This traveling with three strong-willed, independent women can be quite the challenge. Best bet for me has been to keep my mouth shut unless needed, which also is a challenge. But despite four people often at odds over what to do next, we have managed to have a great time negotiating our way to Yogyakarta (Jogja) and getting out and about right away on our first day.
Eddie picked us up at 8 a.m. at Smiling Hill and we loaded four people and a myriad of
bags into the car. We decided we would need a van on the return trip, when we would be carrying all the product being purchased. Getting though the airport was a breeze and the 2-hour flight was uneventful until we hit a lot of turbulence during landing. A very bumpy landing and the pitching of the plane had everyone concerned and some sick. We were all glad to be safe on the ground.
Ihksan was waiting for us at the airport and had a pretty sky blue van waiting. Turns out he is now independent and booking tours while he tries to start his company. He was extremely helpful to us in all this and I highly recommend his services.
Our hotel is located smack in the middle of town, one block from Malioboro Street, the
shopping center. A good spot to experience the sights and sounds of the city. The hotel is quaint, but old, and our rooms are very small. For example, there is no shower stall; the shower is right next to the toilet. But no one is complaining. Internet was passable but there is no elevator, and three stories up can be tiresome after a couple of days.
Once we were settled in to the hotel, we walked across the street with Ihksan to a small restaurant that specializes in gudeg, a Jogja specialty. We ordered food displayed in the front – rice, gudeg, chicken and a spicy dish of fried beef skin. Not the best meal of our lives but we hadn’t eaten yet and were hungry.
Someone decided that we were to begin wholesale shopping right away, so off we went to
the batik painting store. Went over big with Kim, who started grabbing stuff off the shelves as soon as she saw the price list. Thirty or 40 selections and a 20% “business” discount later, we were off to see some silver. She was in shock at how much she could buy for so little. It actually took another day for that concept to fully sink in.
Our first full day started with a 3:30 am wakeup. Understanding that there would be no breakfast until later, I purchased some canned coffee drinks the night before for everyone. Surprisingly, it was not difficult getting everyone up and ready to go. Ihksan was on time and we headed for the hill where you can see the sunrise over Mt. Merapi and Borobudur, about an hour’s drive.
Until a few years ago, you would park way down the hill and walk up a path up a steep slope without any modern steps. But the village decided to create something a little more accommodating and it has done a great job of paving a road further up the hill, where there are several buildings, a parking lot, a store for snacks and coffee. From there, however, it is still a somewhat daunting climb, lots of steps, to the viewing area.
We were among many tourists who had pulled themselves from early morning slumber to see the sunrise before actually touring Borobudur. We all stood for about an hour waiting for anything to show through the mist and cloud cover, but you couldn’t even see any lights. We all finally gave up and headed down.
It was then on to Borobudur. I had forgotten my KITAS (work permit) so I had to pay just
like any tourist ($21/Rp 230,000) to enter. Kim had to pay the same, while Lena’s fee was half ours and Dewi was charged just Rp 30,000 ($2.50) since she is a citizen. If I had brought my KITAS, I would have paid the same as Dewi.
The day was overcast so not so hot, but it was still humid – and hot. The Buddhist temple was covered in schoolchildren, like ants on a hive. Before we had reached the temple, Kim and Lena were asked to pose four times with local groups, mostly kids. They (the kids and my girls) giggled like crazy and posed for several cameras. The place was overrun with school children on field trips, each with their own school uniforms, some wearing hijabs and some not, but all very excited. It took very little time for one group of giggling kids to approach Kim and ask to have their picture taken with her and Lena. I had warned them this would happen but they were still overwhelmed by the experience. We hired a guide($6.50/Rp 75,000), Garoni, who spoke decent English and was very knowledgeable about the Buddhist temple.
As we were entering the special area for us high-paying foreigners, we passed a large
crowd of children waiting to get in. As Kim walked by, they started yelling and waving and Kim returned the attention. Quickly, Kim was on a stage-like area in front of the crowd, waving at them and the kids responding with laughter and cheers.
The last time I was here, you could see Mt. Merapi, an active volcano, from the temple but this time there was too much cloud cover. My pictures all reflect the white sky.
Once to the bottom, Garoni guided us around the gauntlet of hawkers that greets the visitors, but several followed us with some of their trinkets. They finally badgered Dewi and Kim into some purchases of cheap tourist souvenirs.
While it was not exactly lunch time, we had not eaten yet so we stopped at one of the restaurants outside the exit for lunch. I had chicken and noodle soup, and the girls each had a coconut milk (in the whole coconut) and various dishes. All was very good and came to about $4 each.
Now, it was off to look at silver jewelry, stopping at Borobudur Silver on the way back to
town. The prices were better than we saw the day before, and after being shown the various silver-making steps, Kim proceeded to buy about 18 different items for her store. She came out amazed at how much she had vs. how much she paid. Dewi also found a nice necklace.
Ihksan then took us to a small shopping area in the middle of a cluster of buildings and small roads. One specialized in batik fabric, which was our reason for being there. Kim looked over a wide variety of designs, and bought many, along with some other items. I found myself a gold batik shirt for $25 (Rp 300,000). Mostly, however, I just sat and waited outside the shop in a small gathering/sitting area in the center of the stores.
Then we went to a small residential area where there were several shops. The one we were
looking for makes Indonesian wooden puppets, Wanangs. I think Kim ended up buying a dozen, plus assorted other crafts (masks, etc.), Lena bought one puppet and Dewi bought two. I sat, watched, took photos and occasionally went outside to watch the locals flying small kites. Again, we left a shop owner very happy. The purchase amounts were not that much for starting a business but they were weeks or months worth of sales for these businesses, all in an hour or two.
The next stop was even more amazing. Ihksan took us to a small stall on the side of a road,
where we double-parked and I could sit in the car and see and hear what was going on. The stall/store was only 6 feet away, with one middle-aged woman in a white hijab. She was selling a wide variety of women’s fabric handbags. Kim saw the prices and began gathering whole groups of products, not bothering to sort through them since
they all looked good to her. Kim basically emptied out half of the store stock and left a very happy storekeeper in her wake. Another product category finished, although more bags would be purchased later.
Our shopping wasn’t done but first we needed dinner. After returning to the hotel and cleaning up, the four of us walked the block to Malioboro Street, but first we went on a wild goose chase in the other direction looking for a restaurant before retracing our steps. Ihksan had given Kim instructions on where the restaurants were but …
At Maliobro, we opted for the Legian, a second-story restaurant that sits in the middle of the long stretch of street shopping, allowing you to watch the chaos below. The view was the only good thing about this restaurant. The food was forgettable.
From here, Kim and Lena decided to head back to the hotel, while Dewi and I went shopping. Sleep came easily. A long day.