May trip to Java and Bali

Old Jan 11th, 2023, 10:26 AM
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May trip to Java and Bali

My grandson is studying at the University of Singapore and term will finish beginning of May. I would like to spend a few days in Singapore and then take him and a granddaughter to Java and Bali for 2 weeks. Have been reading your excellent trip reports and travel information and would like some advice. Not going for beach time, diving or surfing but want to see countryside, non tourist areas, temples, ruins, villages, markets, museums, perhaps a cooking class. Should we start in Bali or in Yogyakarta? Will hire a driver but do like trains. Is there an Indonesian train route we should consider? Mount Bromo and Ijen, are they a must see? Appreciate your help and look forward to your replies.
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Old Jan 11th, 2023, 02:09 PM
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Lucky grandson.

I would start in Yogyakarta as I think the logistics would work better that way. However if you plan on flying between Java and Bali bets to check out the route options on sky scanner or similar.

We did a very similar trip a few years ago, flying into Jakarta and working our way down through Java mostly by train before getting the ferry across to Bali and heading down from the north of the island to the cultural centre of Ubud.

The train system in Java was surprisingly efficient is a little confusing to buy tickets. You can find most of what you need on www.seat61.com .

Borobodor was amazing we visited both at dawn and dusk and it seemed very different. A magical sort of place (despite the crowds). When we reached Malang we organised to tour to take us to Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen both of which were very worthwhile and highlight of that trip. Our car dropped us at the ferry terminal for Bali. In Bali we just got buses down to Ubud ( I think via a night in Denpasar)

There is lots of detail and photos of our time in these places on our blog @ https://accidentalnomads.com/category/indonesia/

Happy to answer any questions you may have if I can.
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Old Jan 12th, 2023, 03:59 PM
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Creliston. thank you for the quick reply. I read and enjoyed your blog and wonderful photos. Mount Bromo may be skipped but Mount Ijen looks like it shouldn't be missed. I am concerned about the altitude at Mount Ijen. You mention a steep hike and I too don't like heights. Wondered how many days to allow in Borobodor. Do we want to stay near the temple or in Yogyakarta? Is Sidemen area in East Bali less touristy and less developed the Ubd? Wish I could add Tana Toraja but with only 14 days I want to make the best use of our time.and not just travel from place to place.Any additional suggestions would sure be appreciated.
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Old Jan 13th, 2023, 12:05 AM
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You are very welcome Stuart. Bromo is magnificent and it would be a shame to miss it but with two weeks and given the travel logistics in Java, something may have to give! If I recall correctly we spent just the one night @ Bromo before heading to Ijen. and then on to the ferry. It in solved some very long travel days and early starts but that seemed to most efficient use of time.

As far as altitude is concerned, Ijen is at 2800m asl which is about the level that most people will begin to be affected though not high enough to risk acute mountain sickness. You would probably experience breathlessness when walking uphill but take it slowly and the majority will be ok.

Yogyakarta is an interesting city with a lot to see and is where our train arrived. We spent a few days there before moving to Magelang and Borobodur. We stayed at The Manohara , the hotel in the temple grounds for our two nights as that afforded us early access at dawn and dusk. I think I read somewhere that it had closed but do check as if it is open it makes life a bit easier. we like the area so we decided to stay a few days and moved to a small guesthouse in the town. It is also easily reached from Yogyakarta by bus though a dawn visit would be v difficult.

When in Magelang our intention was to spend a few days on the nearby Dieng Plateau but our plans were foiled by a bridge collapsing (or something like that) that made access impossible so we moved on. Supposed to be well worth the effort though and could be an alternative if you decide against Bromo/Ijen.

As far as Tana Toraja is concerned, I wouldn't entirely discount it but I think it would be a case or either Java or Sulawesei and the availability of flights from either to/from Bali.

