霞女之旅

Xia's Journey

Adventuring Yogyakarta

on April 24, 2015

As there were quite a number of attractions at Yogyakarta, I decided to split up the blog post and cover the different attractions in this blog post. You can read (part I) Exploring Yogyakarta here.

Attractions Collage

Clockwise from top left: Jomblang Cave, Prambanan Temples, Borobudur Temple, Parangritis Beach

Date of Trip : 12 to 17 February 2015, Thursday to Tuesday

Flight
To : AirAsia QZ 659, 12 Feb 2015, Thursday, 11.10am – 12.25pm
Return : AirAsia AK 1791, 17 Feb 2015, Tuesday, 7.25am – 10.25am
Cost of Flight : S$220 per pax, with two way 15kg check-in luggage

Accommodation
5 nights Accommodation at Whiz Hotel : SG$123.46 per pax (twin-share)

You can read my review of this accommodation here.

Attractions:

Borobudur Temple
On the second day of our trip, we chartered a cab (from the same cab driver which brought us from Yogyakarta airport to our hotel) for a day trip to Borobudur Temple. As we intended to shoot the sunrise from Borobudur Temple, we chartered his cab for an 11-hour day trip from 4am to 3pm at IDR 350,000.

By 3.50am, we were standing-by and waiting for him at the hotel’s lobby. We started chatting with the hotel staff and upon learning that we were going to shoot sunrise from Borobudur Temple, he suggested that we visit Punthuk Setumbu lookout point too. With his suggestion, we switched plans and decided to make a trip to Punthuk Setumbu lookout point instead.

We reached Punthuk Setumbu lookout point at about 5.15am and paid an entrance fee of IDR 30,000 per pax (SG$3.20) and a parking fee of IDR 5,000 (SG$0.50).

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To our dismay, it was a mountain view with the sun popping out from behind the mountains. We have had tons of mountain sunrise shots with the most recent one from Myanmar just 2 months ago. Disappointed that this wasn’t exactly what we had in mind, we decided to make a dash for Borobudur Temple in a last frail attempt to try and catch a glimpse of the rising sun with the Buddha’s silhouette.

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Sunrise from Punthuk Setumbu lookout point. Well, this wasn’t exactly what we have in mind. And instead of spending more time here, we decided to make a dash to Borobudur Temple to try to catch a sunrise with the Buddha’s silhouette.

But alas, we were a tad too late when we got to Borobudur Temple at 6am. The sun had risen.

Nonetheless, we paid the entrance fees of IDR 280,000 and entered the temple.

For those of you that are keen to do a sunrise shoot at Borobudur Temple, you would need to make your way to Manohara Hotel and purchase a Sunrise + Borobudur Entrance Fee ticket costing IDR 380,000. This ticket entitles you to enter the temple before 6am (after 4am).

Guests staying at Manohara Hotel enjoys a discount and pays IDR 230,000 for a Sunrise + Borobudur Entrance Fee. Similarly, this ticket entitles you to enter the temple after 4am and before 6am.

Pricing Structure
Entrance Fee (after 6am) = IDR 280,000
Sunrise (Surcharge from 4am to 6am) + Entrance Fee (Public) = IDR 380,000
Sunrise (Surcharge from 4am to 6am) + Entrance Fee (Manohara Hotel guests) = IDR 230,000

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Covering 2,500 square meters, Borobudur Temple is the world’s largest Mahayana Buddhist monument and this five tiered architectural site has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. The monument consists of six square platforms topped by three circular platforms and houses 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. A main dome located at the centre of the top platform is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues seated within a perforated stupa.

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Lots of lots of stupas but only one facing sunrise that is exposed.

With so many Buddha statues, I had imagined it to be a magnificent sight. I walked round and round and round and round… only to find two Buddha statues that were ‘exposed’. One of the Buddha statues faces the sunrise direction and another faces a different direction. Oh well… It wasn’t peak season when we went and could you actually imagine the number of tourists hogging behind this one ‘exposed’ Buddha statue to shoot during peak seasons.

