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Jogjakarta, Indonesia. Aka Borobudur/ Prambanan-ville

INDONESIA | Saturday, 20 March 2010 | Views [1611]

Jogjakarta

Before arriving, I had arranged to stay with a local guy, named “Mank”. He’s on Couchsurfing, and had plenty of positive reviews. He described his house as a “Chicken House” and I knew we were in for something basic, but wow! He lives at a boarding house with a bunch of other students and it was really basic and really grimy. The toilet was a squat toilet and the shower was a bucket and water. But Mank was the nicest guy ever… he and his nephew, Ryan took us all around Jogjakarta on motobikes! They literally spent 2 full days showing us all the sites and taking us to local restaurants and local places. We went to Borobudur, Prambanan, the Sultan’s Palace the Water Castle, and the pet market. It was a packed 2 days! But a really great time. Although Mank was not a rich guy, he was so generous with his time and what he had, it was truly an amazing visit with him. It seems the less people have, the more they want to share.

The town of Jogjakarta is a pretty cool stop in Java. I think its technically a city, but it feels like a town. There weren’t very many other tourists, which is kind of nice. The main attractions are Borobudur and Prambanan. Both temples are really cool, very ancient and accessible. By accessible, I mean you can walk in them, touch them and explore. I’ve never seen temples like them before, so I was impressed, but I don’t think they’re as cool as Angkor Wat in Cambodia, which is supposed to be the “Real McCoy” and the “Big Lebowsky” of temples in SE Asia. Plus, it was really cool because we rode there on the back of motorbikes! Mank advised us that the visitors office had free coffee and waters up for grabs, so we took advantage of that before entering. It was also nice of them to accept my student ID card for a 50% discount, even though it has no expiration date, and hasn’t been valid since about 2007! Mank was a really good guide, since he knows the layout and best photo opportunities and timing for everything. It was funny because although we were at a magnificent, ancient temple, somehow I became the attraction, and I had literally 50 or more people asking to take photos with me! It was pretty surreal. Most of them were groups of Muslim school girls, but a few older local Indonesian tourists wanted photos as well. One woman even passed me her 1 year old boy so we could take a photo together! Pretty funny, but also nice to interact with really friendly and outgoing locals. That’s never happened to me before. Probably never will again!

At Prambanan, the temples were not as big as Borobudur, but they were really cool looking. It gets really hot during the daytime in Indonesia, so I was sweating buckets. Literally, sweat was dripping down my face even when staying still in the shade! The Water Castle was pretty cool since it has 2 huge swimming pools that the Sultan used to watch his wives (yes, plural) swim around in. When he wanted one of them to come inside and “meet” with him, he would throw a pebble down to them from a watchtower! I think you have to pay a small amount to go inside, but Mank led us through the back of the Castle so we didn’t have to pay! The Sultan’s palace was a weird, huge, spacious palace, but it wasn’t very fancy. We paid a few bucks to get in, then we wandered around rooms that were turned into makeshift museums, displaying everything and anything linked to the royal family possible. Such as their batik cloths, cameras and strainers. Not too interesting… but one of the “famous” sights.

A place I thought was really cool was the local pet market in Jogjakarta. They’ll sell you a monkey for $30. Or an eagle for $10. Or an owl for $5 if you’re on a budget for rare and endangered animals. I think the sale of rare animals is very wrong, and harmful, but at least there was only 1 monkey, 1 eagle and 3 owls for sale, out of all the stands. No tigers or anything like that. I got to hold a baby mongoose and feed it banana with a toothpick (it was THAT little!). And, I touched a fruit bat. I wanted to do that so bad in Australia, but they have no opportunity to get that close.

