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2 weeks in Java

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Apr 30th, 2016, 01:53 AM
  #1
kja
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2 weeks in Java

I finally have a tentative plan for my upcoming time in Java and would welcome comments, suggestions, and tweaks. Many thanks to all who have responded to my earlier threads (linked below), and thanks in advance for once again offering your insights.
http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...-bali-plus.cfm
http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...and-hakone.cfm

As some of you know, I am a solo female traveler who is not looking for relaxation (although I'm sure I'll have some wonderfully relaxing moments) -- instead I am hoping to take full advantage of every moment I have in this enticing part of the world. In what follows, I've outlined my current priorities, along with a few wish-list items and a few specific questions; please feel free to offer your comments on ANYthing.

Day 1: Arrive in Yogyakarta and leave immediately for Borobudur (the Manohara Resort), arriving early evening – 1st of 3 nights there

Days 2 and 3 -- Borobudur:
- Borobudur, Candi Pawon, and Candi Menhut;
- the Dieng Plateau (including Candi Biwa, Telaga Warna, Arjuna Complex, and maybe Kawik Sikidang Krator);
- and, if time permits, perpaps Gedong Songo or Karang or Nglipoh.

Days 4 to 6 -- Jogja:
- Move on to Yogyakarta as early in the morning as I can manage, staying at the Hotel Phoenix for 2 nights
- Visit Jogja’s kraton, museums, temples, markets, and various traditional performances
- Prambanan (and surrounding temples) and the Ramayana ballet (already reserved)
- Kota Gede
- Move on to Surakarta by early evening, staying at the Royal Surakarta Heritage Hotel for 3 evenings

Days 7 to 8 -- Solo:
- Solo’s kraton, museums, temples, markets, and a wayang orang performance
- The Sangiran archeological site and Candi Sukuh

Days 9 to 10 -- Blitar:
- take an early train to Blitar for the 1st of 2 nights there at the Hotel Tugu Blitar
- Perhaps Kampung Coklat after my early afternoon arrival?
- Panataran, Candi Sawentar and, if time permits Telaga Pacuh.

Days 11 to 12 Malang:
- Blitar’s markets, etc.
- take early afternoon train to Malang for the 1st of 2 nights there at the Hotel Tugu Malang
- Balai Kuta, Jalan Besar Ijen, and the hotel itself
- Candi Singosari, Candi Sumberawan, and Candi Jago, and if possible, Belakambang

Day 13 -- Bromo:
- Malang’s markets, etc.
- early afternoon car & driver to the Lava View Hotel overlooking Bromo

Day 14 - Depart for Bali:
- Views from my hotel and Penanjakan
- late morning car & driver to Surabaya’s airport for a flight to Bali.


I have a few questions beyond those about the itinerary:

(1) While in Java, I hope to take advantage of the opportunity to sample local cuisine. Any recommendations for restaurants or dishes are welcome!

(2) I also hope to take advantage of a spa or two, as it is my understanding that Java is known for its unique massages and other treatments. Again, any specific recommendations for spas or treatments are welcome.

(3) With thanks to marmot's advice about the costs of a car and driver in Bali, I remain a bit confused about likely costs in Java. Any insights that any of you can offer will be welcome!

(4) Given this itinerary, is it reasonable to assume that I will find ATMs along the way from which I can withdraw sufficient funds to pay for cars/drivers, etc.?

(5) I haven't yet booked my trains from Solo to Blitar or from Blitar to Malang -- any reason for delaying? Also, if I've correctly understood the information from the man-in-seat-61, I should opt for the least expensive of the executive class tickets -- does that make sense?

(6) I don't seem to be able to book a flight from Surabaya to Denpasar on Geruda in advance -- but I think that's normal? And I should be able to do so once in Indonesia?

(7) Do any of you have information on the Malang Kimball? I can't seem to find the dates, though it seems they should be around the time I'll be there....

(8) In a prior posting, Crellston recommending routing from Malang to Bromo "via the Savannah rather than Probolingo" -- if any of you can provide additional details so that I can ask for that when I arrange my transport, I'd appreciate it!

(9) Do any of you have any experience with Gedong Songo? The views sound awesome, but is the hike up as long or arduous as some suggest? More to the point, how long, and how arduous, is walking to the highest temple? Is renting a “small horse” a good option?

