View of Mount Bromo at sunrise.
At the base of the hills
Mariah on her horse. Too tired to walk back to the car?
Locals packing up their green products.
Based on the dodgy experience getting on 15-hour train in Vietnam, we were prepared for anything, but were surprised by the fact that the train was well maintained and clean. They even had a massaging service throughout the ride at a very reasonable price, for you to kill the hours on the train. The ride itself was quite scenic – you’ll pass endless paddy fields and villages, set around beautiful green hills.
We got to Surabaya quite late, and had to take a drive for about 3 hours to the base of Mount Bromo, a small village called . A little note that when Travelpedia says it’s chilly, for the love of God please believe it. I didn’t take this warning seriously, and was only prepared with a thin pashmina. As I woke up from that long drive, after being awakened occasionally by the dying cough of the van’s engine, I found myself shivering so bad that my teeth were clattering. We were greeted by the homestay’s staff wrapped up in thick jackets, and that when I knew I was screwed. Thankfully they provided jackets for guests, and although their version of stylish was a bit 1980s Beijing, with sparkly furry white parkas, I was glad I was no longer freezing.
We had to wake up as early as 3 am to catch the sunrise, and as I woke up groggily, froze my butt on the toilet seat and climbed onto the back of a four-wheel drive, we drove up to the view point of Mount Bromo. We stood there in the dark, shivering and waiting for the sun to rise, and when it finally did, it really was a sight to behold. The initially dark horizon emerged to be a vast horizon of volcanic hills, some with craters that was vivid and spewing with sulphuric smoke. Behind the lonely deserted mountains was a fine long horizon of orange sunrise, emerging and enlightening the panorama. A thin layer of clouds covered the floor of the base of the mountains, and I swear to you it reminded me of one of the places you see in fantasy movies, the volcanoes being a place where the dragons and mystical creatures reside.
As the morning got brighter, we drove down to the base of the mountains. It is a large volcanic ash desert, with locals parading around dragging their horses for tourists to use in case they were too tired to walk. You can choose to either walk around and enjoy the scenic volcanic mountain ranges or take the challenge and climb up the mountains to see the crater. We chose the latter, and thus started my climb, wearing skinny jeans and feeling like my hip bone was getting detached. The view on top was worthwhile though. You get to see the crater up close, a large hole that seemed to not end beneath the earth.
We drove about to get a better look around, and this is highly recommended as the place was huge, and you’d better explore as much as you can away from the center of tourists and horses. If I were alone, I would take off my shoes and run like a crazy person across the fields, but I was not. The open, beautiful scene was liberating. Although I was nowhere close to ending my travel in this region, I could easily tell that this was going to be one of the highlights of it.
More photos here.
Where to Eat: There’s not much to choose from, really. The locals seemed to not have many eateries open for outsiders, so we stuck to the food at the homestay, which was not too bad. The village is a center for agriculture, with a vast amount of broccolis, spring onions and oranges being harvested. If you have more time, which we sadly didn’t, you should try venturing out and finding local places to try out these fresh veggies.
Trishaw ride around town. Easiest and cheapest mode of accomodation
Malboro Street, the main street of Yogyakarta
'Lesehan', a famous lunch option around town.
A gleeful friend with the cast of the Ramayana dance after the show
In the future, whenever I recall Yogyakarta, I’ll always remember these two things – trishaws and horse carriages. It seemed like Yogyakarta is a bustling town stuck between two time zones, a modern Indonesia with fast food chains and fancy Western cafes, and a traditional Indonesia, with man-fueled transports (the trishaws and horse carriages) hogging the main streets.
Yogyakarta is a city that doesn’t seem to have city-like folks. Everybody seemed so relaxed and going at the own paces, not rushing to get anywhere at all. It was mainly warm and sunny when we visited this city. I highly recommend wearing comfortable footwear and breezy clothes, because God knows how much sweat has the ability to ruin your adventure streak.We walked around the city by food, exploring the shops, cafes and the old Kraton (the old castle square). We took a trip to Prambanan, where the Prambanan temple is located, and on that particular night there was a ballet performance depicting the famous story of Ramayana. It is a good way to get acquainted to the Hinduism belief that is quite prominent in these parts of Indonesia.
