Parangtritis, Yogyakarta

I figure I’d better finish off the Yogyakarta 2014 photos before I revisit. At this rate, it might take me 5 years to complete blogging about a new place 🙂

It was near to Indonesia’s presidential elections. Sentiments ran high, many took to the streets with their bikes and rallies, waving party flags loud and proud. Neither the sun nor rain could dampen their spirits.

Yogyakarta, Indonesia - election bikers in rain

Yogyakarta, Indonesia - election mood

We ended up going to Parangtritis beach, a popular tourist spot for both locals and foreigners. It was quite a distance from Yogyakarta town, perhaps it seemed longer to us due to the rain and traffic from rally bikes.

But got there we did, and what a sight for sore eyes it was.

Yogyakarta, Indonesia - horse on Parangtritis beach

Yogyakarta, Indonesia - Parangtritis beach

Yogyakarta, Indonesia - Parangtritis mother and son

Our guide drove us to a spot where we had to climb stairs to the top of a small hill so we could see the stretch of the beach. Only locals would know of this spot, it seems.

Yogyakarta, Indonesia - Parangtritis - up the hill

Yogyakarta, Indonesia - Parangtritis view

All right, I’m done with Yogyakarta 2014. Who even remembers what else happened there and then? Not me. (About) time to move on.

Follow the entire Yogyakarta trip here: Yogyakarta 2014

Borobudur, Yogyakarta

I’d always wanted to go to Borobudur. It could be true, I said so myself.

The real truth is, I hadn’t thought of visiting Borobudur at all. Then one fine day as I was flipping through magazines, I came across a travel piece on Yogyakarta. It mentioned that Borobudur was in real danger of being wrecked by volcano ash, and one should make the trip sooner than later.

Something clicked in my mind and we booked the trip. Or something like that; it’s been two years, one’s memories may be muddled.

Borobudur, Yogyakarta -0520 view at the temple

We dropped some money to stay at the Manohara Hotel, the only lodging right next to the Borobudur temple. As hotel guests, we get discounted rates (now it’s Rp250K, less than RM80 each) to join the sunrise tour. Well, more like a ‘come along’ rather than tour. Once you’re gathered at 4.30am and received a sarong to wear, you’re silently led to the temple where you walk up the stairs and are left to your own devices.

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - 0533 view before sunrise

It seems like a hefty price to pay, especially if you’re not sure if the sunrise would be clear or not. There are some who found out how to enjoy the same view without paying the sunrise package price. Feel free to google for those resources.

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - 0537 stupa in the morning

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - 0545 before sunrise

Personally I felt the extra price was worth it, for sanity of not having to rush around like a mad person. The sun generally rises around 5.30am, and the temple is open to public at 6am. I’d say you get the temple to yourself for about 40 minutes. When you see the morning crowd come rushing in, you’d appreciate the brief moments of solitude to enjoy the temple.

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - 0602 quiet temple

You could see by now that it was a cloudy morning when we were there. No visible view of the sun rising. Some people were visibly disappointed, but whaddya know, nature.

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - 0604 cloudy morning

I thought it was AMAZING, the cool air accompanied by small gusts of wind, and us standing on this ancient hand-me-down overlooking the morning fog cottoning the feet of mountains.

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - 0617 still before crowd

My uncle who visited in 1973 probably thought so too, hah!

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - December 1973 stupas
December 1973

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - overlooks Mount Merapi range

I was on a mega project to scan old family photos when I came across these. My uncle worked in Indonesia for a few years, that was probably when he went exploring the country. Cool, eh?

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - December 1973 near main stupa

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - Suanie and Joyce near main stupa

You would have figured out by now that this post is not an authority on Borobudur, the 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist temple. There are other great on-line resources for that.

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - temple grounds

I knew that each wall relief told a tale, some I could recognise such as Gautama Buddha’s life story. Others, not so much.

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - wall carvings

I saw this image in the photo below… uhm, well I *did* take the photo. But I didn’t know it was famous until I got back, and learned it was the image of a Borobudur ship.

There are books that tell you stories of each wall relief. The mega price they cost and my interest in the subject do not match.

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - carving Borobudur ship

Stairs are bad for the knees, thankfully they installed steel railings. It took away the feel of authenticity, but safety first!

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - stairs

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - Suanie and Joyce at base

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - December 1973 base

The morning crowd, then it starts to get busy. I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much if I were surrounded by so many other people #introvertproblems

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - public entrance

It was a lovely visit, though I did not get the ‘feeling’ as I did at Candi Sewu. But it was not my intention to go to Yogyakarta for a spiritual awakening, so that was okay.

Follow the entire Yogyakarta trip here: Yogyakarta 2014

Prambanan, Yogyakarta

So! I went to Yogyakarta in 2014, and I’m still writing about it in 2016. That’s the mark of a good trip because it’s stuck in the mind, and not chronicling it would be a self-disservice!

(and that’s how I excuse my procrastination)

First timers to Yogyakarta would do well to pay a visit the famous Prambanan, a collection of ancient Hindu temples now marked as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The most famous three Prambanan temples are also the backdrop to the resplendent Ramayana Ballet, a moving feast for the sight and sound at a price.

If you are unfamiliar with Prambanan and would like to know more about the temples built in the 10th century, the greatness of the Hindu culture and religion, the triumph of good against evil, the murky legends that surround these ancient places, the earthquakes that would destroy or visibly ruin most of the temples in the compound, the various ways of getting to Prambanan itself…. well then, there are many on-line resources you could refer to. This… isn’t one of them.

Instead, you should be expecting more of this:

Prambanan, Yogyakarta - Suanie in the park

Prambanan, Yogyakarta - Candi Prambranan carving
I be looking atchu

… nah. That’s the end of the fabulous frivolousness… that could be proven by photos anyway.

We had arranged to get to Prambanan in the afternoon so we’d have a couple of hours before the Ramayana ballet. Entrance tickets was Rp198,000 each (approx RM60+).

Prambanan, Yogyakarta - main grounds

It was hot. There were temples of ancient Asian heritage. I’m Asian living in Asia. We have seen, and will continue to see a lot of temples. You’ve been to one temple, you’ve been to most of them.

Prambanan, Yogyakarta - Candi Prambanan compound

Don’t get me wrong, it was lovely to explore the temple grounds. The compound was rather well-restored, which contributed to the feeling of modernity as I did. I suppose I would have enjoyed it more if I knew the stories carved into the temple walls.

Prambanan, Yogyakarta - carvings

Prambanan, Yogyakarta - shadows

Prambanan, Yogyakarta - around Candi Prambanan

Prambanan, Yogyakarta - up the old stairs
I ain’t climbing that, girl

There were many Hindu temples around the Prambanan complex. There was a sole Buddhist temple, Candi Sewu north of the main Prambanan temples. Wikipedia says that Sewu temple is the second largest Buddhist temple complex in Indonesia after Borobudur. Well, what do you say to that?

Prambanan, Yogyakarta - Candi Sewu sign

Prambanan, Yogyakarta - Candi Sewu entrance

I’ll tell you this though: I felt something at Candi Sewu. Nah, not something spooky, frightful nor terribly bad.

Prambanan, Yogyakarta - Candi Sewu headless statue

Walking among the ruins in Candi Sewu, I felt peace, like it was home, as if I’d been here before, that I’d lived here before.

Prambanan, Yogyakarta - Candi Sewu

It wasn’t exactly deja vu, more like I know I would be safe there, that nothing could hurt me.

Prambanan, Yogyakarta - Candi Sewu central temple

What do you make of it eh! Suanie of many lives.

Follow the entire Yogyakarta trip here: Yogyakarta 2014

Manohara Hotel Borobudur

According to Gary, the best place to stay is in Magelang is at the Manohara Hotel Borobudur.

Before that.. it is most important to know your objectives. Why do you want to visit the Borobudur temple? How long do you think you’d spend there? Does getting lost in the carvings of old appeal to you? Then yes, choose this hotel as it’s a quick 5-mins stroll to the UNESCO world heritage site.

Manohara Hotel Borobudur, Yogyakarta - views
The Borobudur Temple is just 5 mins away

We paid Rp1 million (approx RM275 or USD86) for one night in a twin room. It covered accommodation, breakfast and entrance fee to Borobudur Temple from 6am to 5pm. Plus the privilege of paying just Rp230K (approx RM63 or USD20) to join their 4.30am Borobudur Sunrise package. Non-hotel guests have to fork out an additional RM40 for the same experience.

Manohara Hotel Borobudur, Yogyakarta - room

The room was slightly dated but reasonably clean and spacious. Like most other hotels in the region, they only provide soap and not shower gel. Tough for a girl who likes her shower gel. The private balcony was welcoming, we had room service dinner there accompanied by sounds of insects in the night.

What to do if you’re done visiting the temple? You could rent a bicycle for Rp10K per hour. Cycle around the grounds, check out the elephants, whizz around the UNESCO site, get stopped by enthusiastic local kids asking to take photos with you.

Manohara Hotel Borobudur, Yogyakarta - around the resort

Or just sit around and chill out at the hotel. There’s no swimming pool, but there are plenty of huge grass lizard types at the bushes. They could keep one fascinated, if one has a penchant for the reptiles.

The only terrible part was that during our stay, it was elections fever. Bikers were vrooming around rallying and showing support for their political parties. And the Borobudur grounds being so vast, carry noise across the hotel all too well. It was very annoying as the peaceful silence was too often interrupted by the bikers.