(10) Any comments about Telaga Pacuh? I must admit that I can't figure out if it's a special place or one that has simply been advertised...

BTW, I readily admit that I'm in full panic mode -- which is normal for me as a trip approaches. I also admit that my normal response to anxiety is to seek information. So quite sincerely, any answers you can offer will be much appreciated! I'll be posting separately on plans for Singapore and Bali, once I make a bit more progress with them.

MANY thanks in advance for your replies.
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Apr 30th, 2016, 05:43 AM
  #2
 
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On day 13 I don't think it is realistic to leave for Bromo in the afternoon. It is quite a drive. We left at 8.00am and arrived mid afternoon. If taking the Savannah route, as we did just ask to go by the "southern route" via Rainbow Falls, the Sea of Sand etc. We had to first drive to somewhere on the outskirts of Malang where we had to change to a 4WD vehicle. I don't think you will miss much in Malangs markets. In fact we found it quite disturbing to see all the wild animals and birds caged up, ready for sale. Pro booing was just a huge sprawling city.

Food wise, you are in for a treat. My wife wrote an entry and posted some photos of our favourite dishes on the Indonesian section of our blog @ https://accidentalnomads.com/category/indonesia/

We booked our first train ticket online via an agency which charged a premium but apart from that we either booked on the day of travel or when we arrived at the station for our next journey. Unless it is a major holiday I don't think it is necessary to book in advance as there where whole carriages that were completely empty on several of our trains. Not sure what S61 means re booking the "least expensive" exec ticket. Just make sure that it has air con ( mind you, our packed up 2 hours into an 8 hour trip! Not the most comfortable journey! Apart from that incident we found the railway system to be surprisingly efficicient.

It is worth setting off very early to see the dawn break over Bromo as it does get very crowded. Good to be able to stake your claim to a spot near the railings. There are three separate lookout spots. Our guide apparently chose the second most popular which still had hundreds of people standing around.

We stayed at the Lava View Hotel. The views are spectacular but for atmosphere, the Lava Veiw Cafe in the village is much nicer for a drink or something to eat.
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Apr 30th, 2016, 08:28 AM
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I think you've done your research well.

If it is important to you to book your flight in advance, you'll need a local agent. Likewise, a local agent can book your train tickets and arrange a car and driver. It isn't necessary, but if it makes you feel better, do it. I can dig up the email of the agent I used, if you'd like.

ATMs are readily available. We were surprised when we flew into Solo that there were no ATMs in that airport, just an exchange desk. But there are ATMs in shopping areas and at the airport at Yogyakarta.

How wonderful that you are staying at two of the Tugu hotels. Both have spas, and I expect the Phoenix does as well (sorry, I don't remember for sure about the Phoenix). The staff at the Tugu were exceptionally helpful and can certainly book you a car and driver. We had a guide as a part of our package at the Tugu Malang who was really good. I think his name is in our trip report, but if you need more info, let me know.

Food: we had excellent Indonesian food at the Phoenix - and at both Tugus. We had lunch at the Tugu Blitar, and the manager recommended dishes for us that are specialities of that region. We also ate at several places that were walking distance from the Phoenix. There is a hole-in-the-wall duck restaurant a short block from the Phoenix... unfortunately, we didn't have time to try it out. But you can ask the name and directions at the front desk and I'm sure they will direct you.

You have a wonderful trip planned!
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Apr 30th, 2016, 09:47 AM
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Hi Kja,

(1) Gudeg! Sweet flavoured eggs and beef with white rice - It's one of Java's speciality dish and a must try while you visit Jogja.

(4) Yes. Don't worry about it, because you can find it anywhere along the way in "Alfamart" or "Indomaret" or any other minimarkets which usually have ATMs too.

(6) Well i think there might be a glitch when you try to book the ticket. Because the last time i tried, i could easily book the ticket from Surabaya to Bali..Try it again some other time or with another website.

(8) I went there a couple of time and have friends living in Malang. If you're interested i could help you to arrange the trip and transportation to Bromo

Maybe this list of places on Indoneo: http://www.indoneo.com/products/tour-wonderful-java could help you to gain more insight, ideas, or information about the places in Java.