​​​​​​​I cant help with Sidemen/east Bali as I haven't been though I am sure that it will be a lot less touristy than Ubud! I am not a fan of touristy places and although Ubud is tourist central, we spent two weeks there and it was ok. Find a goo driver and you can get to all sorts of places. We also spent time in the north at Permuteran but that was for the diving and it wasn't the best part of Bali.

Random thoughts: If you decide not to go to ijen/Bromo then that leaves Yogya and Borobodur and possibly Dieng Plateeau. Maybe 5-6 days total and 8-9 in Bali? In Sulawesi you would probably need a 6 days the Tanah Toraja tour would take 4 days with a day either side in Makassar which would leave a similar amount of time.

In Java independent travel is straightforward. Public transport, a car and driver (cheap) or a guided tour. Sulawesi you really need a tour or guide and driver.

Hope this helps rather than confuses your choices
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Old Jan 15th, 2023, 07:54 PM
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Hi Stuart, as far as ruins go, Yogyakarta is the main center of them for Java, being home to the Mataram Kingdom for about 1000 years ago. It's where you'll find Prambanan, Borobudur, and dozens of smaller related Buddhist and Hindu temples, mostly to the east of the city. A bit further east, past Surakarta (also called Solo) is Mount Lawu, home to some later ruined Hindu temples -- Candi Cetho and Candi Sukuh) from the 15th-century Majapahit Empire. Lawu also provides some great countryside scenery while driving through the mountain.

Closer to Jakarta, Cianjur is a good option where there is little in the way of tourism. There are tea plantations all over the surrounding mountains and also the ruins of Gunung Padang, a fairly controversial archaeological site but more monumental than almost anything else in Indonesia.
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Old Jan 16th, 2023, 03:03 PM
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Patsunwritten, not sure if my first reply went through. I thank you for the information and will read about the ruins and Cianjur. Gunung Padang I’m not sure. We are lining up days and activities in Yogyakarta and area. May go to Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen and then take the ferry to Bali. Having a bit of a problem deciding where in Bali to stay. We don’t want it too touristy but would like an area of local villages where we could walk, visit markets, perhaps take a cooking class and see sites in the area. We don’t want diving, surfing, yoga classes, shopping; hoping for traditional Bali.
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Old Jan 16th, 2023, 04:14 PM
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Ubud especially outside the town center is fine for that. I liked Sri Ratih but I do not think the rooms have three beds. It may take a bit of searching to find a family room.
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Old Jan 16th, 2023, 09:45 PM
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migb, I looked at Sri Ratih on Booking.com. It looks lovely and we could book 2 rooms. In reading reviews several people said road into town was steep and had a lot of traffic. Can you arrange through this hotel and car and guide/driver? One other question, because of the dense growth are there lots of mosquitoes and bugs?
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Old Jan 16th, 2023, 09:52 PM
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Yes the hotel can shuttle you into town and it is accessible by taxi. I did often/usually walk (carefully to avoid the tourists on motorbikes). Being above town it was relatively tranquil. I don't remember an unusual amount of insects in Ubud but before that had been where it was worse eg in low lying areas of Flores and Borneo near water so may have just been using repellent the whole trip. IIRC the rooms at Sri Ratih were of modern construction and had A/C. It was worth it to upgrade to the better class of room. I am not normally a pool person and recall it was pleasant to sit around. If insects were a bother I would not have.

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Old Jan 16th, 2023, 10:39 PM
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Around Ubud there are advantages and disadvantages to staying in and out of the town. Ubud central does get very busy but there are many quiet side streets away from the main drag with lots of small "boutique" style hotels and guest houses. We stayed in one which was a small family run place built in the traditional style around a courtyard and stunning gardens. Sadly I cant recall the name but there are lots like that.

We also stayed in a place called Alam Sari a few miles out of the town in Keliki. Quiet stunning views over the forest, swimming pool. Inexpensive and not five star but fine for a few days. We walked into town through the rice terraces a few times which was nice, the hotel took us and a couple of bikes up to a mountain Agung or Batur , I am not sure and we cycled back down to the hotel stopping off at temples and villages along the way.

