Check out my video on Yogyakarta!
My sole mission to Yogyakarta was to see with my very own eyes, the awe-inspiring Jomblang Cave. Never have I abseil into a verticle cave with an underwater river. But the main focus of Jomblang is that 90 metre hole in the cave’s main section that radiates the morning sunlight. Magical is the only word that comes into my mind.
But what Yogyakarta gave me in return is more than I asked for. More than every tourist’s needs to visit the great Borobudur and Prambanan Temples, more than the urge to spend on batik fabrics and crafts at Malioboro street, more than the hunger to try the Gudeg, Kupat Tahu and Pecel Lele; more than the fun of taking a selfie infront of the Kraton.
What Yogyakarta gave me is an in-depth bond and relationship with the people of Yogya. What I enjoyed the most is the endless conversations I had with Jovi, Awe, Frans, Tugi and the fishermen at Pantai Timang. I spent 30mins sitting by Candi Garuda in Prambanan, just observing the locals interact with their families and friends, while waiting for my sunset timelapse to end. Understanding about their daily lives and routines is more than enough for me to SEE Yogyakarta and appreciate Java. For the first time, the inhabitants were the main highlight of my trip.
Ideally, if your flight from Singapore is at 1130am and lands in Jogja at 1230pm, the best itinerary is to just take it easy. Check in, get comfortable with the culture and atmosphere, catch the sunset at Prambanan and then enjoy a nice Nasi Padang dinner at Nasi Padang Sederhana. Well, I’m a budget traveller. I like to go local and cheap. BUT value for money is a MUST!
Here’s a summary of my 4-day itinerary during the Chinese New Year Holiday:
Day 1: Arrive, check-in, Prambanan Sunset and Dinner
Day 2: Jomblang Cave, Pantai Timang Gondola
Day 3: Borobudur and shopping at Malioboro street
Day 4: Morning flight to Singapore
The Alamanda Villa Hospitality
Immigration at the Adisucipto International Airport was smooth. As I reached the arrival hall, amidst all the touts and drivers shouting “taxi!” at you, it’s easy for me to spot a friendly face in the crowd. Jovi greeted us with a big smile that is filled with so much warmth and sincerity. A handshake or two and away I set off to check-in into the romantic Alamanda Villa. Tucked away from the traffic and city crowd, Alamanda is situated in a sanctuary, where the background is painted with lush padi fields, sunrise/sunset, birds chirping and its foreground are the Java-inspired villas.
How can you not fall in love?
One might expect that such countryside grandeur is going to cost a bomb. On the contrary, it’s surprisingly value for money given the room, the service, the guides and the tours.
The bungalow rooms are located right beside the padi fields. So expect to hear crickets at night, and some beetles in your bathroom. However, rest assured, NO MOZZIES are in sight! Which is just remarkable! Partly because they put fishes in the padi fields, mosquito repellents, lemongrass plants to repel the mosquitoes.
Well, I can go on and on about Alamanda but I’d rather you read the many positive reviews they’ve received on Tripadvisor. You can also check out their website here: www.alamandayogyakarta.com
Traveller tip: Stay at the Superior Bungalow. There’s only two rooms available for this. (Rooms 6 and 7). Pick room 7. Just because the view from the bedroom is nicer.
To read my review on Tripadvisor on Alamanda Villa, please click here.
Sunset At Prambanan Temple
Next, Jovi drove me to Prambanan for sunset which is really a good idea as we can save time on our third day which is solely for temple visiting. Be on the move to the temple by 3:30pm so that you’ll get to explore the other smaller temples and take shots before going to the main section for sunset.
Traveller tip: When you reach the entrance, go straight to SEWU TEMPLE, which is located right at the back of the whole complex. It’s a nice 15 mins afternoon stroll but, I assure you that it’ll be worth it. As you can see from my photos, I have the whole place to myself (And I went during the Chinese New Year Holidays).
So, it’s 5pm. Time to walk back to the main section of Prambanan to find a sweet spot for that sunset timelapse of mine.
Traveller tip: I got a nice spot right by the Garuda Temple to do my timelapse video. Which one is the Garuda Temple? Don’t worry. Each monument is clearly marked and label for you. Just find the Garuda Temple.
Nasi Padang Dinner
So, sunset went really well. Time to fill this hungry tummy! Jovi brought me to this local food joint called Nasi Padang Sederhana.
Well, I know that some of you may be a little bit apprehensive about eating at a food court where there’s lots of locals because you just dont know what to do or what to order.
All Jovi did was just go in, tell the waiter, “Makan untuk tiga” which means “For three pax”. And then find a table and wait. In less than 5 mins, drinks were served along with 15 dishes!
You know how Nasi Padang in Singapore works right? You just go to the stall and point out whatever dish you would like to add with your rice. But in Indonesia, they present all the available dishes for you and charge you based on which ones you touched, or rather, eat. They won’t charge you for the leftovers, only for the items you ate.
Overall for Nasi Padang Sederhana dinner-IDR 127,600 / SGD 13 for 3 pax. LIKE WHAT?!
