Travelling Java

Java, the most populated island in Indonesia, was a refreshing change from Bali. It’s a place where tourism is appreciated and supported but you still feel like you are a visitor. The Javanese lead normal lives, tourism is just a nice bonus. They are pleased that you have come to their island. Whereas in Bali tourism is a given, and the whole island revolves around it.

I spent most of my time in Jogjakarta often described as the soul of Java. A big city full of smiling, welcoming locals only too happy to point you in the right direction. Jogjakarta is still ruled by a Sultan which is a bit odd considering the rest of Indonesia is a democracy. The current sultan has several wives and multiple concubines. He is clearly making full use of his position of power. Sultans aside, Jogjakarta felt like a it had a lot to offer.

During my 5 nights here, I stayed in the best two hostels I’ve encountered since beginning my travels.

Laura’s Backpacker 53, run by a local pet loving woman, is located in the centre of the city. This gave me easy access to Malioboro street, the market and the bars of the area. This hostel was family run and they served up delicious Indonesian food for free every meal of the day. Great for saving some dollar. It also had a handwritten book of recommendations for visitors which was a nice touch.

Then I moved to Abracadabra Art B&B in the hip south of the city. This place was cool, with funky artwork drawn on the walls. I stayed here partly because of a recommendation from some girls I randomly shared a lunch table with in Ubud, and partly because I wanted to explore the South of the city (The South had all the good coffee shops). Jogjakarta is too big to just walk around. This place didn’t disappoint. I love a first-hand recommendation.

Very arty

I had one big tourism day in Jogjakarta. I rented a scooter and visited Borobudur for sunrise. It was wholly underwhelming. To start with there was no sunrise, just clouds. Then the entrance price is extortionate. Basically 20 English pounds. To cap it all off the temple isn’t even that impressive. I mean it’s alright and maybe I would have felt differently if I had caught a decent sunrise but I was expecting better. Bigger. The pictures always make it seem huge.

It’s not that big really I was just very close.

I was most impressed with the dry stone walling that makes up the temple. Would make any Yorkshireman proud.

Then continuing my disappointing tourism day I biked to Kalibiru National Park. The name is deceiving. I was expecting a to trek through a beautiful national park but this place is really a glorified photo shoot spot for Instagrammers. At the top, there is maybe a ten-minute walk between different photo platforms which you have to pay to go up. The view would have been nice but the weather was terrible. This is the best shot I got.

Whereas sometimes it can look like this.

Photo source:

The best part of my day was the biking through the scenery. It must have been over 4 hours biking in total. The roads were quiet and I had trusty google telling me where to go so I could relax and enjoy the ride. Although to add to my unlucky streak on the way back it started hammering it down. So I returned back to the hostel drenched and exhausted. It was only 2 pm.

This day took all the tourism out of me. While I could, and probably should, have visited the Sultan’s palace and water castle where he apparently selects his concubines. I never quite made it. Instead, I spent my time moving from cafe to cafe much like in Ubud. I was hooked on the programming even if I didn’t make all that much progress.

After Jogya I headed for another recommendation that I had heard about repeatedly. The Green Canyon in Pangandaran. I changed my train ticket, which by the way is very easy you just get a 25% penalty, and headed to Banjar where I took a bus to Pangandaran. This took a full day and ended up being quite expensive. You can get a shuttle bus direct from Jogya to Pangandaran. I should have done this.

I spent two nights in a homestay called Rinjani. Great, cheap place. They organised my trip to the green valley and green canyon. Basically a day of swimming down a river. The scenery was stunning.

And jumping off big things…

The day was quality and made even better by our guide, Eng. Or Dr Holiday as he liked to call himself. He was a top chiller.

That evening I met Eng and some other Indonesians and ended up drinking black rice wine, Arak. I learnt a lot about the Indonesian way of life from them. The lannguage barrier was interesting at times but it was nice to be the outsider for once. It made me appreciate how lucky I am that everyone speaks English. They welcomed me as a friend and by the end of the night, we were all fairly pissed.

I certainly felt it the next morning. I had to get a bus from Pangandaran to Jakarta. It was brutal, taking over 12 hours of travelling before I eventually arrived at my accommodation.

The next morning I flew to Phnom Penh. Let’s see how Cambodia treats me.