Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Jogjakarta on 4 Sides + 1

If there is a country closest to my heart, next to the Philippines, it is Indonesia. I usually go here for technical trainings or business meetings since one of our local business unit is located in Jakarta. Jakarta is a big city but I must admit, it has not that much to offer except for gazillion malls and galleries and museums.

My last Indonesia trip was the first week of June. I had a training on geothermal petrography (Ok, nerd alert! Basically we studied rocks under the microscope to give us information on its origin and possible implications on the geothermal reservoir and processes. Cut it!). I was with my co-geologist Aimee and we had this sorta workshop for a week.

The good thing about these trips is that we may opt to extend at our own expense. Well, at least the airfare was saved. What I usually do is extend for a couple of days to explore the place, stay in a backpackers inn (most of the time to save some cost) and just have fun and of course, take gigabytes of photos. And never did I forget about Merapi, my tripod. It comes in handy when I have to have my own photoshoots (LMAO) or for this last trip, when I travel alone.

I decided to spend a weekend in Jogjakarta. It is a small province in southeast Java about an hour plane ride from Jakarta. It is the only province in Indonesia still governed by that area's precolonial monarchy, a sultan that is. I thought at first to take the inter-province train (executive class, why not?) but I realized eight hours of train ride could take most of my time. So I jumped into a budget airline and after an hour, I was in Jogjakarta. 

It was a bit odd at first to get into an airport alone. I am so used to travelling either with my friends or my colleagues. Good thing I learned some Bahasa words already such as 'Keluar', which translates to 'Exit'. Well, at least I didn't lost looking for my way out. I must admit, the first few Bahasa words I learned so far, after more than five times I've been to Indonesia, are the food words. Well, I think naturally, people tend to learn quickly the basic greetings and of course, the food, and the 'bad words'. LOL.


Jogjakarta City a.k.a. Jogja is quite small. You can certainly feel the cultural vibe from its Javanese architecture and very warm and hospitable people. Jogja is bounded by the Ring Road- North-South-East-West- and as what Thomas (manager of the lovely MSA Garden I stayed in) said, you can never get lost from Jogja unless you cross the Ring Road. It is easy to navigate within the city since most of the streets are just straight and parallel. 

The backpackers inn I stayed in, MSA Garder, is located in a residential subdivision. I liked it particularly because it was really relaxing compared to checking in downtown where the noise of the city could be overwhelming. It stands out from the rest of the contemporary houses on the street because of its Javanese-inspired architecture. Besides the overwhelming continental breakfast they served complementary, the people there are so warm I felt really at home. Besides, Jogja is a small  city so I really didn't mind the short travel to the city proper. What I realized is that it was really worth taking time to plan a trip, especially if you are on a tight budget. I must say I had my money's worth.

The heart of Jogja- Malioboro

The first night I was there, I borrowed the bike (MSA lends in for free. Yay!) and strolled along Malioboro. Malioboro is the main street in the city. It is a shopping heaven with gazillion Batik shops and street food stalls. Of course I did not fail to eat some Indonesian food, this time I one in a Padang stall. Padang is a set of food that is usually spicy and cooked once a day and put on display in front of resto or stall where the people can choose. I had Nasi Goreng Ayam(Chicken Fried Rice).

Biking along Malioboro was a lot of fun. I was with Merapi and people were kinda puzzled seeing me set up my tripod, run, and pose (the timer has a maximum of 10 seconds only).

The lovely MSA Garden, I stayed here for three days. Yummy breakfast!

Biking around Malioboro on a 'girly' bike, that's how they call it there.

The Tugu Monument, the symbol of Jogja.

Street performance in Malioboro.

Numerous Batik shops and Indonesian restaurants along Malioboro.

Dinner in Malioboro- Nasi Goreng Ayam (Chicken Fried Rice).

Cool primates!

The Snake fruit a.k.a. Salak. It tastes like wine!

The Nasi Gudeg, bow!