Hope this helps!
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Apr 30th, 2016, 11:49 AM
  #5
kja
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Thank you so much, crellston, Kathie, and Tontorino! You have done a great deal to give me some much needed confidence in my plans.

@ crellston – Oh! Now I get it (I think): The “southern” route from Malang to the Lava View means going south and east and north of the whole area, then swinging back in from the northeast? Well that would require leaving early, wouldn’t it! I bet the scenery will be wonderful – I’m so glad I checked with you about that! BTW, since I’m not very good with early mornings, I sprang for the room at the Lava View from which one can see the sunrise. My plan is to watch the sunrise from there and then go to Penanjakan, which I’ve read should be reasonably free of others by an hour or so after sunrise.

And good to know about the markets – I was wondering what I would think about seeing the caged birds….

I remember some of those wonderfully enticing pictures your wife took of foods – I will be sure to revisit your blog soon.

@ Kathie – Your report was part of the inspiration for me to choose the Phoenix and the Tugus -- and I think an inspiration to several other Fodorites who have spoken highly of them. I think I will enjoy each!

Interesting comment about the agent – once I reach Java, I can’t just go to the Geruda desk and book the flight I want? Good to know!

@ Tontorino – I have made a note to be sure to try gudeg – thanks! I am looking forward to some wonderful meals on this trip.
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Apr 30th, 2016, 01:00 PM
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kja, sorry I wasn't clear. I was suggesting the agent if you wanted to book from home. Once you are in Indonesia, you can certainly go to the Garuda desk and book. You just can't book Garuda online from the US.
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Apr 30th, 2016, 01:02 PM
  #7
kja
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@ Kathie - That makes sense! Thanks for clarifying.
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Apr 30th, 2016, 09:03 PM
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I'm sure it will be a great two weeks! I would suggest you take advantage of the concierges at your hotels to help you with bookings -- cars, restaurants, flights, spas. It may cost a bit more but it's reliable and easy, and you will benefit from the clarity of communication. A tip of IDR100,000 to 200,000 will go a long way.

You might want to add Kauman and Kaweyan batik centers to your itinerary in Surakarta (Solo).
http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2...e-centers.html

1. The food at the Phoenix is quite good, though I preferred the ala carte menu to the buffet.

Lately there'a been a wave of hip, young chefs (and foodies) thoughout Java. And some very good coffee. Ask your concierge for suggestions.

The restaurant at Amanjiwo is wickedly expensive, but beautiful and very good. Maybe treat yourself to a sunset drink?

Chocolate making is also enjoying a resurgence in Java. Monggo, Pod, Pipiltin are excellent brands. If you're near Kotagede you can visit the Monggo factory
http://chocolatemonggo.com/en/conten...monggo-factory

2. No specific spa recommendations, but you might want to try jamu (traditional natural health drinks) and lulur (natural body scrubs).

3. Car and driver costs will be all over the place. Again, I'd let the hotel arrange transportation for you. Usually you can pay the driver directly. Anything that goes on your hotel bill will be charged ++ (what they call "plus, plus" -- the hotel tax of 21%).

4. Plenty of ATMs, everywhere.

5. I would opt for executive class. Get aircon.

6. Any hotel can make the Garuda flight reservation for you. You can pay on arrival at the hotel or give the concierge information to charge your credit card.

You can also fly AirAsia from Surabaya to Denpasar. You should be able to make an AA reservation on line. You could take the evening AA flight and have more time in the Bromo area.

7. You could email the concierge at the Tugu for information on Malang Kembali / Malang Tempo Doeloe.

8. I'm puzzled by Crellston's route from Malang to the Lava View Lodge. It seems to me that it would be about a two hour drive from Malang to Cemoro Lawang, the village where the Lava View is located, which is adjacent to Bromo Tenger Semeru National Park.

From the Lava View to Surabaya you would have several options -- including going through or avoiding the town of Probolinggo. If you can access Google maps you can easily get the lay of the land.

My suggestion would be to get yourself to the Lava View Lodge and let them arrange sight seeing trips around the area. Email them in advance for suggestions.

More good information on Bromo: http://www.gunungbagging.com/bromo/

9/10. Can't help
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Apr 30th, 2016, 10:16 PM
  #9
kja
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@ marmot -- awesome info, thanks so much!

