Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Asia (
-   -   Kathie’s Return to Jogja (

Kathie Nov 29th, 2012 12:29 PM

Kathie’s Return to Jogja
“Return to Jogja” is our favorite cd of Indonesian music, purchased on a trip to Bali more than 10 years ago. It struck me as a good title for this trip report.

My visit to central Java was one of my favorite trips. I have such vivid memories of that trip, that it seemd like it couldn’t have been that long ago. But in checking my travel journals, I found that I was last there 20 years ago, in 1992. I loved Borobudur, Prambanan and the other temples we visited, the Ramayana Ballet and the best crafts shopping I’ve encountered. I had tried to plan a return trip several times in recent years, but the logistics were complicated.

This year it was time to make those logistics work and go back to that amazing place. Driving this trip was not only my own wish to return, but also that Cheryl had never seen Borobudur.

I wanted to add a new destination to this trip, so settled on Malang, in eastern Java mostly for the Hindu temples in that area. The most complicated thing to plan turned out to be getting from Yogyakarta to Malang. I had incorrectly assumed there would be flights from either Yogya or Solo to Malang. I spent lots of time researching flights, as there are a zillion small airlines in Indonesia. And the largest airline, Garuda, has a website that doesn’t apparently work outside of Indonesia. Once I had determined that there were no non-stop flights (there were flights connecting through either Jakarta or Denpasar, but they would take literally all day), I next researched flights to Surabaya… each new idea revealed how difficult it is to get from point A to point B. Early on, I had decided not to take the train, as it leaves at 1 am or so. But it eventually became clear that the train was perhaps our best option.

The other glitch in planning I encountered concerned our flights from Singapore to Java and from Java back to Singapore. After deciding that we wanted to fly into Solo and out of Surabaya on Silk Air, I found I could not book an open-jaw flight on the Silk Air website. Booking one-way flights turned out to be ridiculously expensive (over S$600 each person each way). Years ago, I had tried to book an open-jaw flight on Silk Air on the Singapore website, but found I could not – I had to have at least one Singapore Air flight in order to book on the Singapore website. Fortunately, when I tried this year, I was able to make the booking on the Singapore Air website and get a good price for our tickets. We paid S$322 each, roundtrip, from Singapore into Yogya and out of Surabaya.

The rest of the planning was fun: choosing must-sees in central Java, choosing the Phoenix in as our base in Yogya, finding the Tugu in Malang and their great Tracing the Kingdom package, choosing the Majapahit Hotel in Surabaya as a way to make our connection back to Singapore easy and to add to my collection of Sarkie Bros. hotel stays. The last planning item was to choose a Singapore hotel, not an easy choice, but a fun dilemma to have. In the process of our planning, we contacted Wiedy Antara, a guide and travel agent in Yogya much recommended by Stan Kase here. Wiedy was able to get us discounts at two of our three hotels, he set up a car and driver, arranged train tickets and rolled all of that plus admission and guide fees into one bill, which I paid in US cash upon arrival in Solo.

Kathie Nov 29th, 2012 04:14 PM

Getting there
From push-back at the gate in Seattle to landing at Singapore was 20 hours +, so we were much relieved to make it to our room at the Crowne Plaza Changi - right in terminal 3. It was pricey, but I wanted a comfortable bed (the beds in the transit hotel are pretty hard) and I wanted to take a long shower and dry off with a nice thick towel (the towels at the transit hotel are thin, thin, thin). So the Crowne Plaza furnished those things quite nicely. We both got about 5 hours of sleep before our wake-up call for our Silk Air flight to Solo City.

Silk Air normally allows one suitcase per passenger, weighing up to 20 kg. If you are Star Alliance gold, they double your baggage allowance, which we much appreciated,

Central Java:
You can get an Indonesian visa on arrival at the airport for a US$25 fee. There are forms to fill out, but no photos required. It was quick and easy.

Wiedy met us at the airport, and we had a long conversation with him on our way to the Phoenix. Traffic was heavy and slow (this is a four-day holiday). Wiedy is exceptionally knowledgeable and we enjoyed talking with him. We settled up with Wiedy (he asked us to bring US dollars). I should note that there is no ATM at the Solo airport, but there is an exchange window. Wiedy told the woman at the exchange window that we wouldn't accept anything less than 9000 IDR per US dollar, and she gave us 9300 per dollar. Note that every town we drove through had plenty of ATMs, just not the Solo airport – there was even an ATM at the rain station in Yogya.

