Mt. Merapi in the distance
(This post is super late because we took the trip in February 2016. But better late than never I always say!)
Photos: Taufiq Salehoodin www.tfiqsaleh.tumblr.com
And some by my iPhone 6!
The decision to holiday in Yogyakarta, or commonly called Jogja, was quite an on the spur of the moment one. I had an office closure for the entire CNY week, and since I have quite a limited number of leaves, I decided to go for a short trip. Due to budget constraints (saving up for a Euro trip hopefully in October!), the trip had to be around the region.
I had previously read The Smart Local’s guide to Jogja (yes, I am a sucker for what influencers recommend). If it wasn’t for TSL, I would probably never have considered going to Jogja. The activities and places recommended seemed pretty interesting! So Taufiq and I decided to go on adventure/nature-filled trip to Indonesia’s cultural capital!
The best shot I could get what with the terrible weather!
One thing I hadn’t realised about going on a nature trip – we are all subject to the forces of nature. When we landed around early afternoon, there was a slight drizzle. We disembarked off the plane and had to walk a short distance from the runway to the airport and it was drizzling slightly. Taufiq had warned me that it was the monsoon season at the time that we scheduled our trip but I thought nothing much of it. After all, nature is so unpredicatable! It couldn’t be raining all the time right…..
What was a slight drizzle turned to a full-blown storm by the time we met our driver and climbed into the car. We were due to head straight to Prambanan Temple as we were told checking in to the hotel would be wasting time and we wouldn’t have time to head to Prangtitis Beach for the sunset. Unfortunately, the rain was wayyyy to heavy when we got to the temple. I told Taufiq we should wait for awhile as the rain would most likely subside. WRONG AGAIN. After around 20 mins we decided to just brave the rain and explore Prambanan. Our driver very kindly gave me a poncho and loaned us umbrellas. Taufiq had his waterproof jacket he bought at UNIQLO’s duty free airport outlet before we left Singapore (best buy of the trip most definitely).
Just a little fun fact – Prambanan Temple was built in the 10th century and is the largest Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva in Indonesia. Once the temple compounds came to sight, I realised just how very majestic it is. Tall, grandiose and definitely beautiful structures fill the area. Sadly, due to the super heavy rain, we didn’t manage to capture good pictures.
At one point, Taufiq remarked how even more majestic it appeared to be if I looked up at the top of the structures. I did so, and with the rain and dark skies surrounding the structure, there was still ominous and dark feel that actually enhanced the grandness of Prambanan. One good thing that came out of the gloomy weather I guess?
After we were done, we concluded that it would be a waste of time to head to Prangtitis Beach to catch the sunset as the rain didn’t show any signs of letting up. So we headed to check in to our hotel, had a shower, and simply headed to a mall for dinner and some light shopping.
Day 2 was actually the day I was most excited about. We were heading to Borobodur Temple, the sight I was most eager to see! I had googled Borobodur extensively prior to the trip and all the pictures simply blew me away. Our initial plan was to catch the sunrise here, but we felt that waking up early would be too much of a chore. Plus, the purpose of a holiday was for us to get much-needed rest as well and we didn’t want to be too exhausted by the time we got back to work.
We were worried that the bad weather would continue to plague us. Thankfully, the skies were bright that morning and we made our way to Borobodur around 10am. When we got there, it was super hot!! But we were so grateful that the weather was good.
Borobodur is a 9th century Buddhist temple. As opposed to the majestic structures at Prambanan, the ones here are stupas, or in simpler terms, bell-shaped shrines. A Buddhist statue sits in each stupa. Since we had good weather, Taufiq managed to snap quite good shots here. Safe to say I was a very happy girl – I don’t know why historical monuments tend to intrigue me so much.
Our plan for the later half of the day was to go to Mt. Merapi, if the weather permitted. Thus we made our way there (quite a far drive) but even before we reached the top, I noticed how the skies were getting dark. We asked our driver and he said the rain wouldn’t come anytime soon so we continued the drive to the top. Unfortunately, the skies decided to unleash its wrath again and it started raining again. The Merapi tour consists of a ride on a jeep and you would be able to see areas the 2010 eruption affected. But we were not up to riding on a jeep (without a hood) in the rain. Then exploring and walking in the rain again. Not forgetting, the scenery would be affected by the heavy, dark clouds anyways. So we gave it a pass and got our driver to drive us down Merapi so we can just head to lunch.
We got him to recommend a masakan padang restaurant. Which is basically like the nasi padang we have here. Only difference is they place all the plates of food in front of you and then you pay for what you eat. We had a spa appointment at SARAH Spa at 4pm, but we decided to bring it forward since we had nothing to do.
