Java Over Land (3)

Our train departed from Yogyakarta to Malang at midnight. We arrived in Malang around 8 in the morning. We didn’t book any hostel before so we had to find accomodation first. Knowing no one in town, we were lucky to find a cheap and comfy hostel near the station. It only cost us 10 bucks for a room with twin beds. To tell you the truth, I barely know anything about this town except for its apple which is well distributed in Indonesia (I guess).apel malangMalang’s apples. Good to make apple pie.

Therefore, the first thing we did was browsing some information about its touristic spot.

Our highlight in Malang was to visit Mount Bromo and see sunrise from Mount Penanjakan. Since we had to depart from Malang very early to go to Bromo (like 3 in the morning), we decided to use tour service. That way we got a car and a driver which also acted as tour guide that will pick us up at the hostel at 3 in the morning the next day.

After we booked the tour to Bromo, we decided to find this hamburger restaurant that sell huge-size burger in Malang and then go to Batu.DSCI0342It’s called “Burger Buto” Buto means giant in local language.DSCI0348My brother ordered hotdog though.

We had no problem finding the restaurant, the problem was when we go to Batu. Batu is a town nearby, around 20 km to the west of Malang. There were Selecta theme park, Batu Night Spectacular, and many more. One of the Angkot (public mini van) we rode offered to take us to Batu with Rp 80,000.00 each (now it’s around 6 USD). I thought it might be a good offer since we didn’t have to go through the hassles of transfering public transport to reach Batu. However, on our way to reach the final terminal for the Angkot, I felt sleepy due to the excess activities in the past 2 days in Yogyakarta before we reached Malang. My brother even fell asleep in the Angkot! I didn’t realize we were exhausted. Thus, we cancelled the Batu trip and went straight back to the hostel. I remembered it was still early afternoon and we slept right away as soon as we reach the hostel  only to be awaken at 7 in the evening to have dinner.DSCI0370On our way to have dinner, we found this Arema fans club cafe. Arema is the local football club well loved by the people of Malang.DSCI0371The Lion of Arema.

We woke up at 2.30 AM the next day to start our tour to Bromo. We checked out early from the hostel since we has to ride the train to Surabaya right away after our Bromo trip. The driver arrived at 3 AM and we departed to Bromo. The ride to Bromo was long. I didn’t remember anything before we reached the foot of the mountain since I had been sleeping the in the car. The ride to the top from the foot of the mountain was groovy. It was pitch black outside the car and the road was kinda off-road. We change the car into jeep due to the hilly contour of the road and arrived around 4 AM at the viewing point of Mount Penanjakan. It was freezing cold there! We need to rent a thicker coat to fight the freezing temperature. We stop at a warung to wait for a while before hiking to the viewing point.DSCI0384

There were many people coming to see the sun rise from the viewing point of Mount Penanjakan. It was silent when we arrived at the point, and 30 minutes later the place was packed with tourists who wanted to see the sunrise.DSCI0405DSCI0403We met Pepi at Mount Penanjakan. Pepi was a tv host in Indonesia. At that time he was hosting a food and travel show in our national tv program.DSCI0454The sun was rising and the darkness fade.DSCI0444Dawn at Mount Bromo.DSCI0465DSCI0469DSCI0482Sea of clouds.DSCI0473Another sight seen from Mount Penanjakan.

After viewing the sun rise, we went to Mount Bromo to see its caldera. To reach the mountain, you  can either walk or ride a horse. We chose the second option only for the sake of trying it. Although we had to admit that it’s quite far from the parking lot to the foot of Mount Bromo.DSCI0492Riding a horse to Mount Bromo.DSCI0493Stairs to heaven. To see it’s caldera, you have to hike the stairs built on the side of the Mount Bromo.DSCI0499The caldera of Mount Bromo.DSCI0503Behind my brother was a Hindu temple. The temple survived the eruption of Mount Bromo years ago despite the fact that other things that surrounds it perished.DSCI0507

Beside hiking Mount Bromo, you can also visit Pasir Berbisik, a deserted area. It looks like a desert and we wanted to see it but the driver said we had to pay another Rp 300,000.00 (around 25 USD) to reach that place because it’s quite far. After considering the money we had spent so far, we decided not to. If you want to visit Mount Bromo, it’s better to go in group. That way you can share the cost for the rented jeep and travel to more spots around Mount Bromo with a cheaper price.DSCI0484Bye-bye Mount Bromo.

After the Bromo tour, the driver promised us a short visit to Candi …. before taking us to the train station. But as soon as we arrived there, it was just a small site located in a neighbourhood.DSCI0511Such an anti-climax.

I’m not even sure until now if he really took us to a historical site. We didn’t even get off from the car and go straight to the train station after that. Lesson learned from this trip was, always book your tour early. This way you can spend more time to assess whether the tour you wanted to book was a good one or not. (npa)

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Java Over Land (2)

Let’s say that you haven’t visited Yogyakarta if you haven’t been to one of its most attracting spot, the Borobudur Temple, which is also one of the UNESCO world heritage for your information. This majestic temple was a Buddhist temple build more than 1000 years ago. The monument consists of six square platforms topped by three circular platforms and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. On the walls carved relics of stories which I’ll tell you later in this writing.

So! You need to put more efforts to visit this temple. From the city of Yogyakarta, take the trans Jogja bus and go to the last terminal. From there take another bus that shall take you to Magelang regency, the closest place to Borobudur temple. From the bus terminal in Magelang, it’s still quite far to reach Borobudur. In the surrounding areas there are other small temples to visit, so if you are up to look around, hop in to one of the Delman (a horse carriage) and hire them to take you around.DSCI0278
Our Delman

I used to pay around 5 USD (2010) for the ride. With that amount, the driver took us to Pawon Temple and Mendut Temple before taking us to Borobudur Temple which is quite far from one another. All three temples are Buddist temple and located in one straight line. It said that people visit Mendut, Pawon and then Borobudur last.
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Mendut Temple was built around early ninth century AD, Mendut is the oldest of the three temples including Pawon and Borobudur.DSCI0240
Mendut Temple
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The temple from the front
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Inside the temple
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Some carving on the wall

Pawon Temple was built around the 9th century as well. Pawon literally means “kitchen” in Javanese language. The connection to the word “dust” also suggests that this temple was probably built as a tomb or mortuary temple for a king. In the contemporary era during the full moon in May or June, Buddhists in Indonesia observe Vesak annual ritual by walking from Mendut passing through Pawon and ends at Borobudur. Anyway, they held a lantern festival during Vesak celebration in Borobudur, so check the date and the event if you are up to see hundreds of lantern floating to the sky at night in Borobudur.
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Our Delman finally took us to Borobudur after visiting the first 2 temples. To get into the temple, you have to walk from the ticket gate to the temple for about 300 m.
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The temple was gorgeous! It was already noon when we were there and it was pretty hot. I suggest you to bring sunglasses or a hat to avoid heat stroke. There were many tourists local and international while we were there. There was a sign on how to enjoy the temple in the right way. Firstly, enter the compound from the east entrance. Proceed to the east gate of the temple and go up the stairs clockwise every level. After reaching to the top, go down through the west, south or north gate of the temple, and exit the temple from the north gate.
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The monument of Borobudur is a model of the universe which was built as a holy place to respect Buddha as well as a pilgrim place to guide human from seculerism to the enlightment of the Buddist teaching. The pilgrims enter from the east side of the temple and start a ritual at the foot of the temple by walking around the temple clockwise, while proceeding to the top through 3 level of cosmology according to Buddist teaching. The 3 levels are Kamadhatu (the field of lust), Rupadhatu (the tangible field) and Arupadhatu (intangible field). During the pilgrimage, pilgrims walk through a series of tunnels and stairs to witness no less than 1460 panel of beautiful relief carved on the walls of the temple.

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Illustration of Borobudur

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The question is, did we do as suggested by the sign? Nope. We did it all wrong! We didn’t enter through the east gate and didn’t follow the instructions. In fact, we just found out about the sign after we finished sightseeing the temple as we please. I regreted it. But anyway we got to enjoy the gorgeous temple and its carvings.

On our way out from the compound, there were many peddlers selling souvenirs of Borobudur. Some of them offer their goods to us which we rejected politely. There were these miniature of Borobudur and other temples made of rocks that catch my eyes. The price was Rp 25.000 each (app. 2 USD). I thought to buy one as souvenir for myself but decided to buy it later at the end of the aisle of the souvenirs shops. However, as I walked to the end of the aisle, I noticed that the price of the souvenirs were going down without I have to bargain. The peddlers offer the souvenir to us and they lower the price themselves. In the end I couldn’t resist the tempation and ended up buying 10 set of the miniature since the price has gone as low as Rp 5.000 each (less than 50 cent) only to find out that other peddlers at the exit were selling it at the price of Rp 2.500 each. Geez! What’s the matter with these people!? I wonder how much the production cost was. Anyway, I also bought 10 pairs of shorts for Rp 5.000 each -_- What was I thinking!? I bought them just because the price was cheap and I thought I could give them away as souvenirs for my friends. But later I realized bringing 10 set of rocks and shorts in my backpack only bring me pain in the back. I barely able to put on my own backpack because of the weight of the rocks! Later that day, I had to exchange my backpack with my brother’s because I almost fall on my back while putting on my backpack due to the weight of the rocks!

Before dark, we started the trip back to Yogyakarta. On our way back to the hostel, we ate at an Angkringan (street vendors) in Malioboro streets (right after you pass Tugu Jogja to the busy Malioboro street) that sells Nasi Kucing (literally translated as “Cat’s rice” but it’s just rice in a very small portion and a little bit of side dish on top of it).
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Nasi Kucing
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Coffee with charcoal

If you visit Yogyakarta, you MUST try to eat at an Angkringan. They sell various types of Nasi Kucing and its side dish at a very cheap price. And it tasted good as well! I and my brother only spend Rp 20.000 (app. 1,5 USD) for everything that we ate and drink there. As a Jakartan, I was impressed at how cheap they could sell good food and realized how expensive Jakarta was.
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Tugu Jogja (our last view of the city)

After dinner, we went back to our hostel and pack our things and then proceed to the train station for our next destination : Malang! (npa)

Wae Rebo Trip (Part 1)

“I will visit this place!” That what I was saying to myself when I found a page about Wae Rebo in Tempo Magazine. Sadly I didn’t know about this place when I was travelling with my friends in Labuan Bajo about two years ago, if only I had known about it, I would had visited it with my friends.

When I was craving to go there, Allah showed me the way. Suddenly my office amended its outing destination from Bromo to Labuan Bajo!!

I asked some of my office mates to join the trip. It was hard to assure them to join me to go in advance prior to our outing program to Wae Rebo… However, I managed to trick 7 people to join me 😀

In the end there were 7 people who are willing to accompany me to Wae Rebo, they were Mas Bono, Mas Eky, Bang Eko, Mas Tunggul, Mas Yanu, Mbak Mita, Mbak Fitri, yes I use Mas, Bang, and Mbak because they are my senior at the office, in fact 5 of them are my bosses, and all of us are excited about the adventure that awaits us.

This trip is my first experience in being a travel planner, and I must admit I realized that I don’t know what to do just after 7 people confirmed their participation in this trip.

Luckily, my special girl went to Wae Rebo earlier this year, she gave me a phone number belonged to a driver who was hired by her during her trip to Wae Rebo, and his name is Manto.

So what I did first is to call him with an aim to get the best price as possible, when we reached an agreement, I got 2 cars waiting for us in Labuan Bajo, then the transportation issue has been solved. Next, the accommodation… Based on my internet research we have two options to stay overnight near Wae Rebo which are: Wae Rebo Lodge and Blasius’s Homestay.

Eventually Wae Rebo Lodge was selected as our place to stay overnight, and we will be staying there for 1 night prior hiking to Wae Rebo. Once I booked the lodge, I called pak Manto to take us to the lodge and confirm our arrival time. Luckily we have our flight arranged by our office for free. 🙂 thus I can concentrate to prepare our itinerary, better yet we will fly with Garuda to Labuan Bajo for free. Surprisingly, it’s pretty easy to arrange a trip to Wae Rebo! It only took me less than a day to arrange the whole trip, and we are ready to go. 🙂

12 November 2014
According to e-ticket receipt my flight shall depart from Cengkareng (Soekarno Hatta International Airport in Jakarta) at 9.35. However as I have a bad experience for missing a flight, I came early to the airport. I arrived at the airport at 6.00 and I went directly to the check-in counter. When I was waiting in line for check-in, I saw 3 familiar faces, and I remembered that Bang Eko, Mas Eky, and Mas Bono booked an earlier flight. However, they looked so insecure, at that time I don’t know what was going on. After finished with the check-in I came after them, and they told me that they may not be able to go with us.

It looked like that there were some mistakes in Garuda’s check-in system, because there was no economic seat available for them. Mas Bono tried his best to solve this problem, and Garuda’s front officer were assisting him –Alhamdulillah those staff are quite supportive—eventually one of the staffs ran from distance and brought Mas Bono and Partners their boarding pass, and the drama has been ended with a good deed from Garuda. There is always a bright side from every drama, in this case they were granted business class seat for free to Denpasar. As for me, I still fly in economic class  At 8.00 the rest of my trip companion has arrived at the airport, after waiting for another hour, we boarded the airplane and flied to Denpasar.

We arrived in Denpasar at 12.35, and we met Mas Bono and Partners on gate 1B upon finished the transit check-in as we need to take connecting flight to Labuan Bajo. Sadly we didn’t have enough time to explore Bali, so we only wandering around the new airport and charged our phone’s batteries, while waiting for the boarding call. We were told by the announcer that the we may board the plane at 14.00, and we left Denpasar at 14.20. Until the date of this post, Garuda provides only one flight per day to Labuan Bajo with ATR 72-600 a twin-turboprop powered plane, so it didn’t use any jet engine, just two propellers.

As I haven’t slept since yesterday I fallen into sleep after the ATR took off. I woke up when the flight attendants were distributing the snacks, and I slept again until the landing turbulence woke me up, and we arrived at Labuan Bajo at 16.00.1There are only 3 people in the above picture, because the rest were too busy taking picture

After we picked up our bags, I called Pak Manto to pick us up from the airport, luckily when we arrived, he had stand by outside the airport. As I mentioned earlier I hired two cars, APV and Inova. The APV was driven by Pak Manto while the APV was driven by Andi, both of the cars were in a good condition. As for the seating arrangement, the APV was for me, Mbak Mita, Mbak Fitri, and Mas Tunggul, the rest were in Inova, then the journey begun.2Labuan bajo

Since we were in Labuan Bajo, and haven’t had our lunch, our trip shall be started by a good meal. Thus I recommended Made In Italy to my trip mates, the best restaurant in Labuan Bajo according to my taste. So we asked the drivers to take us to Made in Italy. However, when we got there, the restaurant is still under renovation and has not opened yet. Thus I decided to take them to Mediterraneo, another italian restaurant located just across Made in Italy. FYI, Mediterraneo is the best restaurant in Labuan Bajo according to TripAdvisor.

When we entered the restaurant the interior looks the same as the last time I came here with the random travelers, we chose to sit on the longest table with the best view in it, the weather was quite hot, and the ceiling fan wasn’t helping. However, as we were starving, the surrounding atmosphere wasn’t a big deal J ok I didn’t quite remember what the other ordered for their late lunch, but I ordered Tuna Medallion medium grilled, the taste was fair.34Tuna  Medallion and the Rindu Alam crew

While we were eating Mas Yanu came up with an Idea to give a name to our group, RINDU ALAM 😀 Hence, hereinafter our group shall be referred to as Rindu Alam. For those who is not familiar with such name, rindu alam is a restaurant located somewhere in Puncak (if I’m not mistaken). While we were eating, out of the blue, the sky turned dark and it rained, and we have to postpone our trip until the rain is over.

It was 18.00 in Labuan Bajo, and the rain still falling, as we need to ride about 5-6 hours, I urged the rest of us to go right now, and then we walked as fast as we can to the cars. Just after we entered the car, the rain stopped -__-. Next we need to gather some supply for our trip, so we go to Roxy Mart. Roxy Mart is a mini market, it has a vast collection of snack, soft drinks, and quite impressive liquor collection with good price. We bought lots of mineral water, chocolates, snacks, and whatever we can buy as there will be no more minimarket outside Labuan Bajo.