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This is one of the ‘exposed Buddha’ whilst the rest of the Buddhas were encased within their respective perforated stupas.

According to one of the guides (as eavesdropped), the best period to visit is from May to July. But the best part of us being here during this off-peak season was that, the site was not swarming with tourists and that we were able to capture some ‘clean shots’ of the temple and of course, enjoy our favorite pasttime of camwhoring too!

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A failed standing bow pose… I must practise more liaoz… Haahaa… : D

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Don’t ask me what is this Xiao Char Bo doing…. Cos’ I oso dunno… Haahaa…. 🙂

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The site has a rich history but we didn’t hire a guide cos we wanted to maximise the time to shoot. But, on second thoughts now, maybe we should have done so.

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There were lots of these reliefs and Buddha statues. However, they were not meaningful to us as we did not hire a guide to explain its history.

Hence, after some brief strolls through the temple, we were off to Borobodur Butterfly Park which was a mere 5 minutes drive away.

Borobodur Butterfly Park
The Borobodur Butterfly Park is a very small enclosure that can be viewed ‘at one glance’. There wasn’t much butterflies when we went, and the park seemed to have more floral than butterflies. From our research, they used to charge an entrance fee, but it is now free, possibly in an attempt to push visitorship. With very minimal to shoot, we had a brief stroll through the garden and was out in less than an hour.

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One of the few butterflies that I spotted.

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peek-a-bOO…

Candi Merdut
Before heading for our lunch, we dropped by Candi Merdut temple. It looked pathetically small and with an entrance fee of IDR 3,500 we decided to give it a miss and went for our lunch before calling it a day.

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This was it for Candi Merdut. It didn’t look like there was much to see in there and with an entrance of IDR 3,500 we decided to give it a miss.

Sultan Palace (Kraton)
Sultan Palace, also known as the ton, / Karaton or Kraton defines a place where the Queen and King resides. It was a grand complex that was meticulously planned to reflect the Javanese cosmos. Started in 1755, constructions were completed some 35 years later, in 1790.

Today, it is a museum for visitors in the mornings, and a functioning palace in the afternoons, where it is being used for official functions, political meetings and as the royal residence. Do take note that the palace is only open to visitors from 830am to 1230pm, except for Fridays and Saturdays where it closes at 11am. It is closed on all afternoons.

Located in the city centre, we caught a becek (trishaw), costing IDR 20,000 for a 15 minutes ride to the Kraton.

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We arrived the palace at about 10am, and paid an entrance fees of IDR 12,500 per pax and IDR 1,000 for camera charges. My travel mate was stopped at the entrance for wearing a sleeveless T-shirt and had to purchase a top from one of the stalls. (Strict dress code applies here; No sleeveless T-shirt for guys. I didn’t seem to see any for ladies though and I was wearing a short sleeve tee-shirt with berms.)

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My travel mate wearing his new batik top costing IDR 20,000 (SG$2.10). Dashing right… Heh heh hehh… : D

As we entered the palace, we walked through a pavilion or “Pagelaran” where the Sultan’s ministers and troops used to assemble. Now, this space is being used for musical and theatrical performances on the last Sunday of each month and special occasions such as the Sultan’s birthday. We were pretty lucky that our visit coincided with one of these performances and were treated to a Wayang Kulit (shadow puppet show) although we visited on a Saturday morning. As time was tight, we didn’t sit through the entire performance and started to make our way around the palace.

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How lucky of us to arrive just-in-time for this Wayang Kulit (shadow puppet show).

Most of the pavilions or “pendopo” we came across were, largely open air structures, supported by ornately carved pillars. However, many of these very pretty pavilions were out-of-bounds to visitors and it was really such a shame.

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Many of the pavilions had these signages and were out-of-bounds to visitors. If so, why do they bother to even open up the palace for visitation in the first place, I wondered….

