Saturday, May 7, 2011

Indonesian tour - Bali and Java

07/05/2011

We reached Denpasar (DPS) at 6.30 pm local time. It is Visa on Arrival. So we had to stand in the queue for visa. Visa fee is 25 USD per person. We could have done it from India. But there could be complications. So VOA is the best and easiest option. It is quite efficient. I was of the opinion that exchange rate is 1USD = 9000. On reaching DPS, I got to know it is 8200 IDR in the airport and 8500 IDR outside. I took many fliers of the city tours of Bali in the airport itself , while waiting for the visa. I was wondering why it is not so in India ?

When we reached it was raining heavily. A driver from our home stay "Obud Dream" came to pick us up. We could not see much except one big sculpture of Rama and many road side stalls selling sculptures mile after mile. I was bit perplexed what it is and why are they there. When we reached Ubud (around 10 pm) it is quite late and most of the shops were closed. We were lucky to have dinner in a restaurant where live song (of Bob Marley) was going on. It was one of the very few restaurants open. It was around 11 pm. Didi has booked two rooms. It is a very big room and more than two people can stay in one room. The tariff is 35 USD.

We had our breakfast in the home stay, which is free with the accommodation. We were served world famous Kopi Bali or Bali coffee (http://www.kopibali.com/). The Bali coffee is very good. Interestingly genesis of the name Java, a programming language, is from Java coffee, another Indonesian coffee! In fact Kopi luwak is the most expensive coffee in the world. They way the breakfast was served was very aesthetic. We had a beautiful pancake, a plate of sliced fruit. 



In fact today is their version of Vishwaskarma Puja . That is why they are worshiping the car !


I was astounded by the beauty of houses around our home stay, which I could not see yesterday, in the night. Bali is known as an island of thousands temples. There is at least one small temple in each home of Balinese and normally the size of the temple is bigger than the house! At least that is what we have seen. Since my Mini DV cassette is finished I bought a mini DV for 45,000 IDR! It comes to almost 6 USD. I was bit surprised. The first shop was asking even more. Since no price is printed, I could not make out what is the actual price. Our driver, Ketut, came in the morning with his Toyota vehicle to pick us up. He says Wayan, Medi, Nyoman and Ketut are the most popular names in Indonesia , in that order. We hired the car for 35 USD. Normal rates are apparently 40-45 US Considering an air-conditioned SUV, like Mahindra Scorpio, I thought it is cheap. The cost of petrol in Bali is very cheap only 4,500 IDR or half a dollar!

The island is indeed a feast for the eye for tourists. You will be pleasantly impressed by the many stunningly beautiful tourist attractions. Bali presents itself as a modern paradox, because it’s ancient and traditional culture is still very much alive amidst modern living. While the basic conservatism of the Balinese people has enabled them to preserve many of their ancient customs, culture and religion, it has never hindered the acceptance of the new and innovative modern technological advancement.

Bali dwipa ("Bali Island") have been inhabited and civilized since ancient times. Bali is also the only island in “middle Indonesia” that has more or less uninterrupted cultural continuity for hundreds of years. It is of this reason, Bali and its ‘sister’ Lombok are the only part of Indonesia that remains “Hindu” and are still retaining elements of fusion of ethnic and Hindu cultures of more than a thousand years. In the 2000 census about 92.29% of Bali's population adhered to Balinese Hinduism while most of the remainder follows Islam. In fact Oberoi group of Hotels has two luxury resorts one in Bali and the other in Lombok! Bali looks like a tortoise in shape.

When the island was colonized by the Dutch at the beginning of last century, the Dutch colonial masters were so impressed by the traditions of the Balinese that a concerted effort was made to preserve the island’s mystical culture.

Bali, a beautiful island paradise in the Indonesian archipelago made international news when the island was rocked by suicide bombings in 2002 and 2005. Tourists who have visited this South East Asian island will tell you that Bali exudes a certain magical charm. Everywhere you go, you see many Hindu temples. And their life is also strongly related with and influenced by their religion. This is the reason why Bali is called the Island of God, the Island of Thousand Temples. I knew that Indonesian language has lot of similarity with Sanskrit. Since Balinese script is not in vogue these days, they use roman script, which made everything very interesting. But what turned out is quite exhilarating! We are staying on Monkey forest Road or Wanara Wana Road i.e. Banor Bon Road!   Balinese word for temple is ‘pura’ which means 'space surrounded by a wall'.

First we were supposed to go to Goa Gajah Temple. While going there we went inside a local people’s house. Since today is Vishwakarma they were worshipping their car!! We also went to a small temple. It was beautifully decorated and the style is completely different from what I have seen.

