Homo erectus javanicus. Not designed for a beauty contest, but a human species. There is no other site on earth were so many human fossils were found than here at Sangiran. Image: Asienreisender, 2012

Candi Sukuh provides a weired variety of statues and reliefs. Besides a number of sexual embodyments there are guys like this. Normally we only see them in computer games. Image: Asienreisender, 2012

Kitsch and cliche in Surabayas battle museum. Image: Asienreisender, 2012

The caldera of Mount Bromo, frequently bubbling and steaming. Image: Asienreisender, 2012

A Journey on Java


Starting a journey over Java, it's recommendable to have a soft start, adapting to Indonesia's main island. Digesting the culture shock, in fact the lack of culture in all-day-live, is a real challenge. A good starter therefore is Pangandaran.

Java is deeply shaped by volcanos. Here: Gunung Sumbing, Gunung Sondoro, right behind the Dieng Plateau and Gunung Butak Peterangan. At the very right side down: Gunung Ungaran. Seen from the peak of Gunung Merbabu. Image: Asienreisender, 2012

Despite of all the annoyances a traveller faces on Java, it also offers some highlights as Borobodur, Prambanan, Mount Bromo and Mount Merapi. They are described in detail on other pages of this website.



...is situated at the south coast of Java. It has a natural sea harbor. The countries main oil raffineries are here. The trip from Pangandaran is quite bumpy. Small road with many deep potholes. When sitting on the rear bench, it makes one jumping up again and again.

A foodstall in Cilacap. Image: Asienreisender, 2012

Cilacap's bus station is some kilometers outsite. To far to walk with a big bag in the heat, particularly because the sidewalk is a mess. There are frequently 'microbusses' between the bus station and the inner city. They try to overcharge tourists. They ask for 10,000 Rupees; it costs only 2,500, fixed price.

Well, after all it's not worth to visit Cilacap. I was in hope of a nice seaside at least, but it's not nice. There is not a single nice place where one could spend some time. All the restaurants look poor and there is no alternative to have a rest. There is an industrial port and oil industries around. On holidays there are masses of Javanese around, and there is one of these notorious fun parks nearby.



Purwokerto is a faceless city. There was much smoke on one road. At a building site, workers built the pavement new. The street workers were boiling the asphalt on the road in metal barrels on fires, burning wood. There was plenty of firewood around on the road.

Wonosobo's fresh market. Image: Asienreisender, 2012

Wonosobo is situated higher in the mountains and it's a bit cooler here than in the plains and at the coast. Though, all the towns and cities on Java suffer too much traffic and too little space for pedestrians. Sidewalks are always more a parking and a space to deposit anything but for walking. Pedestrians have to walk zick-zack all the time, surrounding the many obstacles and to move on the road. That's as annoying as dangerous; on Java the drivers don't care for walkers.
Wonosobo's market place is a total mess. Many of the stalls (vegetables etc.) are just spread out on the floor on plastic blankets. It's totally crowded and, above all, the traffic with it's cars, motorbikes and horse carts is leading through all the mess.

The only reason for going to Wonosobo is that it makes a good basic for daytrips up to Dieng Plateau. It's a one hour trip up to Dieng. Accommodation in Dieng village is much more expensive and not anyhow better than in Wonosobo.

For Yogyakarta, some of it's surroundings and above all, Prambanan, look there.

A daemon mask on one of the temples on Dieng Plateau. Image: Asienreisender, 2012



One approach to Mount Merapi is from Kaliurang, what is not too far from Yogyakarta in the mountains. It's green and the climate is cool. And it's far not so busy as it is in the cities.

There are two entrances into the forest, both fenced and cashed (2,000 Rupees for Indonesians, 10,000 for foreigners). They offer nothing, it's just entering the forest. From there it's possible to make longer hikes to the direction of the Merapi.

Kaliurang, seen from the slope of one of the northern mountains. Image: Asienreisender, 2012

One is leading aside the western slopes. Deep down there is a huge canyon, one of many long, wide and deep canyons around Merapi. They are witnesses of former outbreaks and probably contained huge lava streams. After some 40 minutes one is passing a number of artificial caves. These caves were built by the Japanese troops in the 1940s to defend the area agains expected American or British troops.
Another path at the eastern entrance leads straighter up. One gets stunning views over Kaliurang. A bit higher I encountered a group of macaques, who tried to come close to me and to cut my way back. For I couldn't bypass them at the slope with only the narrow path, I had to go back.

