Flying to Java was yet another time when we find that domestic travel in another country is FAR easier than in our own. Sure, you can bring your water through security! Of course you don’t have to package your liquids and gels in the little bag! Oh, your bracelets made the metal detector go off – no problem, we’ll just wand you (unlike the TSA…2 beeps and you’re in the puffer like a criminal!).
The flight was 1 hour long and in Java the time was 1 hour earlier. So we’re waking up at just past dawn, not quite naturally, but it’s not bad. 4:30AM we get the roosters and Muslim call to prayer, then fall back asleep til 6 or so. I’ve then been going out to the morning market just down the street for fruit (I could also buy some freshly slaughtered meat that’s nice and unrefrigerated, but I’m controlling myself).
Yogyakarta is definitely a big city with all the things any other big city has: pollution, lots of people, traffic, noise. It’s quite a change from quiet, slow Bali. The place we stayed the first 2 nights is a complex of rooms around a (cloudy) pool. Our room was a square box with a weak air conditioner and 2 twin beds pushed together. It’s clean in that the floors have been mopped and the sheets laundered, but despite its drawbacks, it’s been a great place for Jacob to recover from his minor stomach problems.
While he was resting near a bathroom, I made friends with a local becak (pronounced “beh-chack” – bicycle with scooper to sit in on the front) driver named Yanto. His turf is outside the hotel and he knows everyone all over town. He took me to the palace (totally skippable) and to the bird market (so cool!). He escorted me around the bird market at my request and staved off a couple jerks who were following me and generally told people to go away.
The next day, Jacob was feeling a little better so he came with me on Yanto’s becak to the silver market. While I was either getting ripped off or getting a good deal (still unsure, but I haggled that little calculator off!), he was learning tons of Indonesian from Yanto outside.
That night, we had a huge storm that culminated in a crack of thunder and lightning that took out the power for 3 hours. I’m guessing the Muslims have generators because the calls to prayer were still loud and clear.
The next morning, we went to Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist temple, for the Waisak festival. I was really excited about seeing a big procession and being at the temple for it. We arrived and saw some amazing musicians and a guy dancing with a 10 foot tall mask made out of wicker in
the back and peacock feathers in the front. Then we actually walked with the procession the 3KM to the temple. This would normally have been great, but it was raining buckets the entire way!
We got to Borobudur only to find out that the actual temple of Borobudur was closed!
Mostly we hung around with a Swiss couple who was doing a trip very similar to ours. We walked around the grounds for a while then sat and had some tea while we tried to warm up.
It was moderately warm out, but being wet, we were frozen! The tour director found us and pointed out where the “restaurant” (stall) was and continued looking for other folks from the tour. One of the things about Java is no matter how much you try to fit in, you’re still a foreigner who looks foreign.
Anyway, we had dinner and went shopping with our new friends Julien and sabine. I did some hard-core haggling where I haggled a down on a sarong from 150,000RP ($15) to 17,000RP ($1.70)! I didn’t buy it, but I was proud of my work.
The next day we hired a car and driver to take us to the Parambanan temples, the royal burial ground at Imogiri, and the healing springs of Parang Wedang.
There were a lot of domestic tourists because of a long weekend, not international, so it didn’t feel like the Japanese tour buses were going to drive up at any minute. It was kids playing in the parks of the complex, a local ceremony with dance and music, and lots of middle and high school age kids just hanging out.
Some high school aged kids came up to us and asked if they could have a photo with us. So we posed for about 20 photos and helped them with their English – they asked us where we were from, what our names were, etc.
We got to a temple that was closed with some kids inside yelling “hello, mister!” and motioning for us to come in. The gate was closed and locked, so they came over and showed us how to go through a hole in the fence and join them. They knew words like “photo” and “smoking” and “anarchy” and used them a lot at us. They asked us for a photo and we asked them for one. Very cute!
After the temples, we went to Imogiri, the cemetery for Javan royalty. The main attraction is the stairs that you ascend, there are 409 of them! Once at the top, they were closed, so we just sat and relaxed and took in the view. When the main cemetery is open, you have to wear special garb to get in – women wear a sarong off the shoulders and men wear a sarong tied at the waist and no shirt.
The next site we wanted to see was a hot spring. Not knowing anything about it except it’s a hot spring and people claim it cures skin ailments, we arrived to an outdoor complex with 6 rooms and people waiting outside them. Not wanting to seem like we didn’t know why we were there, we waited for a room. Jacob took the first one then I took his when he was done. It’s an Indonesian style bath with a tub you don’t sit in (being a spring, it was constantly running) and a tap and hand bucket. You pour the water over you while standing outside the tub. I’m not sure if it worked, but it sure was nice and warm.
Our last stop of the day was a choice made by our driver – to watch the sunset at the beach.
As soon as we arrived, the driver walked us into an outdoor fish market and in his very bad English explained that if we bought fish, someone would cook it for us. I jumped right in and got 1/4 kilo of shrimp. We went to a restaurant of sorts (they cook outside in the back and you sit in a covered area in the front) and they fried (goreng) it up for me with a spicy sauce and rice and veggies. Jacob, being a non-fish-eater, ate corn on the cob and some of my rice and veggies. Turns out 1/4 kilo of shrimp is a lot. 🙂
In the morning, we headed to the train station to catch the train (bisnis class) to Jakarta. This is different from economy (cattle class) and eksekutif (“executive,” with assigned seats and AC) by its having assigned seats with lots of legroom but no AC. It’s an 8 hour journey which was quite comfortable and safe, albeit warm.
From about 11AM on, the food and junk sellers paced the length of the car yelling or singing their wares. We got pocket food of rice, tempeh, and noodles in wax paper, then wrapped in newspaper as well as way more fried cassava than 2 people should ever eat in one day. At prayer time (I think it was 5PM), a guy walked to the back with a bullhorn and began singing the call to prayer.
The most annoying of the sellers is the people who put what they’re selling on your lap, walk away for a while, then come back to see if you liked it enough to buy it. In this manner we received: a wooden bowl, an indistinguishable object made of plastic with a metal coin in it, and a no-doubt heartbreaking letter (written in Indonesian) given out by some children; and we were not chosen to receive: a laminated Muslim prayer, “fancy plasters” (band-aids with cartoon characters on them), or a motorcycle made entirely of wood.
We got into Jakarta at 4PM or so and took a bajaj (they sometimes call them tuk tuks, like the Thai vehicles) to our hostel. The exhaust fumes in Jakarta traffic are seriously awful. We took to holding my sarong over our noses in order to breathe!
The hostel (Bloem Steen) was pretty bad, with incredibly dirty walls, a shared bathroom I’d rather not describe (and no toilet paper), and an air conditioning unit that zapped its circuit off every 30 minutes. Needless to say, we switched to a place double the price and 10 times the quality. If you’re ever in Jakarta, go to ROTA Hotel. It’s on the edge of Jalan Jaksa and really nice.