At last we started our trip at 18.40, and we will undergo about 6 hours of road trip. Our APV drove by Andi, leading the way. I thought it will be a normal road trip, but I was wrong. The first 2 hour of our road trip was quite challenging because the road is mostly uphill curvy road. It felt like riding a mini roller coaster for an hour, it was worsened by the fact that it was dark and there are lots of big fast truck came from the opposite direction.56The road trip

At 20.50 we arrived at Lembor half way to Dintor where the Wae Rebo Lodge located, it was our first stop, because the drivers needs to eat. They eat in a local food stall, I forgot the name of the stall but it sells Javanese food, yes it was Warteg. Most of the Rindu Alam Crew were suffering motion sickness due to the road conditions, thus we bought Antimo and more Antangin J and consumed them right away, except for me who enjoyed the road trip as I was sitting on the front seat.

After 10 minutes break we continue the road trip, and at 21.30 we arrived at Ter a small village with a small road which fit only for one car, and then our car entered Kebe Gogo. By the way Kebe Gogo means shaky hill, the hill lives up to its name, the road on Kebe Gogo was bad so our car got shaky all the way. When we got to Kebe Gogo we arrived at Todo Village which has its own tourism village just like Wae Rebo, if you are a hipster traveler come to Todo J

At last we arrived at Wae Rebo Lodge at 00.30, and welcomed by Pak Martinus the owner of Wae Rebo Lodge. I booked 4 room prior to our departure to Labuan Bajo, and we got room number 4,7,8, and 9. I got room number 9, and Bang Eko as my roommate. The room is quite comfy, furnished with either a single bed or twin bed, private bath room, and a single table.7Wae  Rebo  Lodge at night

After moved our bags to the room and unpacking and packing for the trip to Wae Rebo, we went to the so called restaurant, it was not exactly a restaurant, it was an open air communal space with a long table and a few long chair. When I was wandering around, the dinner was served. Then I called all of my friend to have our dinner. Our dinner were buttered fried chicken with soy sauce, sautéed spinach, brown rice, and fried tempe. The taste was fair but it was better than nothing.8The “restaurant”9Our dinner

After we finished eating, most of the Rindu Alam Crew got back to their room, except me. I decided to take a bath and wander around and enjoy the scenery. I decided to sleep when Pak Martinus turned down the power generator, and suddenly the sole light source was the moon. The best part of the night was the sound of nature, you know the sound of the wind, crickets, frogs, etc.10Scenery around Wae Rebo Lodge

13 November 2014

I woke up at 8.00 and I was 2 hours late from the schedule J I supposed to woke up at 6.00 and go to Wae Rebo at 7.00. Thus, I rushed to the bath room, take a bath and I went to the Restaurant, it looked like that everybody has been waiting for me. Then I decided to skip the breakfast and go straight to my room to grab my bags. Just after I got back to the restaurant, I realized that the rest of the crew were not prepared to go as well. So I set out a deadline that we must go at 9.00. Pak Martinus said it is better to us to go as soon as possible, because the sun was shining brightly that day, and it will be tiresome to walk under the daylight.

While the other were eating, I decided to take some picture of the surrounding view. At 9.00 the entire Rindu Alam crew were ready to go, and we were joined by two Malaysian.

However, as we brought a lot of bags it was hard to bring all of our bag to Wae Rebo. Luckily, Pak Martinus allowed us to put our bags in one of his room while we were leaving for Wae Rebo, he even let us to bring the room’s key.11I woke up to this view1213Room in Wae Rebo and the lodge in the morning.14Pak Martinus, our host15We are so ready for Wae Rebo!

To begin our hiking, we need to go to Ende, 10 minutes ride from Wae Rebo Lodge. The scenery between Ende and Dintor was quite good. Rice field. Once we arrived in Ende, we met our porter. I hired 5 porter, and they act as our guide to Wae Rebo. If you prefer not to hire a porter, the path heading to Wae Rebo is easy to follow.16Our Porters, (from left to right) Yeremias, Pius, Lambert, Demus, and Alosius.17The road sign, it said 9 KM to Wae Rebo18The starting point

After distributing our bags to the porters, we began our journey to Wae Rebo. One more thing, as the porter may only bring half of our bags, some of us (including me) still bring back pack on their own.

The path was started with an even path, the rest was constant uphill path. So the first kilometer of the path was basically a rocky track. It supposed to be a normal road, but it hasn’t finished yet, because the local government hasn’t paved the road, so we have to walk on rocks for about 2 Km. to make it worst it was an open air track, and the climate was high, this circumstances quite consuming our energy.

10 minutes upon starting our hike, Mas Eky (who just got back from Mt. Everest base camp few months ago) said “this track is quite tough” and most of us who was experiencing his or her first uphill hiking was suffering mental break down, but we were keep on hiking, turn back wasn’t an option.19The rocky road

Alhamdulillah the rocky road just existed in the first 2 Km, the rest is normal soil road. However, the rocky road was a quite energy consuming experience, thus we decided to rest upon overcoming our first obstacle. Although the rocky road has over, the track is still uphill. At least after the first 2 km we were entering the protected forest, so we will suffer less the hot daylight.20After resting for about 5 minutes, we decided to continue our hike, and enter the protection forest. Our porter told us that the 1st resting post is located just 500 meters ahead of us (there were 3 resting post) , thus we move quicker to get there as soon as possible because we were quite tired. After another 10 minutes of uphill hiking, we arrived at the first resting post, an open area without any desk, chair, or any building, just an open area under the forest. The only point of attraction of this post is a billboard containing messages from Wae Rebo community, and we took a picture in front of it.2122A quick break

10 minutes has passed, then we continue our hike, next objective is to reach 2nd post as soon as we can just to save time. I must admit, the track heading to second post was really exhausting, it was more precipitous than the earlier track. During our trekking activities, we passed by some Wae Rebo residents who was on their way to Ende, they are so polite that they greet each one of us by saying selamat  pagi (Good morning) and introduce themselves, as they kept on passing by I cannot remember their names. (RI)

WHAT TO DO FOR 24 HOURS IN MEDAN

24 Hours might be too short for visiting Medan. However, 24 hours in Medan is certainly long enough to sample the best of this lovely city.