How can I forget the famous Nasi Gudeg Ayam Komplit? Too complicated name for a meal? I agree! LOL. Well, it translates to ‘Complete meal of rice, gudeg, tempe and chicken’, Gudeg being a famous Indonesian entrĂ©e made of boiled and almost caramelized unripe jackfruit served with highly spicy cow’s skin ‘chicharon’. It kinda reminded me of 'Ginataang Langka' though Gudeg is sort of caramelized. It was really fun eating the Gudeh, it felt like eating dessert with rice. On the other hand, 'tempe' is like tofu but the soya beans were not completely grounded. :)

I had the chance to go to a Nasi Gudeg resto on my last day and saw how the cooks prepare them. It was a lot of fun, though the heat was on! I even tried stirring the mixture myself!

Telur (Egg), boiled in soy sauce and sugar.

Cutting the Tempe (bean bars).

The spicy cow skin which i thought was sea cucumber.LOL

The Gudeg. Yum!

It's harder to stir it than i thought!

This is it! The Nasi Gudeg Ayam Komplit!

To the EAST

Jogja is famous for its magnificent temples and shrines both for Buddhism and Hinduism. Luckily for us, most of them are preserved and maintained. By the way, Thomas arranged my itinerary and I must say, it was so worth it. The van was a vintage one, no aircon, no radio, a simple one. It was a lot better because you can really focus on the scenaries and the travel itself.

The Majestic Prambanan

My first stop- Prambanan, which is an hour drive from Jogja. My jaw met the ground at the first sight of it. I was in awe for quite a while but i realized that the sun was so scorching I needed to move. Prambanan is a 9th century Hindu temple built for the worship of the three Hindu gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

OMG, a lot of people just got in by the time I got there. What was more unsettling (in my opinion) was those wearing too brightly colored outfits. Whichever way you focus and point your camera, those pinks and yellows will still pop out of your photo. :( This however, did not get the best of me. I had to think of a strategy, and I came up with a brilliant plan- exploring from the back of the temple. LOL. Great! I was able to take fantastic photos of the temple minus the pinks and the yellows. LOL

I am still wondering why Shiva got the biggest temple. Well perhaps the people then were more scared of him more than Brahma (The Creator), after all, Shiva is the destroyer. Well, that’s just my interpretation.

Merapi really contributed much to my fantastic photos. Funny thing is, when I wanted a photo on the top of a temple, I have to run as quickly as I could upstairs since the timer is just up to 10 seconds. People were laughing at me, I really didn’t mind as long as my photos are perfect. It was a good cardio though.

Prambanan, jaw-dropping!

Along the hallway.

The Brahma Temple.

With the special appearance of Brahma himself.

Posing is an understatement. LOL

The Shiva Temple.

My tripod did these, i swear!

To the WEST

The mysterious Borobudur

The Borobudur temple is in the town of Magelang, approximately an hour drive from Jogja. It is a 9th century Buddhist temple with a pyramid-like structure. I got to Borobudur in the afternoon and the sun was still so intense. I don’t care, I wanted a tan anyway. Sunblocks won't hurt, and that San Miguel Beer shades (I got for free from a bucket of beer in Boracay) was just perfect. I could only utter ‘WOW’ the first time I saw the temple. It was GRAND! INTRICATE! MAJESTIC! I couldn’t even get a full photo of it because it is that big.

The details of the carvings on the wall are just breathtaking! What’s more interesting could be found at the peak of the temple. Numerous bell-shaped stupas dotted the hallways. They say that if you’d be able to touch the Buddha inside the stupa, your wishes will come true. Guess what? I did! My wish? I’ll keep it a secret!

A lush forest overlooks the temple on all sides. The sunset was not that grand when I was there (it was a bit cloudy), but still picturesque.

The majestic facade.

The Hallway.

The details.

And the Pose.

The lucky stupa. And i touched the Buddha!

Wish me Luck! Touching the Buddha inside. :)

The Lady in Pink.

The Borobudur Sunset.

Reaching the summit before the guard caught me. LOL

And the best photo goes to...

To the NORTH

Merapi and the etymology of my tripod's name.

