For the second leg of our Golden Week trip, we headed to Java. We flew into Yogyakarta from Singapore, and I knew right away that this trip would be very different from any that I had been on before. Outside of the US, I have also been to Canada, Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan: all modern, industrialized, and fairly wealthy nations. Indonesia is a large and populous country, but certainly not wealthy. The international airport terminal was basically a waiting room where you fill out your forms and hand over the $25 for your visa, and you’re on your way. As we traveled, it became really apparent how important the money that tourists bring can be to some people.
On both of the days that we were traveling with groups of other tourists, a few people in each group had really awful manners. On our minibus ride, a pair of young guys had just made their airline reservations that morning and needed to pay for them. They had the minibus driver stop at an ATM and two different banks while they tried to figure out how to pay, making the ten other passengers and the driver wait for them. We got to our hotel so late that the restaurant had closed for the night and if our driver hadn’t found a tiny local warung we would have gone to bed without dinner. Unfortunately I got a bad case of motion sickness on the winding road up the mountain, so I went to bed without dinner anyways. The next morning our fellow Jeep passengers on the Bromo tour were wasting time just chatting and were late to every meeting time. The worst part was that they knew what time they needed to be back, but they just didn’t seem to care (at least those other guys really were in a pinch, and they apologized). We got back to the hotel late and almost had to leave without breakfast too, but luckily the restaurant packed up some fried rice, toast, and eggs for us to take with us. We left in such a hurry we accidentally left our nice travel towels behind at the hotel too. 😦 The manners of our constantly late fellow travelers were really appalling: I don’t think that people would put up with that kind of bad behavior in the US or most of the other countries I’ve been to (4o minutes late? This bus is leaving without you). Unfortunately, people seem to put up with it because they really need the money from the tourists (whether they’ve got any manners or not).
We spent the first night at the Princess Manohara Hotel at the foot of Borobudur so that we could take the sunrise tour first thing in the morning. After the sunrise, we headed back to the hotel for a shower and breakfast. All of the hotels that we stayed at in Indonesia offered complimentary breakfast–usually nasi goreng (fried rice) with shrimp chips and fresh fruit. From there, we met our driver and our sightseeing in Yogyakarta continued. On the way back to Yogyakarta we stopped to see some of the smaller temples in the area around Borobudur.
gamelan players at Kraton
After that we went to Kraton, the Sultan’s palace in Yogyakarta. We enjoyed a performance of gamelan and puppet theater and a tour of the grounds in English.
In the afternoon we visited Prambanan, a large complex of Hindu temples.
Goats and sheep grazed on some of the less-visited corners of the grounds.
Mt. Bromo at sunrise
The next day we took an all day minibus ride to Mt. Bromo. In the morning we were up early for another sunrise tour. First we got a view of the volcano from an adjacent viewpoint, and then we got a ride into the large caldera. We were able to climb right up to the lip of one of the smaller volcanoes inside and look down into the smoking fissure below. We had been thinking of going on a sunrise tour on Bali
nasi ayam goreng
But in between all of this sightseeing, what did we eat? Here’s one plate from our dinner at the padang restaurant pictured at the top of this post (I think it’s called RM Palito Alam Masakan Minang). This is nasi ayam goreng (fried chicken with greens, vegetables and rice with curry sauce). It’s moist inside but incredibly crispy outside and the greens and curry sauce are really delicious. The price for this tasty plate: about 90 cents. We also had nasi ayam gulai (curried chicken plate with the same sides), gado gado (spicy vegetables), and kerepuk palembang (fish chips). Some of the sides, especially the gado gado, were too spicy for me, but overall it was a great meal. The grand total was about $3.65.
spice roasted duck
For lunch on the same day our driver picked out Sekar Kedhaton Restaurant in the silverworking district near Prambanan. This place was pretty much the exact opposite of the padang that we would eat at that night: air-conditioned, immaculately clean, expensive, and full of tourists. While we were eating, several big tour busses pulled into the parking lot to disgorge their loads of tourists at the rijsttafel buffet. Not being on a bus, we were able to choose our own meals from the menu: Alex chose the spice-roasted duck and I had the satay (though I was leaning towards the pandan-leaf fried chicken at first). The satay and duck were delicious, but the rice cylinders that were served with the satay didn’t sit as well with me–they were very dense and a little mochi-like, but without the chewiness that makes mochi so fun to eat.
gulas squash (tamarind and lime soda)
To drink I had a gulas squash, a tamarind and lime flavored soda. It was delicious.
nighttime food vendors
Along the main street in the Malioboro neighborhood in Yogyakarta, vendors set up to sell a variety of foods at night. We didn’t stop at one, since we’d just had a big dinner at the padang, but if I had more time I think I would try it.
roadside salaks (snakefruit) for sale
While we were driving around we saw so many stands with mounds of these brown fruits. Our driver told us that they are called salak, and are much more delicious (sweet and sour) than the salak in Bali. He also mentioned that they’re good for soothing a stomach ache or other digestive woes. When he told us that we could buy a bagful for just 20 cents, we couldn’t resist. If you look at them up close, the skin of the fruit looks like snake skin (it’s also called snakefruit). The fruit is firm, white, and a bit crunchy. It had a mild flavor and was indeed sweet and sour. They made good car snacks, especially on the long, hot drive to Mt. Bromo the next day.
On our last morning in Yogyakarta, we went to the market, Pasar Beringharjo. The market is so large (and housed on three floors in at least two buildings) that we were nearly out of time before we found the food stalls. There were stalls with dry goods and spices on the first floor, huge piles of colorful vegetables on the second floor, and finally all kinds of tropical fruits on the third floor. We didn’t have time to buy anything or even get any photos (except of the banana vendor, and I hate bananas) before we had to rush back to our hotel to check out.
Most of our other meals on Java were at roadside cafeterias where we ate things like fried rice, noodles, curries, and shrimp or fish crackers. One of the best was a spicy goat curry that we had for lunch on the way to Mt. Bromo.
woman carrying cabbages on Mt. Bromo.
All along the road on the way down from Mount Bromo we saw so many farms built on amazingly steep plots of land. Since it gets cold at night, this must be a better place to grow cool weather crops that would suffer in the heat at lower elevations.
Mt. Bromo farms- you can see some of the steeper fields on the side of the mountain in the background
Check out more from our trip at Alex’s photoblog