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2 Wheels, 3 Fins, 4 brits, and 5 Days in Java

  • Submitted by: James Mitchell
  • Website: None Available
  • Submission Date: 04th Feb 2005

Trip Report:
5 days and 5 nights in Java, Indonesia.

Day 0 Thursday 21 Jan 93

We arrived (we being a colleague) in Jakarta in the early evening, after an eventful KLM flight from Singapore. I was wearing a brand new shirt and whilst opening the meal it decided to "explode" covering me with hot curry sauce. Was this an omen of things to come?

Being pleasantly surprised with the Sukarno - Hatta Airport we changed our money and just missed the connecting flight to Yogykarta by 5 minutes. "Lets see Jakarta" was my response. Hence that night was spent tring to explain to the taxi driver that the Hard Rock Cafe was in fact a disco and not a place to buy drugs. After the night at the Hard Rock Cafe we made it back to the hotel in time to get one hour sleep before having to get up and catch the first flight to Yogykarta.

Day 1: Jakarta - Yogykarta, Friday 22 Jan 93

We checked into our hotel and grabbed a bit of sleep, little did we know that would be about the only sleep on the entire trip. That afternoon we rented a motorcycle for 4 days. There is nothing quite like driving in Indonesia, and one quickly learns that road markings and signs were just put there by accident. After getting totally lost riding around you tend to really discover what a place can offer. So in that afternoon spent dodging oncoming traffic, bicycles, Becaks (trishaws), and horse drawn carts we discovered a lot about Jogja.

Day 2: Borobudur - Yogykarta, Saturday 23 Jan 93

Waking bright and early we set course for Borobudur, 42 km North West of Jogja. After 40 minutes of riding around in circles I finally had to give my poor Indonesian skills a bit of a work-over. So with many wavings of the arms and a map we finally established that we were going in completely the wrong direction. The directions given were correct and we were on our way to one of the wonders of the world.

Riding merrily along, admiring the sights I learned a very important lesson - do not ever get in the way of an Indonesian bus! These busses have been specially modified to travel at hypersonic speeds and produce as much smoke as possible. To add further to their already impressive arsenal of vehicle destroying weapons they have air horns that when sounded two feet behind a little motorcycle is so loud that it numbs your brain.

Surviving the first leg of the journey we finally made it to Borobudur. After being bombarded by locals who worship the god of "hard sell", knocking 90% off the starting price, and buying absolutely everything you never wanted to buy, we reached the temple.

First impression - "This is the mother of all temples!" How on earth can I photograph this! This place was amazing, being one of the 3 most famous Bhuddist temples, and the largest Stupa in the world, well I was impressed. Its pretty hard to assimilate the scale of things with Borobudur, and imagine the amount of work that went into building this thing.

That night was spent running around Jogja happily shopping, and really testing your bargaining skills.

Day 3 Prambanan - Yogykarta Sunday 24 Jan 93

Venturing back out into the battle zones called "highways" we rode out to Prambanan, which is only about 20 km out of Jogja. Prambanan is a vast complex of Hindu temples (most of which are in pieces on the ground) built at the same time as Borobudur, around the 8th and 9th century AD. It was also very impressive, but the weather finally lost its temper and the rain began to fall. Its amazing how much money you will pay for a piece of plastic when its raining and you are trying to ride a motorcycle.

We had a wonderful meal at a restaurant called "Superman" and met three girls from Finland. Hence that night was spent drinking copious amounts of very cheap beer (approx $2.50 Sing). When things became a bit clearer we found ourselves in the house of one of the locals singing songs and drinking more beer. At the chime of 4.00 am the call to prayer eminated from every side and it seemed to be a competition as to which was the loudest call. This signified time for bed!

Day 4 Yogykarta - Dieng Plateau Monday 25 Jan 93

If we thought the 42 km to ride to Borobudur was an adenture, then the 140 km journey today was looking to be like madness. We had heard that Dieng Plateau could get rather cool, but what we experienced was nothing leass than an arctic. About half way up the mountains we stopped to put on more clothing. When the engine was turned off we heard some beautiful Gamelan music coming from a village on the hillside. "Lets have a look". When we rode into town it was deserted and I had a strange feeling that we shouldn't be there, then a few people appeared and started staring. They were not staring as if to say, "why are you here", but more as to "what are you?" Within 5 minutes word had got around and about 20 - 30 people had come out for a look.

I pulled out my camera not knowing whether they would really appreciate it. One small boy let out a cry of "photo" and the next thing I know we are swamped by about 80 children all very excited. The village elders all lookled on with a reserved pleasure. When everybody was comfortable with the fact that we were there then things started to get really memorable. To be the sole attention of an entire village is not an everyday experience. A few of the adults in the town then brought out various animals to show and to be photographed. We then all stood around trying to communicate. It was very funny, one of the villagers would say something and we would look blank, then they would all erupt into laughter. Then we would say something and the whole town would look blank and then burst into laughter again. It was at that moment when I fell in love with Indonesia - its a land of a thousand smiling faces, all so eager to be friendly.

It took about half an hour to leave the village as people kept offering us drinks and wanted to talk.

Back on the road again, and the number of busses had thinned out, so the last part of the journey was very pleasureable. The road got very steep and the bike under the weight of two people and their luggage hanging off any available appendage, in conjunction with the altitude and the cold, was struggling to make it. Progress was made (slowly) and we neared Dieng. It was at this point that my hands turned purple from the cold.

On arrival to Dieng we found a great place to stay that cost only S$6, and as airconditioning was not really a major concern we were happy with that. Only 3 hours earlier we had been sweating under the hot Indonesian sun, and now we found ourselves huddled around a fire with any article of clothing we had on.

The town of Dieng is very different for one reason, it is inside an extinct volcano, so from one side to the other is about 2km and it is pretty much circular. In the centre of the crater is three very old Hindu temples (older than Borobudur). We noticed a large thermal geiser and about 50 townspeople gathered around watching. Only two days before we got there, in some poor farmers crops this geiser erupted, and so was a great source of interest to the townsfolk. Also it provided nice hot water with which to take a bath and wash clothes.

We awoke at 3.00 am and joined 4 Brits for a walk upto the highest town in Java, and to watch the sun rise. I took the bike with one of the Brits so we arrived a little earlier than the walkers. It was quite an eerie feeling as we had stopped next to some thermal wells gushing with super-heated steam. The noise was pretty incredible (so was the smell). >From this point we hiked upto 2600 metres, and watched the sun rise over the highest mountain in Java - beautiful.

The journey back to Jogja took a little over half of what it took to get to Dieng. We made it just in time for the flight back to Jakarta and then straight to Singapore.

It was one of the best trips I have had, and for a trip that short I was very happy. I will return to Indonesia.

James Mitchell |
Information Technology Institute | jamesmit@itivax.bitnet
National Computer Board
Singapore | "I hate Quotes" - Anon