1987 Indonesia – Java

Once through passport control we took a taxi, an easy thing to do as the each of the many drivers tried to claim us in order to ensure our business. The trip to towards Jalan Jaksa was part of our initial culture shock, hmm, this was not as we had visualized. Busy, warm, humid, dirty. Welcome to Jakarta! Welcome to Jody !! Aaargh… the contrast could not have been bigger with the 5 star hotel we slept in at Brussels. Oh well, it was spartan, (reasonably) clean, and full of mosquitos as we soon were to find out…

We had our first Indonesian dinner in a sateh restaurant after which we went to sleep. We were exhausted. Tomorrow is another day. 

And tomorrow started early, at 4:30 the both of us were rudely awaken by the singing and prayers of a nearby mosque. We were still able to sleep a bit after which we had our ehh… sort of breakfast and took a bajaj to Gambir station. There we found out only 3rd class tickets were available for the 2 hour trip to Bogor, another experience that added to our culture shock. 2 hours like sardines in a tin but we made it… The famous botanical gardens were a delight after the heavy traffic in Jakarta, once could really come at peace over here. 

We strolled around for a couple of hours after which we went to the bus station and took a minibus to the Puncak pass. The drive was beautiful, tea-plantations wherever we could see. This was more like the indonesia we had expected. It was a fabulous experience. In Cianjur we had to swap busses, hardly anyone spoke English but a helpful student assisted us in finding some kind of transport to Bandung. Halfway there our ‘colt’ suffered from  a flat tire but that was all part of the experience. Once in Bandung we found an acceptable place to stay, had dinner and went to bed early. It was only 9 o’clock but we were full of impressions and totally exhausted.

Another early rise and our first real excursion to Tanhuang Prau, a volcano close to Bandung. At the foot of the volcano we decided to walk to the top and soon we found out we had underestimated the hike in tropical circumstances. Soaking wet we arrived at the top and were rewarded with a spectacular view into the crater of our very first volcano. A guide was easy to find and we started our descend to a second, still active crater. The smell was almost unbearable. Rotten eggs everywhere, yak!  The impression was worth it and the smiles on our faces told it all. 

Instead of taking the easy way we made another hike cross country towards the hot springs in Ciater. The views were absolutely fantastic. Once arrived at the hot springs we soaked our tired bodies in 42 degrees hot water, maybe a bit to warm? The ‘mint’ tea did not bring us the refreshment we wanted either so we decided to visit the pasar, a local market, in Lembang. Our final stop, a waterfall in Maribaya, was a bit of a disappointment as there was more water in our shower…

Sota Ajam (Javanese Soup) and Gado Gado (Mixed vegetables with peanut sauce) completed our day after which it was time to go to sleep again. 20:30, days are short in Indonesia.

A couple of hours later, 4 o’clock in the morning we woke up again and went to the railway-station for our ride to Banjar. The views were spectacular as we drove through a beautiful landscape of volcanos, sawa’s and small villages. In Banjar we took a small buss which brought us to Pangandaran, a small village on the south coast of Java. There we checked in at losmen mini dua after which we were treated on our first view of paradise. We changed into swimming shorts and not much later we were swimming into the the Indian ocean! A white sandy beach, palm trees, blue sky and crystal clear water. Now this was what we had hoped for! In the evening we grouped up with some other people and enjoyed a truly relaxing evening in paradise, paradise where maybe a  bit more beer was served than we could handle 😉

The next morning we moved to another losmen where some of the people stayed we had met the night before and after a cup of tea we headed of for a jungle walk. We did not have to wait long until we saw the first monkeys. One of them tried to steal the peanuts I was carrying and after I recovered from the shock I could see the humor of it. A bit further we saw some wild deer and a small cave. Then we started to climb some rocks after which we arrived at a small natural pool and a waterfall. Swimming in the pool we could watch over the Indian Ocean, 60 meters below us, what an experience.

Back at Pangandaran we swam in the ocean after which we gathered again with our new friends for another evening of beer and fun. Someone arranged a fish barbecue with shark cooked in coconut which was more than excellent. As we were enjoying Pangandaran so much we decided to stay another day.


The next day started with a ‘typical’ Indonesian tourist breakfast, a banana pancake… During the morning we enjoyed the sea and the sun and in the afternoon we made a small boat tour around the peninsula. In the evening we met more people from our unfortunate flight and it did not take long before another party was born…

The next day started with a ‘typical’ Indonesian tourist breakfast, a banana pancake… During the morning we enjoyed the sea and the sun and in the afternoon we made a small boat tour around the peninsula. In the evening we met more people from our unfortunate flight and it did not take long before another party was born…

Then next day was another early rise as we had to take a bus to Kalipucung. There we boarded a small boat for the backwater trip to Cilicap. That was another experience never to forget. We passed by numerous small villages, at each of us we stopped to drop off or pick up new passengers. Children were waving at us, and locals were preoccupied with their daily habits. 4 hours later we arrived in Cilicap where we took a becak to the bus terminal. 