Goa Gajah temple is nothing but our very own Gaj or Elephant temple! Goa Gajah literally means Elephant cave, and it is a "T" shaped cave. It is believed that the cave was built in the early 11th century, on the western edge of Bedulu Village only 6 kilometres out of central Ubud. The entire site of Goa Gajah was partially destroyed by natural disaster and lay undetected for centuries before being rediscovered by a team of Dutch archaeologists in 1923. Goa Gajah is a place to meditate and worship the spiritual essence of the site, Lord Ganesha - the Hindu God.


Then, we started to walk around the temple. If you are in shorts, you'd be asked to cover part of yourself with a sarong. You need not pay extra. It's already included in the entrance fee. But we brought Sarong from India. Didi already told us about this. In the temple we saw donation box: “Punya Dana i.e. Punyo dan! Then we also learnt Ahimsa, Kshatriya, Surgo i.e. Swarga i.e. heaven and Naraka or Narak or hell !


Surrounding the site, you can find two traditional bathing pools, some artifacts and statues and the cave itself, which is decorated with stone relief work showing a demonic face with an open fanged mouth that reveals the entrance. Meanwhile on the right end side can be found three 'lingams', each of them dedicated to the three common God manifestations in Bali: Brahma, Wisnu or Vishnu, and Siwa or Siva. There is an entry fee of 15,000 IDR to enter the temple. We some beautiful masks inside the temple complex. We were very thirsty. So we bought a bottle of water (750 ml) for 10,000 IDR or 1.20 USD!! I knew something is wrong, but since Didi was thirsty, Didi decided to buy. (I knew before hand the price in Indonesia is Indian Price X 1.25 times). Since there is no MRP written on it, we could not make out the price. It was sold by a smiling Indonesian lady selling coconut. Later I got to know the price should have been 2200 IDR or around 0.25 USD. I felt extremely bitter. We were charged 500% more than the actual price. The same thing I noticed everywhere in Bali. No two shops quote the same price!

Our next destination is Besakih Temple. Bali's "mother temple" Pura Besakih, the largest and holiest temple in Bali, is over 900 meters up the slopes of Gunung Agung.



It has been regarded as a holy place since pre-historic times in Bali. The first recorded mention of its existence is from an inscription that dates from 1007 A.D. Since the Gelgel dynasty of the 15th century, it has been regarded as a central, holy temple for the entire island. The entry fee is 15,000 IDR per head. The people at the counter were trying to sell that a guide is compulsory while entering the temple and that too at a steep cost. By this time I have understood their trick and refused to budge and coolly went to the top. It is one of the most mesmerizing temples I have seen.

Lunch came next, we had our lunch at a wonderful restaurant overlooking Mt Batur and it has an amazing view .The food was okay and bit over priced, but the experience and view made it worthwhile. Didi and Baba went for a buffet and I went for a simple lunch. I paid around 35,000 IDR.





Our next destination is Tirta Empul Temple located at Tampak Siring. It is just beside Sokarno’s house. Pura Tirta Empul is built around a sacred spring. There are fine carvings and Garudas on the courtyard buildings. The temple and its two bathing spots have been used by the Balinese for over a thousand years for good health and prosperity, as the spring water has the power to "cure". The entry fee is 15,000 IDR. This is the last temple of the day. The word Tirta means Tirtha or pilgrimage, I think!

After returning back to Ubud we went to see the world famous Ramayana dance at Ubud Palace. The entry fee is very steep at 80,000 IDR. It is indeed very colorful. It is somewhat akin to Bharat Natyam I would say. But Bharat Natyam is even more difficult. We were told there are many fake amateur dance troupe passed off as professional. But then Ubud Palace is quite famous. Among the dance traditions in Bali, the following deserve special mention: Barong, Legong, and Kecak. The once which saw was Legong Dance. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KO0CuZDkGuA)

It is accompanied by a wonderful Balinese music, which is similar to our very own Santoor. In fact in Balinese dance the movement is closely associated with the rhythms produced by the gamelan, a musical instrument, specific to Java and Bali (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KO0CuZDkGuA)
After the dance is over we had our lunch at Dewa Warung i.e. Deva Dhaba !

8/5/2011

Today our first temple is Pura Ulun Danu Bratan temple. This is a beautiful Hindu Temple that is visited by many visitors daily. This unique temple is located in the shores of Lake Bratan, one of the three lakes in Bedugul. This is supposed to be one of the most photographed temples in Bali. In fact according to one of the film stars of Bengali film he saw the best sunrise of his life here! We saw a procession of people as some ceremony was going on, which we could not follow. The entry fee was 15,000 IDR. If seen from afar, it actually looks as if the temple is floating on the surface of the water.

From there we decided to go to the botanic garden. It was referred to by LP. We were bit reluctant to go there. But it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. We saw some enchanting sculptures of Ram killing Marich. The garden was very nice and worth spending some there. It is lush green there. The entry fee was 33,000 IDR for three of us including the car charges.