Time to get some rest and Day 2 awaits…
Sunrise at Barede Hill
There are two hills where you can catch the spectacular sunrise and morning mist with Borobudur in the background: Barede Hill and Punthuk Setumbu.
Typically, one would opt for the Borobudur Sunrise via Manohara Hotel. But I want to see a full unobstructed view of the sunrise and morning mists with Borobudur in the background. There are two hilltops where you can this kind of view: Barede Hill and Punthuk Setumbu. I’ve opted for the less crowded Barede Hill. Also because Barede Hill has a treetop platform. The first 4 people to reach there, would be able to go up and enjoy the unobstructed view, perfect if you’re into timelapses.
Sunrise at Barede Hill is anything but ordinary.
Entrance fee: Rp 30,000
Extra fees to get on the treetop platform for an unobstructed view of the sunrise: Rp 50,000 (Maximum only 4 people allowed)
Jomblang cave is located at Gunung Kidul regency and is a 90-minute drive from the city. The roads leading to the cave can be very bumpy so for those who have motion sickness, please get your pills ready. We made our way to Jomblang cave by 7.30am. When we arrived at 9.30, there were 60 other people (holiday period) all waiting excitedly in line to marvel in the beauty of this extravagant cave. The first part of this adventure requires me to abseil down the massive sinkhole which was formed when the cave wall collapsed. The total depth of Jomblang is 90m. The tunnel itself is 250 meters long.
Here are some of the shots inside the cave:
Entrance to the cave is IDR450,000 which includes:
- All the safety equipment
- Local guide for Jomblang cave exploration
- Two hour tour of Jomblang Cave
- Lunch and 1 bottle of mineral water
- Best time to go is at 10am to noon
- Bring your own pair of socks, headlamp, and drybag
- There are 3 shower rooms there. So bring extra dry clothes if you want to
- For more information about caving in Jomblang cave and ticketing, you can contact the owner of Jomblang Resort, Cahyo Alkantana (+62 811 117 010).
From what I can observe, the cave system, specifically, the limestones were formed by rainwater. It took thousands of years to form a single limestone rock. So please do not step on it when taking photographs. Let’s preserve what mother nature has given us to learn and discover for future generations.
The Gondola Of Death
Or rather locally known as Gondola Maut. And for obvious reasons.
So what’s cool about today is that I found a place where the local fishermen has built a DIY ‘gondola’ to connect them from Pantai Timang to a huge outcrop in the sea. The structures are made from wood. Yes wood. In Java, they call this ‘Gondola Maut’ which means ‘The Gondola Of Death’. Huge waves will come crashing in as you reach the center of that line. And everything is manually operated.
Getting to Pantai Timang
To get here, I hired a driver (you’re on a holiday so sit back and relax) and then an ojek. Ojek is a motorcycle taxi. My driver stopped halfway in the village as the roads are way to bumpy for the car. We still need the car to return back to the hotel. Ojek was fun! Riding though the countryside was pure joy, if you don’t mind the crazy bumpy road. So how to spot the ojek drivers? They will be dressed in bright orange shirts. Hard to miss them.
Cost for ‘ojek’ return trip: IDR 30,000
There are two ways for you to get to the other side of Pantai Timang: By bridge or the gondola.
You will roughly know how to negotiate the price by now. Yes, this contributes to the well-being and livelihood for the local fishermen and their family but guys, c’mon, if you continue to pay them IDR250,000, they will increase it to IDR500,000 by next year, thinking that IDR250,000 is still too affordable for you.
On to Day 3…
Borobudur and Malioboro Street
The last day to try the two famous local dishes, Gudeg and Kupat Tahu. (In malay, Kupat is known as Ketupat. So it’s kind of like Lontong)
What is a Gudeg?
Gudeg is a traditional Javanese cuisine (only can be found in Java). It is made from young unripe jack fruit boiled for several hours with palm sugar, and coconut milk. Locals go to this shop called Gudeg Wijilan Bu Lies (pronounced as ‘Bu-Lees’). You can find them here on Facebook: www.facebook.com/gudeg.bu.lies
What is Kupat Tahu?
Similar to Malay’s traditional dish called Lontong. Ketupat, or rather Kupat in Java is a delightable mix of super tasty peanut sauce, soy beancurd and beansprouts.
This is my far, my most FAVOURITE local dish in the WHOLE of Indonesia. I should learn how to prepare this. Seriously.
Traveller Tip: Not many online recipes would reveal that they would actually add garlic (pounded) and 1 red chilli before adding the rest of the ingredients.
Borobudur is just as majestic as what others have described. I missed the sunrise due to the late night I had editing the videos. But it’s all good. There will definitely be a 2nd time to Yogyakarta.
Traveller Tip: Do not follow the exit sign. Yes, as ironic as it sounds, the exit sign will lead you to a 20 mins journey through stalls of souvenir shops each selling the same thing. Find an alternative route to the carpark if you must.
7.30am flight back to Singapore.
And that’s a wrap! Till next time!
Matur Nuwun Jogja!!