Java or Sri Lanka?

Jun 26th, 2005, 08:17 AM
  #1  
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Java or Sri Lanka?

I'm beginning to start planning next Spring's trip to SEA, probably in April or May. We'll be going back to Thailand, BKK of course, Anatara in the Golden Triangle, possibly Ko Samui. I want to add on another country, somewhere I haven't been yet and Java, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka look like likely candidates. I've wanted to travel to Java for quite some time but lately Sri Lanka is looking interesting. For those who have been to both, which would you suggest, and why? We're interested in temples, lush scenery and luxury hotels. (The DUSUN JOGJA VILLAGE INN in Yogyakarta is looking quite good.)
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Jun 26th, 2005, 11:01 AM
  #2  
ccc
 
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Have never been to Sri Lanka, although I'm going next month and am very excited. I have been to Java twice. While Yogyakarta/Borobodur is fabulous, it strikes me that this is a time to support Sri Lanka. I might also think twice about the safety issue on Java. On the luxury hotel front, there are a couple of new Aman hotels in Sri Lanka (we're staying in one next month) as well as one in Borobodur.
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Jun 26th, 2005, 11:34 AM
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I think Aman resorts are a bit more than I want to spend. $700 per night is a bit too much! Safety issues don't concern me too much, Sri Lanka isn't the safest place either so I'm not basing my decision on that. Can you tell me what you liked about java?
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Jun 26th, 2005, 11:59 AM
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laurie, I've not yet been to Sri Lanka, but I loved Java. Borobudur is the largest Buddhist monument in the world and is truly spectacular. I also enjoyed Prambanan, the complex of Hindu temples, and we drove to the Dieng Plateau which was lovely. Jogja has a lovely kraton to explore (as does Solo). You can see the Ramayana ballet in an open-air hall near Prambanan. Also, I am a collector of crafts, and that area has the best crafts of anyplace I've ever been. I'd go back in a minute. Indeed, we were scheduled to go there in November 2004, but I just couldn't get the logistics to come together as we were traveling at Hari Raya and the flights were full.
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Jun 26th, 2005, 12:15 PM
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Thanks Kathie. That is certainly helpful. I've wanted to go to Java for the last five years or so, ever since I read an article about it in a travel magazine (in fact, I still have that particular issue). Can you tell me where you stayed, restaurants, etc? I don't know why but in the last week or so, I've started to give Sri Lanka some thought as well. After traveling to so many different places, I'm now always looking for that "exotic" destination. It takes a lot more to excite me these days and Borobudur seems like it may just fit the bill
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Jun 26th, 2005, 02:25 PM
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laurie, it was a LONG time ago that I visited Jogja, and I really don't have current info on restaurants and hotels for you. I had planned to stay at the Hyatt this trip - it had not yet been built when I was last there.

If you decide to go, I'll look back at my travel journal, as there were a number of places we visited that were really special. As I mentioned, the crafts are fabulous. I bought some puppets that had been used at the kraton (they are re-sold after a number of uses - they all have a sort of coat of arms on them). We also shopped at the place in Solo that makes the batik patern for the kraton in Solo - they had the most gorgeous batik I've ever seen.
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Jun 26th, 2005, 03:23 PM
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Kathie, I appreciate that. I'll keep you posted. I just dragged out that magazine with the Java article and it's looking better and better. If I decide to go to Java, I'll need to decide where exactly to go and budget my time. Since I'm combining it with a trip to Thailand, I'll probably have only a week there, unless I can talk my husband into taking more than a 2 week vacation!! It happens now and then.
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Jun 26th, 2005, 06:11 PM
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I have not - yet - tho it is on my agenda been to Java but I ADORE Sri Lanka. IMO it is one of the best kept secrets in Asia. It is VERY reasonable, has stuff to suit every interest - wildlife, city, tea plantations, nature - is small hence stuff is easily accessible. The only thing is weather wise it will be warm in the months you are considering and flight wise Indoanesia may work better if you are coming from the West Coast esp. Cilck on my name and read my earlier posts re Sri Lanka.
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Jun 26th, 2005, 11:33 PM
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I live in Indonesia and I travel quite frequently to Central Java. I've been to Sri Lanka many times, but not in the past 10 years so though I don't have an exact basis of comparison, I have a pretty good idea.

Sri Lanka is a country with a variety of destinations -- beach, mountain, rain forest, for example. There's a lot to do and the people and culture are lovely. There is a very highly developed tourist industry with a lot of options in accomodations.