There is another, a third way into the forest. That's the way, Christian Awuy from Losmen Vogel uses for his tours approaching Mount Merapi.

Kaliurang houses also a museum of Javanese Culture.


From Kaliurang to Selo

Surrounding the Merapi from it's southern surrounding (Kaliurang) to the northern foot (Selo), although not a long distance, took me almost a whole day. The bus connections are bad and busses are slow. One has to change busses several times and wasting time by waiting for the next one.

A map of Merapi's surroundings, describing the way from Kaliurang to Selo. Drawn by Christian Awuy. Image: Asienreisender, 2012

Every time the cheating game starts again. There are great views to the Merapi and other volcanos around, but out of these bloody vans and busses the sight is always poor.

Eventually I ended at a shabby, little village on the final road to Selo. Another bus was waiting there. It was supposed to go to Selo soon.
Several ojec (= mororbike taxi) drivers came to me and offered me a trip to Selo. They told me, there were no bus anymore from here to Selo. They were tough and all the time around and talking to me.
On the bus were two women with three children. They had told me before, they would go to Selo as well, so we would have the same way and all is easy. They now changed their minds and also told me suddenly there were no bus to Selo from here. I tried to inquire information, but there was nobody anyhow trustworthy looking around.

I got very much the impression, that the whole village tried to cheat me for the sake of the dull motorbike taxi drivers. One of the women, who was waiting in the bus, as I was, started to eat and threw all her rubbish out of the bus door on the street. There was already a lot of rubbish of all kind, most of it plastic. The whole place was stinking and dirty. I got fed up with the shabby place, swooped my backpack and started to walk.

English speaking people from Jakarta, who I met on the way a bit further, told me it were only seven kilometers to Selo. That was very wrong, it was about 25 in fact. After I was walking for a while, a lorry with two young men stopped and gave me a lift to Selo.

Selo is a little place situated at the foot of Mount Merapi to the southern side of it and Mount Merbabu to the northern side of it. After climbing the two guys I continued to Surakarta (Solo).

Mount Merapi, seen from the valley between Merapi and Mount Merbabu. Selo is creeping up Merapi's foot into the forest. Image: Asienreisender, 2012


Surakarta - (Solo)

In the museum of Surakarta's kraton. Image: Asienreisender, 2012

Solo is often compared with Yogyakarta as an alternative for a cultural city, but with little tourism. Well, after all the difference is not so big. Both are relatively boring cities. Both have a Sultan's palace (Kraton), Solo has even two. But, inside it's not more interesting than in Yogyakarta. A few family pictures, old weapons, dishes in big rooms. The Javanese authorities neglect their culture and history.
Solo is of course crowded as well, and the traffic is at the brink of collapsing. After all little reason to go there.

The only two highlights are some kilometers out of Solo. There is Sangiran, the site where fossils and remains of early men - Homo erectus javanicus - and prehistorical animals were discovered from 1891 on. It's the site of the famous 'Java Man'. Though, he is not the predecessor of Homo sapiens, who came later from Africa, according to the actual theories. There is a museum there since long, and meanwhile, since December 2011 it's upgraded to a new, bigger complex.

Candi Sukuh, an extraordinary Hindu sanctuary reminding to mesoamerican Maya pyramides. Image: Asienreisender, 2012

The other sites are at the foot of Gunung Lawu. It's two Hindu temples in a funny architecture. They look like middle-American Maya temples (Candi Sukuh and Candi Ceta).
To go there one has to take a bus to Kemuning, another village in a valley. From there it's a five kilometers walk (no public transport, alternatively an ojec) through huge tea plantations upwards a serpentine road; an increasingly steep walk. Candi Ceta stretches then another 190 meters up a slope to the edge of a forest.

Going to Candi Sukuh next means to walk back to Kemuning and having another five kilometers walk back the road direction Karangpandan (on the way to Solo) and a bit later turning left. It's another steep walk. Candi Sukuh looks even more exotic. Both sites costs 10,000 Rupees entrance for foreigners (3,000 for Indonesians).