Yogyakarta was now only 173 kilometers away and still it took us over 6 hours to get there. Once arrived we took a becak to Metro Guesthouse, a bit out of the center, where we decided to book a pool side room, we had deserved it. It did not take us long before we were floating with a tire in the pool, one hand in the water, the other with a Bacardi coke. This is life!

Totally relaxed we woke up the day after and after breakfast we took the bus to Borobodur. We were blown away by the first glimpse of it. There was so much to see and the three hours we spent at this beautiful temple hardly seemed enough. Of course we touched the lucky Buddha and made a wish. My wish was once to return to this inspiring place, something I could not think would happen numerous times.

Back at Metro Guesthouse we met our neighbors, Paul and Charity from Alphen a/d Rijn, and we decided to go to Jalan Malioboro together for a meal and a visit to the evening market. We had a wonderful evening together and time flew by far to quick.

The following morning after breakfast we started our exploration of Yogyakarta by becak.  We started of at the Kraton where we witnessed a classical Javanese dance performance. Although we did not understand a lot of the story we were impressed by the performance, it was beautiful. 

We had lunch at Metro Guesthouse after which we hit the road again. Of course Charl and I wanted to try and drive the becak by ourselves, something which was not as easy as we thought and after we crashed into a didge we decided to leave the cycling to the professional. 

Next stop was a wayang kulit, the shadowdance, performance. Wonderful to but after half an hour we called it a day and continued our trip to Kota Gede, a village full of silver-craft factories. With a silver-plated miniature becak in our bags we continued to a batik factory where both of us bought a nice piece as well. Before we would overdo our shopping we decided to go back to Metro Guesthouse and relax at the pool, it was a holiday after all. Later on we had dinner with Charity and Paul, had a couple of drinks and went of to bed dreaming off all the memories of this trip and what what was still ahead.

After breakfast we took a bus to the Prambanan, a Hindu temple complex in the vicinity of Yogyakarta.  Yet another fine example of Javanese architecture and so different from the Borobodur we visited two days ago. Restoration was in full progress and on the side we could see hundreds of numbered stones that still had to be put back it place. It was a fascinating place to visit.

A short bus ride later we were back in Yogyakarta where we took a becak to Jalan Malioboro and returned to Legian Garden restaurant for a wonderful lunch. The afternoon we spent at Metro Guesthouse at the pool.

Early evening we went to a nearby theater and visited a wayang orang performance. This certainly was one of the highlights of our visit so far. Incredible how the dancers controlled their bodies during this extremely complex dances. In spite of the fact that the show lasted for 2 hours we were not bored for a minute. Amazing! Back at Metro we had a drink with Paul and Charity, and as they had the same travel plans as us we decided to travel together the next couple of days.


Time to leave Jogyakarta, we had a long journey ahead of us. We started the day with a refreshing swim and breakfast after which it was time to check out and get on the bus for the long drive to Malang. It took us all day and after a couple of hours we were numb for the beauty of the surrounding landscape.

Late afternoon we arrived in Malang where we took another bus to Batu. There we checked in at a small hotel where it did not take long to become to the new attraction of the other Indonesian guests in the hotel.. Dari mana? Where you’er From? Negara Belanda… Ahh. the Netherlands. It was difficult to update my diary but in a way it was fun. Later that evening we managed to get a simple nasi goreng menu in the reception as the restaurant was already closed.

Next day we continued our journey to Selecta, high in the hills above Malang. The surrounding views over the volcanoes was breathtaking. We visited a family park with a dried out pool. Soon we were the center of attention again of local Indonesians and after the mandatory photo sessions we managed to continue our walk and go to the gardens. There we were stunned by the variety of lowers, enormous cactuses and even spotted a butterfly as big as a fist.

In the afternoon we took a minubus to Malang. There we visited a large shopping mall after which we had a refreshing es jeruk in a small restaurant called Toko Oen, it breathed the atmosphere of former Dutch colonies in the thirties and I wondered whether my father had been in this atmospheric place while he served in Indonesia.

During another short stroll through town we ended up at a small market place, it did not take long before the 4 Belanda’s were the center of attention, a funny experience. At one corner of a street a man had a monkey do all kind of tricks. The audience loved it, though we felt sad for the monkey.

