I was in 2 minds whether to bother with Yogyakarta or not. The journey from Jakarta to Bali really took it out of us, we were exhausted and the thought of doing it all again but in the opposite direction really put a downer on things. So from Probolinggo I was in 2 minds whether to just hammer out the journey to Jakarta and then chill for a few days in a nice hotel before our flight back to Singapore on the 1st August or whether to head inland to Yogyakarta for a few days.
When Terri was selling Bali to me she mentioned a few places in Java, Borobudur and Prambanan.
Prambanan is loads of Hindu temples, the highest being 47metres. Built in the 9th Century they are supposedly well worth a visit despite the fact they caught the brunt of the 2006 earthquake where most collapsed or were substantially damaged.
Borobudur is ranked as one of the world’s greatest Buddhist religious sights and was also built in the 9th century. It lay covered in volcanic ash for over a thousand years before being found in the 1800’s and cleaned up – something that is still being carried out today.
Both are easily accessible from Yogyakarta and whilst Prambanan was pretty much annihilated by the earthquake, Borobudur is ranked alongside some of the best historical monuments on the planet, but both are internationally recognised as being ‘must do’s’ in Indonesia and the two locations alone are the reason for many tourists travels to Java.
I decided that Yogyakarta was a must do and we actually quite reluctantly set about getting there. From Probolinggo the easiest thing to do is get a direct bus, it takes about 9 hours and like the rest of Indonesian bus travel is ridiculously cheap. However, having actually travelled on Indonesian buses there was not a chance on earth we were going to spend 9 hours on an Indonesian bus.
Getting the train meant we had to first get a 2 hour bus to Surabaya.
The hotel manager stood and waited for 30 minutes with us outside the front of the hotel so he could make sure we got the right bus, there are basically two types – Express and Public. Express has air con and Public doesn’t. The extra cost is about 50% on the express. I said that whatever bus came along first we would get. I was told that kids must pay half fare. We got on the public bus and were away. When the guy came round for the fare he was charging me full fare for the kids. I moaned and told him I knew he was scamming me, the whole bus were sat laughing as I openly got ripped off – My only alternative was to get off, the reality is I had no option other than to pay it. The cost was 12,000IDR for the journey (85 pence each) Like everything else in Indonesia we were an hour late, actually it’s a funny thing. If you get a bus or even a train you will always be an hour late. Always.
Like every other bus station in SE Asia it is always miles out of town and so we had to get a taxi to the main station in Surabaya – Gubeng (pron Gu-pen) The cost was about 30,000IDR for the 12km journey (about 2 quid) We bought our tickets to Yogyakarta and again travelled Bisnis class, the cost was 120,000IDR for adults (9 quid) with kids being a bit less for the 9 hour journey.
We had a few hours spare before the 1500 departure and so we ditched our bags and headed toward a mall I had spotted en route in the taxi. Typical of the Javanese which apart from Bali are very helpful, I asked a police man for directions and he escorted us across the road and pointed us in the right direction whilst welcoming us to his country. Something I’ve noticed actually is that Indonesians are immensely proud of their country – And why shouldn’t they be, it’s absolutely stunning. Forget about all the bad luck the nation has, from earthquakes, floods, volcano’s, terrorism and civil unrest, the Indonesians live in one of the world’s most beautiful countries; Id be proud to be from such an amazing nation too.
We found the mall and had a hefty pizza hut meal with cheesy bites, garlic bread and everything, the bill came to a few quid 🙂
The train to Yogyakarta was an hour late and we finally pulled into Java’s premier tourist city at 2200. We had no room booked and so walked outside the train station and started our search. There are two stations in Yogyakarta, make sure you get off at the main one and not the Lumpung (or something like that) There are about a million hotels in Yogyakarta and so finding one was a breeze. Rates vary, we are currently paying 130,000 per night which is just short of a tenner. Cheaper rooms can be found at one of the many ‘Losmans’ where prices are about 30,000 – 60,000 per night (£2/£4) they are basically guesthouses with a funky name. Ask anyone for a Losman and you’ll be pointed down a gang (alleyway) where there’ll be loads.
I had given us 2 full days in Yogyakarta where on the 2nd day we get the overnight train to Jakarta. On the morning of the 1st day we set about getting to Borobudur. The cheapest way is to get to Jambor terminal and then get a bus which should cost about 10,000IDR, the journey takes 90 minutes – Which probably means it actually takes 2 and a half hours. I really couldn’t be arsed with any more taxis/buses and so found one of the many tourist agencies and asked for a price, the going rate for a car and driver for 6hrs seemed to be 300,000IDR (£21) I asked for the price to Prambanan and was told 200,000IDR. I sat down and started negotiating. About 10 minutes later I had us a car from 7.30am until 5pm for 350,000IDR which would take us from our hotel to Borobudur, then to Prambanan and then back to Yogyakarta all in one day for £25.
That freed up the rest of the day to get some laundry sorted and to mooch about in the 30 degree heat. And pretty much that’s all we did. Abi had a manicure and then her nails done for 20,000IDR (£1.50) She had them painted blue, with pink hearts (her choice) Charlie got a henna tattoo on his back and whilst he walked around in the world’s most inhabited Islamic country topless, we had nothing but laughter and people wanting to get to know us and chat. We were back to typical Indonesians that are friendly, non confrontational, not out to scam you and are probably amongst the friendliest people in SE Asia.
The great thing about Yogyakarta is that its full of tourists but the Java lifestyle really does prevail, horse and carts tend for business and trishaws far exceed demand. Every street is lined with street vendors selling local food and crafts.
Tomorrow we head out for the day to Prambanan and Borobudur before a 1900 train to Jakarta, but already I’m thinking Yogyakarta is the sort of place you book a couple of nights at, but when you get here you wish you could stay longer.
Yogyakarta, Central Java