Please help with Java Itinerary

Old Jun 9th, 2008, 09:59 PM
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Please help with Java Itinerary

I got so many wonderful ideas from Fodorites for my recent trip to Thailand that I'm hoping for more. Our next dive trip will be the Banda Sea in Indonesia in mid-October. We are meeting up with the dive group on October 16th in Jakarta and will fly to Ambon where we will board the Archipelago. After 10 days on the boat we will fly to Manado for 4 days of muck diving at KBR. Then we return to Jakarta for our flight home.

The part of the trip I haven't figured out is how much time to spend in Java before meeting up with the group. I probably can manage a week. I've read many previous posts regarding Borobodur and that sounds like a must. While I'd love to stay at Amanjiwo, it busts the budget, so I'm thinking Manohara, but open to other suggestions. My questions are, given that I like walking,upscale handicrafts, cultural experiences and nature in general:

1. How much time for Borobodur?
2. Where are the best handicrafts you've found (city or specific galleries)?
3. Where else to go and please prioritize your preferences - some posters seem to like Pranbanam and the Dieng Plateau, some don't like Yogya. I'm confused and the LP guide I'm reading from the library is not overly helpful.

Thanks in advance!
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Old Jun 9th, 2008, 11:13 PM
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Borobodur itself is a half-day or so. It's not Angkor, it's mainly just the one large temple, so it doesn't take days to see. While Amanjiwo is nice, if you can afford it, you're just as well off staying in or around Yogya.

Something in the middle of town will give you lots of options for dining, at a lower cost than hotels. Frankly, the Ibis is about the best location you can get. It's just off Malioboro Street, which turns into a giant handicrafts bazaar in the evening. Just off Malioboro not far from the Ibis is a nice batik gallery.

A bit more removed from the center of town, but still convenient by horse-cart, is the Dusun Jogja Village. I stayed there last year, and it's a rather funky place, in a nice way.

The Prabanan is a bit problematic at the moment. It was heavily damaged by the big Yogya quake in 2006, and the central complex had to be closed to visitors. They had cleared a path around the edge of the complex when I was last there in 2007, and I would say it's still well worth a visit. The complex is just outside of Yogya, so you can easily do it in half a day from Yogya.

I also think a day trip to Solo would be good. The market here is quite interesting, and there are some unique temples (especially Candi Sukuh) up in the hills beyond it.
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Old Jun 10th, 2008, 06:43 AM
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I was in Java many years ago, and I yearn to go back (and hope to do so in the next couple of years). A half a day is about right for Borobudor. We had a lovely guide who told us the stories from the Buddha's life that are carved in reliefs all the way along the walkways up to the top of Borobudor.

We did go to the Dieng Plateau. It's a long trip, but worthwile, I thought, at least as much for the scenery and rural villages as for the Hindu temples at the plateau. The plateau is the caldera of a volcano, and there are stem vents and geysers.

Prambanam is worthwile. When we were there, they were in the process of putting it back together after a quake maybe a hundred years ago. It was when Unesco was working on the site. There is also an open-air pavillion where the Ramayana ballet is performed, and it's well worth an evening.

We enjoyed our trip to Solo, and visited a kraton there that was as interesting (if not more so) as the kraton in Jojga. We also went beyond Solo to Candi Sukuh. The temple was fascinating, and the drive through the rural villages was wonderful.

There used to be a famous gallery in Jogja that had wonderful antique crafts. I'll find the name and address for you. There are alo many craftspeople in town. We visited the place in Solo that makes the batik for the kraton there - it was stunningly beautiful. No one there spoke any English, but we still managed to bargain for some great batik.
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Old Jun 10th, 2008, 02:56 PM
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Thanks Kathie and Michael. Do you think staying in Yogya would be better than Manohara for 1 night and then moving around? I guess all the things you both mentioned can be done as day trips from Yogya or did you stay overnight in various places?

For handicrafts, we really like wood carvings and masks - any suggestions there?

Is it easy to set up on one's own or does a driver/guide help make this a better experience?