After that we went to have our lunch at roadside Dhaba/Warung Pontok Surya. I had Nasi Goreng. After that we went to a nice temple Taman Ayun Temple. Taman Ayun which means beautiful garden is located in Mengwi Village, Mengwi sub district, Badung regency, 18 km northwest of Denpasar. It has Very distinctive pagodas symbolizing the sacred mountain Mahameru, residence of the Supreme God surrounded by a moat in this lovely temple in Mengwi. Originally dated from 1634, Taman Ayun has been restored and enlarged in 1937. It has a nice garden at the entrance. The garden in the temple courtyard is very well kept and gives a calming effect to visitors. We spent a good half hour inside the temple before leaving; it would have been nice to have stayed a bit longer in Taman Ayun and enjoy the serene environment however we have a tight schedule to follow. Similar to the Angkor Wat in Cambodia, this temple is surrounded by a moat.




Our next destination was Yeh Pulu as advised by LP. It has some cave art. But it is no match for Ellora of India. Yeh Pulu is a place around 2 kms from famous ancient rock carving of Goa Gajah. In fact we should have covered it yesterday while going to Goa Gajah. The carving is between rice field and ravine of Pekerisan River. The site was rediscovered in 1925 by the archaeologists covered by moat and shrubs yet local people still knew them and put some offering at the front of the carvings. This may not be a grand attraction, but the site is one of Bali's oldest and contain some of the most mysterious and important sculptures from its time, Yeh Pulu is therefore of great importance to the Balinese. It is not a temple. Yeh is the Balinese name for water, which is an important substance in Balinese culture and religion. Pulu is the name of a stone water container. Yeh Pulu is a 25 meter long and 2 meter high relief with figures that mainly describes daily life on Bali at that time. When we went there it was raining heavily which sort of spoilt the charm of going down the staircase. There is a great marriage between rice field and rock carving.

We continued our tour and headed towards Tanah Lot, another famous temple. The countryside was lovely and we managed to catch a glimpse of several rice terraces.

We passed by a lot of temples as well; I later observed though that temples are integral to everyday life in Bali. Temples are found everywhere – no wonder it is called the island of the gods. Tanah Lot literally means, “Land in the Middle of the Sea” in Balinese Language. The temple sits on top of a rock that has been continuously shaped by the ever changing tide the past several hundred years. In order to reach the temple though, one has to pass through stalls that sell t-shirts, foods, trinkets, and many other souvenir items. It is really mesmerizing. In fact there are many monkeys’ there and we had to keep our glass inside the pocket. In fact by mistake I did not keep my water bottle inside my pants pocket and it started fighting with me for the bottle!! Ultimately I had to put it inside my pocket!! As it was almost late in the afternoon, hoards of tourist were beginning to arrive. Tanah Lot is the famous site in Bali for sunset photography.

tanah+lot+temple - click here




In the evening, we went to buy some masks from a departmental store on monkey forest road or Wanara Wana road. Then we had Dinner at the iconic restaurant Ibu Rai. it is wonderfully decorate. Since baba was tired Didi and I went for the dinner. the food was bit expensive. Didi gave me the treat. (iburai.com)

09/5/2011

Today we started our day by going to monkey forest which is very near to our home stay. The Ubud Monkey forest is a small nature preserve. Along with its lush surro
undings and a beautiful temple are hundreds of monkeys -- Balinese macaques, to be more specific. They're very tolerant of people, but are famous for stealing food and sunglasses from tourists, so you have to be careful around them. There is a lovely mossy temple, which is hidden amongst the tall and gracious "Pala tree".
Then we went to Tegallang. Rice fields never seem to get boring. The Tegallalang Rice Fields are definitely one of the best rice fields on Bali.

The way these rice fields climb up to the mountain is breathtaking. It is perfect for a quick stop, as you cannot really walk through the fields and you can only watch them from the road. You cannot miss these rice fields when you are in Bali. Tegallalang area, just about 15 minutes drive outside of Ubud. The rice fields have over the years attracted many photographers who captured its images on film and photos. Terrace rice fields still remain the most popular feature of Bali landscapes. Most of them have been created around 9th century and engineered by the Balinese themselves using water coming from the mountains. The result are step, garden like terraces designed on hillsides and mountain edges with irrigation channels that keep them wet all year round. I initially thought it won’t be interesting, because I am from West Bengal, India. But I proved to be grossly mistaken. The vendors of course try to sell you all sorts of nonsense, but you can just ignore them. However we purchased the tusker shaped ivory coloured bone carving. Didi bought some bed sheets. There is no entry for this! Here you have to pay for everything. Even for going to the toilet you have to pay 2500 IDR!


