Our visit to Eastern Java, March 2013

This week we had an amazing journey to Indonesia, where we saw the Mount Bromo volcano that is near Surabaya, and also several sights around Jogjakarta. It was amazing!!

First of all, we had a nearly-full weekend at home before we left. On Saturday we did a few errands, on Sunday we woke up at 7:00, did stuff, got ready, took a cab at 11:00 AM, jumped in a plane bound for Surabaya in Indonesia (the eastern tip of Java island, actually) at 1:30, flew for two hours, got there at 2:30 PM local time, a driver was there to pick us up, and off we went into the hills. Talk about a civilized way to travel! We drove into the night, got to a village hostel at around 8:00 PM, had some dinner and went to sleep. On Monday morning we woke up at 3:30 AM for our 4:00 AM pick-up (we got up early nearly every day on the trip… but usually not that early!!), a jeep took us across rough terrain and some steep roads to a wonderful lookout point. Although it was still dark out, it was slowly filling up with tourists and fully-kitted cameramen, including a few urban warriors with the full outdoor kit (jackets made with special materials, head-mounted lamps, strobing power flashlights). Nice. The sun came up, and we got our first view of the volcano and the valley below, with its sea of clouds. Perfect! Loved it. Wandered around there for a while, went downhill, got an even better view of the valley, went downhill some more to another spot where we hiked up a hill and got another angle of the volcanic plateau. There we discovered a Spanish backpacker who had slept there in a tent overnight and was happy to meet energetic fellow-travellers. Then on to the sand sea, where we walked past the nice temple and on up the slope of the great old crater for a look into the scary mouth of hell – a real live volcano!! Wow!!!!! It was a beautiful morning and we walked around for a while, then jumped in the jeep to see a beautiful savannah, before returning – quite tired – to the hostel. Checked out, drove to the city of Surabaya, drove in circles for an hour before we found our Novotel. Checked in, chilled out, hung out there for a while, went to sleep early.

On Tuesday we woke up early and headed for the train station for our ride from Surabaya to Jogjakarta (also known as Yogyakarta and Yogya), which was good fun. Ate breakfast at the Surabaya station Dunkin’ Donuts, marveled at the full band that set up to play in the waiting area, before getting to our seats. Nice, comfortable, inexpensive. Nice scenery from the windows. Got to Jogjakarta where another driver was waiting for us to take us to our accommodation at Rumah Tembi (also called Tembi Rumah Budaya, a cultural centre and heritage gallery). The proprietors took us to the room that we’d booked, but we found it to be a bit small; the staff offered to trade us into a larger cottage at no extra charge; sensing a con, we agreed to look at the second place, a large, dark, warehouse-like chamber that had a bit of charm, but was very roomy and was also close to Rumah Tembi’s small pool. We decided to go for that one, and it was a good decision. While it was dark, it had a lot of character, and when we opened up both doors a nice breeze flowed through. Lovely! There was a bird in a cage perched in front, lots of water, plenty of plants, and just a step away from the reception/restaurant. We had hoped to take a 2-hour gamelan course, but we found out that the gamelan lessons had to be cancelled because the instructor had a performance elsewhere. Rip-off!! Oh well… Had some lunch, took a swim, Zen did his homework, and it began to rain; no bicycle riding. We had afternoon tea, and chilled out. Went for a little walk, had dinner, a beer, looked at the museum and its many interesting pieces, a huge short sword collection, a modern art gallery, and took in a gamelan performance that was happening. Nice. Went to sleep early, as the next morning there was a 6:00 AM start to Borobudur and Dieng Plateau.

On Wednesday, our driver, Pak Agus arrived at 6:00 AM and we went driving off to Borobudur. We had a nice walk around the ruins of the 1200-year-old Buddhist temple, the largest Buddhist temple in the world. I’d like to say something to describe the visit, but pictures really tell it all – a magnificent pyramid on a jungle hill top with beautiful views, great stone work, and an interesting collection of tourists scrabbling all over it. After that we went off to the next town, where we visited friends of a colleague at their home, had tea, snacks and lunch, then started off on our drive to the beautiful Dieng Plateau. The ride up there was grueling, as the road snaked up and up. It was tough, but once we got there we knew it was worth it – a glorious plain feeling, wonderful views of terraced vegetable fields, and glorious sun everywhere. We stopped at one very nice place and took photos, then travelled on to a sulfurous volcanic bog. At that point I felt very cold, so I put on my sweater. I felt weak and couldn’t walk well and knew that I had become pretty sick. Up to that point I was constipated 3.5 days, but soon I had the runs and it all came out. Nice… but feeling sick. We skipped a stop at the “colour lake” and headed back, stopping for a short while at a very nice lookout point. Got back to the hotel at 8:00 PM, had some dinner, and went to sleep.