The old hindu temples are not only curious looking but showing a number of strange reliefs with fable beings and animals of different kinds. The surrounding is mountainous, green and pleasant. Although even here, in a rather remote area, are too many motorbikes around. Java is suffering an annual traffic increase of 10 to 15% annualy these years. Accellerated madness.

The bus trip back wasn't that easy then. In Karangpandan I was waiting together with a growing crowd for the next bus to Solo. When it arrived after more than one hour, it was already very crowded. All the waiting passengers were crammed in additionally. When we started, bunches of people were hanging out of both the open doors. After that the bus conductor climbed monkeylike over the passengers and demanded the fare. Almost impossible to get the wallet out of the pocket being so squished. Again: If one does not know the fare, the conducter cheats. Not having fitting money means that the change disappears in the conductor's pocket without any further comment. They never give you a break here with that.
Later, I couldn't see anything around for the bus was so full, the bus dropped me anywhere in Solo and I realized that I hadn't a clue where I was. It was rush-hour and nobody could give me any useable information. Wasn't easy to find a bus which went to my direction. After a long drive this bus also dropped me far away from my guesthouse. The longest part of this trip was the way back.


From Solo to Malang

Although the trip through Java first started quite well, it became more and more a strain now. The bus drive to Malang war really miserable. First I waited at Solo's bus station some 75 minutes in a hot, running bus. It just didn't start. Other passengers told me then, it would wait for at least another hour, collecting more passengers. I checked around and changed the bus. This one would go to Suryakarta, where I could change the bus. The drive took seven hours, and the vehicle was heavily overcrowded.

A guitar player in a bus. Image: Asienreisender, 2012

Frequently guitar players entered and played a piece, then collecting money. A few women entered the bus, read or quoted anything (from the koran?) and collected money. Beggers entered the bus and collected money. At any stop, and there were many, food-sellers entered the bus to sell snacks and drinks. One guy was the most interesting one. He played a monkey and uttered for a long time monkeylike sounds. He had a number of well-written cards with a text he handed out to the passengers. He made a long performance and collected money for it. He was well-dressed and well organized. About thirty years old. On this trip I have been asked, I would say, some thirty times for a donation.
Long bus drives are really exhausting. At least there was a good connection in Suryabaya to Malang; another two hours in a this time not so crowded bus. The trip cost me the whole day in total.

In Malang it was raining and already dark at my arrival. I had some food. There was no micro bus going to the city. I was told by a smoking official in the information booth it's only three kilometers, so I decided not to take one of the overpriced taxis but having a walk. In fact it was much further than three kilometers.

Malang itself is a city with broad sidewalks and a certain flair of old times; but it's all spoiled and overlayed by dirt, mass-traffic and the hectic of our time. Another place not worth to go.


Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park

The way from Malang to Mount Bromo leads over Probolinggo. It's bus station has a bad recommondation concerning pickpockets. Around the bus station are three travel agencies who arrange bus trips up to Cemara Lawang, which is the closest village to Mount Bromo. It's another 45 kilometers.
When I arrived in Probolinggo it was just 2 p.m., but I was the only passenger for a drive up into the mountains. The driver told me, he would need at least six persons to go. I waited for more than one hour and decided then to hitch hike. It didn't work - no one stopped. Only moped drivers offered me trips up for a lot of money. No way to go up there, so I stayed for a night in a hotel. Next morning, early, I was in good hope to make my way. Again, there were to few passengers. This time the driver wanted at least 15 passengers. After five hours waiting I tried it hitch-hiking again. Only another bus took me for an exaggerated prize.

Once being up in Cemara Lawang one is rewarded with a great view over Mount Batok, Mount Bromo and the neighbouring volcanos. Cemara Lawang is up in an altitude of about 2,300 m above sea level. Therefore it's cool, in night time it get's really chilly. The village is very touristic, for the Bromo is one of the main attractions for Tourists. Masses of Javanese come here every day. The prices are spoiled. The simple rooms cost the triple price than normal, and in high season they might double or triple again.