BTW Michael, my trip report from Thailand goes into great detail (probably way too much detail for most people) on our following your walk you did in BKK around January. Your directions were splendid!
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Old Jun 10th, 2008, 03:32 PM
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susncrg, Your dive trip sounds wonderful. It's been a few years since I've been to KBR, but it remains one of my favorite places on the planet. I look forward to hearing all about it.

[Did you read about the group of divers who were recently lost in Indonesian waters? They're okay now but they spent the night with the sharks and when they finally made it to land were attacked by Komodo dragons! There's an adventure holiday for you.]

Okay on to Java. Personally I'd say Borobudur merits two visits. One to get oriented, and a return to savor. I don't particularly like the guides as they don't always make the full circumnavigation (clockwise, from the bottom up). I'd suggest getting a copy of the book Golden Tales of the Buddhas (on Amazon)and take it along to read the stories as you look at the freizes.

The resorts in the Borobudur area will arrange access just before sunrise about an hour before it officially opens and the hordes descend. Highly recommended.

I think the Amanjiwo is worth breaking the bank for a night as it's a whole experience, not just a place to sleep. But no question that it is very, very pricey.

Manohara is adequate, friendly but on the extreme opposite of the luxe scale. The best part is that it's right on the grounds of Borobudur.

An alternative is the Losari Coffee Plantation, which is about 45 minutes away, but in the same general country environment. I haven't stayed there, but it gets rave reviews.

I'm not a fan of Yogyakarta, as I already live in a hot, crowded, dirty Asian city, but it does have many attractions and excellent arts and crafts. I would stay at the Hyatt. Fairly basic, but good service and a big, cool garden oasis.

Shops come and go in Yogya. You'll find a wide variety on the Marlioboro (shopping street) a lot of junk and a few nice things, but you have to presevere. One of my favorites is Mendut which is in the Borobudur area near the temple of the same name. I've bought some beautiful masks at the Amanjiwo shop. No doubt overpriced, but exquisite quality.

My son was at Prambanan last year and said that it was mostly accessible, though some of the inner sanctuaries were closed off.

The mid-morning dancing at the Kraton (Sultan's palace) is especially good.

You should be aware of the dates for the Islamic holidays following Ramadhan. The big days will be around October 2-3 and the week to ten days afterwards everyone travels to their home villages. Millions of people are on the move and transportation can be very difficult.

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Old Jun 10th, 2008, 05:39 PM
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Marmot- Thanks so much for the detailed reply. I think I can take 4 nights for the Yogya area, unless you think I should pretty much skip Jakarta altogether. It seems like I should spend at least some time there after traveling 1/2 way around the world.

If you had a week on Java how would you parcel it out? Unfortunately I will hit the tail end of the apres-Ramadan, but will likely leave for Java on the 7th of October, as that would give me a week before diving.

Would love any suggestions on places to stay in Jakarta as well. For Yogya, I will look at your and Michael's suggestions (Aman is something I toyed with but just can't do, tho maybe for lunch?).

Let me know if you have a link to the stranded diver story - that should be good for a couple yuks.

I'm really looking forward to KBR. Indonesian diving is clearly the best for weird critters and the photos from their website have all my wishlist as well as some familiar friends. The liveaboard should be one of our best as well, and that says a lot considering that this will be our 24th!
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Old Jun 10th, 2008, 06:13 PM
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Its nice to visit Borobudur twice - once for dawn and once for sunset. I like the charm and culture of small towns and villages. If you do also, do spend some time in the area around Borobudur. I found the area very special and peaceful as were the residents.

I agree that the quality of the Amanjiwo gift shop is superb which saves time shopping around but you do pay a higher price for the convenience. Good selection. Some items are amazing.

We visited a silver shop not far from Borobudur with high quality work, Ansor Silver in Magelang. They have many stores located throughout the Yogya area.