On Thursday I was too weak to do anything, despite 11 hours sleep, but after a small breakfast and some more sleep I felt much better. We cancelled our program for that day, and occupied ourselves with changing hotels from Rumah Tembi to the Hotel Phoenix, a classy European-style hotel in town. The environment there was less nice, but it was gorgeous! They tried to “upgrade” us to a suite, but sensing another con we noticed that the balcony was box-like, blocked by a wall rather than the airy open grill that the neighboring rooms used, so we requested to be downgraded back to a regular room. The one we got was as far away from the reception as you can get, but it was still a nice room with a cool balcony and we felt very comfortable there. Nice! Zen especially loved watching cartoons such as Phineas and Ferb, Iggy and the Cockroaches, Cinderella, etc. Had a big lunch (burger), then didn’t do much until the evening when we explored Malioboro Street, the local shopping drag. Nothing inspiring in any of the stores, and we were tired and weak, so we headed home by bicycle rickshaw, quite nice.

On Friday we had an excursion to the seaside planned, which was good fun. Got there, had some tea, took a horse cart along the beach in one direction as far as it would go (to the cliff), walked back, splashed our feet in the Indian Ocean, saw a surfer (one), some fishermen, villagers, peddlers mendicants, and a sad old lady. Had a nice tea, hung out, went off to the fish market to pick some fish for lunch, had that cooked up in a nice cooking hut at the edge of town along a strange little road, then went up into the hills to a village to meet one of the villages, a friend of my colleague. He took us off to see some caves that the Japanese army had dug from 1942-1945 when they occupied Java. Strangely well-maintained and tidy. Found a great lookout, had a nice stroll, went through the village, had refreshing coconuts, fed the goats, and went off to see the sunset. Like Mount Bromo’s sunrise, there were low clouds, so although it had been a sunny day with blue skies, we didn’t see a true sunset, with the sun slowly shrinking as it approached the horizon until it was blocked by clouds. No matter, it was a beautiful spot. We went back to the hotel, had a swim. Dinner – McDonalds!

Saturday we mainly did errands in town – money changing, buying souvenirs, some batik shirts for me (see the last two photos), some medicine for Naoko, a haircut for me from an 83-year old barber who has run a roadside barbershop for 25 years, and a tour of the sights of Kraton district, then off to a big old castle-like European restaurant in the beautiful hills around Merati volcano, and a nice museum for the local royal family. Fun! The highlight of the day was going of to Prambangan temple where they have a theatre that stages the Ramayana Indonesian ballet and song cycle, a very beautiful retelling of an ancient Hindu myth. Stunning.

Sunday we had to fly off early, so we went to the airport at 5:30 AM, had some local tarts for breakfast with our coffee and tea, then flying off to Singapore. A very small international departure area of Jogjakarta Airport, but nice enough. We walked from the departure gate to our airplane, a first for me, even though it was only about 100 metros. Somehow we were bumped up to the “premier” seats at the front of the plane, which was nice – and a bit unusual to be “bumped up” on a budget airline flight. And so we were the first to get off the airplane… and into another Singapore-side security screening with x-rays for the baggage and a nice long pat-down for me. Welcome to Singapore – you don’t get this on flights from Jakarta.

Sunday afternoon we chilled out, but I kept busy unpacking and dealing with my 600+ photos. Zen played guitar and did homework.

Soundtrack for the trip: The Eagles, Hotel California.

Here are some nice photos of the visit, enjoy.

Bromo sunrise

Bromo sunrise

The beauty of the volcanic plateau at Mount Bromo

The beauty of the volcanic plateau at Mount Bromo

The beauty of the volcanic plateau at Mount Bromo

The beauty of the volcanic plateau at Mount Bromo

Heaven on earth.

Heaven on earth.

Naoko and Zen in the jeep

Naoko and Zen in the jeep

Dawn riders

Dawn riders

Into the void!!

Into the void!!

On a plain

On a plain

On savannah!!

On savannah!!

On savannah!! With Dian, our guide.

On savannah!! With Dian, our guide.

On savannah!!

On savannah!!

With our local jeep driver Chuck

With our local jeep driver Chuck

The train from Surabaya to Jogjakarta

The train from Surabaya to Jogjakarta

On the train...

On the train...

On the train...

On the train...

Railside Indonesia

Railside Indonesia

Naoko and Zen in front of our cottage "Polaman" at Rumba Tembi. Great place!

Naoko and Zen in front of our cottage "Polaman" at Rumba Tembi. Great place!

View of neighbouring fields from our back yard.