The main tourism street in the city would be Jalan Malboro (Malboro Street). It’s a stretch of long road, a mixture of cars, trishaws and horse carriages passing by, and along the street you’ll fine people selling all sorts of things – souvenirs, leatherwear, food, cultural items and batik. It’s a good idea to take a nice walk from end to end of the street, and there’s a tourist information office in the middle of the street, with very helpful staff. Yogyakarta is a mellow place, and one should expect to be just that here. You walk by the street, stare at people who are staring at you, hang out at cafes, buy strange items and randomly talk to people by the street. When it gets too hot you should get yourself a bottle of ‘teh botol’, which is basically iced tea in a glass coke-like bottle, and carry on walking around.
More photos here.
Where to Eat : In Yogyakarta, you might want to try the fried chicken restaurant chain, Ayam Goreng Suharti. Championed by a botox-clad looking Mama Suharti, the friend chicken is both crispy and moist, and you’ll love it.
The spooky bathroom with holes on the roof. I keep looking at the ceiling while showering in case someone was looking through
View on top of the temple at sunrise
The carvings on the volcanic rocks of the temple
From Yogyakarta, we took a train to Borobudur. Based on the dodgy experience getting on 15-hour train in Vietnam, we were prepared for anything, but were surprised by the fact that the train was well maintained and clean. They even had a massaging service throughout the ride at a very reasonable price, for you to kill the hours on the train. The ride itself was quite scenic – you’ll pass endless paddy fields and villages, set around beautiful green hills.
If you think Yogyakarta was mellow, Borobudur brings it to a whole new level. It is a small town, centered around what else, the famous Borobudur temple. We checked in at small homestay called Lotus 2, which was at a walking distance to the temple. The homestay looked like the perfect setting to a murder mystery movie. There were only a few rooms, with wooden walls and a standing fan to keep you cool. The bathroom was huge, with a bath that looked like somebody died in it. The bed was surrounded by mosquito nets, a subtle warning that at night, the place would be swarmed by those bloodsucking bugs. But whatever the place lacked in, it made up through its character. It made you feel like a local, staying at a local’s house. The boys who ran the place were absolutely friendly, chatting you up like you were old friends. The balcony was open and overlooked paddy fields, and there was a bookrack with things to read as you hang out on the wooden benches.
As early as 3.30 am, we got up and walked by the dark streets to get to the temple. Note here that as a precaution, you should find out how to get to the temple during the day, so that you wouldn’t be lost walking at night. This is exactly what happened to us and believe me, nothing is more annoying then trying to find directions to a temple in the wee hours of the morning while you’re sleepy and cranky.
But when we got up to the temple, the view was… well there’s no other word for it but magnificent. It really was. It was quite enchanting, standing on top of a big, historic temple as the sun emerged, and you’re surrounded by beautiful volcanic hills hiding behind misty fogs. Everybody was quiet as we sat there, enjoying the mystical air. The carvings of ancient people on every inch of the temple walls, the bell-shaped stupas with statues cleverly hidden inside them, they made me feel like Indiana Jones stumbling upon a 9th Century discovery.
When you’re up at the temple, you should take your time with it. Don’t be one of those travelers who are rushing through things and are too busy taking hundreds of pictures. Walk around the compound and marvel at the intricate carvings that tell a story of princes, kings and goddesses. Check out the worn statues of lions and meditators. Sit and watch the sun go up. It’s an experience you’ll definitely remember.
Where to Eat: There are local shops everywhere, but for dinner we decided to blow off some cash at a fancy restaurant at a nearby hotel. If you walk towards the entrance of the temple, you’ll find a nice café owned by a lady, right by the street. The place has about twenty different types of coffee, so you should definitely get some caffeine shots here. The banana fritters are also really good.