Medan, the capital city of North Sumatera province, is located in Sumatera Island, and also well known as the third-largest city in Indonesia, after Jakarta and Surabaya. It is quite easy to reach Medan, either by air or sea, however I will tell about my experience reaching Medan by air. Medan is definitely modern nowadays, thanks to Kuala Namu International Airport, which has fully operated since 2013. Kuala Namu International Airport is located in Deli Serdang Regency and it takes 2 hours to reach Medan City, due to the heavy traffic and also the not-yet-finished new highway road that links the airport to Medan City. But, no worries! Kuala Namu International Airport is equipped with a modern and sophisticated Airport Rail Link Services. By using the Airport Rail Link Services, we can reach Medan City for only 30 minutes. The train is definitely clean, comfy, and punctual! In fact, one of my Thai’s friends told me that this train is better than their Bangkok’s Airport Rail Link Services. Yep, with only Rp 80,000 you can relax in the fully air-conditioned train and after 30 minutes you will be arrived at Stasiun Besar Kereta Api Medan, the train station located in the downtown Medan! The trip? It is undoubtedly superb; the view also magnificent with the rice paddy surrounds you.IMG_5972The railway.IMG_5973About to board the train.IMG_5975Inside the train.IMG_5979Typical view while riding the train.

Once you have arrived in Medan, you can choose your hotel based on your budget. As one of the important business centre in Indonesia, Medan also has various hotels, from low-budget hostels to five-star hotels, such as Aryaduta Hotel and JW Marriot. I usually stay at Swiss Belinn near the Selat Panjang, the mecca of Medan’s hawker-food and Hotel 61 near Medan Plaza and Medan Fair.

After taking a shower at the hotel, you are definitely welcomed to explore Medan; by using your private or public transportation. I cannot resist trying Betor, a modified public transportation that combining motorcycle and tricycles as one. You can easily find Betor in Medan; it is a common public transportation for sure. You can hire, either for one-time-trip-only or half-day-trip. Riding Betor is such an unforgettable experience, particularly for not an adrenaline junkie, since the driver sometimes drives carelessly.IMG_6024Riding a Betor. No, it was not me in the picture. It was the driver.

Okay, now we’re talking about the tourist places in Medan. I basically voted Istana Maimoon (Maimoon Palace), as the top on the list of Medan’s sightseeing. Maimoon Palace, which is dominated by yellow color, originally was built by the Sultanate of Deli in 1888. The palace itself has about 30 private rooms and only one room which is the living room (hall) is open to the public. In that living room you can see the Sultanate Deli’s throne, and is usually used for the coronation ceremony of Sultan Deli or other traditional ceremonies. Oh by the way, the current Sultan, Sultan Aria Mahmud Lamanjiji, was only eight when he was coronated as the 14th Sultan in 2005, for replacing his father who died in a plane accident. About 100 metres from the palace, there is the Masjid Raya (Grand Mosque), the largest and one of the oldest mosques in Medan. According to the tour guide in the palace, there is a secret bunker that links the palace to Masjid Raya, but it can only be used by the royal family. For other tourist sites in Medan, you can pay a visit to Tjong A Fie Mansion at Kesawan Street, the Annai Velangkanni (Catholic Shrine with Tamil Hindu-style architecture), Merdeka Walk, and also the beautiful Dutch-colonial buildings in Kesawan area.

Feeling tired and hungry? Don’t worry (again), Medan can fulfill your appetite and will definitely surprise you with its local cuisines. First stop is of course Tip Top Restaurant at Ahmad Yani Street, this restaurant is originally established in 1920’s and the food choices are of course brings our memory back to the Dutch colonization. The most favourite food is Ox-tongue Steak, it costs about Rp 65,000. The Ox-tongue Steak is tender, juicy, and undeniably delicious. You can also choose various desserts, from the Dutch-origin ice cream, such as Moorkop Ice Cream, bitter-ballen and chocolate cakes. The foods have nostalgic flavour sticking on every bite. Oh, there is a live music too in the weekend for entertaining the customers.IMG_5944Tip Top Restaurant.pastedGraphicIMG_5946

For you who would like to eat pork, oh la la, Medan has every kind of dishes made of pork, from grilled to fried. One of the famous restaurants that serves pork dishes is Ondo Batak Grill. I ordered tanggo-tanggo (the Batak’s curry pork), the grilled pork, and martabe (tamarillo or dutch-eggplant) juice. Oh, don’t forget to order their cassava-leaves curry and andaliman sauce. All are good! If you would like to taste more traditional Bataknese pork, go to nearby lapo (stall) in Medan, such as Lapo Roma. For you who would like to try Karonese pork or well known as babi panggang karo, go to nearby BPK stall, such as BPK Tesalonika or BPK Ola Kisat in Padang Bulan’s area.IMG_6023Ondo Batak Grill, tanggo-tanggo, and martabe. Yummies!!!

Isn’t enough? Just go straight to Selat Panjang area, where you can find many hawker-food stalls from Chinese-Hokkien noodle to Indonesian and Chinese traditional cakes. For you who love durian, the heaven’s fruit, kindly pay a visit to Ucok Durian, a-24-hour stall that sells durian. You can eat as much as you can!

