Sunday, June 21, 2009

Gunung Gedogan Trek, Puncak Pass

On Saturday, 20 June we did a Trek to the foot of Mount Pangrango, Puncak. The trek was arranged through Perhimpunan Persahabatan Indonesia-Amerika and is definitely something I could recommend for the outdoor/adventures type.

The trip as a non-member cost Rp.150,000 per person and incl. transport.

We were up early to meet the rest of the group at thePPIA office, Jl. MT. Haryono Kav. 49, Jakarta Selatan, at 6am. We departed for Puncak at around 6:40am and arrived at Gunang Mas at around 8:15am.

We started trekking at about 9am. We hiked through cinnamon and pine trees, forest, scrubs and tea plantations.

Though the trip is listed as a moderate hike, it was actually quite hard and definitely more of a climb than a hike.

One of the guides gave us sticks, which really came in handy on some of the steep uphill climbs. The fact that nearly half of the hike was in the shade also made it a little easier.
We loved the challenge, and thoroughly enjoyed the 3 and a half hour hike, a total climb of 515m.

We reached the finish point at the Puncak Pass Resort at around 12:40pm.

We enjoyed lunch at the Puncak Pass Restaurant, a Dutch colonial style restaurant on Jl. Raya, Puncak. Try the sweet Poffertjies, they are delicious!

The Restaurant is on the highest point in the Puncak area and has a lovely view over the Puncak valley.

At around 2pm we made our LONG way home. Though Puncak is only 100km South of Jakarta it took us 3 hours to get home.

We were literally stuck on Jl. Raya Puncak, for 2 hours just trying to get out of Puncak. At least "daily life" in the village kept us amused.

People watching at it's best - The street is lined with vendors selling all sorts of interesting vegetables and more.

We watched people clean their homes, feed their babies, fix motorbikes and prepare food at the small road side restaurants on every corner.

Notice the cute, fluffy bunnies inside the cage: This is outside a restaurants selling Sate Kelinci (Rabit Kebab's). Lunch anyone ;-0

Once we reached the highway it only took about an hour to get home.

Even with the crazy traffic, this trip is definitely worth it and we look forward to the next one.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Kim and Ingo's visit

I was very happy when I heard the news that Kim and Ingo planned a visit " a detour" to Jakarta, during their trip to Singapore last week.

They arrived on Friday night, 12 May and the next 48 hours was spent "catching up" with our friends from Germany (living in Bangalore). The visit was short and sweet but I loved every minute of it, "thanks for the visit guys, it was great seeing you"!

Their visit was also our opportunity to do a couple of touristy things around Jakarta that we haven't done yet.

It was a short visit so we couldn't really do a lot but we managed to fit in a visit to Sunda Kelapa Harbour (The old Dutch port), an active port since the 12th century to see the Bugis Schooners (large wooden sailing vessels). These Bugis schooners/pinisi's have been build the same way for centuries by islanders of the archipelago, using centuries-old trade routes.

We watched the labourers reloading for the return journeys to Sumatra, Kallimantn and Sulawesi. They carry as much as 100kg of cargo inl. cement and rice on their shoulders, across approximately 40 cm wide, wooden beams. A very good balancing act, that's for sure.
When the heat got to much we went for a drink at the Batavia Marina restaurant.

Our next stop was the Maritime Museum. The restored warehouses, which date back to 1653, originally held pepper, tea, cloth, coffee and other valuble goods for the VOC (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie).

The buildings now house the Maritime Museum collection. Original and scale model boats that represent the techniques of traditional boat building. The collection also contains navigational charts and equipment, paintings, historical photographs and other maritime memorabilia.
The resident cat, that looked very at home in the shade of one of the big boats.
We enjoyed a cold beer at Cafe Batavia, one of the oldest buildings in Jakarta. The building was erected between 1805 and 1850, and over the years it has served as a residence, warehouse, office and now the famous restaurant.

By this time we were starving...