The drive from Solo to Yogya was much longer than my last trip – actually double – it took two full hours. I was only beginning to realize that the amount of driving in our itinerary was substantially more than what I had planned for. Fortunately, Wiedy was on top of it, so recommended an adjustment to our itinerary that made it more realistic, less punishing.

We were at the Phoenix by about noon, got checked into our suite ($152 a night including breakfast, tax and service through Wiedy, $190 through Accor). We had a free afternoon to rest up and adjust to the time zone, knowing that our next few days would be packed.

Our first full day in Yogya was planned to be 12 hours of touring. Unfortunately, Wiedy was not able to guide us, as the World Bank was coming to visit his classes. It seemed to me that was much more important than guiding us. He is hoping their visit will result in a grant. 

Our driver, Pre, picked us up promptly at 5 am. It was a cloudy morning, so no spectacular sunrise, but the soft morning light was perfect for photography. Wiedy set up the "best" guide for us at Borobudur and he was excellent, indeed. Fatah grew up in the old village at the foot of Borobudur and played hide and seek there as a child. He was able to tell us much of the modern history (moving the village away from Borobudur, restorations, damage form quakes and Merapi's eruption and subsequent restoration, etc) as well as the ancient history.

Borobudur is the largest Buddhist monument in the world. I often describe it as a mountain of Buddhas. There are 504 Buddha statues, each about 4 feet tall. Borobudur was built from about 800-850, about 200 years before Angkor Wat. It is truly stunning in both its scope and detailing. It is believed to be the first building in the world built from written plans. The walkways around each level of the monument have intricate carvings telling of the lives of the Buddha. The carvings are simply exquisite. There is an excellent book, Tales of the Golden Buddha, which is good preparation for visiting Borobudur.

It is difficult to do justice to Borobudur with mere words. It is one of those places that you can read about, look at photos, but it is still stunning in person.

After a couple of hours at Borobudur, we headed for the Dieng Plateau. This was a place much, much changed from my previous visit. At my first visit, all of Dieng was silent, misty, mysterious. When I was last there, no trucks were allowed onto the plateau, now the road is crowded with trucks. I don’t think we saw any other visitors at Dieng on my last visit. This time there were quite a few visitors. Most were Indonesian, as this was a holiday, but we also saw a number of Japanese visitors. We were the only westerners. Most of the visitors were at the volcano, a caldron of boiling sulfurous water. There is a rickety railing around the caldera, last time there was none. It was sunny while we were at Dieng, which was so different than the mist-shrouded visit last time. The areas around the little temples have been graveled; they were in a sea of very mushy grass last time I visited. A number of men at the temples were dressed in Ramayana costumes.

Cheryl had a mishap here, spraining her ankle on the rocks around the temples. She limped back to our car and we decided to skip the stop at the lake.

One of the best things about visiting the Dieng Plateau is driving though the agricultural land, with the incredible terracing - gorgeous drive! By the time we got down the mountain, we were famished. We asked Pre to take us to a restaurant with good Indonesian food. The first one we stopped at was a buffet. We declined it, and he said – oh, you want a la carte? Yes! He took us to another place, by now it was raining, indeed pouring. When we finished our lunch, the street had become a river. There was a man outside in full camo raingear, barefoot, with a big umbrella escorting people across the street or to their vehicles.

We had a lovely visit at Candi Mendut. 

This is a little jewel box of a temple, with lovely carvings and the original sculptures inside. The huge Buddha is seated as if on a chair, relaxed, with legs splayed – a unique positioning in my experience. There is a beautifully carved bodhisattva on each side of him. We had the place pretty much to ourselves for most of out time there. A tour bus of Japanese visitors came and left rather quickly.

From here we headed back to Yogya. The drive was very long because of awful traffic – a full hour longer than anticipated. This was supposed to be a long 12-hour day, but we were out at 5 am back after 6 pm due to traffic. 

By the time we got back to the Phoenix, we were exhausted. Cheryl was hurting, and we asked the hotel for an icepack. She took ibuprofen and we had a room service dinner so she could keep her ankle elevated.

Hanuman Nov 29th, 2012 04:23 PM

Great start Kathie. Sorry to hear about Cheryl's ankle and I hope she's better now. Looking forward to more, especially the pictures!

Craig Nov 29th, 2012 04:29 PM

Kathie, I just love your reports. Hope Cheryl is (was) okay.