Overall, Jogjakarta was a good time, but mostly due to Mank and Ryan showing us all around. When we left, they dropped us off at the train station where we took “Executive Class” for 5 hours to get to Surabaya. The ride was quite comfortable, and they were serving food and drinks in a clean, air conditioned environment. All for $8! When we got to Surabaya, we bought tickets going to Probolinggo, the stop for visiting Gudung Bromo volcano. This was at 10:30, and we arrived at 12:30 at night, with an eccentric French man in tow. He was headed the same way. When we got to the station, there was, of course, a bunch of guys asking us where we needed to go. The town center was 2 km away, so we grabbed 3 wheel bicycles and were carted to the hotel like vegetables in a wheelbarrow. Our poor driver was barely able to peddle us and our bags towards the hotel! He was huffing and puffing so hard, Wayne switched and peddled the rest of the way, and then we gave him a big tip because we felt bad! We arrived at 1:30am, exhausted, dirty and sweaty, and looking forward to a shower. But get this: the front desk guy says, “We don’t have a shower”. Whaaaat??? We had to take showers with buckets of water, and the toilet is one of those squat toilets that have become the bane of my existence! Of course nowhere else was open or closeby so we had to stay there. Ick!

The next day, we went to Gudung Bromo volcano. This became an adventure when we decided to rent horses to ride the 3km to the base of the volcano. I swear, the guides picked up 2 wild horses off the side of the road and threw a saddle on them! Right at the beginning of the mountain, it became apparent that the 2 horses hated each other. When we pulled them up side by side to take a photo, both started freaking out!!! My horse was neighing, and pulling at the reigns, while my guide tried to subdue him, but its hard for a petite man to control a horse, so the horse is pulling him around, and bucking up on his hind legs and kicking his back legs like in a rodeo, while I’m freaking out and trying to hold onto the bootleg makeshift saddle!!! I’ve never been so scared by a horse, or ever ridden a wild stallion before, so I held onto him, and then jumped off and ran away as soon as I got a chance, with my heart racing! I kept thinking I was going to get kicked! Wayne wasn’t so lucky. His horse bucked him off and sent him flying. He bruised and cut his elbow! This was our crazy horseback riding experience at Bromo volcano. What’s even more crazy is we got back on the horses afterwards and rode them the rest of the way up to the volcano! They were fine as long as they didn’t get close, but I noticed my horse kept trying to bite the guide, who looked like a robber because he was wearing a full winter hat in the blazing sun with just the eye holess cut out and a logo that said, “Rancid” on the front! Too funny….

After all that excitement, we had to get ready to take the night bus to Bali. 9 hours. The bus was supposed to come at 8 pm, so I went to the store at 7:22. I came back to 7:42, and found out I missed the bus!!!! It came early, which never happens, but this time it did. Luckily, Wayne waited with my bags to tell me the news. We were both freaking out, b/c we’d spent money on the tickets and then the bus left us. In the midst of our dark moments of brooding over how we’d missed the bus, one of the travel agents grabs Wayne’s arm, and shakes him and says, in a very serious voice, “Where are you from?“ Wayne takes about 5 seconds to realize that this guy is asking him the ubiquitous question that every local asks every tourist, at a moment like this. In disbelief, Wayne answers, “Australia”. And the local guy says, “But you look Chinese!“ Lol, such funny, bad timing…..

Fortunately, the ticket office called the bus, which was already 15 minutes away, and they actually came back to pick us up! I was so embarrassed when I got on the bus… We had to cross a busy road, while the bus held up traffic, and the tour agent was flicking his Zippo lighter in a lame attempt to gain us the right to cross the road, while trucks and mopeds flew by! After our lame and slow attempt to cross the road, we finally made it, and there was a big commotion about where to put our bags, because the underneath was full, so the driver threw my huge backpack on some local guy in the front of the bus’s lap and me and Wayne had to march past rows of glaring eyes to our seats. So embarrassing, yet so nice that they came back for us! Unbelievable. I can’t think of anywhere else on Earth they’d do that!

When we got to Bali, it was 4:30 am. Dark and desolate at the bus station. So we took a cab to Kuta, the main drag of Bali, and got taken the long way, of course, since we asked to use the meter (cab drivers are notorious for being cheats here), and then got dropped off in the expensive hotel zone. Of course. We lucked out and found a place with rooms for $10 a night, so that’s where we stayed the first 2 nights.

Tags: borobudur, bromo volcano, jogjakarta, prambanan

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