We had a fantastic lunch at Koi, and afterwards we took Ingo and Kim on a little tour through one of our Supermarkets (a bit of supermarket heaven to them). You can come back anytime, guys ;-)

In the late afternoon Ingo and Marc went for a massage while Kim and I baked a cake and prepared everything for our BBQ. I am pleased to say that our guest definitely didn't go home hungry, as it did seem that all we did was eat.

On Sunday morning, we visited the Rangunan Zoo, which was really a pleasant surprise. The plan was to hire bicycles and ride around the Zoo, but we were about 30 minutes late, and there were no bikes left. Which worked out well in the end because we had to wait about 20 minutes for the Schmutzer Primate Centre, which only opened at 9am.

The Primate Centre was definitely the highlight for us, and definitely worth a visit if you haven't been there yet. HINT: To avoid the masses, it might be a good idea to go during the week.

I will rather not elaborate too much on this picture. Let's just say Ingo hit the nail on the head when he said it looked like she (yes, it's a she) was doing a pole dance for us. It was the funniest thing I've ever seen.

Kim sizing herself up against a Gorilla, which gives one an idea of just how big these primates are.

Spot the "bule" (foreigner) - Ingo towering above the crowd.

After a refreshing swim and "brunch" Kim and I headed to the shops where Kim picked up a couple of nice things that will always remind them of their visit. "I hope you are thinking of me every time you turn your lamp on, Kim"!

We ended their 48 hours with a relaxing foot massage, followed by a last minute shopping spree in a fantastic shop called Pantry Magic, again a little piece of heaven for Kim and Ingo who probably wished that they had more space in their suitcase for all the lovely goodies they just loved and wished they could take back with them to India.

We had an early dinner at Die Stube. I know...perhaps an Indonesian dinner would have been the more obvious choice.

Or perhaps not. With 3 German's in our midst we decided to go for German munchies. We really enjoyed the Schweinhaxe (roasted pork knuckle), Knödel, Rot Kohl, Kaiserschmarrn (sugared pancake with raisins). The food was delicious and definitely a very good END to their visit.

Just before 8pm we said our goodbyes. "I miss you already, Kim". Until we meet again, guys. Mwah!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Trip to Jogjakarta

We have been wanting to go to Jogja, to visit Borobudur ever since we arrived in Jakarta. We actually were booked to go the long weekend before last (Friday was a public holiday), but like a couple of times before, we've had to postpone because of Marc's work commitments.

We decided not to plan it around another long weekend, as it seemed that it just doesn't work planning so far ahead. Marc decided to put in two days leave and we finally managed to "make the trip" last weekend.

On Thursday, 21 May we were on the early 6:30am Air Asia flight to Jogjakarta/Yogyakarta (there are two ways of spelling it, it seems). Because we didn't really have a "honeymoon" we considered this trip our little "minimoon".

The spectacular view from the airplane.

We decided to treat ourselves to a 1 night stay at Losari Coffee Plantation and 2 nights in Borobudur, Saraswati Hotel.

Though it is probably only 80km to Losari it took us more than 2 hours to get there. We arrived at Losari at 9:30 and after breakfast we were able to check into our plantation villa.

Losari is not cheap. In fact, it comes at a price. But, as mentioned above, we considered this our "minimoon" and we were well aware that the 1night/2days would consist of rest and relaxation, spa treatments and not much else (which is what makes it so special) and we were looking forward to the "treat".

Our 26 hours in Losari was spent napping, having afternoon tea, spa treatments, dinner, morning yoga, breakfast, a plantation tour, a swim. Losari can of course offer a lot more: They do 1 day hikes, a train ride, river rafting and more. But, because of the price we decided that a 1 night stay is a big enough treat.

Our lovely plantation villa, overlooking the lush vegetation. It's amazing what a calming effect so much green has on a person.