Kathie Nov 29th, 2012 04:33 PM

Thanks. Cheryl is fine now, but she limped through much of Java. Fortunately, she sprained her ankle after the toughest walking.

StanKase Nov 29th, 2012 04:42 PM

Kathie; Am I correct that Wiedy did not do any of the guidinf though Pri was as you say vry good. I ask because I had requested ge spend at least one day of your time in Central Java with you. I knew how good he was and another guide we spent a day with, Rachmad, who also worked at the Aman, but now full time at the Aman,so not on Wiedy's team unfortunately. He said 75% certain he couldbe your guide for one day.
I am not buying the funeray. Two reasons: The DHL shippings was $1100USD and there was a 2" chip in the back reduding it's value and my eyes would always go to it, I bet.

Kathie Nov 29th, 2012 08:23 PM

Stan, Wiedy had planned to guide us the day to Borobudur and the Dieng Plateau, but the visit by the World Bank precluded that. I'm sorry we didn't have Wiedy one day, but we were well taken care of. Pre was our driver, and Wiedy had engaged guides for us at Borobudur and Prambanan.

Sorry to hear you decided against the funerary figure. It really is unusual. I didn't notice the chip, but then, I wasn't looking at it to buy it. Maybe you can visit it if it is still there your next stop in Yogya.

A few words about the Phoenix: The Phoenix is a 1920s era hotels, with the grandeur of the past – marble floors and bathrooms, and big, high-ceilinged rooms. We had a lovely, large suite with a big living room, a nice-sized bedroom and a marble bathroom. We had two small terraces with French doors. The staff was very attentive and helpful. A wonderful breakfast buffet is included in the room price. They had the usual fruits, pastries and such, a station where the chef would make eggs to order and a big section of Indonesian breakfast foods. Dinners were very good and prices were reasonable.

When planning trips like this, I like to alternate intense days of touring with more leisurely days. So the next day was to be a more leisurely day, originally just dinner and the Ramayana Ballet at Prambanan. But Wiedy said that my plan for the following day – Prambanan, Solo, and Candi Sukuh – would be too long with all the traffic, so suggested we visit Prambanan, go to dinner, then go to the ballet. It would still be a light day. I’m glad we took his advice.

It was a good thing we had the morning off from touring, as Cheryl’s ankle was very swollen and sore. It was clear she needed a wrap for her ankle to be able to continue our planned itinerary, so my task was to go out and find a wrap and a cold pack for her. I consulted with the hotel staff, and they suggested going to a “sports store” inside the Gramedia bookstore. There was one at the nearby Maliboro Mall. As I went out to get a taxi one of the hotel employees said he was going to pick up a guest at the airport and he would be glad to drop me off. We headed out and I was enjoying just looking at Yogya when I realized we had been driving for 10 minutes or so. I asked the driver – isn’t the mall just a few blocks away? He said the staff had decided I was better off going to the big Ambrukkmo mall rather than the little mall.

This mall was huge. I saw a sports store on the second floor and went there. I described the ankle wrap and the cold pack, but they sent me to the Gramedia. The Gramedia is called a bookstore, and it does have books, but it is more like a very small department store with a table or case for each kind of merchandise. I found the sport section and the man showed me many kinds of ankle wraps (right next to the guitar strings) and I chose one. He had no idea what I was talking about in regard to the cold pack. I decided to check the pharmacies. I stopped in several and just got bewildered looks when I described applying ice or something cold to an injury. Finally, I went to the information desk and talked with one of the women who was able to follow my explanation and told me that what I was looking for was called a “cold compress” in Indonesia. Those were the magic words, and one of the pharmacies sold me one. Mission accomplished, I returned to the Phoenix and wrapped Cheryl’s ankle. With all morning and early afternoon to rest, Cheryl was able to do the walking required for Prambanan.

Pre picked us up at 3:00 for the 30-minute drive to Prambanan. The sky was threatening, but it only sprinkled on us. The stormy skies meant it was not as hot, which was nice. The palm trees and garden had grown up since I was there last, and the area surrounding Prambanan was lush and green. Prambanan is a complex of Hindu temples built in the 9th century. Originally there were about 250 temples, but earthquakes have toppled the temples many times over the centuries. The main temple, to Shiva, is flanked by temples to Brahma and Vishnu. Only the main temples and a few auxiliary temples have been reconstructed. Around the temples are stacks of carved stones from the 200+ temples that have not been reconstructed. The last major earthquake in 2006 did quite a bit of damage. The largest temple, the Shiva temple was just fully reopened in October of this year, so all of the major temples are now accessible. Even with all of the time we had, we had to skip some temples I wanted to see, in particular, the Buddhist temples on the edge of the Prambanan area.

We had a very special dinner in a village near the temples, in a restaurant called Kai Opak, set just above the river. We had fresh grilled gourami and it was wonderful. 

In the evening, we went to the Ramayana Ballet. I'm glad we had been immersed in The Ramayana in Seattle in the last months, having seen Ramayana paintings at the Seattle Asian Art Museum and Ramayana, the play, at ACT Theatre in Seattle. 

The Ramayana Ballet at the Prambanan complex is simply spectacular! The live gamelan orchestra, the incredible costumes, the remarkable dancers! The theatre was packed, mostly with Indonesians. We chatted with two men behind us who were from Jakarta and who are both serious photography buffs. Cheryl took about a thousand photos and has put together a condensation of the performance that I love.

Part 1

Part 2

Turn up your sound!

AskOksena Nov 29th, 2012 08:37 PM

Warm greetings Kathie and many thanks for your brilliant writing -- and spending time (and money) in our fine home of Singapore! Can't wait for all the details of your SIN times.

I do wish to thank you for your ongoing updates on your other thread. During this latest trans-pac business trip of mine - which thankfully ends today with flying SQ, BKK-SIN - it was an honour to follow your adventures from various business travel hotel rooms and airline lounges at ICN, SFO, HKG and now, Suvarnabhumi.

Signing off from a relatively humble - and yet forever cherished - SQ SilverKris Lounge. (And will give the finest appreciation to the BKK Four Seasons and The Siam : thanks for another productive business stay and later, a truly special Loi Krathong holiday, riverside. Much more to convey on those sublime properties.)

Early and warm weekend wishes to you and all,

macintosh (robert)

... Singapore Airlines, You're a Great Way to Fly ...

tripplanner001 Nov 29th, 2012 08:52 PM

Hi Kathie and welcome home. Glad Cheryl is doing better now too. I'm enjoying your report. Borobudur is high on my list of places to see, and the Ramayana Ballet looks and sounds like a real treat.

I continue to be in the midsts of planning for my March trip and could use your suggestions for a place to stay in Singapore. I usually stay at 4 or 5 star properties in big cities and seek out boutique hotels with character whenever possible. I typically spend about US$150 a night but occasionally spend more. What are some hotels that you've enjoyed on your visits to S'pore?

Thanks, and I look forward to reading more about your trip.

filmwill Nov 29th, 2012 09:13 PM

A post from Robert is like a Christmas gift you get to open in June. :)

Hanuman Nov 29th, 2012 11:11 PM

Stan I'm a bit Wiedy out and look forward to a report with less than 5 mentioning of "Wiedy"

Kathie Nov 30th, 2012 06:52 AM

The next day we went to Solo and out to Candi Sukuh. It was a fine day. We stopped and toured the kraton at Solo, wandered through the antiques market and had a nice lunch. The Prince is a member of the local Harley owners club. We smiled at the incongruity of his Harley owner’s emblem amid the very traditional kraton. There was dance practice at the kraton, in preparation for an upcoming celebration, so we enjoyed watching the dancers and listening to the gamelon orchestra. Thanks to MichaelBKK for his recommendation of O Solo Mio, an Italian restaurant in Solo. It was a nice change from all of the Indonesian food we had been eating. Our plan to visit the Batik Museum was a victim of the reorganization of our itinerary.

We next headed to Candi Sukuh, a temple much younger (built 1437-1456) than the Hindu and Buddhist temples we had been visiting, but which looks much older, more primitive. It is unlike any other temple in Java. It is probably best described as a fertility temple, probably reflecting old animist beliefs. The truncated pyramid shape looks like it belongs in Central American rather than Java. 

It is famous for its sexually explicit carvings,

There is a famous gallery in Yogya that I shopped at last time I was here, Saptohoedojo, Jl. Solo Km.9 Maguwo. It is open daily 7 am - 10 pm.
. We bought a couple thousand dollars worth of beautiful antique crafts on my previous visit. Last time I had a lovely connection with the wife of the gallery owner, and I wanted to visit her this time. Wiedy told me the place was still open, though the owner died a few years ago, and the wife and son were now running it. We stopped by, and Yani was there, apparently a rarity, as she mostly leaves the day to day running to her son. She remembered me and we had a nice talk. The gallery still had some old crafts and a few prime pieces, but nothing like before. It did have very high quality batik at reasonable prices, so I bought some as gifts for friends.

We went out to dinner with Wiedy, his wife, his daughter and our driver to an excellent Indonesian place not too far from the hotel. Over dinner, I told Wiedy about our stop at Sapto, and he was stunned that I knew the Gallery owner. He said he had been a guide in town for 23 years and had never met Yani!

Wiedy's meeting with the World Bank people went well, and he is hopeful of a grant for his work teaching English and tourism skills to people in his village. 
 Most of Wiedy’s time and energy goes into teaching English and tourism skills to the people in his village so they can better support themselves and their families.

The following day, we managed to have nothing scheduled. If Cheryl hadn’t sprained her ankle, we would have walked on the Maliboro and explored little shops. Instead, we gave Cheryl some time to rest her ankle, and went to the Maliboro Mall, where Cheryl bought some of the local coffee to bring home. She also picked up another book on Borobudur, adding to our vast collection on Buddhist arts.

While I thought that 4.5 days, 5 nights would be enough for Central Java, I wished I’d scheduled another day or two.

Train trip: There are no flights from central Java to Malang that don’t route through Jakarta or Bali. Eventually, we decided to take the all-executive class Gayana train, leaving Yogya at 1:50 am and arriving Malang at 8:45 am. I did a fair amount of research, asking questions here and on Thorntree, reading the Man in Seat 61 website. All of the responses indicated that the trains are non-smoking, air-conditioned (some say over-air-conditioned) and relatively comfortable. While we expected we wouldn’t get much sleep, we figured we would rest a bit when we got to the Tugu, then go out in the afternoon to see the nearby temples.

We went to sleep at the Phoenix, and Wiedy said he would go to the train station to check on the status of our train after a meeting in Solo. He called us about 12:30 am to say that the train was delayed, as there had been a cyclone in Jakarta. The train was now scheduled to leave at 5:30 am. So we went back to sleep for a while, got up and Pre took us to the station about 4:30. We waited… and waited… and waited. About 6 am I approached the man at the information desk and he called to see what was happening with the train. It was now scheduled to arrive in Yogya at 8:00 am. The train did eventually arrive, but we didn’t leave Yogya until the time we should have been arriving in Malang. Our assigned seats were in a car that was quite old, and had the ground in dirt of decades of use. It appeared to be the oldest car on this train. The seats had lost a lot of their support, so were not very comfortable. The car also smelled kind of funky. Nonetheless, we tried to settle in and get a bit of a nap. But there was some sort of action movie blaring. Headphones helped. The car was pretty hot when we got on the train, and never really got cool, so there was something wrong with the ac in our car as well. So as you can imagine, it was not a very pleasant trip. Cheryl occupied herself by taking zillions of photos out the window and I read. There were men sweeping and mopping the aisle regularly and bring around a trash bag, so there was a real effort to keep the cars clean, but I think the car we were in was beyond any redemption from those limited measures. For some reason, the train trip took longer than usual, about 8.5 hours rather than the usual 7. So many factors colluded to make this a less comfortable train trip than we had anticipated.

hawaiiantraveler Nov 30th, 2012 06:58 AM

Another welcome home and am enjoying this report. I twisted my already bad ankle on a trip to Rome and what a bother when you can't walk ,but lucky to be able to walk at all I guess. Glad Cheryl is on the mend. Another great report, mahalo.


shelleyk Nov 30th, 2012 10:07 AM

So in retrospect, would you advise flying to Malang, or skipping it altogether?

kmkrnn Nov 30th, 2012 10:50 AM

Sounds like a great trip so far. Glad Cheryl was able to keep up with her ankle. It is a bummer when things go wrong, even after so much planning and careful research. But then that is part of the joy of traveling. Looking forward to the next part.

Kathie Nov 30th, 2012 11:58 AM

We very much enjoyed Malang. I think lots of things conspired to make this an especially difficult train trip. Had it left on time, or had we been in another car, or had the ac worked, it would have been an ok trip.

If your itinerary is such that you can fly to Malang, that would be optimal.

Malang is next.

