Travel Notes 7

Travel Notes 7

Hi all,

These travel notes are late, since I have not really been in position
to sit down and do them.

Indonesia was done very quickly, taking in all two weeks. There is so
much more to see outside of what I have done. I found it much easier
to travel around Java than Bali, though maybe had I taken a bit more
time I would have worked out how to travel around Bali properly.

** Bogor

When I arrived in Java I made a last minute decsion not to visit
Jakarta. I was big citied out and I was not too sure of the security
of the budget accomadation there. Instead I took the train to Bogor
and stayed there. There I stayed in a homestay and visited the
Botanical Gardens there. The morning was overcast, but in the
afternoon it rained down hard and long. After waiting for the rain to
end, and never encountering it, I decided to leave the covered shelter
and make my way to the Zoological museum, which is near the entrance
of the gardens. Luckily I had my umbrella, but it really only provided
minimal cover compared to a torential rain storm. I got soaked on my
way to the museum, once putting my foot in a puddle that turned out to
be knee deep.

The museum is full of stuffed animals, with most explanations being in
Indonesian. At one point I was surrounded by a group of primary school
children, like I was anothe museum attraction. One of them tried
asking me a question, but did not comprehend the answer. After a while
one the museum guards came up and explained to me that the children
were from primary school and asked me a few questions and translated
the answers for the kids.

** Bandung

After Bogor I took a bus to Bandung, passing over the Pucak Pass. Had
the weather been better I would have been able to see  view of the low
lands, but as it was it was raining and it did not provide much
opportunity to see anything.

Arrived in Bandung and check into a hotel there. It wasn't much to
write home about, but at least it was somewhere for the night. From
there, with the help of some Indonesians that I had met on the bus, I
went to the station and booked a train to Yogyakarta, leaving the next
day. That evening we went down and had something to eat in one of the
shopping malls and then later in the evening something else to eat at
one of the street side 'warungs'. Coming into Bandung you get the
feeling of a poorish city, yet in the center you have a shopping mall
and modern shops. This is a bit of indication of the sort of contrasts
you have between the those that have money and those that don't, in

I did not do much else in Bandung, except taking the train on to Yogyakarta

** Yogyakarta

While in Yogyakarta I took time to visit the sultan's palace,
Borobadur, Pranbanan, check out the Batik and see the Rayanama ballet.

From what I understand the sultan in Yogyakarta is the last one in the
country. His palace looks grand, but looks lightly maintained. The
guards around the palace all carry a traditional curvy dagger and are
probably all over the age of 60.

Borobadur is an old Buddhist temple, dating back to a time when
Buddhism was the religion of the island of Java, and is classified
under world heritage. To get to the temple I took a local bus, with
two Germans that I had met while staying in my guesthouse, and then
got a bicycle taxi to the entrance. When we got the top of the
monument we got the taste of what it might feel like to be Hollywood
stars, since a whole bunch of teenagers wanted to take photos of us.
It was hard to move around without becoming the subject of another

Pranbanan is an old Hindu temple complex, from the time when Hinduism
had its influence on the island, and is also classified under world
heritage. Although the complex was damaged during an earthquake, it
has been repaired to its former glory. To get there I took a local bus
to the town and then a moto-taxi to the entrance. Had I known how
close the entrance was, I would have skipped the latter option. I was
shown around by a trainee guide who explained to me about the history
as best she could. Afterwards I made my way to see the "Rayanama
Ballet" and have buffer dinner beforehand. The ballet is of a
traditional Hindu story about Ranma and his loved one.

Yogyakarta is known for its Batik and is one of the other major
attractions of the city. The only thing that you have to watch for is
people trying to get you to visit the official government shop, before
it closes for the day. If there was one, the directions given never
pointed to the same place. I did look into a few places, but not to
any that I was suggested to visit. People are generally friendly,
though there are also plenty of people who see you as a source of


** Mount Bromo

To get to Bali I decided to take a tour, which included a visit to
Mount Bromo, which is a still active volcano. After driving all day
from Yogya, we changed transport and made our way to the hotel where
we stayed the night. The hotel was on the edge of the main crater,
though there was nothing to see at night.

To see everything I booked myself passage in a jeep, which left the
hotel at 4am and drove five of us up to a viewing point on the crater.
From there we could see the sunrise with the smaller craters within
the crater. We did not see much of the sunrise because if the amount
of cloud. At one point we thought the opportunity was lost, but
eventually the clouds passed by, allowing us to see the craters. I was

After that we went down to see Mount Bromo close up. The jeep stopped
a kilometer from the crater, so that people would take advantage of
the horse-riding experience, to the base of the crater. I, with some
other people opted to walk there. When we got to the base of the
crater, after walking across a lunar like landscape, we went up the
steps. At the top you could see into the crater and see the heavy
sulphuric smoke rising upwards. There was clearly a strong smell of
sulphur (rotten-eggs type smell) in the air, and you had to do your
best not to breath it in. I tried walking round the rim, but decided
to turn back, because of time, when I was quarter of the way around.

Getting back from the Volcano I had breakfast and then left at 10am
for Denpasar.

Mt Bromo:

** Denpasar

I arrived in Denpasar and found myself a guesthouse. Denpasar is the
main city of the island of Bali. I never gave any time to visit the
city, but instead used it as a one-night stop over before heading to
Nusa Dua. One thing that should be noted is that the island of Bali
has Hindu as its main religion, while Java was Muslim.

** Nusa Dua

Through family contacts I managed to get two nights in the Westin, in
Nusa Dua, with included buffet breakfast. A bit of luxury once in a
while is very much appreciated. Nusa Dua is an area in Bali that has
been set aside exclusively for resorts, which cater to the package
holiday traveler. While I did appreciate the luxury, I found that it
was not easy trying to get access to affordable facilities outside of
the resort. You really are locked into the resort trap, unless you are
willing to work a little harder to find the solutions outside.

** Ubud

Ubud is a town of artists and there you can find paintings,
sculptures, painted sarongs and other forms of artwork. To get there
from the hotel I had been staying at I first took a taxi to the
'becak' (a mini-bus) stop and then a becak to a town south of Ubud. At
that point I was told that there were no more for the day and then got
forced to take a private car to the town.

While in Ubud I met a Japanese/Thai couple that I had met, while on my
way from Yogyakarta to Denpasar. Together we went to see a kecak dance
that recounted the same Hindu story as was told by the "Raynama
Ballet", but with a slight variation. One web site describes the Kecak
as follows:

"This is the most unique form of Balinese dance, so be sure to reserve
an evening for it. You've probably seen pictures of this dance. Rather
than the Gamelan orchestra that is typical of other Balinese dances,
as well as most Southeast Asian classical dancing, in the Kecak the
only music is provided by a large chorus of bare-chested men and boys
sitting in a circle just in front of the audience. This choir provides
a constant accompaniment to the story, and even become actors towards
the end."

While I was there I also took time to see a few Hindu temples, watch a
Hindu festival in one of the temples, see a volcano from afar, visit
the palace in Ubud and also walk around the town.


** Next 

After visiting Ubud I took a shuttle down to the airport and took the
1am flight to Darwin, in the north of Australia. Though, Australia
will be covered in my next set of Travel Notes.

written 25 May 2005