After that we had our lunch in a roadside warung. The owner danced to the bollywood tune for us. Wherever we went people sing chaia chaia, when they look at us. Sharukh Khan is very popular in Indonesia. We were quite amazed. However she charged more from us since there is no menu card. In Indonesia if there is no menu card, don’t eat anything. They can charge more than an air-conditioned restaurant (if there is no menu card). In Indonesia , unlike Standard Weights and measures Act in India - which required the manufacturer to print the price on the packet, there is no fixed price here, since prices are not mentioned on the packet and therefore you are always taken for a ride. More so because you are a foreigner. Of course there is a bar code - but hardly anybody has a bar code reader.

Our next destination is Gunung Kawi (meaning ‘carving in the mount’) is a 10th century Hindu temple complex located in the Gianyar regency. To explore the entire site, descend the 300-step stone stairway leading to a beautiful valley where you will find ten seven-metre-high memorials carved into the rock face. According to legend, these ruined temples are the memorial shrines of the king's concubines and his family. These days, Gunung Kawi sanctuary is still used for ritual ceremonies and locals gather periodically to offer the usual gifts and to pay homage to God, the ancient king, and his family. There is marriage between Rice filed and temple here. We were quite tired after the 300 step ordeal! We had to rest number of times to reach. I did not find it particularly enchanting. The entry fee was 15,000 IDR.

Our next destination is Pura Desa Ubud. After a quick look around the lush green garden, our schedule was to catch the sunset from Uluwatu and from there we shall witness the Kecak Dance. We arrive in the Uluwatu just a few minutes before the last rays of the sun disappeared. The Uluwatu Temple is another famous sunset spot in Bali. Located at the western most tip of Bukit Peninsula, its location is dramatic, perched on the edge of a high cliff with a picturesque sunset view. The temple is carved from the enormous limestone rock. ‘Ulu’ means head, ‘watu’ means rock.

We took a few snaps before we proceed to the place where the Kecak Dance was held. The Kecak Dance tells about the story of the Ramayana, an epic. It was the story of Ravana stealing Sita and ended with Hanuman putting Lanka into fire. It was performed in an amphitheatre. What makes the Kecak fascinating are the men in checkered pants, numbering more than 50, who provided music in the for the story in a series of constant vocal chants which change depending on the mood of the characters. The Kecak Dance is probably not well worth the 70,000 IDR ticket, but I would highly recommend this to any visitors in Bali, because of the location and the timing. Kecak was originally a trance ritual. It has roots in sanghyang, a trance-inducing exorcism dance. Ketut was sitting beside us throughout the dance and he told us to leave the place little before the end of the dance to avoid the crowd. Interestingly a Kecak chant can be heard in Federico Fellini's classic 1969 film Satyricon.






We did not go to the northern coast (Singaraja and Lovina). There is black volcanic sand. The northern beaches are supposed to be calmest. (Southern for Surfing).

Then we left for our Maha Martha hotel, which is beside Kuta beach. It is near Denpasar airport, since we have to leave for Yogyakarta, Java tomorrow early in the morning. First we went to have our dinner at a restaurant on the Kuta beach to have sea food. Over their they take out the fish from the aquarium and weigh the fish before cooking. You have to decide the weight. Food turned out to be so expensive that we had to skip taking our dinner in that restaurant and have our dinner at the Maha Martha hotel. On reaching the hotel we were given the welcome drink. There is a billiard room and swimming pool in the hotel. The hotel turned out to be not up to the standard. The rooms are very small. But it is very conveniently located. In Kuta everything is very expensive. We paid 5,000 - 6,000 IDR for the same bottle of water which we paid at Ubud. No two places sell the water at the same price. In fact I went out of our hotel to look around the place. In Kuta there are many 24/7 hotel which are open whole night. Even in the departmental store they don’t sell at the MRP. This is what I find very disturbing and I was disgusted. When I said why you are asking double the price for the same brand compared to Ubud. They said, just like Kolkata, ok go and buy it from Ubud! I had Nasi Goreng, as usual, which is the cheapest and best of the lot. It is like our fish and rice. In the night if you go out of your hotel, you will find people (on moped) are asking, if you want girls! We asked our hotel to book a taxi/cab for tomorrow morning.


10/5/2011


Our plane is at 7 am, so we had to leave quite early to reach airport. Airport is less than 30 minutes from our hotel. We gave 37,000 IDR to the Taxi to reach airport (more than normal because of the booking charges. At the airport we had to pay a departure tax of 40,000 IDR per head! We reached Yogyakarta within 8.30 hours. Our plan is like this Yogyakarta - Surabaya- Mt Bromo - Ijen crater.
Yogyakarta is the most popular tourist destination on Java, largely thanks to its proximity to the temples of Borobudur and Prambanan. The town is a center of art and education, offers some good shopping and has a wide range of tourist facilities. This is the city famous for batik.
We were received by our tour guide Rahman Jaelani. At Yogyakarta's centre is the kraton, or Sultan's palace. Surrounding the kraton is a densely populated residential neighbourhood that occupies land that was formerly the Sultan's sole domain. Evidence of this former use remains in the form of old walls. Built in 1758 as a pleasure garden, it is no longer used by the sultan, the garden had been largely abandoned. For a time, it was used for housing by palace employees and descendants.

