staff didn’t speak much English and weren’t too helpful, we could only communicate with them through Bambang and he was leaving the next day. So in the evening we walked down the street and checked out all the other hotels. The one that appealed the most to us was Duta Guesthouse. The staff there were really nice and the hotel had a lovely courtyard with a pool. The room was fine, only it had two very small single beds instead of the doubles at the other hotel. We got a good price, 175 000 Rp/night, and made a reservation from the next day for two nights.

The Java Tour – day 5, Dieng plateau and Borobodur

March 30, 2015

After leaving Papandayan we drove about nine hours to the Dieng Plateau where we spent one night in a very basic hotel in Dieng Village. The Dieng Plateau is 2093 meters above the sea, has an active volcano and many plantation terraces.

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We got up early in the morning and went to see an old hindu temple complex, the Arjuna complex, just outside the village. The temples are some of the oldest Hindu temples in Java and are mostly in ruins, but they were partly restored when they were rediscovered by the Dutch in the 1800’s. It was set in the midst of (mainly) potato plantations and when we got there people were just starting to work in the fields.

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After the temple we drove to the volcanic caldera, I had to use google to define what this means: “A caldera is a cauldron-like volcanic feature usually formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption. They are sometimes confused with volcanic craters”. It was a big hole with boiling goo and lots of smoke rising from it.

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Then we were off to Telaga Warna to see Cebong Lake. Telaga Warna is a small nature park with a couple of lakes. Cebong Lake is famous for it’s colour which it gets from sulphurous deposits.

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When we got there me and Olivia went on a walk around the lakes. We climbed up to a view point and got amazing views of a valley and the park’s second lake: Talaga Pengilon.

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After rounding the lakes there was this small island you could walk out to that was meant to have some attractions on it. There was the “writing stone” and some tiny caves with gates around them and small statues outside that I think had some religious value at some point in time. But to be honest it wasn’t that much to see and it felt like they only advertised it to try and justify the entrance price for the park (which of course was already included in our tour anyway).

When we were finished in the park we got back in the car and drove for another three hours to Borobudur, the biggest Buddhist temple in Java. We got a guided tour around the complex.

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We spent an hour or two around the temple before we left for Yogyakarta. We decided to stay in the Prawirotaman area, there were a couple of streets there with lots of hotels and nice bars and restaurants mostly aimed at tourists. At first we thought we’d walk down the street and check out the hotels and their prices, so Bambang drove to the hotel he was gonna stay at on the same street. The hotel seemed ok so we had a look at a room there and got a good deal for it, 200 000 rupiah/night (£10), and decided to stay there. After checking in we went out for dinner and a cocktail at Easy Going, just next to our hotel. It was nice to eat in a restaurant again and not just a warung or food stall. The prices were of course a bit higher, this being a touristy area, but the food was very nice and so worth it. We spent a couple of hours there using their wifi and then went back to the hotel to sleep.

 

The Java Tour – day 3-4, Papandayan

March 20, 2015

After our second night in Bandung we left the city to go see another volcano: Papandayan. It was a pretty long drive, Papandayan is closer the city Garut than to Bandung. Earlier on the trip Bambang had told us it was possible to camp on the volcano to catch the sunrise from the mountain the next morning. This wasn’t part of the original tour which had suggested to stay the night in Garut, but we thought camping sounded great and decided to look into it when we reached the volcano.

The drive up the mountain was beautiful and we stopped at one place to take photos of the rice fields.

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We got up as far as the car would take us, to this little office where you could hire a guide for the mountain.

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Bambang helped us get a good deal for a guide + camping gear and food for the whole trip. We had to wait here for a couple of hours while one of the guys working there drove down to pick up the supplies. When he returned another guy drove the camping gear on his bike to the camping place up the mountain while we set off with our guide for the hike up. We quickly reached the first crater.

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The rest of the walk took a couple of hours. It was occasionally pretty hard but I really enjoyed it.

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At one point we could look back the way we’d come and see all the way down to the first crater we stopped at.

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When we reached the camping grounds our tent was already setup for us. There were a few other tents there, maybe 15 people in total were camping that night. We went in to have a rest and as soon as we did it started pouring down outside. Overall we were very lucky with the weather throughout the week. As soon as we entered the car or a building (or in this case a tent) it would start raining, but then when we were going to do something outside again it would stop.

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When it got dark outside we joined our guide, Bambang and some other Indonesian men at the fire which they had made under some shelter. There was a little mosque prayer house thingy (not sure if this is a mosque or prayer room or something else?) next to it. Our guide used it as shelter to cook for us while some of the other men went inside to pray. We had dinner, only instant noodles, which are actually are pretty common in Indonesia (and a bit tastier than home). Not the best dinner but we were hungry and ate a lot.