Oh, how 24 hours will not enough to explore Medan, but it is short enough to leave you wanting more to come to Medan. (fst)

Java Over Land (1)

Right after I graduated from University back in 2010, I rewarded myself with a trip. I was working part time in campus but not yet have a steady full time job; so, I thought to myself when else would be the best time to travel. As I was short on money, I decided to travel to places that are not too far from Jakarta. In the end, it was a week trip (actually only 6 days) of Java overland. My travelling companion at that time was my little brother. Our route was Jakarta to Yogyakarta to Malang to Surabaya and then goes back to Jakarta.

We departed from Jakarta to Yogyakarta by train from the Gambir train station. We had a night trip; departed around 9 pm and we arrived the next day at 6 in the morning. The train trip was smooth and we arrived in Yogyakarta in the morning without any hurdles.DSCI0028The train station in Yogyakarta.

As the trip was supposed to be spontaneous; I didn’t book any hostel before. We exited the train station and looking for accommodation nearby. The first hotel by the station we attended to was quite expensive for our budget trip. So we decided to walk to Malioboro Street to test our luck. There was this street full of budget accommodation in Malioboro Street. We saw many international as well as local tourists. Without any hassle we found a perfect hostel with a cheap price. We put our belongings in the room and started exploring the city.DSCI0036 We had breakfast in local eateries by the street (not so good) and asked around on information of the local sightseeing.

After settling a deal with two becak (a bicycle-like local transport powered by a man) drivers, they took us to Taman Sari. Taman Sari was the ancient swimming pool used by the kings and queens of Yogyakarta in the past. For your information, Yogyakarta is the only province in Indonesia where Monarch still rules the region. The Sultan of Yogyakarta rules the region as the Governor without any election. Taman Sari consisted of a swimming pool, rooms for the King and Queen to rest, park, and kitchen.DSCI0046My Brother on the Becak.DSCI0057The entrance to Taman Sari.DSCI0060The park inside Taman Sari.DSCI0061Entrance to the pool.DSCI0065The pool.DSCI0071King’s bed to rest.

We were showed around the compound by an Abdi Dalem. Abdi Dalem is the term used for the servants of the Yogyakarta Monarch. It is given by birth. So our guide at that time and his family have been serving the monarch for generations. He also showed us the residences of Abdi Dalem which located nearby Taman Sari. He said the houses were given to them by the Sultan for their status and loyalty for serving the Monarch. I asked how much the salary for becoming an Abdi Dalem was. He said, around 30,000 rupiah (about 2-3 USD) a month, but it depend on the level of the Abdi Dalem itself. However, not all the family of Abdi Dalem resided in the house. Many of them transmigrated to other provinces and find living there. The Abdi Dalem still living in the houses also have another job in order to fulfil their daily needs. For instance, becoming a tour guide like him. Despite the fact that they were paid so low, they were very proud of their status as Abdi Dalem and continue to serve the monarch loyally.

Next, the Becak took us to Keraton Yogyakarta. Keraton Yogyakarta is the residence of the Sultan and his royal family. Even now, the Keraton was still functioned as it was in the past. There were official tour guides that you could hire at the entrance. I recommend using their service as they could explain to you in details about the Keraton. Several languages were available such as Indonesian, English, French, and Japanese. The compound of the Keraton was huge with buildings spread on the area. Each building was connected with a corridor with a roof to protect the people walking by from the sunlight which could be pretty hot during the afternoon. There was a traditional music played in Keraton at that time, I think they play regularly. It was a full set of Gamelan Jawa. We were pretty lucky to have seen it.DSCI0091The entrance of Keraton.DSCI0096The Abdi Dalem.DSCI0097The symbol of Keraton Yogyakarta.DSCI0100DSCI0101DSCI0105DSCI0113DSCI0094The full set of Gamelan Jawa.

Our next destination for the day was Candi Ratu Boko (Queen Boko’s Temple) and Candi Prambanan (Prambanan Temple). When we arrived at Candi Prambanan, we found out that they sell a pair ticket of Candi Ratu Boko and Candi Prambanan. Thus we decided to go to Candi Ratu Boko first as they provided the shuttle bus there anyway. Candi Ratu Boko was located up on a hill not too far from Candi Prambanan. From the hill we could view the city and the Candi Prambanan as well. Not many left in the ruin of Candi Ratu Boko. Only the gate of the Candi which was still in a good condition.DSCI0124The entrance to Candi Ratu Boko.DSCI0129Hmm.. I think this place could be a nice spot for pre-wedding pictures.DSCI0134The ruins of Candi Ratu Boko.DSCI0136The resident of Candi Ratu Boko.. No. It was just my brother…DSCI0139DSCI0142The view of the city from the Hill.

On the contrary with Candi Ratu Boko’s ruin, Candi Prambanan was still in a very good condition. It was the most famous heritage temple from ancient Hindu Kingdom which was once ruled acrosss Java. The typical of Hindu temple could be seen in the architecture in which the stones were arranged to form a high building (built vertically). They held the famous play “Ramayana” in Candi Prambanan at night twice a week. Give it a try if you got the change. I heard it was spectacular. We wanted to stay and watch but we couldn’t because they didn’t have it on the day we were there. My advice is to book the ticket with a local travel agent first. They would pick you up from your hotel to the site of the play and send you back after the play. It could be hard to find a taxi after the play since it will be pretty late.DSCI0148Candi Prambanan.DSCI0155DSCI0163DSCI0161

As I said before, we didn’t get to watch the play so we went back to our hostel and had dinner in Malioboro Street. The street was very vibrant at night. There were so many shops and eateries along the street packed with local people and tourist mingling. It was very nice to be there.DSCI0177DSCI0175DSCI0170

However, I was working as an assistant editor for a journal in campus at that time. On that day we depart from Jakarta, was actually my birthday; and I had work to be submitted. -_- So much to start a holiday. I couldn’t finish my work and ended up searching for internet cafe in Yogyakarta that night to submit my work. (npa)

Komodo: The Last Dragon (Part 3)

Are you ready to get HIGH? :P
Are you ready to get HIGH? 😛

Our third day was the most memorable day in my head. It was the day when we were given the chance to realize how blessed we were, how thankful we should have been, how blissful it is to be warmly welcomed by the children.

