The moment I found out where the hotel was, after being lost right away from Tugu station to street after street, to those small alleys, I was approached hastily by a travel-and-tours pitchman. If you get to see him, you can't see him any air of credibility. Physically, he’s not typically someone who really means business, if you know what I mean. But he was convincing enough that we negotiated anyway because the sun was already up for hours, and it was almost 7AM, and he seemed to be seriously with clean intentions. The minimum number of persons in a van was two. But there was no one else at our agreed timing that fated morning, but me and my kicking feet only. So the whole thing arranged would cost me 400,000 rupiahs for a whole day trip to already three sites – Borobudur, Mount Merapi and Prambanan (my personal itinerary). I thought a roughly 55 Singapore dollar equivalent trip was fair enough since I was about to spread distances away from the city for hours. Nevertheless, I told him to just wait for me outside of the alley near Jalan Sosrowijan, as I needed to ‘semi-check-in’ first.
Merbabu is a 21-room 1-star hotel, quite popular among backpackers, for it is just footsteps away from Malioboro Street, Yogyakarta’s shopping district. So you get to feel the pulse of the hustle and bustle of the city as you step out on the road.
I went to the receptionist, introduced my name, yes, as the boy from Agoda, as on their whiteboard. Merbabu’s check in time is 1PM, so I had to wait for a few hours. But the receptionist, who looked more of an old grumpy owner (nah, he’s not really), suggested to leave my belongings inside the reception area. Brilliant, I thought, so I could tour lightly, leaving more than half of my pack. Then, I asked where I could book for a trip to those three sites mentioned. He handed me over a Bromo Tour & Travel leaflet and told me to wait for a while as if he’s looking for someone outside. He came back with someone who’s going to arrange my tour (later I would know he’s the owner of Bromo Tour & Travel). Finally, everything’s on the go for the day, yes, exactly for 400,000 rupiahs, exclusive of entrance fees. And I saw the pitchman scratching his head (seriously hoping he had a fair share after that).
I was introduced to my driver Baim. What surprised me was that he spoke without a heavy accent and had a good command of the English language, one of the good things about the tour.
At 7:20AM, we speeded our way to our first stop – Borobodur temple. Excitement was painted all over my face, and I just wanted to screech at that moment because I knew the temple was within my reach. That same adrenalin actually stemmed a long time ago from when my uncle gave us a Reader’s Digest book that features Borobudur. That was the first time I got to know about the temple.
While listening to a local radio, MYMP’s ‘Especially For You’ was suddenly played, which jolted me with surprise.
We arrived in the biggest Buddha temple in the world, after exactly one hour and paid for a parking fee of 5,000 rupiahs. Entrance ticket for international visitors is 15 US dollars or 135,000 rupiahs. Everyone, save the locals, has to don the sarong/sarung.
I left the temple 3 hours later, forgetting my driver who told me he would wait for me for 2 hours. Ha ha. I was just awestruck seeing what I thought I could only see on pages of books. Sure, the sight of an 8th century temple was so commanding, as if lording over the plains of Central Java.