Monday, June 02, 2008

Indonesia Trip '08 – Day 06 : Prambanan and Kopi Luwak - Jogja

After the less than exciting views of Mt Merapi from the Kaliurang Observation Tower, we proceeded down the road again heading towards the Prambanan Temple Complex. Along the way I noticed quite a few small homestays in the area that had rooms available so I guess spending a night here was possible. It would definitely be a lot cooler than in Jogja and an early morning hike up to the observation towers might give better views of Mt Merapi. Since it was not in our plans, I filed it away in the back of my mind for future reference if ever I make a trip back to these parts. We soon reached the Prambanan Temple Complex but before making our way in, we stopped at a local restaurant for a late lunch since it was nearly 3pm in the afternoon by then.

Lunch was a simple vegetable soup for me since I was still dealing with the toothache from earlier in the morning. The place that we went to for lunch was definitely a place that was used to having tourist stop by there as they had a longer list of non Indonesian food than local foods in their menu. Price-wise, I have to say that it was reasonable for a tourist place but more importantly it gave us the opportuinity to bond with everyone else in the group. We shared our travel stories and tips as well as horror stories (especially for me) of getting sick during traveling. It was not very often that we got to interact with other travelers in our journey and I was enjoying the opportunity to do so during that lunch. Once we were done with our lunch, we hopped on back to the minivan to drive across the road into the Prambanan Temple Complex.

Unlike Borobudur, we were not immediately swamped by touts selling their wares. I had been steeling myself for more of the same and was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t have to fight to get through the this time. Since we already paid our entrance fee with the hotels before, we were shown directly to the temple visitors center to sign in before we could go in. As at Borobudur, guided tours were available for a fee (50,000 Rph per hour I believe) for visitors but we decided not to engage one that afternoon as we saw from the map that the temple complex was small enough for us to manage on our own. I’m also guessing that the other people on the trip also did not feel that they were getting as much from the guided tours as they expected to.

(Path leading to main temple complex in Prambanan)

We did not noticed it when we stopped to have lunch earlier and when we came into the temple complex but the area around Prambanan Temple Complex was severely affected by the recent 2006 earthquake that happen in Java. As we walked towards the temples, we saw signs around the area that show the amount of devastation that happened and how they were working to restore the area back the was it was. It was only when we got closer to the temples that we realized how far reaching the damage actually was for the complex. Almost all of the small shrines in the middle zone before the main temple area had been reduced to piles of rubble. There were only a few that survived the earthquake intact and I’m guessing that they would use it as reference to rebuild the rest.

(Signs of devastation from the 2006 earthquake and restoration efforts)

The main temple area was cordoned off due to safety and security reasons. Visitors were only allowed to walk around the area outside of the temporary barrier. From what I read from my guide book, visitors were allowed to walk up all the way to the entrance of the temple but this was not allowed anymore since 2006. We could see some evidence of restoration work in progress which hopefully would restore the site to it’s former glory. From what I was able to tell, this would definitely be a difficult task to complete as the temple structures seemed quite intricate. From my untrained eye, it looked like trying to piece together a jigsaw puzzle when where the pieces were all the same shape and size.

(Sights around the main temple complex at Prambanan)

After walking around the area surrounding the main temple complex, I proceeded to walk towards another group of temples that I saw earlier on the map of the complex. By this time, I had already lost sight of the rest of the tour group because I was too engrossed in taking pictures of the temples to realize that the group had moved on. Since I knew were the minivan was waiting and when we were suppose to meet back there, there wasn’t any need for me to be concerned about being on myself. It actually gave me a chance to take a very leisurely walk down a beautiful shaded path through the park area that separated the main temple complex with the other temples in the area. Along the way I encountered a few deers grazing in the area. By the look of them, I’m guessing that they were brought there as I could not see how wild deers would be able to come to this area by themselves.