The night before, we were chilling out on the deck of our boat, playing cards, chatting, joking, randomly singing, and laughing like there was no tomorrow. Putu, who has just came up to the deck, warned us to be careful as there were some people on kayak seemed to ask for something. Being alert, she did not even bother them. About half hour later, I went down to the bedroom and found the people were still there. They were calling me. “Are those the same people that Putu refer to?” I tried to be alert as well. However, my curiosity was bigger than my alertness and I approached them instead.

The so called people happened to be three children living at the village in Komodo Island. They rode small boat to approach ours. It was dark and they did not even bring light (maybe their eyes were as keen as Legolas’ :p).

“Sister, would you please give us some pens?” the oldest being frank.

“Pardon? You come to our boat just to ask for PENS?” I couldn’t help but being stunned.

“Yes. We need pens for our school. Do you have some that we can use?” he explained eagerly.

“In that case, would you please introduce yourself and your brothers first?” I demanded.

The oldest boy told me their names. If not mistaken, his name was Abdul. But thanks to my short term memory loss, I forget the name of the other two. Abdul was on 6th grade of madrasah ibtidaiyah (elementary school based on Islamic teaching).  The younger ones were on 4th and 1st grade. And yes, their only mission that night was to get some pens. I gave them several pens, a mechanic pencil (which was my favorite pencil) and a box of water color pads including a brush with little water container. Their expression was priceless! I hope my gears were in good hands now. I actually also hope that I can see what drawing they make with the water color pads I gave them. But it doesn’t even matter; I went to sleep with warm heart that night.

***

Broken bridge
Broken bridge

The next day, we were woken up by the ray of morning sun and smooth breeze. Just a few minutes later, the generator was turned on – our desire to sleep again suddenly evaporated due to the noise. Our itinerary that day was visiting Rinca village. Its main purpose was to give us a preview how it was like to live side by side with komodo. What happened was: we only saw humans in the village and we only met komodo in the forest. So, the purpose was not 100% achieved. But that’s okay. We were welcomed by a bunch of children at the jetty. The names of the boys were Arabic names, e.g., Sulaiman, Ishak, Muhammad, Abdul. Meanwhile, the girls’ names were celebrity names such as Syahrini, Sandra, Laura, etc. Isn’t it amazing how media affect people in giving names to their children? 🙂

Future celebrities. :D
Future celebrities. 😀

Near the jetty, there was a small jewelry shop ran by an old man. He sold pearls, pearl necklaces and bracelets, and bracelets made of the root of pohon bahar (Antiphates Sp). The seller said the bahar bracelet was effective to tackle bad luck and keep our body healthy. I bought one! Not because of what the seller said, but because it looked good. 😀 Based on my research, Antiphates Sp contains Radium (Ra) which is a radioactive that is recently used for gastritis and rheumatic therapy. Well, anyone can confirm this?

Surut.
Surut.
Always stick up together even when the tide is up
Always stick up together even when the tide is up

We passed through the mangrove forest which would be covered by sea water when the tide was up. Before the forest, there were schools and students playing nearby the beach. They greeted us cheerfully. Some of the little boys were shy when we approached them. Though we live in the same country, the development is totally different. It is good that they are able to be close with nature compared to us. They can breathe fresher air with lots less of pollution. They can learn how to swim and even dive near their homes. On the other side, the schools there were very simple and seemed insufficient to support further education. Medication was also quite rare. Surprisingly, they know more of learning than we do. The rangers were really good in English though they did not learn it from school.

The school in Rinca Village
The school in Rinca Village
Are they?
Are they?

We then climbed up the hill in Rinca village to witness the cave. It was the smelliest cave I have ever got in! We could smell the bats’ urine from afar.  In the hole up high, there were a bunch of bats sleeping. (Hopefully our coming did not disturb them :(). The cave’s floor was also full of bats’ turds! No wonder it was super smelly. As we could not hold our breath anymore, we proceeded to get out of the cave.

Mouth of the cave
Mouth of the cave
Discussing inside the cave because discussing on the round table is too formal.
Discussing inside the cave because discussing on the round table is too formal.

Inhaling fresh air outside the cave was such a blessing. We marched to the savanna nearby the edge of the hill. The sky was bright and blue. The wind flowed through. We sat there long enough to be thankful for the experience we got. I played the yellow-and-black millepede until it wrinkled into circle and scared Arini with it. It was cute, how come she got scared of innocent little thing, right? 😛

Millepede!
Millepede!

After enjoying the view our heart out, we were forced to go back to the jetty. Some of us bought water at the warung. Some even decided to have early lunch by buying nasi bungkus which was said to be simply delicious. The children came to us again, trying to talk and joke with us.

“The soul is healed by being with children.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky
“The soul is healed by being with children.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

 

Only ten minutes later our guide called us to come aboard so we can sail to our next destination spot. We walked on the partly broken bridge to our boat. The children guided us. One of the little girls held my hand as if I was about to fall.

Here, hold my hands. I won't let you fall.
Here, hold my hands. I won’t let you fall.

Just few steps away later, another little girl asked me: “Can I hold your hand too?” It felt awkward since I don’t really like children, but who can reject such request? 🙂

Just kids celebrating life. :)
Just kids celebrating life. 🙂

From our boat, we waved our hands to those lovely children. And what did the children do? They wave to us too. The boys jumped to the sea over and over again to cheer us up. They did that until we were too far to see them. (eff)

Komodo: The Last Dragon (Part 2)

On board!
On board!

It was hard for me to sleep at our cabin in the boat. It was extremely hot inside that I became so sweaty. The electricity was only on from 18.30 to 24.00, yet the fans in our room seemed to be in need of repair. They were unable to be used! Arini had opened the window but even the wind did not blow. It became worse when I felt how damp the beds and found some cockroaches walking here and there. Oh well… you got what you paid, right? Putu and I were so close to sleep on the deck to feel the breezing wind but afraid of getting sick. *silly enough?*

It was when I charged my blackberry and suddenly got so many e-mails to respond. I thought the signal was so bad that I would not have been able to receive any e-mail. Then I decided to chat with some friends on bbm ‘til I got tired and fell asleep. I only slept for few hours until I finally got waken up again and couldn’t sleep again. It was dawn when the sky was the darkest. I decided to go upstairs to get some air and wait for the sunrise! The sky was clear and full of stars. I was even able to see the glimpse of Milky Way! Too bad my camera was not good enough to capture it. Few hours after, I saw my first sunrise from the sea of Komodo National Park which was indeed spectacular!

Good morning from Komodo National Park!
Good morning from Komodo National Park!

As the morning came, we sailed off the sea. We looked at beautiful scenery of savanna hills that somehow reminded me with the scene of the ‘Lord of the Ring’.

Picture 2619

Savana hills that we passed by on board.
Savana hills that we passed by on board.

We were also served delicious breakfast on board – something that I did not expect in the beginning considering how cheap we paid for the tour and accommodation there!

Simplicity is a luxury
Typical lunch on board: simplicity is a luxury
Simple yet yummy breakfast
Simple yet yummy breakfast

Later on, we went to Loh Liang in Komodo Island to see more komodo. We were even  luckier that day. We were able to see many of them, the komodo were everywhere – from the forest to the beach! Firstly, we were given options of walking trails. After discussing, we decided to choose the medium trail. We were being told over and over to stay on the path to be safe.

The Loh Liang walking trails
The Loh Liang walking trails

The very first komodo we met was relaxing under the shades of trees in the forest. The ranger told us it was a female komodo from its body size. But wen she was aware that there are strangers, she started to become alert — you can see how she looked at the camera.

Just chillin'.
Just chillin’.
The komodo posed for us!
“I’m done here!”

Even we met one of them walking on the path. It was funny when it saw us walking it instantly walked to the side of the road and stopped a while. We, the human also did the same thing. Then he did something like a pose and walked again gracefully.

Crossing path
Crossing path
"I am sure humans cannot see me here."
“I am sure humans cannot see me here.”

The ranger told us that the komodo was alert and we should have been ready to climb the trees if he ran towards us because zig-zag running wouldn’t work! Ha..! And of course he was joking. -_-

Snoozing.
Snoozing.

Besides komodos, we also met some deers, birds, and boars during the komodo watching. Due to limited resources (and skills), I only managed to capture few pictures of them. They moved really fast when humans around.

The trails.
The trails.

We walked and climbed a bit to a point known as Shulphurea hill.  It was known to be near komodo nest, which was proven to be true!

Komodo: what these people do?
Komodo: what these people do?
Shulphurea Hill
Shulphurea Hill

We were also told that there were three poachers inside the forest during our visit. They illegally hunted the animals and were declared as wanted persons by the local police. That is scary! We are not sure how the case is going now. I would not be sorry if the komodo ate them. The walking trail ended at the path near the beach. It took us about two hours from the start to the end.

Biggest komodo we met during the trip!
Biggest komodo we met during the trip!
It really was HUGE!!
It really was HUGE!!

As you may guess, the fun did not end just like that! At the same day, we visited the infamous pink beach. To reach the beach, we have to swim as the boat may not go near it to protect the corals.

It's pink, beach!
It’s pink, beach!
Pink beach from up on the hill.
Pink beach from up on the hill.
up! up! up!
up! up! up!

It was really pretty. The corals were so colorful and look happy. The fishes swam here and there as though they had been trying to attract us. I swam so slowly in my safety jackets as I don’t know how to swim without one. Instead of fins, I wore my hiking sandals instead -_- which slowed me down. It took me 45 minutes just to get to the shore. Hahaha.. I spent some time to snorkel around and do this stupid floating trick by the shore after being taught by Putu and the guide.

Our signature stupid floating style. :D
Our signature stupid floating style. 😀

All in all, it was such an unforgettable moment! Not only that the Park was still pristine, the trip also made us know each other even more. As the night came, we changed our schedule from adventuring to relaxing. It can be so boring on the board, but it won’t be so long as you are with the right persons (and if you have a pack of card to play, or in my case, watch.) (eff).

Night activity: playing cards!
Night activity: playing cards!

P.S.: Should you have a time to spare to go there, remember: do not take anything but pictures or leave anything but footprints!

P.S.S.: For those who intend to go to Komodo National Park, we highly recommend to use the service of Komodo Mega Tour. Great service for very affordable price – of course the price go in line with the boat facility you get during your stay. Leave comment if you’d like to have their contact.