We also went to see Taman Sari, Jl. Taman, and Kraton. Also known by the Dutch name waterkasteel (water castle), this is a partly ruined complex built as a pleasure garden by the first Sultan in 1765. One of the bathing pools was dedicated to the sultan's harem. Entrance fee Rp 7,000 and Rp 1,000 for a photo permit. However we did not pay for this, as it was part of our package.
After that we went to have our lunch at Bed hot restaurant, mentioned in LP. Like most of the restaurants mentioned in LP this one is also very interesting and did not disappoint me as usual. It is quite interesting. From there Didi bought some garments from an old lady - who came to the restaurant to sell her wares.

Then we left for Prambanan.



It is 17 kilometres to the North East of Yogyakarta. TransJogja, Yogyakarta's newest bus service, also serves a direct route to Prambanan. The bus is air-conditioned and comfortable, but sometimes can be overcrowded. Take number 1A from Malioboro street (Rp 3 000 one way). The first one leaves around 6AM, then every 20 minutes. Depending on traffic, the journey can take one hour. From the terminal station it is just 5 minute walk.

There are regular buses from Yogyakarta's Umbulharjo bus station (30 minutes), as well as a wide variety of tour agency-operated minibuses shuttling directly from Yogyakarta's backpacker haunts. A taxi from the center of Yogyakarta costs around Rp. 60,000. The driver may be prepared to wait free of charge for an hour or so and then take you back for the same price, giving a total cost of Rp. 120,000.

Prambanan is a 9th century Hindu temple compound in Central Java, Indonesia, dedicated to the Trimurti, the expression of God as the Creator (Brahma), the Sustainer (Vishnu) and the Destroyer (Shiva).

Prambanan is a collection of massive Hindu temples (candi) built by the Mataram Kingdom, rulers of central Java and defeaters of the Sailendra Dynasty. The temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia, and is one of the largest and the most beautiful Hindu temples in Southeast Asia. It is characterized by its tall and pointed (sikhara architecture), typical of Hindu temple architecture, and by the towering 47m high central building inside a large complex of individual temples.

In almost any other country a magnificent ancient monument on the scale of Prambanan would quickly be designated a national symbol. In Indonesia though it is somewhat overshadowed by the even more awe-inspiring nature of nearby Borobudur.

The two sites are quite different in style with Hindu Prambanan being a collection of sharp, jaggedly sculpted towers in contrast to the vast horizontal bulk of Buddhist Borobudur. It is slightly later but more or less contemporaneous with Borobudur. In the 10th century the temple was largely abandoned after the Mataram dynasty moved its court base to East Java.

There are 237 temples in the complex but most of them have deteriorated or been looted leaving just scattered stones. There are three zones:


  • The outer zone - it was probably either a park/relaxation garden or the site of an ashram for temple priests.
  • The middle zone consists of 4 rows of 224 identical, concentrically arranged shrines. Most of these are in ruins but a few have been fully restored. These shrines are called Candi Perwara (guardian temples). Some believe that each of the four rows represent a level of the Mataram caste system
  • The inner zone contains 8 main temples and likewise, 8 small shrines. This is certainly the holiest of the 3 zones and is a square elevated platform surrounded by a wall with gates corresponding to each of the four cardinal points. The three main inner shrines are dedicated to Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Keeper and Shiva the Destroyer.
The complex is open daily from 6AM to 6PM. Try to get there early to beat the heat. Guides can be hired at the ticket office for about US$5. Relief is a sculptural technique. The temple is adorned with panels of narrative bas-reliefs telling the story of Hindu epic; Ramayana. (The term relief is from the Latin verb levo, to raise. To create a sculpture in relief is thus to give the impression that the sculpted material has been raised above the background plane).

Candi Lara Jonggrang, or simply Candi Prambanan, is the largest and most-visited of the temples just to the left of the main entrance. While there were 237 temples originally built, most have long since crumbled and the main remaining attractions are the 6 temples of the central court, richly decorated with carved reliefs. Three of them, known as the Trimurti ("three sacred places"), are particularly important:


    • Candi Siva, dedicated to Shiva the Destroyer, is the largest of the six, rising to a height of 45 meters. There are fine reliefs of the Ramayana in its forecourt and four chambers with statues. The largest chamber, to the east, contains a statue of Shiva himself, while the south has the sage Agastya, the west his son Ganesh and the north his wife Durga. Durga is also known as Lara Jonggrang ("Slender Virgin"), a legendary beautiful princess turned to stone.
    • Candi Brahma, to the south, continues the story of the Ramayana and has a statue of Brahma the Creator inside.