View of neighbouring fields from our back yard.

the pool facing our cottage... nice touch!

the pool facing our cottage... nice touch!

View of our Rumah Tembi cottage with front and back door opened

View of our Rumah Tembi cottage with front and back door opened

Inside looking out...

Inside looking out...

Morning mist at Rumah Tumbi. Love it...

Morning mist at Rumah Tumbi. Love it...

Sunrise morning

Sunrise morning

Zen, dressed up for Borobudur.

Zen, dressed up for Borobudur.

Gettin' dressed up for Borobudur

Gettin' dressed up for Borobudur

Borobudur rising!!!

Borobudur rising!!!

Borobudur

Borobudur

Borobudur

Borobudur

Climbing Borobudur

Climbing Borobudur

Naoko and Zen at the top of the Borobudur temple

Naoko and Zen at the top of the Borobudur temple

Naoko and Zen at the top of the Borobudur temple

Naoko and Zen at the top of the Borobudur temple

Zen at the top of the Borobudur temple

Zen at the top of the Borobudur temple

Peter, Naoko and Zen at the top of the Borobudur templePeter, Naoko and Zen at the top of the Borobudur temple

Peter, Naoko and Zen at the top of the Borobudur templePeter, Naoko and Zen at the top of the Borobudur temple

Zen and the kittens

Zen and the kittens

Hanging out with Naning and Renang

Hanging out with Naning and Renang

View of volcanic Merapi from the road to Dieng Plateau

View of volcanic Merapi from the road to Dieng Plateau

With our driver Pak Agus at Dieng Plateau. Finally, we arrived!!!

With our driver Pak Agus at Dieng Plateau. Finally, we arrived!!!

At the Dieng Plateau hot pits

At the Dieng Plateau hot pits

At the Dieng Plateau hot pits, with Pak Agus.

At the Dieng Plateau hot pits, with Pak Agus.

Scenery from the top of the Dieng Plateau.

Scenery from the top of the Dieng Plateau.

Scenery from the top of the Dieng Plateau.

Scenery from the top of the Dieng Plateau.

Driving to the seaside, roadside farm paddies...

Driving to the seaside, roadside farm paddies...

Beach buggy, Indonesia style!

Beach buggy, Indonesia style!

Beach buggy, Indonesia style!

Beach buggy, Indonesia style!

Indian Ocean blues!!

Indian Ocean blues!!

Naoko on the beach.

Naoko on the beach.

Naoko and Zen on the beach.

Naoko and Zen on the beach.

Lakeside Park

Lakeside Park

On the love beach

On the love beach

Wonderful house at Budoyo's, in the beach village...

Wonderful house at Budoyo's, in the beach village...

Hangin' in a hut.

Hangin' in a hut.

We found the Javanese Japanese caves

We found the Javanese Japanese caves

Simple shelter.

Simple shelter.

Great coconuts!!

Great coconuts!!

Indian ocean sunset viewtop.

Indian ocean sunset viewtop.

View from the beautiful seaside

View from the beautiful seaside

Borobudur

Push the sky away

Indian ocean sunset.

Indian ocean sunset.

Oooh... chilling out at the Phoenix Hotel in Jogjakarta. Love it...

Oooh... chilling out at the Phoenix Hotel in Jogjakarta. Love it...

Hotel Phoenix pool... love it.

Hotel Phoenix pool... love it.

v

v

Best... pool... ever...

Best... pool... ever...

Lovely morning musicians

Lovely morning musicians

Wonderfuly men's toilet at the wonderful Jogjakarta Mirota department store.

Wonderfuly men's toilet at the wonderful Jogjakarta Mirota department store.

Wonderfuly women's toilet at the wonderful Jogjakarta Mirota department store.

Wonderfuly women's toilet at the wonderful Jogjakarta Mirota department store.

Hair cut, victim's view

Hair cut, victim's view

Just a little off the front, back, top, bottom, left and right.

Just a little off the front, back, top, bottom, left and right.

Me 'n' my Javanese barber

Me 'n' my Javanese barber

Small gate in Kraton

Small gate in Kraton

Nice Kraton intersection

Nice Kraton intersection

Naoko, Zen, Hanuman, and the Ramayana gang

Naoko, Zen, Hanuman, and the Ramayana gang

Prambanan at night

Prambanan at night

Lovely Ramayana ballet!!

Lovely Ramayana ballet!!

Ramayana ballet

Ramayana ballet

The Ramayana cast - real rock 'n' roll!

The Ramayana cast - real rock 'n' roll!

Police helicopter getaway

Police helicopter getaway

My cool new batik shirt!! The first one...

My cool new batik shirt!! The first one...

My cool new batik shirt!! The second one...

My cool new batik shirt!! The second one...

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