Signs

And there I was sitting in the training room today when I glanced at the next table. If that’s not a sign,  then i don’t know what is…

IMAGE_812

Day 4 – The long road to Prambanan

Prambanan is a collection of Hindu temples ruins. In 2005, there was an earthquake which pretty much messed up the place. Restoration works are in progress and many of the temples are off-limits and cordoned off to the publick.

Sun Sep14’09 – The long road to Prambanan.
The plan was to take the city bus to Prambanan early in the morning. Come back by lunch and spend the rest of the day shopping in Djogja. But even the best laid plans get derailed. As we walked to the bus station, some fellow who claimed to be owner of the souvenir shop offered to show us a batik painting exhibition. “This is the same exhibition shown when I was in Singapore in Hotel Raffler (sic) last week.” “Only up for next two days.” “There will be a cultural show later at 2pm in Prambanan to signify religious tolerance during the Muslim fasting month, so why not see the batik exhibition since there is time.”

We being the naïve idiots followed him into a back alley house where works “from 25 artists chosen out of 100 applicants” are on display. Granted, the pieces are really quite well done, but what irks me was when the exhibition owner did the hard sell on us and started to ask us to “see which ones we like”. And also put the paintings on strategic locations to catch the light (in the process also blocking our way out the door…). We excused ourselves, their attitude turned nonchalant, and left.

Since the cultural show was at 2pm, we went down Malioboro and checked out the Beringharjo market. Bought a batik shirt, (bargain!) and made our way down to the Kraton. The entrance fee (5000 Rp) covered a tour with guide around the Kraton area and a visit to a fine art gallery that is open until 2pm on weekends… We refused the guide (cos we need to do this quick) and did a loop around the Kraton. Unofficial “guides” without badges will also offer to show you around, be prepared to tip for their services.

Leaving the Kraton, the same guide said we should take the chance to visit the fine art gallery since it was part of the ticket price. And the gallery is near the bus station to Prambanan whereas from where we were, the bus station is “far, far away”. So, we again took a detour by becak to the gallery. This gallery is also in a dodgy back alley, so we left without even entering and made our way to the main road, where supposedly the bus to Prambanan lies. Asking for directions, we walked 10 minutes and lo behold, we appeared out on the same bus stop along Malioboro where we started at the beginning of the day!

P9130474

Finally. We took the TransDjogja city service to Prambanan. The afternoon weather was way too hot to do much traipsing through the ruins. After the main area with Civa, Vishnu, Brahma structures and their three mounts, we caught the Audio Visual (pretty ok, not as informative as the Borobudur one) before heading back. By the way, we checked at the information counter: there was no cultural show at 2pm that day…

Evening dinner was at Bedhot along Jalan Soroswijaya’s small side roads; your normal tourist-targeted Jack Johnson playing eateries. The food was good though.

P9130460

Getting There
Take the TransDjogja city bus service 1A from Malioboro road (bus stations outside Hotel Mutiara or the market) to Prambanan bus terminal at 3000 Rp. The bus station is easy to recognize by the blue sign and the raised platform. 1A also passes by the airport (Bandara Adisujipto station). At the Prambanan station, take the horse-carts or walk out to the main road, turn right and walk for 800m (aim for the mosque minaret). The main entrance to Prambanan (11 USD) is just there.

Interlude – Banda Aceh (Or how to do a dive trip to Weh in 4 days)

Backdated to 8May’09 long weekend.

In the long weekend last May (yes i do a lot of long weekend mini getaways), i reached Pulau Weh, in Aceh province. Contrary to what most people think, Banda Aceh is not the run down, dilapidated place due to the tsunami and unsafe due to the ex-separatists movement. In fact, it is be the total opposite.

More after the jump…

P5110330

P5090098

P5110291

Getting there
From KL to Banda Aceh: AirAsia flies 3 times weekly. By careful planning, I was able to reach from SG to My timings were 0910 to 1005 (SG to KL),  1155 to 1220 (KL to Banda Aceh). There was just enough time for transit, so SG to KL time should be earlier. From the airport, take transport to Ulee Lheu harbour (around 30 minutes). The fast boat leaves the harbour at 1600hrs and arrives at 1700hrs at Balohan harbour on Pulau Weh. From there, its a 45 min ride to Gapang beach (ibioh is a bit further i think).

Getting back
Set off very early. Lumba-lumba arranges transport at 7am, and reaches Balohan in time for the 0830 boat. Reach at 0930hrs. You will have some time (i struck a deal with the motorised 3 wheeler driver to explore Banda Aceh and get some souvenirs). The flight is at 1245 to 1510hrs. (BA to KL) and just plan the KL to SG flight accordingly (again with time for transit).

Here’s an update on AirAsia’s flights. It seems the KL to BA flights now go from 1335 to 1400hrs. There should still be enough time to catch the 1600hr boat (factoring the 30min ride to the harbour). Personally I don’t like the change, since it’s a bit tight especially if there are flight delays.

