Sunday, May 4, 2014

Yogyakarta, Indonesia 18-20 Apr 2014

Yogyakarta and Mt Merapi
Yogyakarta is the old capital city of Indonesia from 1945 to 1949. Located at the Central Java Island. Nearby to the city of Yogyakarta is the Mount Merapi literally means the mountain of fire, located approximately 28 kilometres north.  Mount Merapi is the most active volcano in Indonesia and has erupted regularly since 1548. The volcano last erupted in November 2010, killing over 300 people. The famous attraction of Yogyakarta, Borobudur temple was covered with layer of ash up to 1 inch thick, also killing nearby vegetation. The temple complex was closed from 5 November to the 9th to clean up the ashfall.

The city is almost flat and widely spread with low rise building that cover 32.5 square kilometres. We were pretty surprise to find a well paved road system around the city. The first thing we noticed was the abundance of tricycle or they called it andong, a leg powered local transport that brings people around town. We spotted a few that comes with electric power engine and there were also horse cart more for the tourist alike. Both cost around 10,000 to 20,000 for a trip within the city.

We took a taxi to Venezia Garden Homestay located outside the city center (5km away) but still close to area where there is restaurant, cafe, bank, massage and tour agency. There were food stall at every corner of Yogya, and the countless Bakso stand. You will never have problem with finding food.

Vanezia Garden Homestay
On the first day of arrival, we took it easy. The owner of the homestay was very friendly, she gave us plenty of info and let us check in early. We found a local food stall selling rice with variety of dishes to pick from and it cost less than $1. We stroll around looking for massage place but  It was a Friday so most shops are close for prayer.  While walking on the street we were harassed non stop by the andong driver but some were very friendly. We got lost in the area looking for the palace but with a few help we managed to find our way to the palace. Unfortunately it was closed on Friday afternoon. It didn't look very impressive either from outside. A local approach us and started
Batik Factory
chatting with us. I thought he is another scammer trying to sell us something. He told us about batik stall, but he advised us not to go to those stall at Jalan Malioboro, those are expensive and only for Japanese tourist. He then told us to go to this batik factory just 2 streets off Jalan Malioboro, where students are working and learning there. The price are also reasonable. He even got us 2 andong to bring us there. I still could not believe that he wasn't scamming us until we got to this factory. The Batik factory is called Ns Novi Studio Batik Art Group located at Djogdjakarta street. We walked into a small little house full of Batik painting. A staff shown us to the back where the process of making batik was done. Then we were lost in between the batik painting. :-) There were not expensive and some were really great artwork. I could not resist and bought one, even tho I can find this back home. Kareen fell in love with the batik I think, she bought a stack(>10) :-)

We finally left the batik stall and found a massage place called KAKIKU. All 4 of us did a 2 hours scrub and massage for only 135,000. Shiok! When we were done, it was dinner time. We found Malioboro street, full of people (Public holiday), shops, stalls and restaurant. It was very happening! We found local snack stall selling "onde onde" but they called it Klepon, "tausa pia" with stuff green beans or red beans (bakpia), steam "fat kue" (Geplak), "Kueh Putu" and many more. They were delicious!

Sunrise from Setumbu Hill

On the 2nd day, we woke up at 330am! Yah we were supposed to be on holiday! :-( Headed out for a half day trip. We arrived at Setumbu hill, still dark tho. We stumble our way up the hill following a group of people in front. From here we have a great view of Mt Merapi, Mt Merbabu and Borobudur temple. The sky turn from dark blue to pink, the valley was covered with mist and Borobudur silhouette on the right. Just simply beautiful! 

After the sunrise we needed a power coffee, the only coffee we got was the Kopi Api. Well, that will do for now. There is a special technique to drink coffee in Indonesia, you have to stir in your sugar or milk when the coffee arrive and then let it settle for 10 minutes. That will help you not to swallow any coffee dusk from your cup. :-) From Setumbu hill to Borobudur is just 15 mins drive. When we reach Borobudur, the place was swamp with students. They trail from the temple all the way to the entrance. That is shit! It wasn't what I was expecting. A word of advice to all is not to come on weekend or public holiday! Or else you will turn out disappointed like me. ( We went around the temple level by level and try to find a quiet place to take some photos, slowly we became the attraction as well. The students start to approach us for photos with them. It is weird but this made me realised how some people were annoyed by us when we take photo of them on the street. back time!

Borobudur temple is square shape with four entry points, and a circular centre point. It looks like a pyramid. There were carved stone reliefs and buddha statues at every level and every wall. Each and every relief tells a story. At the top, the large central stupa at the highest point surrounded by bell-shaped stupas and statues of the Buddha inside the bell. 

Next stop is Prambanam, a hindu temple. Similar to some of the temples in Angkor but it doesn't look as impressive as Borobudur. There were 8 main temples and 8 small shrines in the inner zone The largest temple and one smaller one was under construction, outside the zone what we thought they were pile of rocks were actually 224 small temples. Only 2 was restored. It was scorching hot by the time we finished. All we want was to jump in the pool.

Our last stop was to the Civet cat coffee factory, we stop by to enjoy some coffee and bought a little pack for myself. It was bloody expensive! 175,000 for 50gram. Guest the pooh doesn't come cheap huh!