The area of Java that is most people visit is the town of Yogyakarta combined with Borobudur temple. Eastern Java including Surabaya and Mount Bromo also has some spectacular scenery, but is less traveled. (Although Jakarta is also in Java I wouldn't recommended it as a holiday destination.) The tourist industry in Central Java is fairly well developed, but not as sophisticated as Sri Lanka (and no where near Bali or Thailand).

Anywhere you travel in Indonesia you will experience unparalleled hospitality and profound natural beauty, but at the same time Java is a densely populated third world country. Yogya is no exception -- it is hot (all year), crowded, polluted, difficult to navigate. The culture is totally fascinating and the arts and handicrafts superb, but sometimes the charm gets overwhelmed by the negative aspects.

I don't know anything about the Dusun Jogja Village Inn. In town in Yogya I usually go for the Hyatt as I like to be a bit out of the center and the Hyatt has lovely grounds which provide some breathing space.

If you can splurge on just one night, the Aman is worth every penny. They don't advertise this, but most likely you can get a steep discount if you call them directly as their business is soft. I would think the "real" rate is around $500. What is special about the Aman, aside from the incomparable service and beautiful ambience, is that they will get you up at 4:30 a.m. and take you to Borobudur before it officially opens for sunrise over the mountains. This is a magical experience.

Another place that is highly recommended is the Losari Tea Plantation. I haven't been there yet, but the manager at the Aman says it is quite nice.
http://www.losaricoffeeplantation.com/default-f.htm

In addition to the sights of Yogya town and Borobudur, there are other temple complexes, notably Prambanan, 10th Century Hindu, plus more remote but equally impressive archeological sights. There is also lots of mountain trekking, musica and dancing, arts and crafts, tea and coffee plantations and an overall mystical aura. It's not for everyone, but people who are interested in culture and history tend to love Central Java.
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Jun 27th, 2005, 03:38 AM
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Thanks hobbes and marmot for the info. Right now I'm leaning a bit more towards Java, probably because it's been on my mind to go there for the last several years.

The reason I like the Dusun Jogja Village Inn is because it looks luxurious and not like a western cookie cutter hotel, and the rates are extremely reasonable. I have always wanted to stay at an Aman resort so I will look into that as well, but the Dusun looks fabulous (especially the VIP suite which is only about $75 per night). If I do go to Java, I will most likely stay a night at the hotel that is right inside the Borobudur complex,this way I can see the sunrise and not have to get up at 3am.

I'll continue doing my research before making a final choice as I have plenty of time to plan this. I'd like to start making concrete reservations in October when I return from Malaysia.
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Jun 27th, 2005, 04:42 AM
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marmot, I've looked at the Losari Tea Plantation and it looks wonderful. I've bookmarked it and it's most definitely on my list of possible hotels. Thanks for that link.
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Jun 27th, 2005, 03:16 PM
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laurie, I look forward to hearing your hotel reports on the Dusun and others. One thing I can say about just about any hotel in Indonesia is that it will most likely be very clean and the people will be very friendly. The service and design may be variable. The problem with Yogya is not the hotels but Yogya itself which, as I said, is really a big, crowded third world city. It's fascinating and full of interesting things to do, but I really wouldn't call it charming. If you stay for a few days you'll need an escape.

On restaurants outside of hotels, good luck! If you find any please let me know. Again, Indonesian food is good and the presentation can be lovely, but the whole concept of restaurant is somewhat lagging.
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Jun 27th, 2005, 03:43 PM
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marmot, thanks for the information. It looks like Java is winning over Sri Lanka. Do you think 2 nights in Yogya is enough, if I also spend a night at Borobodur? Or is there enough to see that 3 nights is worth it? When I'm ready to escape, that Lorsari Tea Plantation looks very good, as do some of the Tugu Hotels, which are in Blitar and Malang. check their web site

http://www.tuguhotels.com/

These hotels look gorgeous and pretty inexpensive for what you (apparently) get. I'm hoping to combine sightseeing and relaxation. My husband can't stand it when I drag him all over and don't give ourselves a chance to unwind. Java seems to be a perfect blend.

Unfortunately it will be quite awhile before you get any reports of hotels or restaurants as I'm not going until next April or May. I'll most definitely do a complete report though. I just did my first ever trip report (on Costa Rica) and found it's a great way to remember details and have a journal of a trip.