Kathie Nov 30th, 2012 02:02 PM

We were much relieved to arrive in Malang. Porters carried our luggage off the train, and there was a man from the Tugu holding a sign. We got into the Tugu vehicle and were quickly whisked to the Tugu. Located in an old Dutch colonial building, the Tugu is an oasis of calm, quiet and green.

We booked the “Tracing the Kingdom” package at the Tugu, which included daily breakfasts and tea each afternoon, two days of sightseeing with a driver and guide, lunch at the Tugu in Blitar, a special dinner, and 3-hour spa treatments. We paid $1646 for four nights in a suite, including all sightseeing and transfers, plus extras like the special dinner and the spa package. (Weidy could not get us a better price than this package, though he tried.) The Tugu has a number of suites decorated with antiques and with different configurations, as well as regular rooms. We chose a lovely suite with a private terrace, the Honey Moonlight Suite. When I chose the suite, I thought we would have dinner on our terrace, but that was the time of the day when we were most likely to get rain.

Pre had called the Tugu for us from the train station in Malang to let them know our approximate arrival time, so the staff was prepared for us and had already made adjustments to our itinerary. We just wanted to shower and relax before dinner. We did schedule our tour of the hotel before dinner – what a fabulous collection of arts and antiques!

The restaurant is an indoor/outdoor area next to the swimming pool. Food at the Tugu is very good. They offer Indonesian, Chinese and Western selections. As we were finishing our dinner, several groups of two to four Indonesian men came in and they all lit up cigarettes. I spoke with the staff and they said that the whole restaurant allows smoking. The staff worked with us to set up our dinners in other areas so we weren’t bothered by smoke. They are glad to set up your table wherever you want, and there are lots of options. The staff at the Tugu is so accommodating. They were at the ready for any request, and once we made a request, they followed through the next time.

Breakfast is an order-from-the-menu American breakfast. You choose fresh juices or fruits, breads, and eggs, plus coffee or tea.

The next morning after breakfast we met our guide, Anwar. We also had a driver and a very nice van. Every time we had a long drive scheduled, the staff stocked the car with water, little fruit plates in a cooler and fresh-baked savory rolls for our trip. Our agenda was to visit the Sigosari temples (and one stupa) in the area around Malang. Eastern Java, like some other areas of Asia had some periods of time when there was an amalgam of Hindu and Buddhist thought. The temples were lovely small temples with beautiful carvings.

We visited 5 Hindu temples and one stupa in the Malang area, all built during the Sangosari era, around 1300. Most of the temples were easily accessible by car, but one temple required a 2-3 km walk along a spring-fed stream, through the rice fields. It was a lovely walk, and Cheryl was able to manage it with her ankle well wrapped. Fortunately, the path was pretty level.

One of the things that impressed me everywhere was how invested Indonesians are in protecting their cultural heritage and passing it on to their children. I was very impressed with the number of school children we saw at the small temples in eastern Java. The children, of course, wanted to talk with us, have photos taken with us, etc. This area of Indonesia gets relatively few western visitors.

That evening, the hotel set up our special dinner in the Sugar Baron’s Room. We enjoyed dining among the antiques. The restaurant has a nice wine list, but prices are very high.

Kathie Nov 30th, 2012 06:16 PM

The next day was the highlight of Eastern Java for us: our trip to Blitar to visit the Panataran temples. These are Majapahit era temples. The complex was started in 1197, and finally completed in 1454. The temple group is exquisite. It's not as large a site as Prambanan, but the carvings are very fine. I found the level of detail amazing. Some of the carvings are so fine they look like filigree. Also, since the temples have not been toppled by earthquakes, they have less damage. I have been very impressed with the temple restoration done by the Indonesian government. They have restored to UNESCO standards, marking any stone that is not original, and restoring only when the temple is at least 70% complete. 

 For those of you interested in off the tourist track temples, Panataran gets my highest recommendation. When I look now at Cheryl’s photos, I am struck by how wonderful those temples are. And all of the temples are within a swath of green. There are extensive gardens around Borobudur and Prambanan, but even the smallest temples are set amid natural greenery. The temples at Panataran are certainly worthy of the designation of a UNESCO World Heritage site, but the site is so small, it would be overwhelmed if it was designated.

Cheryl asked Anwar for some recommendations for books on the Javanese temples. Books on Borobudur are plentiful, but we didn’t find any books on even Prambanan. Anwar said he had such a book – a privately published book on Javanese temples, entitled Indonesian Art, Culture and Heritage. It isn’t for sale, but he brought it with him for us to look at on our trip to Blitar. The book had an incredible amount of information and we were sad that it is not for sale. It is a fantastic resource, written by a man in the Archaeological Department of the Indonesian government. He considered it a labor of love, so did not make it available commercially. Anwar had copied and bound the book, and was willing to sell us a copy, for which we are most grateful.