We ended our trip around 2 pm, the rain started just as we arrive to the homestay. That helps to cool the temperature down. We still got one of our room, they didn't chase us out and let us have a shower. We got picked up by a pre arranged driver at 5:30pm, that night we headed to Jomblang chalet. The journey took around 2 hours. It was dark when we arrived. The last 1km into the estate or jungle was very bad road, the chalet 4WD came to pick us up at the main road. We arrived in the middle of nowhere, there were 5 chalets, no restaurant or cafe. A group of locals who has have finished their cave adventure stayed overnight in the common area. We were the only tourist there. Our chalet were simple and clean, there is no hot water or air condition. but being in the middle of nowhere surrounded by nature with the sound of crickets and frogs, who cares about hot water and aircondition. :-) Our dinner were served at the veranda, simple indonesian rice with chicken, curry, beans and tofu. They brought us a BBQ pit too, we thought they will bring us some fish later on but only after we finished we realised that we were suppose to BBQ the chicken ourselves. Haha! There was nothing else to do, so we call it a night.

Jomblang chalet
3rd day, I was woken up by the locals who has no consideration for others. At 6am they were talking and laughing loudly. Can't even sleep in on a holiday. ( The chalet is actually surrounded by plantations, they plant peanuts, soya and tapioca everywhere. That explain why we were eating tofu and tempeh on every meal. Tempeh is made from soybeans, fermented for 24 to 36 hours at a temperature around 30°C. Perfect in this environment. 

Rubber boots

Rope and safety harness

The entrance

Jomblang sinkhole
The way down
Our cave adventure started at 1030am, a few other local joined us from a day trip. The sinkhole is just 50m from the chalets. This cave is brought famous from The Amazing Race. A local adventurer found this sinkhole and bought over the piece of land. He now make it an adventure sport for those adventure seekers.  We got ourselves suited up with rubber boots, full harness and helmet. The team of crew gave us a briefing about the cave and safety. Once they have secure the ropes, we were hook on the front and the back, front as the main and the back rope as a backup. We were then lower into the sinkhole 2 by 2. the feeling of letting go was overwhelming! 

The sinkhole was 75m deep, over times it has been overgrown with trees. In order to keep the place intact only 25 people are allowed to enter per day. Once we had everyone in the sinkhole, we then proceed to a huge tunnel, the ground was muddy and slippery. We have to be very careful while walking up and down the slope and in the cave. sometime we just skid and glide on the muddy ground. The tunnel is about 200m long towards Grubug Cave, they power up the light with a generator when we get to a point of no light. We follow the partially pave path to reach the end of the tunnel. We could hear to sound of river and see the light at the end of the tunnel. The sunlight penetrate thru a small opening at the top of the cave. Around 11 to 12 noon is when one can get the best light. I was dazzled by the beauty of it all. The was a huge stalagmite in the middle of the cave, we were allow to climb up without our rubber boots for the photographic moment. The water drops from the top of the cave released all the tension I had. I felt taken away by the surrounding. It was such a great moment.

We took the same way back out. We were haul out of the sinkhole manually by a group of people. It was such a great experience. I would recommend any adventure seeker to go to this place. Our lunch was ready when we came out of the cave, we were able to shower and clean up before we packed up and leave to the airport.

The light in Grubug Cave
Grubug Cave
This has been short but fulfilling trip. I was lucky to have a group of adventurous girlfriends! :-)

Venezia Garden Homestay – S$42 per room/night with aircon, attached toilet with hot water and wifi.
Jomblang chalet - 500,000rph per room/night with fan, attached toilet

Silkair from SG to Yogya - S$249.50
Tiger Air from Yogya to SG - 1,075,990rph
Taxi from airport to Venezia Garden Homestay - 70,000rph per car
Andong to town - 20,000 rph per tricycle

Massage - 135,000rph
Sunrise from Setumbu Hill (entrance ticket), Borobudur entrance ticket, Prambanam entrance ticket, 2 way transport and driver - 555,000rph per person
Jomblang caving, 2 way transport and driver, 1 night accommodation, dinner, breakfast and lunch - 812,500 rph per person


  1. Wow, what an exotic adventure. I enjoyed reading about it.

  2. Hi Alice,

    I read your recent review of Jomblang Cave on Tripadvisor and I found this blogspot of yours with a more detailed review about it too. Would you please help me with these two queries below:

    1. On your blogspot you wrote, Jomblang caving, 2 way transport and driver, 1 night accommodation, dinner, breakfast and lunch - 81,250,000rph per person. Could it be a typo there, since 81,250,000rph works out to as much as sgd 8,800?

    2. I contacted Mr Cahyo and he quoted me USD100 for 2pax for the cave trip alone, and another USD50 for the car back and forth to Yogyakarta town area. Not sure if this is more or less the same price that you paid for his services?

    Thank you so much for your help.

    1. Hi Kelvin, you are right I got the zeroes wrong, it should be 812500.00 which works out to be ard S$85 yes my Chayo also quoted me the same price. I shall update the figure later. Thanks for noticing it!

    2. Thanks Alice! Just curious how come the price you paid was so cheap, only SGD85 per pax including one night accommodation, dinner and breakfast, whereas for 2pax he quoted USD 150 (USD 75 per pax, or SGD 93) including the cave trip, lunch and transportation. Any input is greatly appreciated :)

    3. We were 4 to share the transport. )

  3. Appreciated! Cheers!