(Deers at Premabanan temple grounds)

(Goats were there too)

There were 3 other temples in the area that was not part of the main Prambanan temple area. These temples, being smaller, looked like were affected more by the 2006 earthquake as they all were in worse state that the main temples. I only stopped by the one furthers from the main temple area which was called “Candi Sewu” which was similarly cordoned off to visitors. Restoration work was also in progress there as there were areas that had be covered in plastic sheeting and some structures there were covered with steel scaffoldings. After taking my fill of pictures there, I walked back towards the car park where the van was waiting for us. The walk around the park from start to finish actually took about 45 minutes which was a good workout for me especially after a week of not being able to go to the gym. It was also quite a nice walk since I was not harassed by any touts to buy their items. I’m guessing that the temple complex has become less of an attraction after the earthquake since a lot of the area was no longer accessible to visitor. It was a shame if that was true as they really need tourist money to help with the funds needed for restoration efforts.

(Candi Sewu site under restoration at Prambanan)

To get to the spot where the minivan was parked, we had to go through a small collection of shops selling souvenirs. It was nice to be able to browse without having pushy touts follow you around but there was nothing there that captured my interest. Since the rest of the group had not turned up yet, I decided to rehydrate with a bottle of “Teh Botol” which was basically iced tea in a bottle sold locally. This drink as well as “Pocari Sweat” will always remind me of the time that I had on this trip. Once everyone came back, we proceeded back to Jogja where the minivan driver dropped us of at our individual hotels and homestay. The whole tour that day took about 8 hours and I really felt was definitely worth it. It was nice to be driven around from one attraction to another for a change as well as not to worry so much about the best way to get there. We also had more than ample time during the tour to appreciate the places that we were at as well as take tons photos. All it all, I was satisfied with the budget tour package that our homestay arranged.

We reached our homestay at around 6pm and decided that it was a good opportunity to finally make use of the swim gear that we brought with us. I don’t swim at all but it was still quite fun trying to thanks to impromptu lessons form one of the guys I traveled with. At least I now know that I am actually neutrally buoyant which explains why I tend to sink when I’m in a pool. That would be something to remember if I even find the nerve to take up scuba diving. After an hour of pool time, we decided that we had enough and got out to get ready for dinner. We headed out to the main road to eat at the one of the warongs that we noticed the day before which offered local dishes like bakso and soto. Interesting enough, the soto here do not use ketupat (compressed) rice cubes but instead used normal rice which made it more like porridge than the soto that we usually find back home.

It was still early when we finished our dinner so we decided to take a walk around the block to see what else was available in the area. It was then that we saw a café specializing in the famous Kopi Luwak. For the uninitiated, kopi Luwak was well known for being the most expensive coffee mix in the world due to it’s rarity and quality of taste. The coffee mix was native to the Java island and Jogja was well known for having the best beans that made up Kopi Luwak so it was a unique opportunity for me to try it. At 125,000 Rph per cup, it was the most expensive item that I paid for to drink in the whole of this trip. Despite the relatively near outrageous price, the coffee experience was worth every rupiah to the last drop. It was definitely as advertised with each sip simulated the taste receptors on the whole tongue instead of the select few areas that normal coffee would do. It had a really rich flavor and definitely unlike what I ever tasted with other types of coffee.

We also enjoyed ourselves at the café learning about the story of Kopi Luwak and coffee culture in general. Since we were the only people at the café that night, we were given samples of the coffee bean to sniff and compare with normal coffee beans. Even to the untrained nose, one would easily pick out the ones they used for Kopi Luwak since they were very distinctive in smell. They also had vacuumed packed roasted Kopi Luwak beans ready to be grind for use at home for sale at 1 million rupiah for a 500g pack. I was sorely tempted to buy it for myself even when I didn’t have either a coffee grinder or coffee maker at home. I know of at least one friend who would definitely be able to appreciate this as a gift and let me use his coffee machine instead but that meant I had to split the beans with him. In the end, I had to say no to the offer of buying myself a pack to bring back home. It was a hard decision to make as of all the things that I saw during the trip, the Kopi Luwak has to be the most unique item that I’ve got tempted to buy.

After spending the enjoyable time at the café, we went down further down the road to note other places that we could hang out in the following night. We noted several interesting places before walking back to our homestay but not before stopping a roadside pushcart vendor who was selling the local version of satay. We ended the night with some hot drinks on the verandah, eating the chicken satay, which by the way was not as good as our more spiced satay, and playing cards till we got tired. We had one more day to explore Jogja and we had to wake up quite early for it the following day so sleep was definitely required by then.

No comments: