Part 2: Yogyakarta… Borobudur
It was a 2 days 2 nights trip and the storyline goes from Jakarta – Yogyakarta – Borobudur – Yogyakarta – Jakarta.
To maximise our limited time in Yogyakarta (fondly referred to as Jogja by the locals and many), we took the 7 am flight out of Jakarta, and arrived in the beautiful city of Jogja at 8 am. This is only for AirAsia flights: to have a view of the coastline, take seats on row F; to have a view of the volcanoes, take seats on row A. I was seating on row F, and the view was just breathtaking – although I did hear gasps from the other side of the aisle, assuming they too had a breathtaking view of the volcanoes- clearly, even from up above, Jogja seemed to be a unique and beautiful place. (For other flights, check the flight route and seating plan.)
In Jogja, we chartered a taxi; it was definitely one of the wisest things that we’ve done throughout the trip. It was meant only for a day; a tour around the city for lunch, for shopping, anywhere we wanted to go to, and then to Borobudur. But, later in the day, the taxi driver offered his services for another day – the trip back to Jogja from Borobudur. All these long, tiring hours of driving and waiting for IDR900,000 (but we paid him IDR950,000). Plus, he was really patient and recommended good places for food in Jogja. But, certainly, precaution(s) would need to be taken, as sometimes, dodgy things can happen.
First stop – definitely food! Need some fuel to start the engine running for a day of adventure(s). The taxi driver brought us to Jalan Wijilan.
Nasi Gudeg – a very local fare to have in Jogja. Basically, the lot with rice, and pretty yummy. Very cheap: IDR57,000, including 3 Jus Alpukat (avocado juice), which were just so-so (my friend Jokse makes a much better home-made jus alpukat).
Buah salak – commonly found. Mild sweetness with the fragrance of longan and durian; OK, probably very contrasting but that’s what I got from my sense of smell and taste. There were a few varieties, perhaps some were sweeter than the others.
Sultan Palace. We decided to pay for the use of one camera, for maybe IDR2,000; not my camera though. So, no photos of it here (yet).
Candi Prambanan a.k.a. Prambanan Temple. This Candi is the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia, which is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site; majestically breath-taking. Magical.
Even on our first tourist stop, one can see the price bias; at Prambanan Temple, its IDR20,000 for the locals, but IDR110,500 for foreigners at a specially-located Foreigners’ Information Centre.
It was scorching hot when we were there, but in the shady areas around the temple, one can feel the cool, soft breeze; pretty peaceful and relaxing.
Lunch was at Balé Raos on Jalan Magangan Kulon No. 1. The menu was very interesting as it serves favourite dishes of/from the time of the Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono VII to Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, so if you’ve visited the Sultan Palace on the same day, you’d feel more connected to this place.
Bebek Goreng, recommended to have by the taxi driver. Verdict: 8/10. The duck’s really tender and the sweetness from the kecap manis went very well with the chilli drizzled with lime juice.
Rice Set – forgot the name, but it was the first on the Rice list, served with papaya leaves, chicken, tempe, tofu, meatball soup, etc. Verdict: 8/10.
Es Asem (iced tamarind tea) – a tad too sweet; perhaps a little too generous with the coconut juice sugar.
Overall, this restaurant’s not too expensive, considering how decent, pretty, and clean the place is. We paid ~IDR50,000 per person, including drinks.
After lunch, it’s time to head towards Borobudur, as we plan to catch the sunset at Candi Borobudur (Borobudur Temple); sunset was estimated to be at 6 pm. It’s 4-ish pm when we left the area. Alas! We the sun had already begun to set while we were still on the road, chasing after time to be at the Candi before the sun sets.
By the time we get to Borobudur, it was 5.20 pm (closing time was 5 pm). Now, this was when things got a little bit dodgy. I must admit that we got too comfortable “owning” our own taxi and driver.
As soon as we arrived at a junction very near to the Manohara Hotel, a guy on a motorcycle came over to our taxi (obviously he knew that we’re foreigners), and spoke to the taxi driver, telling him that the Candi is closed for the day and that he knew a back way where we can see the sunset (or so we thought). The taxi driver then told us that for IDR20,000, he’ll bring us there. We agreed and followed him (his friend then tagged along). Lo and behold, we drove past some paddy fields, through a village, and arrived at the back of the Candi, which was surrounded by high metal fences and out of reach. Right. We got conned! Three girls and three men standing behind towering metal fences with the Candi a far distance away in a quiet village with the sun setting on the horizon; not a very nice picture to paint. We paid the guy his IDR20,000 and left.
