Week no. 1 – Hong Kong, Yogyakarta and Borobudur (Java)
So we are here a week today! Here being Hong Kong and Java, but it already feels like we left home ages ago – probably because we’ve travelled so much already. We’re already very grubby and although Eddie is a bit more used to it, I have never sweated quite so much! Its hot here, but not unbearable (until you’re walking around, a bit lost, with rucksacks on and there’s no shade). We were in Hong Kong for three days, which we loved, we’re definitely hoping to return sometime. Highlights were the Peak, the shops (even though I didn’t purchase much!), the escaltor up to Soho and the Man Mo temple, which was so peaceful we could have stayed for hours.
So we’re in Java now, which is the biggest island in Indonesia and well known for its coffee. We’ve spent a lot of time here travelling on trains and buses, so we are wrecked already! The first part of the journey was on one of the better trains from Jakarta (Argo Dwipangga, 180,000 each) to Jogyakarta so it was just like getting the train to Dublin ten years ago, only maybe better because the lights didn’t go out at all and we were served breakfast and free tea! We stayed in Yogyakarta for a day or two and spent a lovely few hours wandering around the Kraton, a large elegant palace where the Sultan of Yogyakarta has resided since the 18th century. Yogyakarta was the first place we really saw in Indonesia (we just spent a night in Jakarta and didn’t see much) and it was really cool to get out and explore its hot and busy streets. We took our first ride in a local taxi – a bicycle with a seat attached for two which faces out in the traffic, so once you get in you can’t see the driver (cycler!); you are just thrust out head first into the bustling traffic, at which point you sit back and hope for the best!
After a couple of days we journeyed on a few hours to the ancient Buddhist temple of Borobudur. We stayed on site in the only hotel facing the temple, The Manohara. It’s a really serene place, kinda luxurious and you get to wander up to the monument before 6am when they let the masses in for a reduced fee of 115,000. It was fab! So far we’ve been living it up a bit, staying in hotels, not hostels or local B&B’s, just because its so cheap. The place in Borobudur cost 400,000 for the night (about €28) for us both and that was relatively expensive and very very nice. If you are going to see Borobudur I would highly recommend it! The picture below was taken from the hotels grounds.
Borobudur itself is supposedly Indonesia’s answer to Angkor Watt (an ancient temple in Cambodia), but it’s a smaller site, consisting of just one large temple. It was built in the 9th century and is one of the world’s largest buddhist temples. Neither of us had ever seen anything like it before and both really enjoyed wandering around it, both on the evening we arrived and at dawn the next morning. You can see the active volcano Gunung Merapi in the distance, which adds to the mystical atmosphere.
There aren’t too many Western tourists here at the moment, I’m not sure is it just off-peak or if its because of the Bali bombs a few years back. Apparently tourism all over Indonesia took a big hit after that and it hasn’t recovered fully. Its a shame, we’re really impressed with the place so far. Its easy enough to get around and the people are very nice. You don’t get too much hassle, although being in a developing country and a different culture takes a day or two to get used to – it’s very poor here, it reminds me a little of Tanzania.
We’re moving on towards Bali tonight, but other than that we have no fixed plan!