Any other suggestions are most welcome.

Laurie
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Jun 27th, 2005, 04:04 PM
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The name of the resort is actually Losari "Coffee" Plantation. It is built on a working coffee farm and they offer tours demonstrating how they grow and produce true Java-nese coffee.

I have not been there myself, but have heard wonderful things. If we decide to go, we will book the steam train. This half-day trip comes hightly recommended.
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Jun 27th, 2005, 04:13 PM
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Ericka--you are right! If we decide to go there, I'll look into the steam train. What do you know about it?
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Jun 27th, 2005, 05:35 PM
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You know me, laurie, I like to spend a lot of time in a place. We were in Jogja for 6 nights if I remember correctly. There is LOTS to do. My must-see list includes Borobudor, Prambanan, the Dieng Plateau, the krations in Jogja and Solo, an evening at the Ramayana Ballet, craft shopping, a trip to a couple of temples way out past Solo (I'll have to look up the names). We loved driving through the countryside and the small villages.

In terms of restuarants, one that we tried is famous through Indonesia as having the best fried chicken. (and I know it;s still there) Indeed, people from Jakarta will be seen boarding the plane with a box of the chicken to take home. It's soaked in coconut milk before frying. We got our driver to take us there. He suggested we order a whole chicken and share it. So we did. The chicken did indeed come whole - including the head and the feet! It was tasty, but it's the whole experience of it that I loved (the place was rather lacking in atmosphere - the interior looked rather than an old KFC!)

On our last day, our driver took us to "the best restaurant in town." It was not associated with a hotel, and served a huge buffet of Indonesian food for less than US$5 per person. Our driver was very helpful in telling us what the various dishes were. The one very odd dish I remember was a "vegetable" dish consisting of potato chips and peanuts in a honey dressing!

Obviously, I loved Jogja and look forward to returning someday.
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Jun 27th, 2005, 07:25 PM
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Kathie, I know spending more time in one place is ideal but unfortunately we just don't have that luxury. I'm already taking Ko Saumi off our Thailand itinerary for that trip, and may possibly exclude the Golden Triangle and just make it Bangkok in Thailand (I just HAVE to go back there, it's been two years!) I was thinking of 2-3 nights in Yogya, one night at the hotel at Brobudur, 2 or 3 in Malang, and 2 or 3 in Solo. That way, I can do trips to the surrounding areas. This is all subject to change of course but does this sound reasonable?

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Jun 27th, 2005, 07:41 PM
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I haven't been to Malang for several years but I've always found it a very pleasant, sleepy place. The Tugu is a little rough around the edges, but very charming.

If you get to Malang, I'd suggest that you forge on to Mt. Bromo, which is a wonderful experience. Also the Majapahit Mandarin Oriental in Surabaya is an extraordinary property in the Raffles school of renovation.
http://www.mandarinoriental.com/hotel/518000002.asp

I'm lukewarm on Solo. Interesting culture and fine arts and crafts (especially batik) but it's near enough to Yogya (about an hour) to visit in a day trip. I'd divide the time between Yogya and something in the Borobudur area, like the Losari COFFEE Plantation. (Thanks, Erica.)

I agree with what Kathie says, just driving around Java through the rice paddies, coffee and tea plantations, stopping at 1000 year old temples that appear out of no where, pavillion type restaurants with wonderful fresh food -- it's quite lyrical.
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Jun 27th, 2005, 07:47 PM
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I agree with marmot - don't stay in Solo, do a day trip there. We spent one day driving to Solo and beyond out of our week. You really don't need 2 or 3 days there. That way, you can add two nights to Jogja, for, say 4 nights in Jogja and one at Borobudor.
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Jun 27th, 2005, 07:52 PM
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marmot, the one guidebook I have that includes Indonesia says that Surabaya isn't all that great so I was going to skip it all together. Do you think it's worthwhile to go there? Also, how far is the Lorsari Coffee Plantation from Brobudur? If I can get to Brobudur from there for sunrise, maybe I can skip that hotel that is right nearby. It didn't look to great anyway but the location seemed good. One more question, what do you mean by "rough around the edges" in reference to the Tugu? It looks so stunning on the web site, (but I should know what a good wide angle lens and Photoshop can do ;-) )

Kathie and marmot--you don't think a couple of nights at Malang would be nice, to relax and just get some nice drives in during the day? It looked like there was a lot of nearby things to do. How far is Solo from there?

Sorry for all the questions.
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