Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Java Jive '08 Part 6: My first train ride... ever!

Having shopped our wallets dry and credit cards maxed out in Bandung, we started out early the next morning to our next destination: Yogyakarta or as the locals would call it, Jogja. I was very excited as we would be going by rail. Believe it or not, this was my first time traveling on a train!

The trip would take us 7 hours, with multiple stops along the way not helping things much. Still, the leisurely pace gave me lots of opportunities to savour the lovely Javanese countryside one padi field at a time.

I even managed to hang out by the railing and take 'risque' shots like this. In hindsight I guess it was pretty dangerous, but the feeling of the wind in my (ever decreasing) hair and one of my hands hanging on while the other is holding the dslr was absolutely, terrifyingly priceless. Talk about Malaysia Boleh - Indonesia Lagi Boleh!

Over the hills, and into the valleys, across the plains and through the woods, I dare say that I had more fun during this train ride than I did in the entire time we were in Jakarta! Then again, I am sure Panda would beg to differ. ;)

I wasn't sure what this was... a fish farm? A giant tic-tac-toe grid? Swimming pool for ducks?

We were on the 'executive' coach which was airconditioned, and they served complimentary nasi goreng and free flow chinese tea. Not bad considering the price of ticket was only RM30. th I wasn't in my seat much as I was too busy running around the length of the train exploring... and hanging out the side doors.

It's a pity we don't see padi fields much in Malaysia anymore. Nowadays all we get back home are palm oil estates and ... palm oil estates.

9 hours later (the ticketmaster lied!!), we arrived in the heart of Java, Yogyakarta!

Jogja was really hot. I guess after cool Bandung, every other city on Java at sea level was bound to be hot. Still, it had a very vibrant feel to it, with cars and motocycles and even horse carts jostling for space on the choked roads with devil-may-care pedestrians crossing the streets at the most inopportune times.

Here's a familiar sight, one which I haven't seen in the past two cities - the rickshaw or as the locals call it, becak.

The hotel sent a minivan to pick us up and our driver was kind enough to give us a ride around town as a preview of what we could expect in this lovely city.

He circled around the south town square where a football match was being played. As expected, it was packed with spectators and hundreds of stalls selling tidbits, drinks and even balloons.

"That is the Sultan's house", said the driver. Almost in unison, all three of us went,"You have a Sultan??" I thought Indonesia was a republic?!?

Finally we arrived at our home for the next three days: Delta Homestay. From the outside it didn't look like much.... but first impressions can be deceiving....

After checking in, we were led through a narrow footpath into the interior of the hotel grounds...

... past a few units of charming chalets...

... to our rooms. Finally! I needed a shower really bad by then!

Ooh... a pool! Nice! Wonder if we'll ever have the time for a dip.

As Panda and Nan beat me to the bathrooms, I took some time to take a walk around the property, as the open air garden setting of the hotel felt very comfortable and soothing.

Erm.... For a small guy, he sure has a very... long.... earlobe!

There were flowers everywhere, on the walls, all along the foothpaths and by the pool. Macro time!

I think my mom had this plant back home, but I have never seen her plant bloom as beautifully as this! Sorry mom. ;)

I remember plucking a few stalks of this honeysuckle and sucking the sweet nectar from the ends of the stalk back in my childhood days.

The hotel laundry service was quite expensive, at 6000 Rp a shirt. I found this small launderette that charged only a quarter of the price! And it was only two doors away from the hotel!

Our first meal in Jogja was at a small restaurant that specialised in all things bakso. Bakso is rice noodles soup with meatballs. The drier less soupy version is called bakmie while Nan preferred the rice dish (instead of noodles) as he was nursing a toothache at the time.

Toothache or not, that didn't stop him from trying out the world famous (and most espensive) coffee, Kopi Luwak.

Get this: a cup of Kopi Luwak cost 120,000 Rp which was about RM45 and a 500g bag of the precious beans retailed at US100! What is so special or 'rare' about it? Well, it's made from coffee beans harvested from the droppings of the civet cat. I know it doesn't sound very appettising, but believe me, it was the most delicious sip of coffee I have ever tasted. (Yeah I was too cheap to order a RM45 cup of coffee for myself.)

And finally, this is the face of a very contented coffee connoisseur who has just had his first taste of glorified wildcat-poo.

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