The plantation house at Losari, where they serve afternoon tea from 4 - 6 (included in the price). The house has a fantastic wrap around porch where you can take your pick of where to sit or lie down...There are a lot of comfy chairs, couches, daybeds in and around the house where you can "hang out". And after tea you can head to the great pub for sudowners.

Marc and I both had a traditional Javanese massage which was of course amazing. I was so relaxed that it took a bit of effort to lift the tea cup.

The swimming pool with a great view of a volcano. There are apparently 7 volcano's surrounding Losari.

We thoroughly enjoyed the 8am yoga class (included in the price ;-).

A lady walks around Losari filled with these bottles of Jamu (Health drink) tied to her back. We tried different kinds of Jamu including ginger, tamarind, palm sugar and some other not so nice ones. It is of course the not so nice once, that are suppose to be really good for you. Marc has been fighting a cold and asked for a big cup off the "terrible stuff" which apparently acts as an anti-biotic.

After our joga class we went on a coffee plantation tour. It was very interesting to hear about the different types of coffee plants and to see the different size leaves of each type of coffee e.g. Arabica, Robusta, Excelsa, Java etc.

Our guide also told us about kopi luwak, which I have heard about before but to be honest always wondered if it's an urban legend. Kopi Luwak is basically coffee berries that have been ingested by an Asian palm civet cat and the beans then pass through the feline's digestive tract (well, it's a type of feline) and is collected and roasted and YES, served as a speciality coffee. It is the wolds most expensive coffee but I think I'd rather give it a miss, thanks ;-).

At noon on Friday a taxi collected us and 1 hour, 35km later we arrived at The Saraswati Borobudur, hotel.

Because it was our "minimoon" we also opted to stay in a hotel in Borobudur that is slightly more expensive than our usual accommodation budget. The Saraswati Borobudur is 5 min walk from the temple and really a nice, small hotel that I would gladly recommend to people that do prefer luxury, but that don't want to break the bank. On the Friday we relaxed at the hotel and in the late afternoon we decided to check out the Borobudur temple and the museum.

We decided not to go up as we were planning on doing the sunrise tour on Saturday morning.

It was sadly not a very spectacular sunrise, which is of course what we were expecting/hoping for. It was unfortunately very cloudy but we luckily did catch a glimpse of the sun, and that is thanks to all the Chinese tourists that started clapping when it came out, otherwise we may have missed it LOL ;-)

One good thing about doing the sunrise tour is that we at least managed to get a couple of good shots. An hour later we actually couldn't get a shot without having at least 3 people in the frame.

Click here to read more about Borobudur - a ninth-century Mahayana Buddist Monument in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia. The Temple was first discovered by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles in 1812 in poor condition. From 1907-1911 the restoration was conducted by Theodore van Erp and from 1973 - 1983 the Indonesian government with the help of UNESCO conducted major restoration on Candi Borobudur in the hopes that Borobudur could survive for another 1000 years.
Let me just say that I've heard people say "it is similar to Angkor Wat). In my opinion Borobudur cannot really be compared to The Ancient Angkor Ruins in Siem Reap, Cambodia. And I think that if you've visited Borobudur and then Angkor Wat your might see some similarities. But, if you've been to Angkor Wat before I do believe you might find Borobudur a bit of a disappointment. I don't think it's just because of the temple though, it's just the whole experience. Siem Reap is just a lot more geared towards tourism and you have great restaurants, bars and shops to choose from that makes the overall experience magical where as Borobudur...well, it's just not there yet. Click here to go to my blog entry on our 2007 trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia and you will see what I mean.

On our way back to the hotel we bought an Ohle-Ohle (souvenir). We had breakfast and then had a 2 hour nap before we headed out to Jogjakarta for the rest of the day:

We visited Kraton, the Sultan's Palace . According to Javanese belief, the ruler is the "naval" of their universe. We learned all about the past 9 sultan's over more than 200 years and all their doings incl. their very extended family trees.

One of the Sultan's (I think it was No.8) had 30 wives and 80 children. The family tree looked more like an entire forest.