As you will likely have a week I would consider sourcing a car and driver for the duration as it will make it a lot easier to get around. It is usually inexpensive and worth the money for the convenience and you will see a lot more.

The advantage of staying out of town or in a less touristy location, the advantage is the peace and quiet and likely the views. Eating choices in the veningswill be more limited and less convenient. In town you will have a much greater choice of places to eat and drink (and the food is superb!) and with a driver you could easily organise a series of outings to some of the key points of interest. There is a lot to see!
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Old Jan 17th, 2023, 04:22 AM
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We stayed at one the Alam properties, Alam Jiwa, which was just outside of central Ubud - easy walking distance, and not a difficult walk (just hold on tight to your possessions as you walk through the Monkey Forest, said from personal experience!). We had a two-bedroom unit that was fantastic, and I think some of the other rooms could accommodate families. We really enjoyed our stay there. It is very quiet and peaceful, and our unit looked out onto the rice fields. At the time (2015), the hotel group was affiliated with a restaurant that had cooking classes. The hotel also arranged a great driver for us during our stay. I can't get the website to work, but it is on booking dot com and has recent reviews on Trip Advisor.

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Old Jan 17th, 2023, 04:27 PM
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Regarding walking in Ubud, the maps are deceptive on how easy it is to get in and out of town if you stay a bit outside. A prior post mentioned the roads being steep, which is true -- there is no way to walk between any of the north-south roads out of the town due to elevation changes or obstructions between them. To get to a parallel road, you almost always need to go into the main town and cross over there.
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Old Jan 18th, 2023, 02:03 PM
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You can use the Google Maps walking man icon to get an idea of the walk from Sri Ratih into town. Once you are down the hill (about 200 yards down Penestanan with no sidewalks) you reach the main drag where there are sidewalks and the walk is fairly level. Turn right on to Raya Ubud and nearby is Murni's Warung, but the onsite cafe at Sri Ratih was a pleasant surprise. There were also a few cafes and shops at the top, continuing along in the other direction into Penenstanan.

For a pleasant ramble (and not just birds) I recommend Bali Bird Walk which leaves from Murni's several days a week. See Tripadvisor for reviews. For contact information https://www.balibirdwalk.com/contact.html

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Old Jan 19th, 2023, 01:28 PM
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Thank you for all the suggestions and information. I have been reading posts, trip reports and travel books. Too many wonderful sites with too little time. I have made reservations at Sri Ratih Cottages in Ubud for 4 days at the end of the trip and am now trying to work backwards. We will fly from Singapore to Yogyakarta. See Prambanan when driving in from the airport. Should we spend the night in Yogyakarta and the next day go to Borobudur or should we drive directly to Borobudur? Can’t decide whether to put the extra day in Yogyakarta or Borobudur. Dieng Plateau? Train east - To stop in Blitar or go directly to Malang? Can we hire a car and driver to go and see Mount Bromo? Is it too far to travel to Mount Bromo for the day? Is the very best view of the volcano at sunrise or is a daytime view equally good? Wondering about Mount Batur in Bali vs Mount Bromo. Similar sites? Is there a reason to view one vs the other?
Train or car from Malang to Ketapang? If we took the train are there ferries you can use if you don’t have a car? Arrange for a car at the other end of the ferry ride in Bali? Need to stay in area around Gilimanuk? Accommodation suggestions in Gilimanuk or nearby area? I appreciate your help and await your replies. Thanks so much.
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Old Jan 20th, 2023, 02:51 AM
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Dont underestimate the difficulties of getting around in Java, especially from Malang down to Ketapang. Welooked at all options and whilst we rarely take "tours" as such this was one of the occasions where it did save a lot of hassle and time. Forgive me If I mention this before but from Malang we drove to Bromo, spent the night. Drove to the viewing points for dawn, back to the crater then on to Ijen. Overnight nearby , early morning departure to the mountain and then on to Ketaban and the ferry . Two nights and three very full days with a lot of driving. The advantage of doing it on a tour is that we held the driver and guide "captive" so we knew we were going to get to our departure point. You don't want to be stuck anywhere searching for a ride or being let down (unreliability seems to be a national pastime there!)