Thanks for recommending that I work with concierges -- I was leaning that way, simply because I'm too stressed to imagine managing without their help, so I appreciate knowing that their services will be reliable. (Which, of course, is not guaranteed everywhere!) Good to know to make sure I pay the driver directly, and thanks, too, for giving me a sense of the range of an appropriate tip for the concierge.

The Kauman and Kaweyan batik centers have been added to my plans - thanks!

Just to confirm: the Amanjiwo restaurant you mention is the one near Borobudur? I had seen it mentioned, and it does sound wonderful, but I do dislike it when the most breathtaking thing about a restaurant is the prices. A sunset drink might be the perfect solution.

And I was aware of the Monggo chocolate factory -- but the cacao isn't grown there, is it? I've seen chocolate making before, but I've only see cacaos in botanic garden hothouses....

Notes made to try jamu and lulur. And BTW, I already had a note that when in Bali (I hope to submit my plan for comment soon), I should try the mandi lulu -- turmeric, I believe?

At the risk of heresy, I'll admit that I don't plan to hike while in Bromo, so I'm planning to arrive before sunset so I can enjoy the views and have an evening to catch up on postcards (yes, I still send them), my journal, etc.; then watch the sunrise and spend at most a few hours admiring the scenery. Am I being utterly foolish?

Terima kasih banyak! I am so fortunate to benefit from your knowledge of the area.
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May 1st, 2016, 12:36 AM
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Aside from the Manohara which is quite basic, your other hotels will have knowledgeable concierges. I like to tip on arrival and continue to use their services throughout my stay. You can do a lot of preliminary work by email before you arrive.

Yes, Amanjiwo is the resort overlooking Borobudur. It's about 10-15 minutes by car from Manohara. It's worth a visit just for the architecture and setting.

Chocolate (cacao) is grown in Indonesia for production in Indonesia and in Europe (hence, the Dutch chocolate connection). I believe Monggo chocolate is grown and made in Java using Belgian processes.
http://chocolatemonggo.com/en/video1

Pod is made in Bali and Pipiltin near Jakarta, but with the same bean to bar concept.

Lulur is an exfoliating body scrub that was traditionally part of the Javanese wedding ritual but now can be found at spas all over Asia. The foundation can be turmeric or any other grainy substance like rice powder, cocoa or coffee in combination with natural oils, creams and scents. Every spa has its own recipe.

I think that walks in the Bromo area can be as strenuous or gentle as you require. The scenery is stunning and highly photogenic so don't rush through your time there. The worst of Bromo is the time spent in the car and at crowded viewing spots.
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May 1st, 2016, 01:14 AM
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Re hiking and watching the sunrise - Am I being utterly foolish? Entirely your decision kja. There is no real hiking involved in getting to the viewpoints although the traffic is horrendous and the viewing platforms are very crowded, but the views are spectacular and, imo, worth the effort of getting up VERY early.

The views from the hotel at sunset were magical but when we returned from the viewing platform and hour or so after dawn, the hotel and the crater were completely obscured by low cloud. So much so that we abandoned our plans to hike up to the crater rim until later in the morning (to be frank, it wasn't really worth the effort).

I am guessing that this low cloud doesn't happen every day but you could be unlucky and miss the sunrise by staying at the hotel. The viewing platforms seemed that much higher and the low cloud added to, rather than, detracted from the views there.
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May 1st, 2016, 08:23 AM
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Lots of good info from marmot and crellston!

I'm sure the a la carte menu is better than the buffet at the Phoenix. We actively avoid buffets, so I admit we did't try the buffet food. But we ate very well everywhere in Java (but we didn't stay at the Manhora).

Solo is renowned for the batik made there. On my first trip there, I bough some lovely fabric at the place that makes the batik for the kraton in Solo.

Indonesian chocolate is wonderful. I don't know if you are a fan of Pralus chocolate - they make single origin bars from all over the world, and the Djakarta bar is simply wonderful. The bars are all made in France.

We did try the Monggo chocolate, but if you want to try it, buy it from somewhere that is air-conditioned, as the bars we tried had not been stored well (even though the shop was air-conditioned) and were the worse for it.

We had wonderful body scrubs at the Tugu Malang - the scrubs smelled good enough to eat!

