We flew out of Yogykarta in the very early morning, leaving behind the island of Java for a stopover in Bali, and then an arrival in Flores, an island in East Nusa Tenggara. Though we waited in Bali for two hours, the flight on either end was just over an hour, in an Airbus A320 type of six-seater plane that brought us to a still up and coming part of Indonesia. Flores is known for its coffee, some hiking, and mainly the gateway to the Komodo National Park, islands situated just west of Flores and not easily accessible through other destinations. When we landed in Labuan Bajo, it felt like we had just flown back through time to an Indonesia that was much less developed.
The worn SUV that picked us up had a young man with a toothy smile and an older man who didn’t speak any English. We left the polished newly-built airport and rocked our way down the mostly dirt (some paved) roads to our lodge, which was thankfully quiet and clean. Our first afternoon there, we simply walked down the long dusty road (sans sidewalk) that comprises the main part of the town of Labuan Bajo, which took about half an hour in total, not because it was all THAT long, but because it was hard to navigate, and you had to . It was noisy, filled with little vans that came by every 3-5 minutes blasting rock music and decked out in neon, and people ducked in and out of them, the local unofficial bus service. There were some restaurants ranging from very high-end Italian food serving locations with pristine terraces over looking the bay to tiny local hole-in-the-wall without any sort of English signage out front. And a billion travel businesses – everyone advertised some sort of day trip or 2D/1N or 3D/2N tour to the Komodo National Park. You could find liveaboard experiences with A/Ced cabins, with open upper decks where you slept with other people on a giant mattress and a sheet wrapped around you. You could find tiny fishing boats that were repurposed for tourism purposes or large speedboats that could cover the same distance in half the time. We ventured into a few joints to get quotes back and forth, and ended up settling on one place. However, when we went out to go get our money from the ATM, it did not cooperate, and we ended up going back to our house to figure out if there were any problems. While Steve wrestled with his bank support on the Skype, I took a nap, and after visiting about all the ATMs in the town of Labuan Bajo, we finally put in 400.000 IDR (about $30 USD) per person for our day trip to Komodo National Park. Continue reading Gateway to Komodo National Park.
Our third day and final day in Yogyakarta began really, obscenely early. We were up at 3:30 am for our earliest departure yet to see the sunrise at Borobudur Temple, an hour and a half outside of Yogyakarta. We picked up a breakfast box left by the staff at the homestay, and stumbled outside in the dark to a driver who ushered us inside a small van occupied by another couple who might have been French or Dutch. We swayed back and forth and slept for a while before arriving at the destination. At 4:30 am, we disembarked and ended up in an outdoor lobby with many other tourists, some looking wide awake, some very quiet and obviously just waking up. We paid our money and received tickets, a map of the complex, a sticker to wear, and a small hand flashlight, as it was still hours from dawn, and then proceeded slowly through the complex. Though the temple doesn’t officially do sunrise tours, the Manohara Hotel, which is on the grounds of the temple, allows people to visit before sunrise for a more expensive ticket price (450.000 IDR or $30 USD per person). Though easily the biggest expense we’d made so far (besides lodging and travel), it was totally worth it. We were able to make our way up the gigantic ziggurat-like structure of the Borobudur temple in near-darkness, with a trail of bobbing flashlights above and below us. After fifteen minutes of hiking up some of the biggest stairs I have ever encountered, we were at the top. Continue reading Java’s ancient temples.
Our trip to Indonesia really settled into a rhythm when we flew into Yogyakarta on our second day in the country. It’s just an hour or two away from Jakarta, on the southern coast of Central Java, but Yogya (pronounced Jog-ja) has a very different feel. Steve has developed a theory over our travels, that the second-largest and slightly lesser well-known city in each country, can usually be a much better value for your money. It’s usually less overwhelming, less populated, and cheaper, but often has much of the same amenities and conveniences. Think Kaohsiung instead of Taipei, Lyon instead of Paris, Split instead of Zagreb (although all of Croatia is convenient!), Osaka and not Tokyo, etc. etc. Yogya proved to be another point in favor of Steve’s second-city theory.
We took a local taxi service from the airport into town, just fifteen minutes to our Airbnb homestay. We had picked one close to the airport because we knew that our flight out would be very early in the morning (another recurring theme for this trip), and it proved to be amazing. Omah Garuda Homestay was very large, clean, and quiet, run by a family business. Tami, the receptionist, had an infectious smile and laugh, and welcomed us by name when we first came in. We first considered rushing off to have lunch downtown and seeing some of the historical sights in the city because they closed around 1 pm and 3 pm, but since we had three nights in the city, Steve and I called an audible, and decided to take a break. Continue reading Indonesia’s second city.
Three weeks ago, Steve and I set sail (I mean, flew over) for the island of Java, also known to the rest of the world as the most populated island in the nation of Indonesia. While we’ve been pretty active in visiting places in East Asia, Indonesia’s actually the first new country in Southeast Asia that we’ve been able to go to. I had been pushing for this for a while, so it was with a lot of excitement that we made our way onto the flight. In the days prior to our flight, there was a lot of wrestling with baggage (stupid 7 KG in-cabin allowance) and trying to pin down last minute details for each of our four destinations. Stella watched us pack with trepidation, and then we packed her off before we went to the airport, dropping her off at our preferred dog hotel near Taipei Main! Despite swearing them off, we took Air Asia on Saturday afternoon from Taipei’s Taoyuan Airport (TPE) to Kuala Lumpur (KUL)’s low-cost airline terminal, KLIA2.
Our first stop was actually KL! We didn’t leave the airport, but after landing in the evening around 9 pm, we headed to another exciting first: a capsule hotel! Capsule Transit is the name of the container-based capsule hotel that is situated in the airport here. It was a fairly cheap way to spend the night (~$50 USD), and as we found, fairly roomy too. We booked a queen-bed two-person capsule, and the entire space was subdivided into different male only or female only or mixed sections. Our capsule was on the ground, but some were on a second level that needed a short climb up the ladder. We spent so much time exploring the airport to find an ATM and a decent place to have dinner that we just collapsed into our capsule and fell asleep for six hours. Continue reading Travels in Java.