Yogyakarta & Dieng Plateau
We had picked another centrally located hotel, we have found on this trip that usually the cheaper ones we stay at are just a little walk out of town, say 20-30 mins walk. But in paying a couple of pound more, we can get something more central and saving money on Grab taxis more often.
This time we were in the Hotel Neo, and as soon as we got checked in and arrived in our room, the layout was all too familiar. On checking it out, the Favehotel we stayed at in Jakarta is part of the same group of hotels, as are some other brands too. It had a pool (which surprisingly we didn’t use) and we had a breakfast buffet which was decent. There was also a rooftop bar are where we headed up to for a beer once or twice and it had a not bad view of the surrounding city.
After dropping our bag of clothes off, we went into a couple of the agencies to get some quotes. The main reason we came to Yogyakarta was to see the nearby ancient temple complexes of Borobudur and Prambanan, the former is also known as a good spot for sunrise. We got a few prices and some information to look over before we booked anything. Then it was just a wander round the 2 busy backpacker streets near our hotel called Jl. Sosrowijayan and Jl. Malioboro, which are busy streets lined with ‘Warungs’ which are little stalls selling practically everything you need.
Turned out we had entered in the wrong direction, and a guide tried to point us in the right direction, but when we explained we didn’t need or want to pay for a guide for a tour, he just abandoned us. So, we were within part of the complex, but with no map, signs in English or anywhere obvious to buy a ticket, we ended up walking around the place in circles looking a bit lost for a while. A group of schoolgirls then accosted us again (happens a lot here) to ask us some questions for their project, Sadie kindly obliges and answers them as best as she can, all whilst either getting filmed or audio recorded.
And then off we go to try find the actual bits of the complex we wanted to see, walking through tunnels but sadly I managed to bump my head on a low doorway, and it bloody hurt so I wasn’t in the mood for walking round looking any longer, so we jump in a Grab back to the hotel.
There were 2 options for this tour, one which involved you paying a vast premium to get into the already over-priced complex before 06:00 by going to the only hotel on site who charge more to let you in via their property at 04:30, allowing you to enter the temple and climb to the top for sunrise at around 05:30.
The other option is to go to a nearby viewing point, the one we went to was called Bukit Barede, pay a small fee to get onto their land, and then ascend a hill for about 10-15 minutes to get to a viewing platform. This was the option we opted for, and so we paid 10,000 IDR (£0.54) and along with perhaps 20-30 other people, off we set up the hill. It was already cloudy, so we didn’t have any high hopes of seeing an amazing sunrise, and after sitting about for around an hour, we headed back down to the car park without seeing anything spectacular, so we were glad we didn’t pay the premium price.
Sadie had already eaten her breakfast box, which contained 2 slices of dry bread, a boiled egg, a banana and a pastry. I didn’t bother with mine, and instead bought some scrambled egg & toast from a little stall at the car park, which was cheap and did the job! We then headed about an hour east to Prambanan Temple, again with the crazy driver.
After that, we headed back to our hotel, and as we had been up since silly o’clock, we both had a much-needed afternoon snooze. As we decided we didn’t want yet another early rise the next day, when we went out for dinner, we popped in to let the tour guy know we were cancelling tomorrow’s trip, before heading to Oxen Free again. We ordered our food, I was still sitting waiting on mine after Sadie had finished, so a quick word with them and they brought out my Chicken Sandwich, which whilst tasted ok, wasn’t the best and the fries were cold… better sticking to local dishes and not going ‘Western’.
Our taxi dropped us off and immediately someone came to ask where we were going, and on saying Magelang, we got quickly ushered towards a waiting bus and on we got. As with most journeys on local buses across SE Asia, you are usually the only tourists on the bus, so expect a few stares and hellos, but the people are friendly enough. There is usually a ‘conductor’ who collects the money at some point in the journey, then another guy who stands near the back door shouting the destination loudly at anyone standing next to the road, and helps anyone on and off with luggage. I paid our fare, which was 15,000 IDR (£0.80) for this part of the trip as expected, and off we went. One thing that made me chuckle on this journey was we were sat behind a dumper truck that had stopped at a set of lights, as we waited I noticed 4 or 5 young lads in white shirts (looked like school uniform), clamber up the back of the truck and jump inside before it set off again… am pretty sure that wasn’t standard school transport!
An hour later, we arrived at Magelang, and again as soon as we got off the bus here, we were shouted asking for our destination, and before we knew it, we were on the next part of our journey. This sector was 2 hours long to Wonosobo, we paid our expected 25,000 IDR each and off we went. The driver of this bus was a bit crazy (this became a theme for the next couple of days) as we sped through the countryside heading up the hills, the scenery was stunning, where we could see 2 of the many volcanoes in this region, Mount Sindoro and Mount Sumbing. These were very impressive, especially as there was what seemed like smoke coming from the top of the latter.
We had only been on the bus about 10 minutes, when they stopped at a crossroads and said we needed to get off here and get into a smaller minivan which was waiting. Thinking nothing of this, off we got and got onto the other vehicle as asked, as this happened to us a couple of times in Thailand, where you get passed onto another waiting vehicle to complete the journey. As we sat down in the minivan, we got asked for our fare of 20,000 IDR to take us to Dieng… which took us by surprise as I had just given the last guy what I thought was enough for this journey. After a bit of debate, using Google translate and slightly raised voices, we soon realised it was the young lad on the last bus who took what should have been the complete fare and kept it, when realistically it should have only been 3000 IDR not 30,000! Not the end of the world as it was only a £1 or so, but the principle that he kept it. We got off the bus, hoping to catch the cheeky sod the next time they came around the block, but never so we eventually got some of the locals to help us get another bus to Dieng, having to pay again... lesson learned is to confirm destination, fare and if need to change transport for future reference!
There is a shortage of accommodation options in Dieng (a lot of people prefer to stay in Wonosobo and travel up), but I had found one homestay that seemed to have some half decent reviews, as many didn’t even feature on TripAdvisor, Google or even the internet at all. It was £8 a night, and we had it booked for 2 nights so we could do the tourist stuff the next day starting at sunrise, and then have a chill day before we move on again. We got shown to our room, up a small staircase to the 2nd floor, which had about 8 rooms surrounding the upper lobby. Room we got shown was tiny, so after a quick discussion, we moved into one of the other empty rooms which had more room. It was a basic room, and for the price it was ok but we had no sink in the bathroom, no towels or toilet roll and it wasn’t the cleanest. But it would do for a couple of nights, so we settled in and then went out to find some food for dinner. Like accommodation, there wasn’t much to choose from here, and after walking up and down the small main street for a bit, we found one place that had tables inside and people in it. The food was basic, cheap and filled a hole, then we went back to our homestay. As we had still to arrange our trip out for the next day, we managed to find one of the staff who spoke some English, and got a price of 400,000 IDR for a car/driver for 8 hours, which turned out to be more than enough time. The downside of the deal is that it is a 04:00 start again, so hopefully it would be better than the last one!
By now it was about 05:00 and with around 30 minutes to go before official sunrise time, we could see it starting to get ever so light on the horizon. The sky was pretty much clear, with only a few wispy clouds on the horizon where the light was. All going to plan, we could be in for something special here, and we sat patiently with about another 10-15 people at that location. We could see the other viewpoint a bit lower, but not far away and there was probably about a hundred or so people all in who had made this early morning journey.
By the time we wandered round the few temples here, we were tired and hungry and kind of glad when our driver told us it was time to return to the homestay.
We found a nice Chinese restaurant where we had a lovely dinner and then it was back to the hotel.