All this makes me want to return!
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May 1st, 2016, 09:57 AM
  #13
kja
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Once again, what a wealth of information you are providing, marmot, crellston, and Kathie -- thanks so much!

I hadn’t thought about the altitude of the Lava View in comparison to the viewing platforms. Sounds like I’ll need to have a discussion with staff there once I get there.
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May 5th, 2016, 12:36 AM
  #14
kja
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Thanks, SewaBusPariwisata -- but perhaps you didn't notice that I decided to skip Bandung on this trip? Or that advertising is not permitted on Fodor's?
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May 5th, 2016, 07:32 AM
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My husband and I did this same trip last October (except we did not visit Solo and did Bromo as a day trip from Malang). A few comments based on our experience:

Garuda woes: we are slow learners... we tried multiple times to book a cheap fare from Surabaya to Bali using Garuda's web site. When the transactions failed we wasted hours on the phone with our credit card company, the Garuda office in the US, and the Garuda customer support in Indonesia trying to solve the problem. Finally Garuda Indonesia told us they do not accept US credit cards.

I was too nervous about waiting to book after we arrived (but I'm sure it would have been fine). We booked in advance through an Indonesian travel agent called Travelindo. No problems, though of course we paid more than the lowest fare on Garuda's web site.

Trains: I booked the day train from Yoga to Blitar through Tiket.com. They took US credit cards without a problem. It was easy to print our tickets at the kiosk in the Yoga train station the day before. The train was on time and was a pleasant ride. I wish we had taken the train from Blitar to Malang as you are doing, as it turned out to be a costly car transfer through Tugu Blitar.

Bromo: We took a day trip from Malang. We did not see the sunrise but had Bromo to ourselves. We took the "back door" route through the savannah - one of the highlights of the trip.

Prices of tours and transfers: At Tugu Blitar, we booked the 2-day package which included tours (very reasonably priced). Prambanan was the highlight. I'm sure you could custom design what you want to see with the guide there - our guide spoke excellent English and had many interesting things to say about life in Java. (BTW, the Tugu in Blitar is much more "rustic" than the Tugu Malang. Nothing wrong with it, but not as luxurious as I expected).

At Tugu Malang the concierge gave us a choice of booking the tours and our transfer to Surabaya through the hotel, or privately with his "friend." The hotel prices were more than double paying cash to the "friend," so we opted for that. In hindsight perhaps we should have booked one of the Tugu Malang packages listed on their web site.

Have a wonderful trip!
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May 5th, 2016, 06:22 PM
  #16
kja
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@ gr21 -- thanks for the great feedback! These kinds of details can both make me more comfortable in advance and help me make choices once on the ground.
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May 5th, 2016, 08:26 PM
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kja, the discussion of guides and packages made me remember that we booked a package called "Tracing the Kingdom) at the Tugu Malang. The package included a day trip to Blitar (with lunch at the sister hotel), transport to surrounding temples (Pantataran) and a guide for our temple time who really knew his stuff. The package also included a few meals and some spa treatments as well as transport via private vehicle to Surabaya. The package was a very good deal.
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May 5th, 2016, 08:31 PM
  #18
kja
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Thanks, Kathie! I remember seeing that you booked a package when I read your (very helpful) trip report, and I looked at the packages the hotel offers. From what I could tell, none of the packages would serve me well, given my other choices about this trip, but I will definitely reconfirm. I greatly appreciate that you made sure I consider these options!
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May 6th, 2016, 11:56 AM
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The package rates at the Tugu Malang are definitely a great deal compared to the a la carte rates listed at the hotel.

I remembered another activity that we did at the Tugu Malang: "cycling with John." We visited several different Malang neighborhoods (back alleys as well as the grand streets with the Dutch colonial houses). We enjoyed chatting with John, who is from Bali originally.

Correction on my previous post: obviously it was Panataran that was the highlight in Blitar It is such a lovely, accessible site. I was also intrigued by the temples nearby that have yet to be completely excavated.
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May 6th, 2016, 06:49 PM
  #20
kja
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@ gr21 -- I was pretty sure that you meant Panataran, and am glad you clarified that. Sounds like your bike trip around Malang was delightful -- thanks for letting me know!
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