Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Second Sunshine and Mount Merapi

Mount Merapi as seen from Borobodur

Lunchtime came calling after leaving Borobudur. An hour later, at 12 noon, we’re already at the Padang eatery, where I had fried chicken, cucumber, and a local food that had familiar ingredients in it -- coconut milk, beans, and tofu. It was almost a Filipino dish except that it’s spicy. I’m sorry I forgot what it’s called (hands down, I’m not a foodie that I only eat whatever is palatable on the table). But one thing’s for sure, it tasted real good. Our lunch only cost us 23,000 rupiahs, including drinks.

my lunch! can someone tell me the name of this dish with beans?
We headed to Mount Merapi, the Fire Mountain, 30 minutes later. And just as when everything seemed OK, rain came pouring down – uninvited guests of our now flawed trip. Baim, my driver, asked me if I ever wanted to make a detour, since zero visibility was expected. But I opted to continue on the road, thinking I could still chance on seeing the volcano up close, regardless. 

Entrance ticket is 3000 rupiahs per person and 5,000 rupiahs for the parking fee. 

On our way to the base camp, man, I never thought it could be that foggy. I just rested my case, right off the bat. 

At the base camp, I just went wandering nearby; somehow hoping the fog would go away. But the rain still drizzled as hard-headed as they could be. With my hopes dashed, the trip just made me feel giddy (ha ha).

There was a deep ravine to the left of the foot of the volcano with dead trees, and volcanic ashes were everywhere, which probably resulted in the October/November eruptions in 2010. The eruptions took a toll on thousands of families. Over 300 people were found dead.

We left Mount Merapi at 1:27PM. I was obviously disappointed, yet the thought of being at the foot of an active volcano was already enough, calling it a wonderful experience. I had never been that close to a volcano all my life. :D

P.S. I was cheery upon witnessing the grandiosity of the smoking Mount Merapi from the top of Borobudur and Prambanan. Seeing a volcano was another first for me. :)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Second Sunshine and the Borobudur Temple

I had sensed that so many things were yet to be accomplished, with so little time and so little rupiahs left in my pocket on my second day in Indonesia. It meant a whole lot even more when the location of Merbabu Hotel was a maze, I thought.

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.

I was on my way to accomplishing the rest of my Second Sunshine mission!

the temple and its garden
read the procedure in visiting the temple:
1. enter Borobudur temple park from east entrance.
2. go up to the temple from east gateway and walk around clockwise every stair (called pradaksina).
3. go down the temple from south, west or north gateway; exit Borobudur temple park to north gateway.
foreigners donning the sarong/sarung

Carved reliefs