The train pulled into Yogyakarta (a.k.a. Jogja) at around 1430 and we set off on foot in search of somewhere to stay. It took us a couple of guesthouses to find the right one. Setia Kawan was a very popular place and rightly so. The owner is an artist so the walls are covered in colourful murals and his paintings hang on every wall.
The staff are also very friendly. Jogja in general is a very artistic place. It's a major centre for batik and you'll find galleries and people selling batik paintings and clothing everywhere. We were actually taken to one of the batik galleries by a local and the owner of the gallery took us through the process and let us look around at all the pieces of work. Of course he tried to sell us some at the end but it was good to go and see and we were definitely impressed and wanted to have a go ourselves so looked into doing a batik course. For dinner we went to Bedhot restaurant which is run by our guesthouse. I enjoyed a Jogja speciality, ayam goreng (fried chicken) while Ad had Indonesian sate. We're definitely making our way through the favoured dishes here. We spent the rest of the evening on the rooftop terrace of our guesthouse and while we were there, one of the members of staff brought up 2 University students hoping to have a chat with us. They were studying English in Jogja and for part of their course they had to seek out native English speakers so they could practice their English. It took them about 13 hours to find anyone, having been looking since 0800 and only coming across other Europeans such as French people. We were happy to talk to them and they were very interested in our lives back home and what we thought of Indonesia so far. They also told us a lot about Indonesia and offered to bring us some Brem cake tomorrow as a thank you. They also noticed that we collected bracelets and said they'd also give us one of them each too.
Day 2 17/04/11
Today was a fairly relaxed day. True to their word, the University students turned up in the morning armed with Brem cake and bracelets. They also requested a photo, we'd just woken up and were still in pjs so I'm not sure what it must have looked like. After breakfast we walked to the Kraton (Royal Residence) which is a walled city home to 10,000 people and the Sultan's Palace. We firstly went to the Pagelaran in the Sultan's Palace but there wasn't much too see so we didn't hang around for too long (our guidebook said most tourists bypass it). Next we went to the main palace which was full of open sided pavilions.
We walked past the Gedung Kuning, the offices and living quarters of the Sultan which are out of bounds to tourists. We had a free tour guide but she rushed us through quickly and she spoke quite softly so we couldn't always hear what she was saying. Overall it was fairly uninspiring and as it is firstly the Sultan's home and secondly a tourist attraction there was little information on display. To escape the immense heat we walked into a restaurant in the other backpackers district for lunch. This time I had gado gado, steamed veg dressed in a peanut sauce. After lunch we checked out some tour agencies to organise our trips to Borobodur and Gunung Bromo with and made out way up Jalan Malioboro, a 2km stretch of road leading from the palace (it was actually designed as a ceremonial boulevard). It's a bustling road full of people selling batik, becak drivers (rickshaws) and horse drawn carriages which made us feel like we'd stepped back in time. Our guesthouse was among the cheapest for tours so we booked a trip to Borobudur and the Dieng Plateau for the day after tomorrow and signed up to do a batik course tomorrow so we had a busy couple of days ahead of us. For dinner we went back to Bedhot as it was so good.
Day 3 18/04/11
Our batik course started at 0900 and it was just the 2 of us plus the teacher. He gave us a square piece of white fabric each, a pencil and a rubber. On the table were about 8 different templates we could use. Ad opted for the geckos and I went for the turtles. We firstly started off by placing our fabric over our templates and tracing over the design. Once our design in pencil was finished, our teacher led us over to where the brazier sat full of hot wax, much like a fondue.
After practicing for a bit we started to go over our pencil lines with wax. The wax functions as a protective layer to maintain the colour beneath so our lines would be white at the end. The next step was to rub the paint onto our design before going over the area with wax to preserve the colour. After lunch at Bedhot we carried on with our batik and once all the colour and wax was finished, our teacher poured the background colour onto our pieces of fabric. Once that was done it was time to melt the wax by dunking our fabric into a bowl of boiling hot water. They both came out fantastic and we're really happy with them. We'll definitely give it a go again when we're back at home as it's such a unique way of producing a great piece of art. For dinner, surprise surprise, we headed to Bedhot. Opposite was Cecko Trans where we organised our 2 day trip to Gunung Bromo which takes us all the way to Denpassar in Bali afterwards.
Day 4 19/03/11
Today we were up painfully early as our tour to Borobodur and the Dieng Plateau started at 0500. There were a few other people from our guesthouse going to Borobodur too but Prambaban instead of Dieng so we had a whole minivan to ourselves. It took just under an hour to get to Borobodur and on the way we could see Gunung Merapi, Indonesia's most volatile volcano and argued to be the most consistently active volcano on earth spewing out smoke, it was quite a sight to see (shame it was through a window). At 0600 Borobodur was just opening and after a free welcome drink we were handed sarongs that we had to wear (tradition). Borobodur is the largest Buddhist monument in the southern hemisphere and was certainly very impressive.
The path around the temple passages, spiralling up to the summit is supposed to represent the path to enlightenment. The lower levels represent man's earthly existence whereas the higher levels represent nirvana. Unfortunately we could only go as far as the 7th level (out of 10) as restoration work was occurring. On the 7th floor we met a group of students who were there with the rest of their class and teacher to practice their English before their exam. They spoke very good English and it was good to speak to them and find out more about Borobodur from them. After about 2 hours at the temple we walked back through the park to the restaurant where we would be having breakfast.
Once we were finished we got back into the minivan for the 2 and a half hour drive to the Dieng Plateau. Dieng lies in a volcanic caldera 2093m above sea level so it was certainly a lot cooler than in Jogja. The main reason we had decided to come here was to see the crater lakes but the overall plain was nice to see with what seemed like every piece of land taken up with cabbage and potato plantations and low lying mist creating an eerie atmosphere. After stopping at the viewpoint the driver continued to negotiate the steep and narrow hairpins before arriving at some of the temples.
The Sikidang Crater was a bit further on and was spewing very pungent sulphuric gases. It was kind of like a lunar moonscape and there were many hot springs appearing through the bubbling mud. The driver then took us to Telaga Warna (Coloured Lake). It was very peaceful and the sulphurous deposits had shaded the water blue, from turquoise to azure. We decided to walk around the lake but about 3/4 of the way along we reached a very boggy section and found out from a local standing there that it was only suitable if you had wellies. Instead we had to climb up around the headland and reached the minivan with very muddy shoes. It was time to head back to Jogja and on the way we stopped at a restaurant for lunch. The evening was spent chilling out and at Bedhot again.