Mount Batok and, left of it, Mount Bromo. View from Cemara Lawang. Image: Asienreisender, 2012

The people up here belong to the Tengger tribe and are not Muslims, but Hindus. They escaped the Islamic conquest. Therefore there is no noise pollution up here coming from mosques - that's a real advantage. But, of course, there is the same bad habit common to let the vehicles motors run in the stand, stinking and being noisy.
Since it's so cold up here, people start little coal fires in their homes in the evening. I also saw it repeatedly that they burn portions of coal together with the plastic bag in which it is supplied. The total lack for environmental concerns comes always together with the lack of a sense for health.

The surrounding National Park is among the most impressing landscapes I have ever seen. Have a closer look her for Mount Bromo and the area around.



Java's second biggest city is no exception from all the others. Too much dirt, traffic, noise and poverty.

Slum along a railway line in Surabaya. Image: Asienreisender, 2012

There was a remarkable historical event here, the battle of Suryabaya in November 1945. Therefore there is a bigger memorial park including a museum here in the city. The official Indonesian version makes it a heroic freedom fight against Colonialism. In the museum itself it's suggerated that the Indonesian 'freedom fighters' won the battle. After the Japanese surrender the Indonesians received the Japanese arms. Soon later a British fleet appeared to take control over Surabaya. The Indonesians defended Surabaya against the British in order to gain independence. Despite to all the wrong implications in the memorial site the Indonesians lost the fight against the British troops.

In the museum there is patriotic heroism celebrated in a most clumsy way. Superficial war propaganda - still almost 70 years after the historical events. Indonesian heros - the greatest heroes in the world. For Indonesians only, of course. Therefor many of the audio equipment installed in the museum is not working. That's the rather realistic Indonesian truth.
Concluded, I barely believe 20% of what I saw in this museum. The truth is a very flexible thing, particularly here in Indonesia. Only one thing is clear: There was a battle.



A big part of Semarang houses pompous villas with trimmed gardens. Image: Asienreisender, 2012

This bigger city at the northern cost of Java looks much better than most of the others I have seen. It's a place where many rich Javanese have their villas in the hills, with big gardens around and wide roads. It's said most of them were Chinese. Definitely Sembarang is the Javanese city with the largest number of Chinese. That's probably the reason why it looks somewhat better here than in the other places. Chinese are known as diligent and better organized.
There is also a bigger Chinatown in Semarang. It's crowded and busy, consisting mostly of shops.

Semarang also has a bigger old, colonial part. Former Dutch warehouses, the old railway station, a representative Stadthuis and a big water pond surrounded by a pavement and old, 19th century street lanterns give the place a very individual style. Of course, it's just a weak image of what it once was - it's very much run down, neglected and broken now.



The capital and biggest city of the island is a real monster and urban nightmare. Grown together with it's neighbours it covers a huge space of land and houses some 10 to 15 million people. A considerable part of Jakarta consists of slums. On the other hand, the city center has been made up since the mid 1990s. There is a representative main road now, seamed with the skyscrapers in which the big international companies house, the foreign embassies around and a big fountain and a pompous national monument with a big park.

Downtown Jakarta. The new face of the city. Image: Asienreisender, 2012

At the very end of this road, after several kilometers, there is the old Batavia, what was the capital of the Dutch East Indies and the most important establishment of the United East Indian Company between 1602 and 1799. After the VOC's bancrupcy the Dutch state took the East Indies over and made it a national colony.

The situation in old Batavia improved since the mid 1990s, when it was a total mess there with heavy traffic chaos all around. Now there is some space to walk without cars [!]. Though, it's still just a shadow of what it once was and could be done much better. A nearby canal is extraordinary dirty and stinking. A bank is running a boring museum there, equipped with old bookkeeping equipment.

Jalan Jaksa. Image: Asienreisender, 2012

The most travellers and tourists stay in and around Jalan Jaksa, what is Jakarta's equivalent to Khao San road in Bangkok. Jalan Jaksa looks like a slum with it's dirt on the sidewalks and the holes in it, showing the open sewerage with it's smells coming up and the rats around. Prices for accommodation are extraordinary high, much higher than in the rest of Java.

For a traveller there is really no reason to go to Jakarta, except for arrival and departure the island. There is nothing worth to visit here. It's one of Southeast Asia's places I would highly recommend to avoid.

Asienreisender Up to the top!

Published on July 28th, 2012