      Candi Vishnu, to the north, tells the story of Vishnu's avatar Krishna and has a statue of Vishnu the Preserver inside.


Opposite the three large temples are three smaller temples originally dedicated to the vehicles of the gods. Only the statue of Nandi, Shiva's bull, has survived. I must say Didi and I, were bit disappointed by the dilapidated condition of the temples and I must say anybody who has visited Khajuraho will understand that this temple is simply no match to the temples in Khajuraho. We were lucky to take some beautiful sunset pictures from the temple. We bought some masks and shirts in the market adjoining the temple and then left for Borobudur. We skipped the Ramayana Ballet since we have seen the better ones in Bali.

In fact our hotel is very near to Borobudur. But we had to take the same route. You cannot go to Borobudur straight from Prambanan. First we had to go to Yogyakarta and then onward travel to Borobudur. We saw a Bata shop on the way. We stayed at Pondok Tingal Hotel. It is a nice hotel and mostly made of bamboo. It is located in a quite calm and quite place and in fact that area is far away from the madding crowd as one would have expected in a touristy place like this. The rates were quite reasonable, I think around 45 USD



Didi went for some nice relaxing massage at the hotel. We had our dinner at Rajasa Raya.

We went there with our van. The hotel is quite nice and probably located in a place than ours.

11/5/2011

We had our early breakfast and checked out from the hotel. Then we left for Dieng Plateau and it took 2 hours to reach there. From there we can have a panoramic view of the whole area.



The ancient Javanese Hindus built up temples and made Dieng Plateau as a sacred place. The word Dieng word was formed from Sanskrit words Di (Abode) and Hyang (Gods), so Dieng means abode of the Gods. The Javanese Hindus built hundreds of temples in this place, but only eight are left. The temples were built from 8th century to 13th century by Sanjaya Dynasty and resemble those of Prambanan, but on a smaller scale. The local people named the temples based on the characters in the ancient Javanese Hindu legend which has similarity to famous Hindu story Mahabharata and Ramayana. We say Candi Arjuna.

The Dieng Plateau is an upland volcanic plain in Central Java, famous for its scenery and ancient Hindu temples. The Dieng Plateau is formed by the eruption of ancient Mountain Prau. Volcanic activity continues to this day, with sulphuric fumes and poisonous lakes. We went up to the lake and we saw the boiling lake with pungent sulphuric fumes - even now I can feel the smell! It was bit scary and smoke coming all over the place and location of smoke is changing regularly. We was smoking coming out of the ground from various places. Located at an altitude of 2000m, it's also much cooler than the surrounding lowlands. It was quite an experience, something which I have never seen!

The only way to reach the Dieng Plateau is by land. The main town on the plateau, Wonosobo, can be reached from Yogyakarta.

Then we left for Telaga Warna (Sulphur lake), Dieng plateau. The looks quite amazing!


Now it is time to leave for Borobudur, our last stop at Central Java. Borobudur is a Buddhist stupa and temple complex in Java, Indonesia dating from the 8th century, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is one of world's truly great ancient monuments, the single largest Buddhist structure anywhere on earth.





There is no definite written record of who built Borobudur or why it was built. It was likely founded as a religious site in the 8th century at the peak of the Sailendra dynasty in central Java. The construction is thought to have taken a period of 75 years, and completed in about 825 A.D.

The haphazard jumble of Hinduism and Buddhism from this period in Java's history can be baffling for visitors. Together with the records of many royal marriages between Hindu and Buddhist nobles, many Hindu and Buddhist monuments were constructed in the region at this time. For example, Borobudur and the nearby Hindu Prambanan temple complex were more or less contemporaneous. This, together with many records of royal marriages between Hindu and Buddhist nobles, has led academics to believe that there was little serious conflict concerning religion in central Java at this time.

Borobudur lay abandoned and hidden for centuries under layers of volcanic ash and thick jungle growth. Nobody knows for sure why it was abandoned, although the popular theories are that the local population just became disinterested when there were mass conversions to Islam in the 15th century, or they were simply driven away by a large volcanic eruption.

It was never forgotten entirely though, with local folklore ensuring that stories of the great monument lived on.

Entry into Borobudur costs:

  • US$ 15 /Rp 135,000 for adult non-Indonesians.

  • Rp 15,000 on weekdays and Rp 17,500 at weekends for Indonesian adults or foreign holders of an Indonesian work permit.

So ripping off the foreigner happens in Indonesia also. I tend to think it happens only in India!