Now, for a moment of stupidity (not recommended!), but we couldn’t stop ourselves when the Gunung Merapi came into view; with a backdrop of a beautiful sunset sky – who could resist??! We stopped the car, got out, and took some photos.
The two men on their motorcycles who had been following us stopped and continued talking and negotiating their offers. They were offering to take us somewhere else to see the sunrise; according to them, it’s much cheaper than catching the sunrise at Candi Borobudur – not worth paying that much, they said.
We took off in the taxi, in search of our hotel (we didn’t manage to book Manohara Hotel for that weekend). Guess what? The two men followed us in our search for the hotel, which was located somewhere quite isolated. In the end, my good friend, J. Hong told the taxi driver to ditch them, lose them, or we’re not taking his service the next day. We don’t want those buggers to know where we’re staying and bug us/stalk us early in the morning.
The hotel: Rumah Boedi Private Residence.
It was dark by the time we found the hotel; kinda eerie feeling when we were lost while trying to locate it – trees, bushes, with no street lamp. It’s not too far away from the Candi, but, very very quietly tucked away in an isolated area, amidst some paddy fields and villages, without any clear signs to indicate where it is. Luckily, we got some help from the receptionist at the Saraswati Borobudur hotel. Other than that, the hotel’s really pretty though, and we were free to roam around and relax at the lounge area under a sky full of stars.
With our taxi driver gone, we went to the small yet quaint restaurant for dinner. Loved the ambience and decor; very Javanese, and very relaxing, plus it’s open-aired so one can enjoy the cool breeze and the garden (more for breakfast, as it’s pretty much pitch black at 8 pm).
The menu had limited choices, but it was fine for us two who were famished. Food was nice and fresh ingredients were used. According to the chef, everything was freshly made, even the ginger tea that I’ve ordered for was made of freshly pounded ginger, served with freshly-grated light palm sugar. It was good, and I could actually peek through the wooden wall (also part of the deco) separating the dining area and the kitchen to see the chef chopping and cooking away, with some clanging of pots/pans. So cute.
Verdict: 8/10. The Bakmi Goreng was really yummy; the noodles were al dente, the vegetables fresh, the flavour’s balanced, and the chilli…oh, it’s 9/10 with the chilli condiment that was freshly-prepared.
Even a simple fruit platter like above looked so inviting and pleasant to the eyes; pretty much like everything else here; attention to details!
At nighttime, the air was fresh but chilly. Very cool breeze; stark contrast to the hot afternoon weather. According to a staff, it’s the dry season, and the weather tends to be much cooler in the early mornings and in the evenings, and warm to very warm during the day.
Woke up really really early for the sunrise at Candi Borobudur and it was freezing cold out in the open. It took us 5 mins from our hotel to Manohara Hotel. Not too bad for a ~2 km ride, but bad if one didn’t have a taxi/car booked beforehand as there definitely wouldn’t be any taxis around to be hailed or flagged down.
The sunrise experience was really really amazing, although it cost us IDR320,000, just because we weren’t staying at the hotel. Well, perhaps fair enough. The ticket comes with a complimentary light meal (local delights and coffee).
The ticket counter for the Sunrise Package opens from 4 am; the Public entrance starts from 6 am, at a much cheaper price.
Here are some photos:
The above picture was taken at ~6.11 am.
By 9 am, we’re back at the hotel taking a nap, before another day of adventure. It was only after that, when I was exploring around that I realised we were the only guests at the hotel. There were nobody else, and to think that we’ve stayed there for the night pretty much all alone (except for a number of male staff), was actually kinda creepy. But, it was a beautiful place and the staff were friendly and helpful. It’s only 6-months old, but I think its business will pick up.
Next up, a trip to Gunung Merapi.
Gunung Merapi. IDR3,000 per person (free for the taxi driver). As soon as the taxi stopped, it was just disappointment on our faces because we thought that we were gonna be driven up to the crater! Wishful thinking, but we got nowhere near any craters. Had to pay for car entry fee of perhaps IDR2,000 or IDR5,000. There were so many payments that I lost count.
Kaliurang – another tourist attraction. At the entry gate to Kaliurang – we paid IDR3,000 per person (free for the taxi driver). There’s another entrance fee just before we enter the park IDR2,000 for locals, and IDR20,000 for foreigners. I forgot if we ever paid IDR2,000 for parking. There was nothing much to see, except for some monkeys and a little waterfall that was almost dried out, but perhaps we didn’t spend enough time exploring around (there were photos on the Net with views of the Gunung Merapi, but we weren’t anywhere near any lookout points).
Tired and hungry, with nothing appetizing in sight, we decided to head back to Jogja for lunch and subsequent shopping. The taxi driver took us to Ayam Goreng Suharti. It was a no frills, family-friendly place. You know it’s gotta be good when you see that it’s thronged by the locals in large groups.