We visited a Batik factory where we watched them perform some of the different processes of textile dying, that Indonesia is famous for. Useless fact: Nelson Mandela brightly coloured shirts, are Batik shirts, from Indonesia.

A copper Batik stamp which comes in so many different patterns, some so intricate that it must take weeks to paint.

Some of the finished pieces of fabric hanging out to dry.
We had a great lunch at Kedai Kebun Restaurant. I also ate my first piesang goreng kedai, which I really enjoyed. You get different kinds of piesang goreng (fried banana) but I ordered one with the banana and cheese in a batter served with honey and lemon. I strange ;-0 but it actually tasted really yummy.

After lunch we stopped to look at some antique's and handy-crafts before we made our way to the other famous temple in Jogjakarta called Prambanan.

Click here to read about the largest Hindu Temple compound in Central Java.

We must have been asked more than 20 times if we would pose for a photograph. Sometimes with a person or group and other times they just ask if they could take a photo of us. Everywhere you look you will see a tourist being photographed.

We were asked by the teacher of a group of girls (they actually only wanted to talk to Marc ;-) if we would mind spending a few minutes talking to her students to help them with their English. They asked Marc a couple of questions like "what your name, where you from" and then, wait for it....."Picture" and everyone quickly turned to smile at about 5 camera's.

We noticed a couple of times that people are aiming to take a picture, assuming it was of the temple but soon realised that they were taking pictures of us. To be honest, it was funny in the beginning but it got a bit much after a while. When two girls stopped us on Sunday, I actually said, tidak (NO). We just had a little taste of what celebrates must feel like and I really do feel sorry for them.

We decided to watch the Ramayana ballet performance at the outdoor theatre next to the Prambanan temple later that night. We had about 1 and a half hours to kill before the show and decided to go to the theatre, hoping that there would be a place nearby where we could have a cold beer.

We were so pleasantly surprised when we arrived there and saw a stunning open air restaurant overlooking the lit Prambanan Temple. It is a truly romantic setting and Marc did score a couple of brownie points for this romantic evening at the theatre.
The well put together Ramayana Ballet (Javanese Ballet is not how we know ballet). The show started at 7:30pm and for the next two hours we were led through scenes of the Javanese adoptation of the Indian epic Ramayana.

The plan was to watch the Super 14 Bulls vs. Chiefs after the show. Marc's was greatly dissapointment (especially after reading about the fantastic win on the internet the next day) when we couldn't find a place to watch the match.

Sunday morning we departed our hotel at around 10am and decided to take a 40min drive to Ketep Pass to see if we could see Mount Merapi.
This is what we would have seen (photo from the internet).
But again, no luck as it was complete hidden by clouds. Smoke can apparently be seen emerging from the mountain top at least 300 days a year and there has been several eruptions over the years. The last eruption was in 2006.

We drove back to the city and strolled down Jalan Maliaboro, which is the main shopping street in Jogjakarta. The street is packed with people, and are lined with small stalls and modern shops and restaurants. It is a vibrent very colourful street that has a real old world charm about it. There are 100's of Becak's (trishaw bicycles) lined up and every couple of minutes you will hear the sound of an Andong's (horse drawn carriages) coming up behind you and sometimes if you don't hear them they will ring the bell.

This is probably the most famous scene in Jogja - A couple of Becak's (trishaw bicycles) drivers waiting for their next customer.

We had a couple of minutes to spare before we had to leave for the airport and thought it might be interesting to check out the Ngasem Market bird market. Interesting being the operative word. To quote Marc "The revenge of the birds is coming"!
We arrived at the airport and were very happy to find out that we could make use of the Borobudur Lounge with our HSBC card, which is a little more comfortable then waiting infront of the boarding gate. Especially since our flight was delayed by an hour :-(.

We arrived back home at around 7:30pm. We had a super weekend and we are happy that we can finally tick Jogja off the list.