We went to bed early to be able to wake up at 5am to watch the sunrise. The night was very cold, we had been told it would be around 10 degrees at night, and the ground was hard to sleep on even with the sleeping mats we were given. We didn’t get much sleep at all and got up just after 5am and walked five minuted to a spot where we’d be able to see the sunrise. Unfortunately it was still pretty cloudy, though the view wasn’t too bad.

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After the sunrise we had more noodles for breakfast and then we trekked down the the death valley, or something similar, where an eruption had killed all the trees (with heat and ash if I remember correctly) and left the environment looking very eerie.

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After the death valley we reached another crater, I can’t remember what this one was called. We walked in the crater and were told to be careful and follow the guide, in certain places the ground could break into the hot water underneath.

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After this crater we headed back down to the starting point. We said our thank yous, took some photos with Indonesians and headed off again. As we entered the car it started raining again which was fine; we had a nine hour drive ahead of us to the Dieng Plateau.

 

The Java Tour – day 2, Tangkuban Perahu

March 20, 2015

In Bandung we stayed at Hunny Hostel. It was good; the staff were helpful, the dorm had normal beds, not bunks, and for the first night me and Olivia had the room to ourselves. We woke up early in the morning and had the usual hostel breakfast; toast with jam, butter or peanut butter. Not really what I want in the morning but at least it’s free. We met up with Bambang, our driver, and set off to the volcano Tangkuban Perahu.

We reached the top in about two hours (maybe, I really can’t remember, I’ve left it too long to actually write this). There were a lot of stalls and people trying to sell us things, but when they realised we weren’t interested in buying we were left alone. This is where I saw my first volcanic crater, there would be many more to come in the following week.

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This was also my first experience with having random people ask to take a photo with me, this as well would happen a lot more to me and Olivia during our Java trip. (West) Java doesn’t have many tourists or white people, so when we go here we become a tourist attraction ourselves.

After seeing the main crater we had a guided tour down to Domas crater through a forest. We really didn’t need a guide for it, there was just one path, but they wouldn’t let us go without a guide. It’s all part of Indonesias trying to get as much money out of every foreign visitor as possible. We were told all entry permits for the volcanos and other attractions had recently gone up in price (from about 50 000Rp to 200 000Rp per person, though these were all included in our tour) with the new government. The locals seemed pretty displeased with this, saying it decreased the number of tourists and their income from their restaurants, shops etc. There are also some things that are priced differently to locals and foreigners, I don’t really like it but I get it, we make a lot more money than the people living here.

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On the way down we saw some monkeys in the trees. These were a lot wilder than the ones I’d seen previously in Malaysia and stayed far away from us.

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The forest walk was nice, we reached the crater pretty quickly.

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This is where the famous hot springs were. We had no intention of going in, but were told the water and mud is good for the skin. Some of them were literally boiling (obviously these ones were not for bathing).

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Bambang met us at the bottom entrance for the crater and we set off in the car again. In our guide book, me and Olivia had read about a walk, The Dago Teahouse walk, nearby that we wanted to do. We drove there and Bambang left us to again meet us at the other end. We walked down 5km through a forest.

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On the way we spotted the biggest leaches on the path, they must have been 10cm long. I’ve never seen a leech before but have heard about them before I travelled to Asia. Apparently if one gets on you the best thing to do in to leave it until it’s finished eating your blood and lets go by itself, ewww. However you can also burn it off with a lighter… Anyway, we managed to get through the forest with nothing worse than mosquitoes eating us.

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Close to the end there were some tunnels used by the Japanese in World War II. We walked in for a bit with our torches, but there wasn’t much to see and it was pretty creepy so we left quickly.

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We got back to Bandung in the late afternoon. Bandung is another big, Indonesian city that isn’t very nice to walk around, so we decided we wanted to find a nice cafe with decent wifi to stay in for a while. The hostel owner pointed us towards a mall, about a 10 minute walk from the hostel. When we got there and saw all the signs for fast food chains we recognised, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, KFC, we instantly craved some Western food. Though when we entered Olivia spotted Bread Talk, a cake shop she had come across earlier on her travels and, seeing all the amazing cakes they sold, we quickly changed our mind about food. We left with two cakes each and went to a cafe close by where we had a coffee with our pastries. We spent a couple of hours there and then went back to the hostel to sleep. Some more people had arrived and the hostel wasn’t as quite as it was earlier. There were only two more girls in our dorm though and we got another good nights sleep, which we needed as the next day would include a lot of walking, climbing and camping.

 

The Java Tour – day 1, Krakatau

March 11, 2015

Our tour of Java started almost two weeks ago now, on February 26. It was a great week visiting different places and volcanos on Java, ending in Yogyakarta with visits to the two biggest temples Borobudur and Prambanan. Our tour started with the volcano Krakatau, off Javas west coast towards Sumatra. For Krakatau we brought another person with us (Cody? I think is name was Cody…) who just wanted to come for the day to see the volcano and then go back to Jakarta. We got picked up at our hostel at 5am for the three hour drive to Carita, from where there are speed boats out to Krakatau.