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So much attention given to the pillars.

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Love this ‘street lamp’ near the palace entrance.

Housed within the palace were several ‘museums’, bearing different artifacts of Javanese musical instruments, antiques and heirlooms. Most of the descriptions were either in Bahasa Indonesian or badly constructed English. Either way, it was a good guessing game on what the artifact was about or trying to divulge. With minimal English descriptions, it is a no wonder that this place was an ideal location for the second pit stop in The Amazing Race 19. Haahaa… 🙂

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The only, ‘very palace-like’ pavilion at the Kraton

Taman Sari / Water Castle
2km to the south of the Sultan palace, lies an open secret. Constructed in 1758, the Taman Sari also known as Taman Sari Water Castle was used as a bathing complex, resting area, workshop, meditation area, defense area and a hiding place.

The Taman Sari consisted of four distinct areas; a bathing complex in the centre, a complex of pavilions and pools in the south, a lake in the east and a large lake with islands and pavilions in the west. However, today, only the central bathing complex remains as many other parts of the complex were destroyed during the British invasion in 1812.

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There are two gates leading to the bathing complex. The western gate is known as Gedhong Gapura Hageng and the eastern gate is known as Gedhong Gapura Panggung. Both gates are decorated with ornaments of stylized birds and flowering foliages as seen in above pic.

When I stepped foot at the central bathing complex, I stopped dead in my tracks. Disappointed and disillusioned, the bathing complex’s glorious days … … as it is named… was a thing of its past. It used to be a pool for the royals, but now it just looks like a sad pool for the mozzies. The pool is no longer maintained and the bottom was engulfed by moss and fungi. Ohh well, so much for the awesome pictures that I saw online.

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We ventured around the passages and pathways and came across a group of people sitting inside a circular area. Wondering how they got there, we walked around looking for it. And out of the nowhere, we stumbled upon an entrance to the Gumuling Well (Sumur Gumuling), which was a circular structure being used as a mosque in the 1700s.

The entrance led to an underground tunnel and the underground tunnel had a mystery feel to it and it felt like we were going on some Nat Geo exploration when walked down the steps into the dark tunnel. In there, it was cold and empty with some light coming through the arches.

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Going on a Nat Geo exploration.

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The light coming through the arches made for such awesome ‘feel-yin’ shots.

Reaching the central area of the building was an elevated platform where four staircases meet. And from the platform, there is a staircase that brings one up to the first level. The platform got kind of crowded when everyone tried to get a snapshot on it. Eventually, we didn’t want to wait and left.

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We followed some locals and came to a dilapidated one level structure known as the Kenongo building. In the past, the entire area that we were standing on, was known as the Segaran Lake (a man-made lake). This man-made lake was then the main complex of Taman Sari. In the middle of this man-made lake was an island and on that island, was this Kenongo building.

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Nothing left of the Kenongo Building except this ruins

Today, the Segaran lake has been drained of its water and the lake bed has been taken over by human settlements. There is nothing left of Kenongo building now, except these ruins.

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This area, once an artificial lake, is now filled with human settlements

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Saw this really cool-looking peeping hole at the back of the ruins

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Climbed up this rock and I felt like I’ve been transported to another world

Jomblang Cave
According to the research, not many tour operators knew how to get to Jomblang Cave and hence to save the hassle, we called up the owner directly (Mr Cahyo Alkantana +62 81111 7010).

The transport picked us up from our accommodation at 730am and it was a 2 hours drive to Jomblang Cave. The last 300m leading to the site was very very very bumpy and it could very well be the bumpiest ride I’ve ever ever sat through. Although it was a mere 15 minutes drive on that bumpy stretch, it felt like forever with your guts spilling out from your throat with every bump.

We arrived the site at about 930am and after some tea and fitting on the rubber boots, we were all set to go on our adventure.

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We made new friends!