If you’re in Jogja, you definitely have to go to SARAH Spa. Not only was the massage good and affordable, the place is extremely relaxing (it’s basically like a bungalow on a quiet street with a lush garden behind), and the personal touch made it ten times better. After your treatment, your masseuse would actually write you a card and give you a complimentary small bar of natural soap. Definitely scores points in my books. It was so good that we decided to book a 3 hour treatment (massage plus pedicure) on our last day.
We woke up super early on this day – 5.30am!!! But we had a super adventurous day planned. Our driver was due to pick us up at 7am for a two-hour plus drive to Jomplang. We were going to abseil 6 storeys down into Jomplang Cave! No idea what’s up with us, first we did a sunrise trek up Mt. Batur in Bali and now we were going to abseil into Jomplang Cave in Jogja.
Our Jomplang Cave adventure consisted of abseiling, following which we would trek a short distance into Grubug cave. It is said that at 12pm, sunlight would spill through the roof of Grubug cave to create an incredibly magical view. When we got to Jomplang, we had to change into boots. Then we walked to the edge of the cave and I have to admit I got a tad bit nervous. Looking down, it was actually pretty high. And I don’t even have a fear of heights! Nonetheless, we put on our gear. The guides strapped us onto safety ropes and before I knew it, we were being hoisted down. It actually wasn’t that scary!
When we reached the bottom, we had to wait for others before we proceeded to trek. It was a steep, downward route. All you have to balance is a rope at the side. And it was really muddy! I was soon covered in mud. Once we were done climbing down, we entered the cave and walked in the dark. It was so dark I actually had to use my iPhone torchlight to see where I was going.
We got to our destination and this was the view that greeted us.
Unfortunately, the monsoon season meant that the clouds were shielding the sunlight so not much light spilled through. Still a good view and experience nonetheless. I totally recommend it for those who want to do something different in Jogja. After taking pictures, we made our way back up the same muddy steep route, and we were pulled back up again. Lunch was provided so we ate there before going back to our hotel.
After a tiring day, we decided to take it slow on Day 4. We visited Taman Sari, a waster castle known for its ancient architecture. Taman Sari is the royal garden of the former Sultan of Jogja. I didn’t know much prior to the trip but Taufiq told me that the sultan’s concubines would bathe in the pool and the Sultan would throw a flower to the one he chose to spend time with.
I would give this place a miss if you don’t fancy listening to little historical facts about the place. Granted, the pool area was pretty nice, but overall I don’t think the architecture is well maintained. A certain part of castle that we wanted to go to was also closed. Either it’s being renovated or it’s only open for wedding photography. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t want to take my wedding pictures at a place where a sultan used to hanky panky with so many concubines hahaha.
For lunch, we decided to check out Roaster & Bear café, as recommended by TSL. We had a huge problem getting a cab from Taman Sari. So we had no choice but to ride a trishaw. It’s pretty scary actually, since the trishaw driver (or cyclist) would literally cycle on the road along with cars, bikes, etc. So basically, you’re right smack in the middle of traffic in a….trishaw. Not very safe, but made for a good experience. I felt kind of bad as well. The cyclist was around 60 plus. Despite his age, he still had to do manual labour just to earn money. I found myself wishing I was lighter. Haha.
The food at Roaster & Bear is pretty much like the food served up by cafes in Singapore, only way way cheaper. It’s quite a big café as well (2-storeys) and the décor is super adorable. Since Valentine’s Day was the next day, the place also had little hearts dangling from the ceiling. It was a satisfying meal and worth a visit if you want a break from Indonesian food.
After our lunch, we headed back to our hotel for a short rest before being picked up for our spa treatment at SAARAH Day Spa. The good thing about this spa is that they offer free pick-up and drive back if you spend more 3 hours or more there. The co-owner was the one who drove us back and we managed to have a pleasant chat with him. He told us that the rationale behind the free pick-up is that it’s all part of the spa experience – he doesn’t want his customers stressing or worrying about getting to the spa for their treatments. He would rather have them relax and enjoy a free ride.
Due to the infamous Indonesian traffic, we were picked up late and hence were late for our appointment. The co-owner was so apologetic. He even scheduled a free foot massage for us while we waited, and gave us a free bottle of natural lip balm. Service definitely top-notch! I’m not surprised that they’re rated as the top spa in Jogja and Java.
(The reception of SARAH Spa)
I think the whole spa experience capped off our entire trip wonderfully. Despite the little adventures we embarked on that took a toll on our muscles and energy, we managed to schedule in some time for rest and relaxation.
And that concludes our entire trip! We flew home early the next morning. I would definitely come back to Jogja again, but perhaps this time I’ll be sure to trust the weather experts and avoid the monsoon season. We didn’t get to do some things we planned to do, both a result of the weather and at times just sheer laziness. Nonetheless, I’m glad we made the trip and I can now cross Yogyakarta off my list!