We arrived at a small restaurant in Carita where the tour company greeted us and treated us to some breakfast. We got egg and toast and pancake, it was great! After food we went down to the sea and boarded a little speed boat together with a guide that would take us out to Krakatau. The whole boat journey was about 1.5-2 hours.

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Krakatau had an eruption in 1883 which is one of the most destructive volcanic events ever recorded, I think around 35000 people were killed and most of the island was destroyed. In the 1920’s a new volcanic island started emerging from the sea, it’s know as Anak Krakatau (“The child of Krakatau”) and it’s this island that you can visit with the tour companies in Java. It’s apparently still growing with about 4 meters per year. From what I understood the original Krakatau is now dead, but the child had it’s last eruption in 2012.

We could see the islands from afar and got good views as we approached them. First we passed the original Krakatau and then we reached it’s child volcano.

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We landed on the beach and walked a short distance through the forest before climbing up to the first ridge.

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It was a short, but very hard climb because it was so very steep. And it was so hot too. There was also an easier, longer route but we decided to take the short one up.

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It wasn’t possible to go all the way to the top of the volcano, but we still got a great view from the ridge we went to. However not so many great photos of the actual volcano from there, I think we were just too close to it to get a good picture. We could see the neighbouring islands including the original Krakatau.

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After taking photos in every direction and angle, both with and without ourselves in them, we walked down again (the longer route this time).

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When we got back to the beach we were given lunch, nasi goreng (fried rice with vegetables and egg) and watermelon. It was really good, we weren’t really expecting food since we thought we were just going straight back to Carita. When we got back in the boat we did a trip around the whole island so that we got to see it from all the different angles.

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Then we started heading back, but close to another island (I think this was the first Krakatau island) they stopped the boat and told us we could do some snorkelling here!

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I had never done snorkelling before so this was a great chance to try it out! I really, really enjoyed it. There was a beautiful reef where we were and lots of colourful fishes. I will definitely do more snorkelling on my trip!

When we got back to Carita it was time to move onto Bandung where we would spend the night. We met our driver for the next week, a very interesting man named Bambang. He spoke good English and was a good driver, his car is the vehicle I’ve felt the most safe in in Indonesia (where people drive like crazy) so it was great to have him with us the whole week. The drive to Bandung was a long one; we first had to head back up to Jakarta and then continue onto Bandung. We were stuck in traffic for ages around Jakarta and we arrived very tired around midnight at a hostel in Bandung where we went straight to bed.

 

Jakarta

March 9, 2015

After leaving Langkawi I had a short stay in Jakarta. I didn’t love the city, it was big, dirty and full of crazy traffic. Pretty much what I expected but it works as a starting point to travel Java. The only good thing was the hostel I was at; The Packer Lodge. It was modern and clean, the staff were super friendly and the beds were great. They were so called pod beds. You basically get your own cube to sleep in which makes it a lot more private than the usual bunk beds you get in a dorm.

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I got there in the evening and had dinner at a local stall next door that the hostel owner recommended to me. I have no idea what I ate, but it was great (and very cheap!). I spent the evening trying to figure out where to go from Jakarta but went to bed none the wiser. It seemed Java was pretty hard to travel as a single tourist on public transport, and all the main attractions were out of the cities.

The next morning I was lucky enough to meet Olivia! Olivia had also just gotten into Jakarta and wanted to travel around Java, but not really sure how to or where to go. We were both interested in visiting the volcano Krakatau, off Javas west coast. Our guide book recommended one tour company to go with (http://www.krakatau-tour.com/) and while we were checking out their website we realised they had lots of different tours on offer! After a lot of emailing back and forth trying to agree on a price with them, we had a custom version of their Java volcano tour booked. We’d be travelling together with a driver for the next week to Yogyakarta visiting volcanoes and temples on the way, leaving 5am the next morning.

I also went to a mall this day to look around some shops. There didn’t seem to be that much to do in Jakarta anyway and I really wanted to buy another backpack, one that would fit my laptop. Together with Olivia and Chao, a guy from our dorm, I took the city bus down the mall. The buses in Jakarta seemed to work pretty well, they had their own lane so wouldn’t get too stuck in traffic. They also had a womens only section in the bus, a bit weird, but I thought it was pretty funny, I wouldn’t mind having that back in London… In the mall I found a good backpack and I picked up a couple of t-shirts as well.

I’ve had an amazing week travelling with Olivia and will be posting more about it when I have time. At the moment I’m in Ubud in Bali, but tomorrow I’m leaving for Gili Trawangan on a bus to Padang Bai and then speed boat the rest of the way.