Sadly for me, they didn’t have any rubber boots of my size, as they were either too small or too big. I didn’t have a choice and had to force my feet into a pair that was two sizes smaller and I finally could comprehend how a bound-feet woman in the Chinese ancient time feels like. It was excruciating! And to top it up, the inside of the rubber boots were wet and muddy from the previous users making it even more nasty.

We got to the edge of the cliff and were hoisted 20 meters down to the bottom of the cave.

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See the staff behind me…? That’s where we were being hoisted 20m down the cliff before getting into the cave. Ohh man… I need Superman powers to do this…!

Upon reaching the bottom of the cave, we had to trek through a forest trail before arriving at the mouth of the cave. As we were there during the rainy season, the way down to Jomblang cave was wet, slippery and muddy. There were no hand rails and proper stairs except for a rope stringed through several poles planted gingerly into the soft muddy ground to act as support. We were literally going on all fours, getting down and dirty.

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After the descend, we made our way into a tunnel and had to trek over rocks, rocks and more rocks. I had to maneuver my way around carefully as it was dark, wet, muddy, slippery and remember that my rubber boots were ill-fitting too! It was made worse as I did not have a strong enough light to illuminate the path ahead of me and I was honestly using my feet to feel my way around. I’m not too sure if the organisers provided headlamps cos’ I was not given one and had to use my own tiny weenie hand-held torch which didn’t provide much light.

After an arduous 20 minute trek, we finally got to Luweng Grubug, a sinkhole with the stunning “heaven’s light”.

It was a very surreal magical feeling when we saw the 90m light pillar shine through the flowstone in the dark cave.

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We climbed onto a calcite rock and basked in the light. The best time to be here is from 10am to 12noon when sunlight shines directly into the hole. We came here hoping to see this ray of light and we were so thankful that it was a bright and sunny day and the light rays coming through were just so strong and majestic. We took shots, lots of it, cos it was just simply amazing and jaw-dropping. Awesome is an understatement.

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See the tiny weenie light that I have on my bag? That’s how much light I had in the pitch dark tunnel. Haahaa… : p

Before we knew it, it was time to make our way back up. Awwww….

It has not been an easy caving experience but we loved the authentic experience of going on all fours and getting really dirty rather than the touristy version of well-paved paths and tracks. Despite the many discomforts and high costs, the two hours car ride getting here was totally worth it. It has been our favorite activity on this trip.

Some tips to take note of when going for the caving adventure;
1. Wear clothes that you intend to discard as we got all muddy from the caving and the mud stains were still irremovable after the hotel’s laundry service. Long pants would help prevent any abrasions during the descend as well as provide some additional surface area for wiping the mud off your hands.

2. Bring along a hat / cap or shower cap so that you could put it on before placing the helmet as the helmet reeks of a thousand years perspiration!

3. Wear slip-on foot-wear as you would need to change out into rubber boots cos’ I’m sure you wouldn’t want to stain your clean socks and shoes with mud. (There are shower cubicles where you could wash off the mud though.)

4. Bring along a waterproof camera or house your camera / handphone in a waterproof casing with a lanyard over the neck. The cave is rather wet and it can get quite cumbersome to take the camera in and out from the bag pack.

5. BYOH ~ Bring your own headlamp. I’m not too sure if they provide headlamps cos’ I was not given one. My friend was given a handheld torch whilst the other two guests were given headlamps. I had to use my own tiny weenie handheld torch which was rather weak and didn’t provide much assistance. However, having said that, whatever small amount of light was better than none as it got really really pitch dark at certain segments of the cave. A headlamp would be a better alternative as it frees up both your hands to grab onto the sides if you should need to.

The caving experience costs IDR 450,000 per pax inclusive of a boxed lunch and the transport costs IDR 500,000 per vehicle. Since there were only both of us, we paid IDR 700,000 (SG$73) each. We contemplated on doing so as it wasn’t exactly cheap, but thankfully we decided to go ahead with it as it had been such a phenomenal experience.

