Across Java with Confidence

by victor wong, Jul 11, 2012 | Destinations: Indonesia
My little friend at Kraton Mangkunegara

My little friend at Kraton Mangkunegara

My little friend at Kraton Mangkunegara
Roemahkoe Heritage Hotel in Laweyan Batik Village
Kaliurang's Ullen Sentalu Museum
The beautiful restaurant at Ullen Sentalu Museum

I was sitting in the ticket office of Garuda Indonesia Airlines with a number in my hand, waiting to book a flight.  The Indonesian guy next to me asked me the 3 questions like so many strangers and taxi drivers before and after him did:

1. What is your name?

2. Where do you come from?

3. Are you married?

Then they will give me a warning saying traveling single without friends and without speaking Indonesian is dangerous.

I felt like the little white parrot I talked to when I was at Kraton Mangkunegara.  It repeats phrases over and over again...

I stayed at Taman Mini Indonesia Indah for 1 night after touch down at Jakarta airport. I think I am crazy to have done that. But it was so off beat, it was kind of fun and incomprehensible!

Then I took taxi to Depok to visit the residence of F. Widayanto, the famous Indonesian Ceramic Artist. The place is 1 hectare set in a tropical garden with the main wooden building completed with his ceramic wall tiles, ceramic statues, beautiful javanese beds and furniture. The bathroom features original art pieces from his kiln. Outdoor there is a javanese pendopo pavilion, a rice barn, a cattle shed which can be homestay during the weekdays. The entrance ticket is Rp. 10000 but you can have lunch here by appointment. It is a popular place to visit for tours running between Jakarta to Bandung in 1 day. So morning was busy.

Then I took another taxi to Bogor and stayed 5 nights at Kebun Raya Bogor, right inside at the Guesthouse. The arrangement is strictly for researchers. For tourists, other hotels in town are optional. I love Bogor Botanic Garden and 5 days is too short for there are so many plants I wanted to paint and so little time. But the garden can be visited for a few hours also and the walk under the tall trees is especially pleasant in the morning. There is a fine cafe in the garden. But Bogor being the City of Rain usually rains in the afternoon, and then at night. All my 5 nights was pouring and 2 nights I have to walk 30 minutes inside the garden in the dark with a flash light and umbrella (no illumination in the garden at all) to the cafe to get food. Two other nights I survived with cup noodles and 1 night I toughed it out with empty stomach as outside was pouring plus lightning and thunderstorm!

I hired a driver to bring me across Puncak to Bandung. I had lunch at Rindu Alam Restaurant then visited Cibodas Botanical Garden. Then in Bandung I visited Batik Komar, and I bought lots of their Batik Tulis with Cirebon patterns. Amaroossa Hotel was indeed amazing. The best I have ever stayed in.

Then I took the Lodaya train to Solo, and I am so relieved that the porters at the train station took care of my heavy luggage. In Solo, I stayed in Roemahkoe Heritage Hotel in Laweyan Batik Village. I visited Kraton Mangkunegara, Batik DanarHadi Museum and Pasar Klewer on my own by taxi in between. Pasar Klewer is so stuffed and I was lost and out of place inside.  I asked a shopkeeper where I could buy silk batik shirts in the market.  He asked me the typical 3 questions and then my phone number and e-mail etc.  I explained that I did not have any and got scared thinking the reason he asked.  As I was wandering in Laweyan, I walked into a private courtyard of what looked like a heritage building.  I explained to the guards that I wanted to see the building.  They could only speak Indonesian but with body language we understood one another.  They went to asked the building manager who is a young lady and she let me take a glimpse of the opulent banquet hall with javanese mirrors and fresh flowers everywhere.  She also asked me the 3 questions and as a little parrot, I knicked into automatic!

I hired a driver to go to Yogyakarta and spent my time in Kaliurang's Ullen Sentalu Museum. Jack is a nice guy.  After asking me the 3 questions, he wished me a good marriage for the entire trip.  I brought Jack in to the museum too as he has never visited inside, just waiting outside. So the two of us were guided by a young lady explaining each paintings depicting royalities of Yogyakarta and Surakarta. The museum has a fine restaurant with western cuisine. Our plates of chicken breast with potatoes and vegetables were only $5 each. Also I shopped some souvenirs at the museum shop.

Then I went to Tjokrosuharto Batik and Souvenir Handicraft Shop to shop for dancer's costume, traditional jewelery for javanese wedding, surjan shirt in lurik worn by Kraton servants and blangkon (traditional hat) and also Yogyakarta batik tulis.

In Yogya, I watched 2 Ramayana Ballets, one in Prambanan and the other in Purawisata. Same episode, but slightly different dancing style and costume. I love both of them. I also visited the Kraton and Sono Budoyo museum and Affandi museum.

Parangritis Beach is nice to visit. I decided against car rental, as my hotel wanted to charge me $40 for 3 hours. So I just got a taxi and let the metre ran. It was under $10 to get to the Beach for 45 minutes from centre of Yogya. I took photo at the royal site of Parangkusumo, then onto the beach of Parangtritis and ride the horse cart. Then I got into the taxi to drive to the Queen of the South Hotel on top of the cliff of the beach. The ground is beautiful and relaxed. I love the pool and the pendopo. The staff expected a tip and let you take photos or you can buy a drink from the restaurant. Their hotel website is not working but you can e-mail them for reservation. I wanted to stay here but it was my last day already. So next time then.

I had a lot of fun traveling solo in Java and I am planning a trip to go back to the various cities and also this time will take in Jakarta and Cirebon and for sure I will visit my parrot friend at the Kraton.