We are looking forward to the next destination around the worlds largest archipelago.

In hine site, I think I should have planned the trip a little differently. But, I guess that's why they call it "traveling" and you learn as you go along.

We've heard different accounts from a lot of different people about their feelings on Jogja and the Borobudur temple (some even saying "it's similar to Angkor Wat). And as one does, we planned our trip based on reccommendations (both from friends and the www). As it turns out, we are all different individuals and what works for the one person might not necesary be what the other one has in mind.

Meaning: Someone might consider staying at their 5 star hotel, hanging out by the pool, eating at the hotel etc. a great holiday/weekend away. And others (like us) prefer to be out and about, exploring, eating at different restaurants.

Which beckons the question, why spend a lot of money on accommodation, right? Well, that's how we feel about it at least.
Being the painfully organised person that I am, though we had a great time, I can kick myself for not planning the trip better, which would have saved us quite a bit of money in the end. Yes, it's all about the money...

About the transport:

I pre-booked a ASA taxi (Tel: +62274545545 Driver: Pak Uuywono+6281903792221) to take us to Lasari. They charged us Rp.250,000 which is exactly half of what the hotel charges.

We arranged our transport to Borobudur from Losari, with the the same driver from ASA. Of course everthing in Indonesia is a negotiation and though he wanted more money, we finally settled on paying Rp.150,000.

Needless to say, we didn't use the ASA taxi service again.

We called a couple of car hire companies but found Jogja Rent Car offered the best rates. After Marc practiced his negotiation skills some more, we managed to hire a car and a driver for (what is appartenly a really good deal) Rp.400,000 for 10 hours (He would have done 14 hours for Rp.500,000). And on the Sunday we paid Rp.250 from 10am - 2:30pm.

About the Hotel's:
Losari Coffee Plantation:
Remember if you have KITA's, ask for the KITA's rates when you make your booking. Also, if you are a good negotiator you could get them to give you the rate all in, otherwise they will still charge you 21% tax and service charge. You can also get 20% off the spa treatments if you have KITA's. But, you have to ask for it!

Sarwaswait Borobudur:
Though we enjoyed our stay at The Sarwaswati, we would have actually preferred staying at the Monohara hotel, which is located on the Borobudur temple grounds. NOTE: Guest at the Princess Monohara pay Rp.150,000 per person and Rp.300,000 per per (for ourside visitors), Rp.200,000 (KITA's holders) for the sunrise tour.

I'm not sure if there are other hotels that can arrange the sunrise tour directly but our hotel said that they would have to arrange the tour through the Monohara hotel. The Saraswati wanted to charge Rp.500,000 per person (tourist price) and Rp.300,000 (for KITA's holders).

The hotel basically charges Rp.100,000 per person for transport to the Monohara Hotel. But, The Saraswati is only 5minutes walk from the Monohara Hotel.

After a couple of discussions, Saraswati agreed to make a booking at the Monohara Hotel on our behalf for Rp.200,000 per person (KITA's rate) and we just had to walk 5 min down the road.

The other thing (hine site is a wonderful thing, isn't it).

Duration of the trip:
We would have preffered staying in Borobudur for only 1 night and then rather stayed in Jogja the last night.

Why: Because we ended up staying in Borobudur but spent most of the day on Saturday and Sunday in Jogjakarta.

Also, the mosque is right next door and with the 4am call to prayer you will sure not have to worry about oversleaping and missing the sunrise tour. This is of course fine on the day that you do the sun rise tour but when we were woken up that early again on the Sunday, I was less impressed.

Ramayana Open Air Theatre:
We really enjoyed the show, apart from the very uncomfortable seats we were in we enjoyed the evening very much. If you take the mid range tickets of Rp.100,000 per person be sure to take a pillow. Otherwise you could go for the Rp.200,000 and the VIP seats that looked more comfortable.

Hotel's in Jogja, recommendated by friends:
I hope that my "detailed" account of our trip might help you plan yours better.