The journey to Java started with yet another let down from Air Asia. We were still in Kuching and were meant to be catching a flight from here to Kota Kinabalu, where we would have 3 days to say goodbye to Borneo and then fly onwards to Java. Sadly our final farewell 3 days to Borneo were spent in a hotel as for 3 days our flight was cancelled.... again! At least this time there was a valid reason forthe cancellation. The plane we were meant to be on had skidded on the runway due to the vast amount of rain that had been falling andended up off the end of the runway in the mud where it was then stuck for 3 days so no flights could go out of Kuching. We were putup in a 4 star Sheraton hotel which was very nice but not where we wanted to be.
Tokay geckos for sale
Whilst most normal people say wow a gym, swimming pool,huge room and oversized bed we just get adgitated as we were there to explore the country, its people and wildlife, not the shinymarble walls of an expensive hotel. Saying that we ate more in those 3 days than I have for the passed month of meals put togetheras every meal was a buffet with tables full of everything you could imagine that we would never have expected to be feasting on whilst away, things like roast beef and blueberry pana cotta.
Finally the plane was removed from the runway and we were off to Kota Kinabalu and then had a flight the same day bound for Jakarta, Java. We arrived in Jakarta quite late in the evening and on following the advise of the lonely planet hadnt booked a hotel as the book assured us there were numerous amounts of hotel reservation counters at the airport that could whisk you away to a hotel as soon as you arrived.
Puppet maker, yogja
Sadly, this was not the case and although we had countless taxi drivers swarming us saying they could take us to hotels for just 100,000 Rps (about 10 pound) which is seriosuly expensive for Indonesia we had to decline as the hotels they wanted to take us too all cost about 60 pound per night and we just dont have that money, so it was to be that we spent our first night in an airport on a wooden bench. I know many people have travelled before and slept in an airport and its notreally a big deal but this was no Gatwick with nice comfy chairs and good security. None the less we were accompanied by taxi drivers who drifted off to sleep on the benches either side of us, so as well as having an uncomfy nights sleep we were also lulled to sleep not by music but by the deafening chorus ofsnores from the taxi drivers soundly asleep next to us.
... not something I am in a hurry to experience again.
The morning arrived slowly and we made our way to the other terminal where our flight was departing from Jakarta to Yogyakarta which is know by many as the artistic sould of Java as it has a nicer, more laid back atmosphere than the crazy hustle and bustle of Jakarta, and its inhabitants are more creativethan those in the other city with interesting grafitti painted on many of the once plain walls, craft and batik shops on every corner and many art shops selling creations made by school drop out and crazy people which is interesting but paintings of brightly coloured rabbits and odd scribbles isnt really to our taste. Batik is a traditional cloth and is the main item of trade in Java. The cloth is traditionally indigo, dark brown and white (colours which represent the 3 main Hindu gods)and is covered in quite intricate patterns which apparently symbolise your status/nobility (although I think this is only really followed by those with old fashioned beliefs and isnt really followed today).
School kids Borobudur
Although Batik is interesting and admired by many, we couldnt find anything that really caught our eye so the famous Maroloboro road thatis supposed to be amazing for shopping didnt really tempt us to purchase any souvenirs (which is probably a good thing as we are broke anyway!).
We have also visited the sultans palace where he still resides today although we sadly didnt get to meet him. We saw a traditional shadow puppet show (well 10 minutes of one) as they last for about 4 hours and we had no clue what was going on. We then visited a work shop to see how the puppets are made which was actually really interesting. The puppets are made from buffalo leather and are pierced numerously with different sized metal tools to create various patterns which cover the puppet head to toe.
All of the work is done by handand each pattern represents different things such as how people are linked to the classical elements, earth, wind, fire and water etc. After the puppet is shaped and patternedit is then paited in immense detail, one puppet takes one week to make and they are truly beautiful creations, it is just a shame that in the plays they are puyt behind a screen so the intiricate paint work is never actually really seen. We also checked out a bird market which was pretty interesting. Owls regarded us with wide eyes and hisses, cages were crammed with tokay geckos and btas for the pot and puppies were crooned over in baskets.
During our 6 days in Java we also visited the famous Buddhist and Hindi temples of Borobudur and Prambanan.
The temples were very impressive but sadly had suffered in therecent earthquakes where they had actually been completely demolished and then restored (but sadly not very well). They sadly looked like jigsaw puzzles that hadnt really beenput back together very well with pieces put back in random places and carvings shoved into places that they looked like they would fall out from which was suprising as they areboth UNESCO world heritage sites. Luckily we arrived at Borubudur just in time for sun rise so it looked very pretty in the rising sunshine and was reasonably quite so youcould take in the peace of the temple. However, we werent so lucky at Prambanan. As soon as we set foot on the temple grounds we were swarmed by children asking to have theirphoto taken with us and for our autographs.
We were completely confused but didnt want to be rude so obliged and let the kids have their photos of the weird giant tourists. However, we had only a limited amoun of time at the temple and after an hour of interviews and photos we had to start being mean and sayin no then walking as quickly as ourabnormaly long western legs would carry us to use the last half an hour we had to actually look at the temple. Prambanan is apparently the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia andSouth Asia and Borobudur is apparently the largest Buddhist temple in Indonesia and South Asia. Although both were impressive and it was a nice trip we were exhausted and glad that we would never hold celebrity status after the attention that we received at the temples.
We also visited a place called the Dieng platau which is about a 3 hour journey from Yogya.
Volcano - Dieng
The journey took us through villages which have been devastastated by the volcanoe with rivers carrying silt and magma from the volcanoe right down to the villages, often the river floods leaving hige boulders crushing the villagers houses and deposits of mud and rock 3m deep to be cleared from the road. Appparently this has been happening in one certain area every day for since the volcano erupted and the road has to be cleared ever day. It is scary to think that people live with this unstable giant on their doorstep and deal with it ever day as they say it is their home and they dont wish to move. The Dieng plateu was beautiful, with stepped rice paddies, coffee and tea plantations, little children helping their parents tend to the crops itwas really interesting and not a sight you would see back in England.
Horse and cart
Whilst there we visited a bubbling, boiling sulphur pool which threw out angry smoke which had the stenchand power of a thousand seriously bad farts sent out at the same moment.. it was intense and even made some people sick but it was really cool to see this strange naturalwonder. We also saw some small temples dotted around the fields and a lake which has turned a kind of light creamy green colour from the effect of the sulphur. Then it was back to Yogya and an afternoon chilling by the pool. We leave Yogya tomorrow where we have 1 night in Jakarta and then next we move onto Sulawesi....