The site is open to public entrance from 6AM-5PM. However one can also go for Borobudur Sunrise Tour for Rp 320,000 for foreigners and Rp 220,000 for Indonesians, which gets you a flashlight and a lift up to the temple gate at 4:30AM. This is in time to see the sunrise, and to explore for an hour and a half before the hordes arrive. But we did not take this sunrise tour. However we did not pay for this, as it was part of our package.

Now it is time to go back to Yogyakarta to catch “executive train” which leaves at 3.30 pm to go to Surabaya. So we are moving towards East from the central part of Java (something like Madhya Pradesh to West Bengal).



It will reach Surabaya at 9.30 pm. The station is quite neat and clean. Reaching Surabaya was a nightmare for us. Before we can get down the train started moving and nobody seems to understand what we were saying and all of them were laughing - which made Didi very angry. Luckily we got down at the next station - which was not far from the main station (we thought we will get down at the last stop - extreme east). We had to walk on the railway track to reach the platform. In the meantime Didi called Wayang over phone and our car (David was our driver) came to the next station. It was much more difficult than these written words seem to mention. Struck in an alien world where nobody understands your language. Anyway were very late and had our dinner at the footpath - roadside stall, since everything is closed at that point of time. We had some oily Nasi Goreng and again they tried to cheat us with the price. We travelled quite some time to reach Yoschi's Guest House at Bromo-lingo, very late. It is really nice hotel at 12 USD.


12/5/2011

After few hours of sleep it was time for us to leave for sunrise at Mt Bromo. Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park is named after its two mountains, Mount Semeru (the highest in Java at 3,676 m), Mount Bromo (the most popular) and the Tengger people who inhabit the area.

Mount Semeru also known as Mahameru (Maha = great/mighty, Meru = Mountain) ("Great Mountain" In Indonesian language = Sanskrit language !), is one of Indonesia's most active volcanoes. . It is certainly a great mountain. This is considered as one of the notorious volcanoes in Indonesia. Mt. Semeru is the highest mountain in Java.The mountain's located in the Bromo- Tengger- Semeru National Park, which cover a wide area including some other mountains: Mt Bromo (2,392m), Mt. Batok (2,470m), Mt. Kursi (2,581m) etc.


What stands out most about this mountain is the fact that it erupts periodically (and very reliably so). Every 20 min or so, the volcano belches out a huge cloud of steam and smoke, sometimes interspersed with ash and stones.


Mount Bromo (2,329 m) is easily recognized as the entire top has been blown off and the crater inside constantly belches white sulphurous smoke. It is an active volcano; Mt Bromo is the most popular tourist destination in this area. The mountain is located in Ngadisari-Probolinggo. Mount Bromo can easily easily be reached by car.

When timing any activities in the area, bear in mind that sunset is soon after 5PM and sunrise is correspondingly early at around 5:30AM. However, visitors need to walk, ride a horse, or take jeep to get close to the mountain itself. You can climb up the stairs to go up to its peak. Many visitors go to this mountain to see the sunrise. Truly the area around Mt. Bromo is beautiful to enjoy. Since we were bit late, we had to hire a horse (50,000 IDR each) to reach the top to see the sunrise. We saw many people standing there already. Probably we were the only Indians. We can see the panoramic view of the place from the top.

After staying there for some time, we went down with our horses. There is a small Hindu Temple at the base of the mountain. We stopped here for a while. We walked beyond the temple engulfed by sea of ash and sand.




The area in and around the park is inhabited by the Tenggerese, one of the few significant Hindu communities left on the island of Java.


In the most parts of the park it is limited by the general lack of vegetation. Rugged, barren volcanic peaks, gravel plains and sea of sand. Truly unworldly. There are typical tropical forest floras -casuarinas forest - but all covered with ash.


In late 2010 and early 2011 volcanic ash and incandescent material was thrown up by eruptive activity with a heavy rain of ejected volcanic material falling around the crater. Continuous eruptions caused a thin ash fall mainly in the village area of Ngadirejo and Sukapura Wonokerto, Probolinggo district. The impact of the heavy rain and volcanic ash from eruptions during December 2010 and January 2011 resulted in disruption to normal activities and the local economy. The potential for long term environmental damage and health problems amongst the residents in the locality surrounding Mount Bromo was paramount at that time.

Eruptions and volcanic tremors were reported on 21 January and 22 January with activity subsiding on 23 January 2011.The Park was reopened to visitors in April 2011.

It was time for us to go back to the hotel. After having our breakfast there (part of the package), we checked out of the hotel. The hotel is located in a very nice location. There is ash all around.