On the way back its 1425 to 1650, later timings again. This would allow for more time to be spent in Banda Aceh itself =) Probably thats the only reason for them to move the timings that i can think of.

The Dives
I stayed at Lumba Lumba Dive. They do 2 dives a day, plus you can arrange for shore dives in the evenings. The beach is a rustic undeveloped stretch. Nothing to do there but eat and sleep. There is a lovely warung just out on the main road, serving local fare. Diving sites Batee Tokong is great (sea fans) are nice. Currents are strong, more pelagic stuff can be found.

So in 4 days of leave, I spent 1 day going there, 2 days diving, 1 day returning to Sg. All in all a great short break.

Day 3: Dieng Plateau – Of sheep and strawberries in high places

Saturday 12Sep’09. To Dieng Plateau.
From Borobudur, take a bus at the terminal to Magelang (10,000 Rp) which stops at Muntilan for a pick-up. At Magelang, take a bus (14,000 Rp) to Wonosobo. This drops you off at the Wonosobo terminal, just outside of town. Join the crowd taking the bemo to town (2,000 Rp) and you’ll get dropped where the minibuses to Dieng are. The Dieng buses pack up the passengers before moving off (8,000 Rp).

The bus drops you off at the T-junction in Dieng, just off Hotel Bu Juno (where we stayed). Food is pretty good, the menu is decent enough at the hotel restaurant. Bring some warm clothing, or buy them at the shop across the road. At 2095m, Dieng is no joke. Here is Sep, the early morning temperature is 14degrees. In July or Aug, it can go as low as a few degrees. If you take the motorbike tour around, wear a windbreaker and cover up. Otherwise be prepared to shiver throughout as you ride into the cold air.

The sights themselves are fantastic. Of note is the summit, at 2300m, dawn to catch the sunrise. Arjuna complex is made up of 5 Hindu temple ruins. Where there used to be over 200, now only 5 remains in the complex. It was surreal, because ducks, geese and sheep came out to graze with their handlers and cut through the temple ruins while we were there. The grounds itself is very well kept. Kawah Sikidang (Deer crater) is a boiling sulphuric pool, so named because the location of the boiling pool changes over three possible spots in the area, like a deer hopping from place to place. Then there is the Telaga Warna (coloured lake), in which we could see clear turquoise water with tiers of farming landscape in the background. The other candi visited was Candi Bima, a standalone temple in which walking around clockwise 7 times supposedly brings good luck.

P9120411

From the Bu Jono hotel, Pak Didik arranges motorbike tours around the area. A dawn sunrise summit is 50,000Rp, including the nearby sites would be 100,000Rp, and going out further to see everything would be 150,000 Rp. Come back to the hotel by lunch and take the public bus back out. Or take the tour bus at 12.30pm (70,000 Rp) direct to Yogyakarta.

Day 2: Borobudur

Fri Sep11’09. Current prices are 575,000 Rp for a room with double bed (625,000 Rp for twin beds). Since Manohara’s back gate leads straight into Borobudur, you get unlimited entries into the temple grounds. Otherwise it is 11 USD per entry. Special sunrise entries 230,000 Rp can be booked from the Manohara hotel reception.

Candi Mendut is famous for a Buddha seated not cross-legged but with legs unfolded and feet touching the ground. The murals around the Candi depicts animal stories where the animals show selfishness, greed etc.

P9110203
Pilgrims to Borobudur back then circle each of the 7 tiers clockwise twice (total around 5km). Borobudur has 4 tiers depicting normal life. The 1st tier tells the story of Buddha, the second I think tells of stories of animal reincarnations of Buddha. After the 4th tier, the 5th opens up into Nirvana, no longer squares and angular, but circular, with three tiers and a total of 72 Buddhas each covered by a dome. The final biggest stupa at the top is empty. Emptiness is perfection, maybe, no one knows the reason. Get a guide to explain the murals, or go and watch the audio visual at the Manohara for 5,000 Rp.

Day 1: Yogyakarta

Yogyakarta

Thurs 10/09/09. Ok. This is as live a post as can be. I am in the Princess Manohara hotel just outside the Borobudur temple grounds.

Started off from Sg and flew into the local airport. 4th time in Indonesia this year. After Bali, Sumba, Flores, Banda Aceh, Bandung, and now Yogyakarta. 2009 is Visit Indonesia Year for me. It’s pretty relaxed so far. From the airport we cabbed (50,000Rp) to the Jimbor bus terminal. Took a 1.5hr bus (15,000 Rp) from there with a stopover at Muntilan before reaching Borobudur.