Borobudur
Hike, bike, tour Magelang area & Menorah Hills
Medut Temple
Prambanan
Ramanyana @Prambanan
Tour & lunch/dinner-Amanjiwo
Gedong Songo
Drive to Solo by volcanoes

I'd definitely recommend at least one night near Borobudur; two is better. The best time to visit Borobudur is to arrive between 4:30 and 5:00AM for the pre-dawn entrance (requires a special ticket purchased through the Manohara). The drive from Yogya is one hr +- so best to stay nearby. Staying an additional night lets you enjoy the countryside. In addition to Amanjiwo and the Manohara there is an Indonesian style hotel about a half mi. from Borobudur, the Pondok Tingal. It only has two rooms that have A/C at Rp 330,000 a night. I know nothing more about it as we stayed at the Aman.

After leaving Borobudur,if you rather not stay inside the city I agree the Hyatt is a good choice although the rooms are small. I enjoyed it esp. because its like an oasis just outside a hot crowded city. A quick cab ride from the city center and Prambanan its location on the north side is convenient.

I can give an excellent recommendation to Borobudur Tour and Travel. They are small company located in Borobudur village and provide car with driver service (and tour guides if desired) in the greater Yogya area at very reasonable prices. They are very friendly and helpful in planning your visit and can recommend the best shops. Contact Renni at [email protected] to discuss your needs. Website: www.borobudurtourandtravel.com

Sounds like a great trip. I can't wait to read your report.
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Old Jun 10th, 2008, 06:30 PM
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Here is the name of the wonderful gallery in Jojga. While it was many years ago that I was there, I have since recommended it to people and have gotten good feedback. Who knows if it still exists. Our driver/guide said that the locals treated it more like a museum, and indeed, there was a group of school children touring when we were there.

Saptodudoyo Art Gallery, Jl. Solo km 9 Meguwo

Have a wonderful time in Jogja.

Oh, by the way in answer to an earlier question, we stayed in Jogja (that was before the Hyatt, the Aman and the Manohara, and the Losari existed) and took day trips to all of those places.
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Old Jun 10th, 2008, 08:07 PM
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Thanks Kathie - I will look for that gallery and see if it's still there.

Becalm, is there any particular guide with that agency who you remember as being especially good? I also read a post or two recommending someone named Indri. Anyone have info on that guide?
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Old Jun 10th, 2008, 09:03 PM
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susncrg, I would give Jakarta a miss. I honestly can't think of one attraction that would appeal to a traveler or tourist that you couldn't improve on in Yogya. If you decide differently, I'd recommend the Dharmawangsa Hotel. To me it's the best of Jakarta.

Dive trip from Hell:
http://malaysia.news.yahoo.com/ap/20...l-64ed358.html
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Old Jun 10th, 2008, 09:31 PM
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I was just leafing through a local magazine and came across this place which appears to be quite near Borobudur. I'd never heard of it before so I can't recommend, but it's worth looking into.

http://www.saraswatiborobudur.com/
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Old Jun 11th, 2008, 03:33 AM
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I agree that Borobudur is worth two visits. It is simply too large to take in all at once. We stayed at Amanjiwo and so they arranged for our guide on the sunrise tour. He did a very good job so we asked for him on our second trip, explaining that we wanted more detail, history etc. We didn't really get that - - too bad, but visually it is so fascinating that it was still enjoyable. Although incredibly expensive, Amanjiwo is really worth the experience. We saved on other things to keep the total budget in line.
I have friends who go to Bali every year to buy art and some crafts. They used to go to Bali and Java but now only go to Bali because they said that many of the best people they dealth with moved to Bali because that is where they can sell their stuff!
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Old Jun 11th, 2008, 04:51 AM
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Susan, we had Rohmad Hidajat as our driver and guide and he is excellent overall. He's also a special a person like Putu Arnawa of Bali (recommended by Craig and who Bob and Panda just used) who is the gold standard.

You can certainly request Rohmad but since he works for Amanjiwo he is not always available through BT&T. I am confident that Rohmad's friend who owns the biz is equally good. The people of Borobudur village where BTT is located, are as friendly as they come. They are educated and proud of local culture and history. If it matters to you, BTT donates money to village kids who can't afford the cost of school.
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Old Jun 11th, 2008, 05:42 AM
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Yes, I've used Putu as a guide oon two different trips and if Rohmad is anything like Putu I would be quite happy. Putu took us to his nephew's wedding at their family compound and it was great to be there. We video taped it and sent it to the bride and groom.
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