October 05, 2009

Destination : Yogyakarta 28SEP2009

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Day 1 @ Yogyakarta : Love at first sight

Finally on the 28th SEP 2009, 2 months after we made our bookings, we were all set to fly “The World’s Best Low-Cost Airline” (Airasia) to visit the famous Borobudur Temple in Yogyakarta and of course to check out other interesting places as well.

Both CK Lim and I have agreed that while in Yogyakarta, we will do the “Anthony Boudain” style travelling. That means savouring local street food and delicacies, visiting local markets and of course checking out other nooks and crannies of Yogyakarta.
Upon boarding our plane, I struck a conversation with a Malaysian student studying in Yogyakarta. She is studying Vet Science in the University Gajah Mada in Yogyakarta and from the whole conversation lasting about 2 hours, I was able to obtain a lot of valuable information about Yogyakarta.

Very soon we landed at Adisucipto International Airport in Yogyakarta or Yogya as the locals passionately call it at about 5pm local time (Yogya is one hour behind Malaysia). Not wanting to take the transport offered by touts at the airport, we walked to the streets outside of the airport vicinity and caught a taxi to our hotel. We paid IDR 40,000 which is about RM12, quite a cheap ride on a Nissan Sentra “taksi” (taxi) to the hotel which is about 8km away. If we have taken the transport from the touts at the airport, it would have cost us IDR 100,000.

At the first glance of the busy hustle and bustle of the people and the various activities as we were travelling from the airport to our hotel, I know I am going to love this place.

Along the way to the hotel we chatted with the taxi driver named Eli, who quickly offered to be our driver cum guide for IDR 500,000 (RM200) a day, all inclusive. So the deal was fixed that he will pick us up the next morning at the hotel.
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We reached Cakra Kusuma Hotel in about 20 minutes and checked into a standard but clean room. Quite a reasonable and decent room for the RM80 we paid per night. Immediately after taking a quick shower, CK Lim and I set out to check the streets around our hotel. It was almost 6pm and the sky was already dark in this part of the world. We walked the street in front of the hotel called Jalan Kaliurang (one of the main streets in Yogya) looking for dinner. First we came across a stall selling “es jus buah” (iced fruit juice) and that was a good refresher before dinner. An avocado and a mango juice for only IDR 7,000 (about RM2.80) … really cheap fresh food juices.

Then we came to a “warung” (small restaurant) offering a local food called “bakso” ... noodles with several meat (beef) balls in beef stock. Quite tasty. There are various sauces to add and “cabai” (chilli) to spice it up if you are game for it.

We continue walking south of Jalan Kaliurang and saw on the roadside a “nasi padang” stall with mats on the floor meant for people to sit and have their food. I found out that these stalls are called “lesehan”. You find them everywhere along the streets in Yogya. The food looked absolutely delicious. We asked the lady at the stall and she tried explaining to us the range of food at the stall. Lucky for us, their language is very similar to our Bahasa Malaysia. Plenty of choices for one to mix … very much like our “nasi kandar” … chicken, eggs, tahu (bean curd), tempe (local dish), vegetables and a very popular dish called “gudeg” (jackfruit cooked with local sugar called “gula java”).

We decided to “bungkus” (packed) this tasty looking “nasi padang” and consume it at the comfort of our hotel room. Once back in the hotel, we ate our ‘nasi padang” with a couple of the local Bintang beers. Yummy yum yum … absolutely delicious and no regrets at all!
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We continue the rest of the night at the hotel discussing our itinerary for the next day along with some cool Bintang beers. Borobudur tops the list for the next day.

Day 2 @ Yogyakarta : The magnificent Borobudur

Day 2 saw us waking up early and by 7.00am we were at the hotel’s coffee house having our morning coffee. The hotel served a decent buffet spread of local dishes. Nothing fancy but it did fill up our stomachs. Our taxi arrived at about 8.00am as arranged and we started our 45 minutes journey heading to Magelang, Central Java, where the famous Borobudur is situated.

Along the way, we travelled through rural estates of Yogyakarta and passed many rice fields as well corn, tobacco and various vegetables plantations. Alas, from afar we saw Candi (temple) Borobudur as we were approaching the famous site. Armed with information from research done on the internet, I was all excited to explore this famous Buddhist monument. Paying IDR 120,000 per person inclusive of camera and video fees, we were immediately led to the main entrance of Borobudur. Almost immediately one can feel the majestic presence of this magnificent structure. From the information I gathered, Borobudur was a holy place for Buddhist pilgrimage. Buddhist pilgrims come to this monument and begin their journey of learning at the base of the monument and follow a path circumambulating the monument while ascending to the top through the three levels of Buddhist cosmology.










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We emulate what the ancient Buddhist pilgrims did, going from one level to the next until the very top. Although we don’t understand any of the stories told by the carvings on the walls but we can definitely appreciate how well all those carvings were done and how brilliantly the monument was constructed by the people more than 1,200 years ago. We spent almost 2 hours at this site and left this magnificent monument feeling amazed.
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With our main itinerary achieved, we set off for more adventurous outings. Our driver told us that if we hit the gas, we may be able to arrive at a fishing village called Parangtritis in time to see the fishermen coming back with their loads of fresh seafood. It will be seafood for lunch today. Wasting no time we immediately set off. Again we drove through rural villages and plantations and just more than an hour later we reached the fishing village.