Next: More on borobudur. I’ve to go and see more now. 😉

Day 13, 14 – Nyepi in Ubud, Ubud to Singapore

Ubud is a dead town today, no one on the streets. I had stocked up on instant noodles, more food and water. I intend to spend the entire day writing out these entries and sorting out my pics. 
Night time, and I cant get wifi from my room, so im in the lobby, in complete darkness fiddling with my laptop. It’s pretty epic. Except for the mosquitos.
P3260220
Day 14. Woke up in the morning and made my way to monkey forest, I was alone with LOTs of monkeys, should they attack or something, I wont know what to do…took a ride down to the airport. Flight and I was seated beside this indo dude who was a waiter from ritz carlton in bali moving over to work in some new hotel capela in sentosa.
End of trip. In 2 days time, i’m off to Mulu Caves in Sarawak. Don’t think i’ll have the patience to write everything, just refer to this link for pics. =)

Day11 – Diving and Komodos in Rinca

Today’s program was two more dives, plus a stop off at Rinca (another 250000Rp). It was good, because chartering a separate boat would cost more, and this way i’d get two more dives. We decided to dive first, so that I can get at least some time (24 hours no flight rule). Today’s group was Nicklas and Inggar, an father & son team whose names I didn’t get, plus a lost french guy Francois. He was supposed to be on some other boat I think. 
Missed my breakfast again, those guys at Gardena really take forever to prepare breakfast, and I wasn’t willing to wake up an hour earlier. 
Today was at Tatawa Besar, an island with steep drop offs of up to 70m. It was a good drift dive, mostly soft corals, lots of micro life. Dominique was the master of spotting nudibranches and small stuff like monkey crabs. I saw what I thought was an octopus, but the photo came out bad. It was in a hole, with big eyes and changed to from grey to black when it sensed I was threatening. 
Second dive was on Tengah Island, which was a multi-level wall dive on the blindside of the strong currents. Here was moray eels, more nudibranches. The dives were long too. I had my buoyancy sorted and my air lasted much longer than before. 

P3250162

After lunch on the boat, proceeded to make a stopover at Rinca. Since we already had the 3 day pass to Komodo National Park, we didn’t have to pay extra. The 1hr guided track was included. A 2hr trek will be 50,000 Rp more. We (me and the Swedish couple) took the 1hr trek, while the rest went on the small boat to dive. Around the office area, especially under the stilt-housed kitchen, were 4 komodos, strutting around, attracted to the food. The largest was lazing right underneath, they called him Big Boss. Haha. Guide Dacosta says that we will go on the trail, but he cannot promise us we will see the komodos along the way, in their natural surroundings. The afternoon walk itself (2pm) was a hot sweaty trudge through dry grassy terrain and muddy streams. We saw 11 komodos in total, 6 at the campsite, and 5 in the while. Including one close up of a little komodo going for a drink by the stream. Other sights were a water buffalo, deer carcass where a komodo had just finished lunch. Basically the komodo dragon is king here, everything else (water buffalos, deers, wild horses, monkeys) is komodo food. There was some news about a local guy who was bitten by a komodo on Komodo Island while picking fruit and died. I heard a similar tale while in Bajawa where someone mentioned two weeks ago some other guy got bitten. Don’t know how true these stories are, could be the same 1 dragon which has developed a taste for human meat. :-o  

Going back, there was an incident where the boat ran into a coral atoll. They stopped when they saw it, but the momentum meant the boat landed smack in the middle of a shallow <5m spot. Stuck, because moving would mean the propellers getting damaged. Attempts to start the boat resulted in lots of silt being thrown up. Luckily, the small boat they took out for those other guys to dive while we visited Rinca came in handy. They used in as a tugboat, pulling the Rajawali sideways till it was out of the corals. Luckily it was mostly dead hard corals there. “Celaka” goes Dominique, at the misfortune. Haha.

Day 12 – Labuanbajo to Ubud

Nothing much happened today, as with all airport days. The stated flight was 11.45. Met a retiree Singaporean whose passion was photography, an Abd Hasan. Amazingly, there is another Singaporean traveler in these area. He had been in Timor and traveled on to Maumere, before visiting Larantuka, which I skipped. Had a bit of a chat over breakfast.
 As usual, the local flights were delayed. I got used to it and the waiting time in the airport waiting area is the norm. This time the 11.45am plane departed at 4pm. Hung around with a Dutch guy. There was this New Zealander who was investing in funds in ventures in Indonesia like mines etc. Sounds intere. Was deciding whether to stay in Kuta, or Ubud, or simply just go back to Singapore and buy a new ticket, forfeiting my AirAsia one. Decided to go to Ubud, since it’s a one hour drive, I should have time to get back to airport on 27th for the 12pm flight. And since tomorrow is Nyepi, there is zilch to do in town. On the airport taxi 200000Rp journey, noticed that most of the shops are already close. The people were dressed and people were popping the bamboo cane things that sounded like fireworks going off. 
I decided to stay somewhere nice since I’ll be more or less stuck in the hotel. Adi Bungalows (30USD) along Monkey Forest Road looks ok, so that was it. My first hot shower in almost two weeks, but the deal clincher was free wi-fi.
Page 1 of 41234