As it was slowly getting dark we returned by bemo to Selecta and a refreshing shower later we decided to take a horse-cart to Batu. The pasar malam was very small but we discovered a small restaurant where we enjoyed an amazing soto ajam and sate. Another day of adventures had passed by far to quick for our liking.

Next day we took a taxi to the center of Malang and checked in at hotel Pelangi. In the dining hall we found tiles with decorations from Maastricht, Amsterdam, Zierikzee, another proof of the colonial past. 

Our first stop for the tour of that day was the temple at Singosari, a small but beautiful temple in the middle of a stunning landscape. 

Next were the Jago and Kidal temples. In order to get there we rented a bemo for the day. The driver kicked out the local passengers in order to get our business, a quite embarrassing experience but apparently he could make more money on us then on them, thats the way things work in Indonesia. Whilst we were on our way to the Jago temple we were short of eyes to enjoy everything surrounding us.

The Jago temple seemed to be a bit neglected, as if it had seen better days,  still it was a fine example of East Java architecture and we all were pleased we made the effort to go and see it.

The Kidal temple was under reconstruction and it was interesting to see how all stones were being inventoried so they could be put back in their original places in a later phase of the restoration. Hopefully the Jago temple will get the same treatment one day.

It had been a wonderful day-trip and late afternoon we returned to Malang where once again we had dinner in Toko Oen. Since we had had enough rice lately we decided to go for a juicy steak and fries, very Indonesian…

A short stroll over the evening market completed our stay in Malang. One more night before we would continue our trip further east.

After a good breakfast we had arranged a minibus to bring us to Gunung Bromo, a volcano in the east of Java. It took us about 3 hours to get to Ngadasari and during those three hours we had not enough eyes to enjoy the spectacular landscape that surrounded us. Slowly we were approaching a rougher area where we slowly ascended into the mountains.

In Ngadasari we said goodbye to our driver and swapped our bus for a jeep which brought us straight to the rim of the crater. There we checked in at ‘hotel’ Bromo Permai, a small dirty shithole where the rooms were only separated by paper thin walls. The view of the crater however made up for this and after all we would only stay here one night.

We decided to walk the steep slope back to Ngadasari and book our transport for tomorrow to Bali, the island of the Gods. That worked out fine and as three of us were to lazy to walk we took another jeep to the crater rim. Charl was more adventurous and decided to run the stretch uphill. 

Dinner that evening was matching the quality of the hotel…. lousy! So was the entertainment and because there was nothing else to do we decided to go to sleep at 7pm… Of course we could not fall asleep before we had extensively tried to clean the room from spiders and flies. To make things worse it became cold, very cold that night so it might not be a big surprise we did not sleep very well that night and were awake before the alarm went of at 3:00 AM…

Cold to the bone we got out of our beds. We could not find our lighter to light the candles but Paul and Charity had found theirs and were so kind to pass it on through a hole in the wall that divided their room from ours. An amazing atmosphere to say the least. And things were ready to get even better!!!

Once outside we could not believe our eyes, a black sky, filled with stars, actually there were more stars than sky, something we had never experienced before, It was absolutely amazing and soon we had forgotten about the inconvenience of the night. 

As expected breakfast was disgusting so we went outside next to a bonfire in an attempt to get at least a bit of heat. The crater was filled with mist and we witnessed a scenery of almost unearthly beauty. Somewhere down in the crater sea we saw the lights of small torches from people who already were on their way to the Brome. Time to go! We rented 4 horses and started our steep descend. It was a bit frightening at times as it was still dark and I had no clue of how close I was to the edge. Because the slope was very steep I had some difficulties staying in the saddle but all went fine and safely all 4 of us arrived in the sand sea where we started our crossing.

Having arrived at the Bromo we had to climb steep stairs with 264 stairs to get to the top. And once at the top a spectacular event unfolded. Sunrise over the Bromo! We were speechless by the cheer beauty. Slowly the sun broke over the horizon and spread it’s light over what seemed to be a moon like landscape.  Breathtaking…

Once the sun was up the mist in the sand sea evaporated and it was only now that we got a good view over the journey we made in the dark. It had all been worth it.


Back at our ehh. hotel we packed our bags and took a jeep down to Ngadasari. Our minibus was already waiting for us which brought us to Probolingo in less then an our. There we swapped into a local bus, another experience. There were at least twice the number of people in the bus than it had originally been constructed for, needless to say space was something we did not have so it became a very uncomfortable and cramped 6 hour ride to Banyuwangi. That was our final stop in Java. We could already see Bali at the horizon. Java had been a fantastic experience but we were now ready to explore Bali, the island of the Gods.

Time to board the ferry….

Continue the journey to Bali