Then we left for Ijen crater. On the way we went to Wayang’s house, who was our travel agent and made the payment to them. They were very nice and they gave us gift also! After spending some time there we left for Ijen crater. On the way we had our lunch - Mi Goreng (like Chowmein, unlike Nasi Goreng which is Fried Rice). The road to Ijen is definitely one of the worst roads I have seen. Worse than India and that is quite a statement. In the meantime our tyre got punctured do to the bad condition of road (read pebbles). On the way we saw coffee plantation and we took some photos. This is the first time I have seen a coffee plant. Indonesian coffee is famous all over the world. In fact the term Java (in software is derived from Java coffee when two friends in California, silicon valley, were sipping a cup of Java coffee they got the idea of the name of the coffee! When we reached the bungalow it was almost dark. In the faint light we could see we are staying in the midst of a coffee plantation. It is definitely one of the best bungalows I have ever stayed. Only very guests were there and we were staying in a guesthouse called Arabica. After it was dark- there is not much we could do there. We had our dinner at the plantation. I paid 20,000 IDR, which I would not say is expensive considering the location.

13/5/2011

We got up early in the morning and left for Ijen Crater. The Ijen Plateau near Banyuwangi and Bondowoso, lies in the centre of Ijen-Merapi Malang Reserve, is a less well known but in its own way equally spectacular area of volcanic activity. For the adventurous traveller a visit to the Ijen Crater (Kawah Ijen) is a must whilst in the region. The Ijen Crater is one of the great natural wonders of Indonesia.





Ijen Crater is the biggest Crater Lake in Java. The sulphur Crater Lake lies between a natural dams of deeply etched rock. The Ijen crater itself lies at approximately 2,300 meters above sea level. It forms a twin volcano with the now extinct Mount Merapi. It is 200 meters deep and contains about 36 million cubic metres of steaming acid water, shrouded in a smelling swirling sulphur cloud. Inside the crater the different colour and size of stones are found. Indeed the crater of Ijen is beautiful garden of stone as well.

The view of sulphur miners who climb and go down to the crater is also amazing. A man puts about 10 kg of yellowish stone in to his basket, before he descends the mountain slope to sell his load, carrying the same basket, going in the same direction, digging the same mineral. It is the natural picture that can be seen everyday.

The crater can be reached from either the east or the west by any kinds of vehicles, but the second part of the trip covers distance 3 km on foot (jungle track). However, the latter is more popular approach, since the climb from the road's end to the edge of the lake is only 1.5 hours. We took little more than 1.5 hours. We took many halts on the way.

Men carry individual loads of up to 70 kg, often barefooted, up to the rim of crater and then 17 km down the mountainside to a factory near Banyuwangi. The porters are paid by weight. The sulphur is transported entirely on foot. Today, the mine yields nine to twelve tons of sulfur per day.

The most important advice if you are traveling to Ijen is: "If you lose your way, just look out for the sulphur trail". The meaning was clear, since a continuous flow of two ways traffic, carrying the sulphur down the mountainside from the lake and trudging up again to re-load, had left a yellow trail on the well-worn path. The best time for seeing Ijen Crater is at 8 to 9 am. We were given masks so that we don’t have to smell the pungent odour. Evidence of volcanic activity is everywhere with steaming water and brilliant yellow crystalline sulphur deposits.



Since our camera conspired against us, we could not take many photos. But one can see it here for more photos


Staying at the top with that panoramic view of the lake and watching the sulphur miners is definitely one of the memories I will cherish and also terrible sight (miners) side by side.
Baba preferred to wait for us at parking area (known by "Paltuding"), where our jeep was waiting. Climbing more than 1.5 hours is definitely very difficult at his age or even for all ages. After going down we got our lunch packed and had our lunch in the car while going towards extreme East of Java - from we are suppose to take a ferry to reach Bali. After reaching the pire we took the ferry to reach Bali. Our car also went along with us in the ferry. It took around 45 minutes to reach Bali. After reaching extreme West of Bali, we left for our hotel Yani. Since our driver did not know the exact location of Yani , it took some time to reach our hotel. At 87 SGD or Rs 3129 it was very pricey. Since we reached quite late , we took our dinner (20,000 IDR) in a Chinese restaurant which less than minute walk from our hotel (since it was very expensive). Since our flight tomorrow is at 6.20 am to Singapore we booked our taxi for tomorrow. Since we have exhausted all our money, we went to money changer to get some Rupiah from a money changer. One Indonesian couple gave us a lift up to the money changer (by driving almost 2 Km) and dropped us back to the hotel. It seemed they are also fond of Sharukh Khan and they hardly can speak English. For the first time in Indonesia which met a person like this (we were thinking that they would demand money for this lift) and were very happy.


14/05/2011

We left for DPS or Denpasar airport early in the morning and paid 45,000 IDR. We chose this hotel since it is closer to the airport. We reached in less than 30 minutes. At the airport we paid 150,000 IDR as departure tax. In Bali nothing is free! We left for singapore.

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