Ayam Goreng. Verdict: 8.5/10. It was fried chicken like never before. It’s juicy and tender, with ultra-crispy and flaky skin that just melts in the mouth and goes really well with rice, especially with the pounded chilli paste and kecap manis. Really good.
Sayur Asem. Always been one of my favourite Indonesian dish. Verdict: 8/10. Definitely not a let down, although would have preferred a much larger bowl to slurp it all down!
There were a few other dishes, and the total bill came up to be ~IDR150,000, including drinks.
After our late lunch, we proceed with shopping for batik! Along Jalan Malioboro, of course. Paid IDR2,000 for parking fee. Was happy to use up my old banknotes, but not really happy to have ‘miscellaneous’ charges everywhere today. Even parking spaces where the locals wouldn’t even need to pay a dime, we, the foreigners (in a taxi) would need to pay IDR2,000 (at least) each time, except for the time when there were no ‘guards’ (come to think of it now, this would happen in M’sia too, except that after the conversion rates, it’s cheaper in Indonesia).
After shopping, we checked-in to an awesomely beautiful hotel. Definitely the place to stay in Jogja.
The hotel: Phoenix Hotel (pronounced as “Fo-nick” by the locals, at least, the taxi drivers).
First thing to do after some chilling out by the awesomely beautiful pool area: continue with shopping for batik at Jalan Malioboro; it’s batik, batik, and batik everywhere! But, first, I have to get some Solo layer cakes in a bakery not too far away; according to the receptionist, it would be a 5-mins walk. He failed to remind us of the traffic and roads in the area! We did walk; crossed the road 3 times – once with traffic lights for pedestrians in the wrong direction, and then with the help of a police officer who speaks English really well, twice more across the roads without traffic lights, screaming and shouting. Yeah, we acted like insane maniacs. Anyway, we bought the cakes, and took a becak to Jalan Malioboro. It was a cheap IDR10,000 ride, but it took ~15 mins ‘cos our speed was, literally, andante.
(Note: we were not kicking the man on the road. It happened by chance that when we were taking this photo, he appeared almost out of nowhere.)
Once in Malioboro, it’s shopping, shopping, shopping! They’re all so pretty 🙂 Had a good time looking, selecting, posing, trying, and buying (the cheaper ones, of course). After 2.5 hrs, we were famished, so we took another becak back to the hotel. This time, it cost IDR15,000, but perhaps less than 10 mins; faster, but not too fun when he cycled over railroads and potholes, and we went against the traffic at the busy roundabout and took a turn! Well, it had been an adventure.
Back at the hotel, we went straight to the restaurant, which has a beautiful courtyard.
The buffet spread looked really good, but it costs IDR190,000 nett per person. Running low on IDR, we opted for the ala carte. The portions were pretty generous, and they served us crackers and bread. So, it was more than enough to fill anyone’s belly. The total bill came up to be IDR157,000.
Verdict: 8/10. The Mi Godhog was almost like a lighter meal to have compared to the mostly meat diet during the day. It’s served hot, which is really essential for soup-based noodles.
Really liked the ambience and decor of this hotel; brings out the relaxing holiday mood, with great shower and bed. Will definitely be back here to stay if and when I’m back in Jogja.
On the flight back to Jakarta from Jogja, if flying with AirAsia, take seats on row F to have a view of the stunningly enchanting volcanoes.
Really one of the things one should with their own eyes to feel the magic. Upon arrival on T3, I was on the lookout for Bakmi GM.
Verdict: 8.5/10. Bakmi Special Pangsit. Love love love the pangsit! The chilli condiment went really really well with the noodles and the lot. 🙂
Then, a doughnut and coffee at a local doughnut shop: J. Co Donut & Coffee.
Verdict: 6/10. Avocado Donut. Very sweet, but super soft to the bite, and doesn’t taste too much of an avocado filling, though it’s green.
So far, I’ve only seen and met friendly people (except for the two in Borobudur), who were also very polite. Am not sure if it’s because it’s the month of Ramadhan, or because we’re tourists dealing mostly with people working in the service line, pure luck, or..
Anyway, it’s time to leave. G’bye, Jakarta! G’bye Indonesia! It’s been fun, and I’ll definitely be back to visit, to explore, and to eat!
Verdict: 9.5/10 for the experience, the fun, the magical wonders, the food, the people, the whole lot, with praises to the taxi drivers for enduring the traffic everyday, for their smiley greetings even in the heat of the afternoon after hours of traffic in the morning, for their patience and driving skills in tight conditions and tiny alleys. Salute.