Manohara Hotel Borobudur, Yogyakarta - with hostess
With the hostess

That aside, I think it was a good choice to stay at the Manohara Hotel Borobudur, JUST for the temple. One night is more than good enough, then you should scoot and see other attractions.

Manohara Hotel Borobudur
Komplek Taman Wisata Candi Borobudur,
Jl. Badrawati Borobudur, Magelang,
Jawa Tengah, 56553, Indonesia
Tel:+62 293 788131

Follow the entire Yogyakarta trip here: Yogyakarta 2014

Mount Merapi 4×4 Jeep Tour, Yogyakarta

The reticent volcano keeps
His never slumbering plan
Confided are his projects pink
To no precarious man.

If nature will not tell the tale
Jehovah told to her
Can human nature not survive
Without a listener?

Admonished by her buckled lips
Let every babbler be
The only secret people keep
Is Immortality.

– Emily Dickinson

Mount Merapi, the most active volcano in Indonesia sits in Central Java on the border of Yogyakarta. It last erupted in late 2010, claiming more than 350 lives and displacing over 400,000 nearby residents.

One lucrative business that came from this tragedy was the Merapi 4×4 jeep tours. For a fee (we paid RP350,000, approx MYR 98 or USD32), a driver will take you on a jeep to certain spots around the base of Mount Merapi. As the tours are heavily centralised on the 2010 eruption, you will see (or be pointed to) many leftovers from the destruction.

Yogyakarta - Gunung Merapi 4x4 Jeep tour - Suanie
First, a photo with Merapi in the background.

Why did we do this?

1) I wanted to be near Merapi. I LOVE mountains!
2) I had half-formed plans of a sunrise hike. Then my sprained ankle didn’t get better for a leisurely walk up a hill, let alone an arduous trek up a living volcano. Let’s conveniently ignore the fact that I am fat and unfit, THOUGH motivated.
3) Good reviews on TripAdvisor. Other people enjoyed it, why shouldn’t I?

Yogyakarta - Gunung Merapi 4x4 Jeep tour - signboard
Choose your tour.

If you’ve never been on the back of a 4×4 on a rocky road, this is a good opportunity for you to experience it. Wear a hat/cap, use sunblock and enjoy the bumpy ride. Note: this is not a fun ride if you’re allergic to dust.

If you tried it before, then this is what you will see for the entire trip:

Yogyakarta - Gunung Merapi 4x4 Jeep tour - road
This used to be a river. Then the volcano erupted and lahars flowed through it.

From time to time, the driver will point at abandoned/ demolished houses/ structures, with the information that they were all destroyed during the 2010 Merapi eruption. In my many musings about life, I sometimes wonder if it is necessary to point out the obvious. Perhaps in this case it was, else there’d be nothing to talk about whatsoever.

Yogyakarta - Gunung Merapi 4x4 Jeep tour - abandoned houses
Plenty more like this, most with not much remaining.

We had a pit stop to a ‘museum’ housing items collected from the leftovers of the eruption. You’re looking at cutlery, personal items, toys, and what-not gathered in ash. A clock on the wall displayed the exact time of the night eruption, when villagers could not get to safety in time. There was a reconstructed skeletal remains of a cow. A couple of stalls sold souvenirs; T-shirts, photos and VCDs of the 2010 eruptions.

I didn’t know what to think. Of course I felt a wave of sadness because lives were lost, people displaced. But I’m not sure about taking their everyday personal items (combs?) and making it a local tourist attraction.

The driver sensed that we weren’t particularly interested in the ‘museum’. We left on the jeep and continued to see things like:

Yogyakarta - Gunung Merapi 4x4 Jeep tour - hot stones

3.5 years after the eruption and piles of rocks spurted from the volcano was still smoking. I know you can’t see it in the photo, so I very kindly marked the area where smoke was coming out… just for you:

Yogyakarta - Gunung Merapi 4x4 Jeep tour - smoke

Miscommunication played a part in my disinterest. We spoke Bahasa Malaysia with the guide and he replied in Bahasa Indonesia (duh). Most parts, I could get him and what he was trying to say.

But when he started telling us about ‘dusun jambu’ and how the volcano eruption killed everything in it, I wondered in annoyance why was he telling us about hot lava destroying a guava fruit orchard?

Turns out, ‘dusun’ is ‘village’ in Indonesia, and not ‘orchard’ as how we know it in Malaysia. I must have seemed like a callous, indifferent, cold-hearted tourist.

Yogyakarta - Gunung Merapi 4x4 Jeep tour - rocky road
Rewarded with occasional clear view of Merapi.

We got to Kaliadem, the highest point where the jeeps could reach. Before, it was a popular village with campsites for those wanting to catch Merapi sunrise from afar. Now it’s covered with rocks and ash, heavily damaged from lava and lahars.

A few people sought refuge in the bunker, only to die from the extreme heat. I found a site with photos of what the bunker looked like before the 2006 eruption *click*. This is what it looks like now:

Yogyakarta - Gunung Merapi 4x4 Jeep tour - bunker

I could only imagine what it was like before the eruptions.

Yogyakarta - Gunung Merapi 4x4 Jeep tour - mountain

Moving on to complete the 1.5 hour journey, we stopped by to see an ‘alien rock’. There are no surprises to this; it’s a huge rock that locals think look like an alien. Apparently they believe that it contains magical powers. I didn’t go look, so here’s a photo of Joyce at the remaining entrance to a demolished dusun (village).

Yogyakarta - Gunung Merapi 4x4 Jeep tour - remaining gate

One story about the 2010 eruption that moved me was the passing of the spiritual guardian of Merapi. Mbah Maridjan (or Grandfather Maridjan) replaced his father as the gatekeeper in 1982. Spiritual guardians of Merapi are believed to have the power to speak to the spirits of Merapi. He refused to evacuate before the 2010 eruption, telling friends that he had a responsibility to the people and mountain, and that it was soon his time to die.

Read more on Wikipedia: *click*

Not to romanticise death, but I felt that the story of the guardian, role and responsibility was very old world, from an era long gone. We don’t have much of that anymore.

Yogyakarta - Gunung Merapi 4x4 Jeep tour - Suanie and Joyce

Do I think that you should go on any Merapi 4×4 jeep tour? I don’t know, I’m a jaded old cow. But if you have RM100 to spare to support the locals (as most of the jeep operators are locals to the area), why not. Keep expectations low, enjoy the scenery and imagine the spirit of Mbah Maridjan still lingering, faithfully guarding the fiery mountain from the other side.

Follow the entire Yogyakarta trip here: Yogyakarta 2014

I’d always wanted to go to Borobudur

… and so I did!

Suanie at Borobudur Temple, Yogyakarta

p/s: this is not the full proper blog post on it. Let’s wait till I could be arsed.

Follow the entire Yogyakarta trip here: Yogyakarta 2014

Ayam Goreng NY Suharti, Yogyakarta

In Yogyakarta, fried chicken (ayam goreng) is massive business.

Not in terms of chicken size; Jogja chicken seem to be on the smaller side. Speaks about the type of commercial chicken that we have here (slightly disturbing).

I was told (thanks Sharon and Regina!) that the best fried chicken in Yogyakarta is Ayam Goreng Nyonya Suharti. We dutifully relayed this to our airport taxi driver who kindly made a pit stop so we could have our first meal in Jogja.

Ayam Goreng Goreng at NY Suharti, Yogyakarta

You might be confused as there’s Ayam Goreng Suharti (logo of a woman, presumably Suharti herself), and there’s Ayam Goreng NY. Suharti (logo of two chicken). Turns out that the latter belongs to Suharti’s ex-husband, possible separation after he’d obtained the fried chicken recipe?

The Ayam Goreng NY. Suharti restaurant that we went to seemed built for tourists, definitely with prices on the higher side. For example, a plate of white rice costs Rp8,000 (approx RM2.30 or US$0.70). A plate of fried noodles costs Rp25,000 (approx RM7.10 or US$2.20). Not the type of prices you’d normally associate with Jogja.

Ayam Goreng Goreng at NY Suharti, Yogyakarta - with white rice

For the two of us, we ordered half a chicken (Rp43,000 / RM12.20 / US$3.80), two white rice and a bowl of sayur lodeh, which is vegetables cooked in coconut milk and meat stock (Rp11,000 / RM3.20 / US$1.00).

When we realised that their 1/2 chicken equals to our 1/4 chicken, we ordered another 1/2 chicken.

Ayam Goreng Goreng at NY Suharti, Yogyakarta - kresmes

The fried chicken is basically ayam goreng kresmes, which means crispy fried chicken. It is a double-cooking process of boiling the chicken in herbs and spices then deep-frying it. To get the crispy, crunchy (kresmes) bits, the leftover boiled stock is mixed with normal flour, rice flour and baking powder then deep-fried.

Good? Very!…. the first order that is. Crispy skin with juicy meat. The additional cripsy bits were flavourful and delicious, especially when paired with sambal (chilli paste). Essentially a white rice heaven! Our second order was disappointingly way too oily and not as fragrant. That went downhill fast.

Perhaps blogging this at midnight isn’t such a good idea. I’d be happy to have ayam goreng kresmes in front of me now, oily or not.

Ayam Goreng NY Suharti
No. 187, Jalan Gedong Kuning, Yogyakarta