Hello Mister - Java

Trip Start Apr 17, 2009
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Indonesia  , Yogyakarta,
Saturday, June 13, 2009

In the last blog I was just leaving Borneo. At the airport they asked if I had confirmation of an onward ticket from Indonesia - one of the requirements to get the visa on arrival. Bugger. I didn't, so for the next few hours I was fretting that I would be made to buy a ticket when I landed at an extortionate rate or even worse that I would be getting some rubber glove action!!
Fortunately when I landed I paid my $25, told the official that I had an e-booking and although not happy, he let me through customs! Andy 1. Immigration 0.

I'd pre-booked a hotel as it was about 2am and took a taxi there. I'd been told by several people not to bother with staying in Jakarta so that afternoon took a train to a place called Bandung in West Java, about 3 hours away.
Fortunately some old guy who spoke a little English offered to help me to buy my ticket and I found my seat in Eksekutif (1st class) for less than 3 quid for the entire journey. Bargain. I was chatting the entire way to some locals and even shared a bottle of wine with them! It was a great introduction to the country. It reminds me quite alot of India but maybe 30 years ahead in terms of development.

I'd got to Bandung expecting there to be quite alot to do since it's Indonesias 4th city but there really wasn't. A few touts tried to sell me some tours but there weren't even enough tourists around to form a group and I didn't fancy the motorbike option given the craziness of the roads here!
I hung around for 2 nights because on the Sunday it is custom to hold Ram Fighting which I thought would be quite an experience - not that I particularly wanted to see the fighting but I thought it would be a good way to see the local culture. After lots of initial confusion about where it was held, I shared a taxi there with a German girl i'd met to catch the last half dozen or so fights. There was quite an atmosphere here and although the animals are looked after it makes you realise that animal welfare and all that is really only a luxury in developed countries. I found out that they've only recently banned cock fighting and dog/pig fights.
I don't think they see many westerners at these things and at some points I felt like the main attraction having my photo taken quite a few times!!

I left that night for Yogyakarta, an 8 hr train ride in the much less comfortable business class. I must have fallen asleep at some point, only to be woken up by the trains horn signalling that it was about to leave Yogyakarta for god knows where!! Blearey eyed, I jumped to my feet, grabbed my things, hoping i'd not forgotten anything jumped off the train!
Yogyakarta is a much cooler place with planty going on and much more geared up for tourists, so I'm planning to use it as a base for the next few days before heading to Bali.

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Yeah as I said before I was going to use Yogya as a base. I ended up staying there for a week, the longest I have spent in one place so far. The place I was staying in was pretty good and I made use of the swimming pool most days. I took several trips around central Java the first to Mt Merapi supposedly one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia.
A minibus collected me from the hotel at 10pm and after driving for a couple of hours we got to a little village where we started walking at 1am. There was me, 2 rude and slow Korean blokes and a French couple as well as a couple of guides. Not much to say really about the walk up except it was dark, steep and bloody windy. I hadn't really thought about it being that cold (even though it was the middle of the night and up to 3000m) so was just in a pair of shorts with only one other top to wear. Once at the summit I had to sit in a fumerole (steam vent) just to keep warm!
I got to the top at about 5am just as the first glimmers of a new day appeared on the horizon. At the same time I could hear the call to prayer from the mosque in the valley below. I'm sure you know that now it's the 21st century there must be a quieter way to get people to go and pray. Couldn't they just send a text?! Anyway what followed was the best sunrise I have ever seen. Check out the pictures. After getting down and waiting a couple of hours for the Koreans we headed back to Yogya where I spent the rest of the day asleep and chilling.
Next day I was up early and headed to the Kraton, basically the old walled city palace and hired a guide to show me round before heading to a local bird market where you can buy all sorts of birds, bats, reptiles and a whole load of other animals. Another shining example of Indnesian animal welfare. A conversation later reminded me about the threat of bird flu. And I just walked straight into what is probably one of the best places to catch it. Triffic. Anyway, bird flu is so last year. It's all about the swine flu at the moment Darling.
After a lunchtime swim I was off to the Prambanan Hindu temples which had been buried under volcanic ash until the dutch later re-discovered them and began restoration. In 2006 there was a big earthquake in the region which flattened a lot of the temples and the Japanese are currently repairing the damage. Anyway, by now I was a bit "templed out" and was obviously bored - something which a Welsh geography teacher from Brunei instantly picked up on (I know, bad times when you take to hanging out with geography teachers!!). Had a few beers in the evening and the next day off to the Dieng Plateau, an area that had been recomended I visit.

A long drive to get there with possibly THE worlds worst driver even by Asian standards. He insisted on driving nearly everywhere in second gear and loved overtaking on blind corners. We visited some lakes, an active volcano with a boiling mud pool and still more temples. The best/worst part of the day was Josef, our english speaking guide (just). Couldn't understand a bloody word coming from his mouth but acted everyhing with his hands providing me quite alot of amusement! I think I had more pictures taken today than in my whole life. It's the school holidays and everyone from rural Indonesia is out and about. I don't think many of them see westerners, either that or their not used to seeing such a good looking bloke!!

Next day was the start of a 3 day trip through eastern Java dropping me off in Bali. First day consisted of 12 hours on a hot uncomfortable minibus. Still there was some good company on the bus and again swapping stories and hints of where to go. The accomodation and food here was crap - by far the worst i've experienced so far. In the morning the views of Mt Bromo and jeep ride more than made up for it even if the place was very crowded. The second day was another long drive where everyone is still farming by hand (like much of indonesia) but this was different because alot of it was off road and the people were noticably poorer. Still they're all really happy and love waving and shouting hello mister as you drive by. The place we stayed was much better and even had a thermal pool!
Up early again to go to the Ijen plateau where there is a beautiful turqoise lake and sulfur mine. I ended up going right down into the crater to watch the guys collecting the sulfur and my god it stank of wrotten eggs. At one point I got a face full which makes your eyes sting like mad. These guys collect about 80kg (12 stone) in the baskets and carry it on their shoulders 3km back to the bottom where they get paid about 2 quid for thie efforts. They make the Nepalese porters look like pussies!! Anyway I had a go at lifting it and yep I can vouch that it is damned heavy, it makes you realise just how cushy it is back home.

Another couple of hours back in the bus and we were dropped off at the ferry terminal to go to Bali. It took about 40 minutes to cross the water and I was relieved to get there - Indonesians are notoriously good ferry sinkers. I was really hungry by this point and got real down and dirty with the asian cuisine, I was eating a rice dish with my hands from a banana leaf... Just 4 more hours on the bus (thankfully they turned off the karaoke) and I arrived in Costa del Kuta, Bali's cheesiest holiday destination.
I've given myself a while here and I know it's going to be brilliant. You can buy tazers on the street........



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