We arrived late and the fishermen have already hauled up their fishes to the nearby market. So we went straight to the market and fresh seafood are abundant everywhere. The price? You won’t believe it. A kilogram of squids, a kilo of prawns and 3 big yellow tails cost us IDR 70,000 (about RM28). We were immediately approached by a local lady offering to cook the seafood for us at her “warung” nearby. Our lunch was confirmed and in no time the seafood was cooked as fresh as you can get it … squids in chilli sauce, “bakar” (grilled) yellow tails and sweet sour prawns with rice and coconut juice to go. That only cost us another IDR 20,000 (RM8). Even though quite simply cooked it was one of the best seafood lunches I had in recent years.

After lunch we head back to Yogya town. Kraton is next on our itinerary. It is the Sultan’s Palace built in the late 18th century. The whole palace sits on a very large piece of land in the centre of Yogya town. The current Sultan of Yogyakarta still lived in this palace so only a small section is opened to the public. Not much to be explored here, just some historical facts about the royal family and some traditional Javanese architecture of the palace.

We spent some time around this place and also check out the nearby streets. Found a street stall selling “es campur gula java” something like our ABC but a lot tastier with coconut milk, fruits, jelly and “gula java” (a local brown sugar).

By the time we leave Kraton, it was already getting dark and we were feeling the muscle strain. So we call it a day and went back to the hotel. After shower we roamed the streets for dinner. Living up to our commitment of “Anthony Boudain” style travelling, we ended up at one of the many “lesehan” where the locals gather along Jalan Kaliurang. Looking at what the locals ordered and checking out the menu, I decided to go for “nasi goreng” local style and CK Lim didn’t mind “nasi padang” again. The food here wasn’t as “happening” as we expected but it did satisfy our empty stomachs. And after dinner we decided to call it an early night.

Day 3 @ Yogyakarta : One very beautiful owl

On the 3rd day we planned to travel the nooks and crannies of Yogya town. And from what we saw the last two days, the best way of seeking out Yogya town is by “becak” (trishaw) and the “kereta kuda” (horse cart). So from the hotel, we took a “becak” ride to the famous Jalan Malioboro … a must see place we were told.

This is a very long street with all the stuffs for tourists … t-shirts, batiks, carvings, souvenirs, hand-made crafts, leather goods, local candies, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So it is time to buy some souvenirs for family and friends back home. We spent some time in Jalan Malioboro and after walking from one end to another and making sure that we have enough souvenirs to make everyone happy, it was time to move on to somewhere else.

The next mode of transport will be the “kereta kuda” (horse carts) and one can find many of these horse carts along the street. We found one with a good looking horse and negotiated with the “pak cik” (uncle) to take us around Yogya town for the rest of the day. It will cost us IDR 200,000 (RM80) but we are more than happy to jump on immediately. We were told that our four-legged friend is called Wijhi and she is one of 5 horses in “pak cik’s” stable. We leave it up to “pak cik” and his hard working Wijhi to take us sight-seeing … anywhere and everywhere in Yogya town. Moving along the nooks and crannies of Yogya town provided us with an insight of the everyday lives of the local people. Also from the conversation we had with “pak cik”, we had a better understanding of Yogyakarta and its people.

Weaving through the streets of Yogya town, we came across a street with rows of shops and stalls selling birds …. all sorts of birds as well as other exotic animals like snakes, bats, owls, eagles, colourful frogs, geckos, tortoises, turtles and a wide range of pet fishes. I have never seen so many exotic of animals in one place before apart from our Zoo Negara. I was particularly attracted to a very beautiful baby owl and made enquiries on how to get this bird back to Malaysia. Unfortunately, exotic animals are not allowed to be imported to Malaysia unless you have a special permit. I would love to have that owl for a pet.

We left the “bird street” looking for other places to explore. Then “pak cik” offered to take us to his village to have a look at his 5 horses. We thought that is a good idea and headed straight to his home. It took us about 30 minutes to reach the village and we went straight to the “pak cik’s” house.

There we saw the horses and one young mare was just 4 days old. We stayed for a while and played with the horses. Then headed out to town again and it was getting dark. So we called it a day and took a “becak” straight back to the hotel. Along the way we stop to have dinner at one of the roadside stalls. After a long full day, we were quite exhausted but very satisfied to have seen the most of Yogya town in one day. We slept early knowing that we have just half a day tomorrow in Yogya before flying back to Malaysia.
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Day 4 @ Yogyakarta : I will be back !
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The last day at Yogya saw us getting up early to check out one of the local morning markets near our hotel. We decided have a light breakfast at the hotel leaving some space in our stomach to accommodate what the market has to offer. We tried some local cakes and candies and were quite pleased with the taste albeit a little too sweet.

There are plenty to fruits and vegetables at the market … some strange looking ones but mostly are familiar fruits and vegetables we can find in Malaysia. The difference is the prize is really cheap. A kilo of avocado is about IDR 5,000 (about RM2). In Malaysia you probably have to pay RM15 per kilo for the same fruit. We try to buy as much as we can carry back home.

We left the market and went to a local travel and tour agency to check out a hiking trip to the popular Gunung Merapi, an active volcano south of Yogyakarta. Before coming to Yogyakarta, we have heard of the mountain from hiking enthusiasts who have hiked up this mountain. We gathered a lot of information on Gunung Merapi for us to plan our next trip to Yogyakarta to hike up this mountain.

By noon we checked out of the hotel and headed straight to the airport. We had a quick lunch at the airport before flying back to Malaysia. We flew home with very fond memories of Yogyakarta and a lot of photos to show.

While writing this, I am already thinking of the hiking trip up to Gunung Merapi. Yogyakarta … I will be back !
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