We had a nice lunch at the Tugu in Blitar, choosing dishes that were traditional to that area. We chatted with the manager, who was disappointed that we weren’t staying a night there. She extolled the visits to nearby volcanoes. After seeing photos of lines of hikers at Mt. Bromo, I wondered if these volcanoes might be a good alternative. I could imagine spending a night or two at the Tugu in Blitar to see the temples in a different light and to visit the nearby volcanoes.

We made a stop at the home of Sukarno in Blitar. This provided more information on modern Indonesian history.

We did a lot of driving this trip, but it was enjoyable. The countryside is so lush and green and the buildings so colorful. The Javanese are not afraid of color! I was so struck by the use of color everywhere. When I look at the photos now I am struck again by how truly colorful Java is.

On our last full day in Malang, we finally had some time to rest and relax and have half a day of spa. The spa there is wonderful – we both recommend it highly. Later, Cheryl worked on her photos and I worked on my report for a while. We really enjoyed our time at the Tugu - beautiful place, wonderful service.
We were sad to leave the Tugu at Malang. We had arranged a transfer to the Majapahit Hotel in Surabaya, and I was surprised to learn it was a part of our package - no extra charge for the 2-hour drive in a nice Toyota Innova. 

We decided to spend a night in Surabaya before our flight out the next morning, which gave us the opportunity to stay at the Majapahit. The Majapahit is an old Sarkie Brothers hotel. I love old hotels and I think of myself as a collector of Sarkie Brothers hotels, having stayed at the E&O in Penang and the Strand in Rangoon. The Majapahit has long been on my list. It was not a disappointment. The hotel is quite large, with rooms and suites arranged around courtyards. Everything looks to be original, restored to its original beauty and function - lovely old light fixtures, beautiful woodwork, black and white marble tile bathroom floor, and big deep bathtub. We had a suite for which we paid $152 a night including tax, service and breakfast (vs. our original reservation at $170). We had a nice lunch and settled into our suite.

We had a swim in the huge pool. There were only half a dozen people around the pool. We had a lovely dinner in Sarkies which specializes in Chinese-style seafood dishes. The hotel provided the transfer to the airport in a hotel car for 210,000 rupiah, about $22. Everything - except wine - is so reasonably priced in Indonesia.

Check-in for our flight was vey slow, as one of the Silk Air computers was down. There is an airport departure tax of 150,000 rupiah for international flights.

Our arrival in Singapore was smooth, and we were soon at the Intercontinental. The hotel seemed so huge after 10 days in Java. Also, the prices seem so high after Java.

We chose the IC in Singapore based on the recommendations of many people here whose opinions we trust – Craig and Jeane, Bob and Karen, lcuy, and likely more. We are in a “Shophouse” Club room, all newly redecorated. The room is lovely, though seems quite small since we have been staying in suites elsewhere, but really, it’s a normal-sized hotel room. Others have raved about the food offerings in the Club and justifiably so.

Our time in Singapore was short, and we didn’t do much of what was on our list for our two days. We did a little shopping, had an Indian lunch at Banana Leaf Apollo, and finished with a decadent lunch at Les Amis au Jardin. We were delighted to discover that this old favorite had started serving lunch again, though only on Tuesdays and Fridays.

We had a delightful trip to Java. I loved re-visiting Borobudur, Prambanan and the Ramayana Ballet and enjoyed getting acquainted with Eastern Java. We had wonderful hotels in Java, very good food, and excellent guides. And everything was very reasonably priced. This trip reminded me of how much I like Indonesia. Cheryl and I agreed that we want to research other parts of Indonesia to visit.

Cheryl’s photos are now online:

Note that at the top of the page for Borobudur and for Prambanan, you can click on the photo and see a large version of the panorama.

Hanuman Nov 30th, 2012 07:04 PM

Nice pictures Kathie & Cheryl! Did you ever had a nice clear cloudless day during this trip?

filmwill Nov 30th, 2012 07:04 PM

Yet another set of beautiful photos from Cheryl! WOWWW!

Makes me want to consider another trip to Java.

Thanks for sharing, Kathie!

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 06:08 AM.