Parangritis Beach
Parangritis Beach and Jomblang cave are not too far from one another. My suggestion would be that you speak to the driver that brings you to Jomblang Cave to send you to Parangritis beach after the Jomblang Cave activity ends. I’m not too sure how much additional that will costs as we made the mistake of going back to our hotel at the city centre and then going to Parangritis beach, wasting too much time and incurring higher costs.

map parangritis beach

Parangritis beach is a popular tourist beach located on the southern coast of Java. We were enticed by the mirror reflection on the shallow coastline as seen in many of the promotional pictures and decided to make a trip there. We were so overwhelmed by our caving experience in the earlier part of the day, that it had completely slipped my mind to visit this location right after the caving experience.

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Thankfully, we still had beautiful sunshine when we got to Parangritis beach.

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This beach is not exactly the best beach for swimming as it is known to have strong rips and currents tormenting it. But comes sunset, the volcanic black sand coupled with the shallow coastline turned the shore into a long glistening stretch of mirror, transforming it into an amazing photo piece. Although we didn’t spend a lot of time on this beach, it was our second favorite attraction on this trip.

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Love the beautiful mirror reflection on the beach during sunset

Queen of the South Resort
Our driver suggested we visit “Queen of the South” resort for dinner as it offered a magnificent view of the beach during sunset. True enough, when we got to the “Queen of the South” resort, there was an infinity pool overlooking the sea. I could so imagine myself sipping a cocktail, hanging over the edge of the pool, watching the sun dip into the abyss of the sea. Woww… this is life!

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As the restaurant was closed for that day, we did not manage to have dinner here but we were glad that we dropped by albeit such a short time.

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Prambanan Temples
As we read that Prambanan Temples and Ratu Boko Temple were nearby and that Ratu Boko was a perfect location for sunset, we decided to run the trip in the afternoon and catch the sunset at Ratu Boko. We started the half day tour at 2pm and bamm… not the best decision afterall.

We got to Prambanan Temples at about 3.30pm and after an hour or so, we were still not done.

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Hence, we had to forgo Ratu Boko Temple as the last entry time was 5pm. Since we were unable to catch the sunset at Ratu Boko Temple, we settled for dinner at Boko Resto (a restaurant nearby) so as to catch the Ramayana Ballet performance at 7.30pm.

The restaurant offers a view overlooking the city but the sunset was partially blocked at the angle where we were at. What a shame!

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Nothing fantastic about the dinner, but the view on my left was jes awesome for a rough day like this

We ended the dinner at about 7pm and headed to the Ramayana Ballet performance. And to our surprise, there was no performance on the day that we went! Ahhhh…. How could this have happened?! We miss the sunset and now, we miss the Ramayana Ballet performance. Argghhh…. Well… I guess it was my own oversight that we underestimated the time we needed at Prambanan temples and hence missed the sunset and I had also not researched well enough that there was no performance on the day that I went. Do click on this Ramayana Ballet Performance schedule to check for the performances dates before making your trip down, and hopefully you’ll not make the same mistake that I did…!

It had been an interesting and memorable trip and my ‘favoritiest’ activity on this trip was the caving experience as it offered a very unique and astounding adventure. This was followed by the short sunset that we had on Parangritis beach which was really gorgeous and breath-taking. I am not a shopaholic but I cannot hide the fact that I loved the unbelievable prices I had at Malioboro street which really put ‘shop till you drop’ to the test. And of course, not forgetting the unlimited amount of Magnum ice creams that I had… Awwww… how much I missed that since returning home to SG.

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2 responses to “Adventuring Yogyakarta

  1. Fahd says:

    Great insights to the trip. Planning on heading there in 2017 April Inn Sha Allah. Thank you

  2. Noor says:

    Thanks to visit Yogyakarta. waiting your coming next time
    More adventure trip at Yogyakarta you can see at http://jogjaadventuretour.blogspot.com/
    +628121561972

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