I only had two days to explore the wonders of Jogja, and I spent my last day with another backpacker I met in the inn, Tajtiana.  It was Sunday morning when we started heading to the north. We drove an hour to the active Gunung Merapi (literally translates to 'Mountain of Fire'). Nerd alert! It is andesite cone last erupted in 2006. FYI Indonesia is one of the most tectonically active places on Earth so an active volcano like Merapi is like not rare at all. LOL. Oh! I almost forgot, I got the name of my tripod from this volcano’s name. I named it Merapi since I was hiking it when I thought of giving it a name. :)

We had a few hundred of meters of not-so-challenging-at-all hike along the slopes of Merapi to see the lava-covered channels and a village that was destroyed by the last eruption. Of course, being a geologist, I must take rock samples. I even influenced Tatjiana to take some for her. And how can I forget lecturing Tajtiana about the formation of Merapi and why are the rocks andesitic. OMG, my geologic knowledge was challenged, but thanks to Geology 101, I was not embarrassed. :)

A town destroyed by the 2006 eruption of Mt. Merapi.

Almost at the peak with Tajtiana.

Wet and wild with the monkeys.

After some photos at the near-peak point, we headed to the town of Kaliurang and went to the infamous Monkey Forest. It was fun strolling in the forest, mingling with the white and gray monkeys. I remembered Thomas warning us not to bring food inside because for sure, the monkeys will try to steal them from us, and they did! The best part here- it rained so hard Tajtiana and I were soaked for the next two hours or so as we drove to the south. Nevertheless, it was an uber fun experience. And oh, those rice cakes and tempe and tofu are so delish and they sell for like 5000 Rupiah = 25 Pesos (Ok, honestly, I couldn't help but convert on my mind the Rupiah to Peso whenever I spend. And my rule is to erase the last two 0's and divide by 2, or simply, divide my 200. LOL)  :)

Those rice cakes, and that caramelized tofu are uber delish!

The star of the monkey forest- almost robbed me with the rice cake!

I thought he was cute until he tried to attack me! What a bully!

Those guys at the back stole the shot! Grrrr

To the SOUTH

The Queen of the South.

Last stop of my trip- the southern sea of Parangtritis. OMG, it was my first time to have a glimpse and even to feel the waters of the Indian Ocean. This beach is a killer- literally! The waves are just monstrous they look like tsunami waves. It is prohibited to swim, by the way. Well, I read folk stories about people being like 'sacrifices' to the 'Queen of the Sea' so swimming did not even crossed my mind. No, it didn't. Not at all. Nada!

It was like a feast on the shore, with lots of people spending their weekend with the families. There are lots of food carts as well, selling fish balls, corn, ice cream and all those Sunday afternoon snacks. I had a couple of grilled fishballs on stick while walking along the shore. The best part was- meeting and chatting with random people while the water was washing your feet and the sun was slowly setting. They even asked to have photos with me! Whoa! Celebrity? LOL. It was kinda weird because most of the people i met thought I was a native Indonesian. Seriously? Do I look Indonesian?

Bizaare but delish-looking fried bugs and fish on the shore. I did not bother trying them.LOL. Well, I did just a piece of the 'okoy'-like thing.

Gazillion uber delicious 'oleh-oleh' or 'pasalubong'. I so love the Dodol, sort of a native flavored rice cake from Garut.

Trying to cut the heat with a refreshing coconut drink.

Colors of Parangtritis.

Our vintage van and Mr. Yunan a.k.a. Mr. All-Around.

Since it is prohibited to swim in Parangtritis, they made their own pool!

The sand dunes of Parangtritis.

Best view of the Indian Ocean from the view point, Australia should be on the horizon but too far.Sigh...

On the beach with Tajtiana.

Funny when they asked photo with us! LOL

This has been one memorable trip. This was the first time I traveled by myself and I had so much fun. I had the time to really explore the place minding just myself-  I could do what i wanted to do, like if I don’t want to eat, I won’t eat. I had the time to contemplate and realize some things as well. But I guess the best part overall, is being able to maximize those two days in exploring Jogja and to immerse on its fantastic, deep culture. And Oh, if you have to travel alone, don't ever forget a tripod. Merapi is the best company I had for this trip. :)

Terima Kasih! (Thank you!)