I wouldn't want to do Bromo as a day trip. a) it is too far and b) you really want to be there to see the dawn.

Bromo v Batur - seen quite a few volcanoes on our travels and Bromo is up there with Ijen and Chimborazo and Quilatoa in South America. Batur is nice enough but IMO doesn't compare. Having said that, if you are now considering skipping Yogya because of the Borobodur issues, maybe skip Java completely in concentrate on Bali.

We got the bus from Gilimanuk down to Denpasar, stayed overnight and then to Ubud the next day. Buses didn't seem to want to go direct to Ubud. I suppose you could organise with your accommodation to get a driver to collect you from the ferry terminal and take your directly there. I wouldn't want to rely on a third party driver. The other option I consider was to stay in Permuteran but we had been before so decided not.
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Old Jan 20th, 2023, 08:11 AM
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crellston, Appreciate your reply. Another question - Borobudur temple has always been high on my travel list. Now that a visitor can only see the temple from ground and is not allowed on the temple, are we making a mistake on our itinerary?
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Old Jan 20th, 2023, 09:16 AM
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Thats a very difficult question to answer! I just did what I always do when faced with difficult decisions, I asked my wife. Unfortunately, her response was not as decisive as I hoped for!

Her view was that she liked both the towns - Yogyakarta and Borobodur and just wandering around BUT most of our trips have been for 6 months plus so we have plenty of time just to wander around places. I guess it is different if your time is limited to two weeks and your are taking the grandkids where you want to maximise your time to see your bucket list sights.

Basically the view from the top of was one the more magical sights we have seen on our travels; up there with Angkor Was at dawn, the summit of Mount Kinabalu, Machu Picchu. I think I would feel cheated to be there and not ascend to the top. Its impressive from below but probably not enough for the hassle of getting there and on to Bali. Given that you are already uncertain about Mt Ijen, that just leaves Bromo (also magical) and the other sights around Yogya and possibly the Dieng Plateau. In your position, I may have a rethink and consider dropping Java completely.

Alternatives I would consider would be to spend the entire time on Bali and get out to some of the less visited places.I am no expert on Bali (Tripadvisor may be a better source as it gets a lot more traffic than does this forum). With my limited knowledge, I think Ubud would be a must maybe combined with the Gili Islands or Lombok (though I haven't been to either. We did spend some time in the north at Permuteran but that was mainly for diving.

I already mentioned Sulawesi and Tana Toraja which sticks I my memory as a pretty amazing trip which could be combined with Bali. Other than that , have you considered Malaysian Borneo? It is the perfect time of year weather wise and both Sabah and Sarawak have huge amounts to see - jungle, wildlife, hiking, beaches even log houses in remote village. The food is incredible with one of the most varied cuisines in Asia, if not the world drawing from Indian, Chinese, Malay and Indonesian. It is also pretty easy to get around using Air Asia and the rbudhet airlines and is easily reached from Singapore.

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Old Jan 20th, 2023, 09:37 AM
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Another side trip would be to fly to Flores (Labuan Bajo) and tour to see the Komodo dragons and snorkle pink sand beach, and/or combine it with a visit to other parts of Flores and the Kelimutu volcanic lakes.

I have no experience with this operator but their website gives you a good idea of what is involved.

https://www.flores-indonesia.com/flo...land_tour.html

https://www.flores-indonesia.com/komodo_dragons.html

Last edited by mlgb; Jan 20th, 2023 at 10:16 AM.
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