Sunday, June 9, 2013

Jakarta to Bali

(Travel story archive - 1998)

Borobudur Temple - the biggest stupha
 It was summer, and the weather looked very promising for a quick get-away. Although it was tempting to go straight to Bali, my merry band of ‘vacationers’ decided to take our time and visit other parts of Java (- the island where Jakarta is), going south-east part, towards Bali. I was doing an 8-month stint in Indonesia, and while I was there, I invited a group of friends to come and visit me to tour around Indo.

We did a quick tour of Jakarta on day1. Seaworld marine sanctuary, shopping malls, etc.. Then we took the bus to Yogyakarta (11hrs) the following morning. I decided to skip Bandung 'coz there’s not much to see there - - other than the fact that I’ve already visited the place. The tea plantation in the area before Bandung city was a pleasant site though. It’s rare to see such view, in the Philippines as we normally just have rice or sugarcane fields.  I also frequented the area near Bandung for white-water rafting (more like brown-water rafting) but decided to skip river rafting on this trip to save time.

Upon arriving in Yogya, we took a pedi-cab.. errr... trishaw that will bring us to the city center. There was a bit of local hassle-by-hawkers, but luckily not so much as we all looked like the regular Javanese locals. We got a surprisingly good room for 25,000rupiahs (at that time, probably equivalent to 400pesos). That night, we went to a restaurant and watched Wayang-kulit, it’s a popular ‘muppet’ shadow-show that features mythical Indonesian characters.  Not that we understood what the show was about, but a good 'cultural show' nonetheless.

The next day, we visited the magnificent Borobudur - - the world’s largest Buddhist stupha. It was like a little pyramid in structure, but the outside walls have fabulous art etchings, and the top have huge dome-bells with sitting Buddhas inside each piece. Each bell is probably 3m in diameter at the base, and the perimeter is probably 10m. The architect has a definitely astonishing creativity, except that I am unclear how the stupha was supposed to be used for worshipping. It took me a while to find the right angle and spot that will allow me to fit the entire structure in my wide-angle-lens camera viewfinder. I’ve seen lots of stuphas in Nepal and India, this one is really HUGE!

Mt. Bromo, Java Indonesia

We took an onward bus, and jumped out at Malang, stayed for the night, and prepared for our much-awaited Mt. Bromo trek. All of us are into outdoors, so a Bromo stop-over and a quick hike will be a good prep for our more relaxing Bali trip. We started walking in the early misty morning (4am), and almost got lost in the dark if it were not for a persistent guide. Well it was dark so maybe he has some use, but on fog-less nights, it should be a hell lot easier sniffing thru the gigantic horse trails. All of us early birds were of course after the much-advertised Bromo sunrise, so we started early so as not to miss it. The wind is very light, temp was not so bad – I was just wearing a shirt and a thin long sleeves, visibility was bad though due to thick early-morning fog. As the day warms, the fog disintegrates, and so is the excitement.

We reached the summit a way before sunrise, and was surprise to have realized that there are 4 mountains in the area, all of them are volcanoes I think – with Bromo as the most popular probably because of its big crater-mouth. Good thing we went ahead as there are so many horses in the trail, bringing tourist to the foot of the mountain.

We soon got bored and went down, then ate our Nasi Goreng breakfast, then rode our onward bus to Banyuwangi, then on to Bali.

We spent 3 days enjoying the sun, drinking beer, eating shrimps and crabs, and of course, the inevitable visits to the temples. It was funny that we were all required to wear some sort of skirt in the Mother Temple. I was wearing shorts, but the tradition dictates that visitors must not show their leg skin while walking around the temple. So being a good tourist – and not wanting to offend the locals with my sexy muscular legs, I rented a malong and used that as my cover-skirt. ;)

Mother Temple, Bali

There are many interesting structures around Bali, in fact very admirable that I may someday copy the theme when I build my own house (which somehow didn’t translate to reality – until today). The folks here are mixed Hindus and Buddhists (plus an overwhelming number of tourist Hedonist), and for a moment, I felt like I just stepped out of the Muslim Indonesia and was in another place and time. Well, Bali is in fact a non-Muslim Indonesia territory with a different timezone (1hr ahead of Jakarta).

We soon waved our goodbyes to the locals, shook Kuta beach sands from our sandals, and burped out the taste of our last seafood meal – before embarking our plane that will take us back to ‘real Indonesia’, back to the chaos and noise of Jakarta.

(It would be another 1 or 2 months before the Suharto Crisis. And few more years before Al Qaeda and JI started bringing havoc in Bali).

Worth it? Yes.
Cost? Backpacking mode possible, generally low.
Tour potential? Quick tour - many. Long stay: not much
Recommended stay? 1 week quick tour, or 2weeks for backpacking travel
Most recommended sight/place? Bali is nice but don't expect the beaches (ex. in Kuta) to be as good as Boracay.  Borobudor is unique - a must.
What to avoid? in those days - the hotels near Bromo were not good (rat infested) - check out more updated travel tips

Adventure in Ujung Kulon

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