Enthralled by El Nido

I found my paradise in the Philippines.

Spellbounding Siquijor

A brave girl's first ever solo trip was to this mystical island.

The Quiet Charm of Cagbalete Island

Outdoor serenity at its best.

The Rugged Beauty of Islas de Gigantes

The off-the-beaten rockin beauty of Northern Iloilo.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Eat, Pray, but Where is Love in Ubud?



Indonesia Day 5 and onwards

My friend insisted on taking me to the airport that early morning. Early, like 4:00 AM. There was no way, I'm not gonna miss this good soul. I felt sad upon leaving Jogja. I loved that place. The people I met there were amazing. It has always been the sucky part of traveling. You gotta learn to unattach the moment you are about to leave. I'm glad Bali made it easy for me.

After 2 hours of  "I don't wanna leave Jogja" feeling in the plane, we landed in Denpasar Airport. I am officially in Bali.


Ngurah Rai International Airport


I couldn't see my name among the crowd at the Arrivals area. So I called my home stay to verify if someone's picking me up. But due to language barrier, we did not understand each other. I ended up getting a taxi instead. After haggling with various drivers, I was able to get one for almost the same price as the home stay quoted me. Ubud from the airport takes 1 1/2 hours.


Gusti's Homestay


Missing on the airport pick up was forgivable when the place is as nice as this. What happened to my pick up? He waited for me at the International Arrival! I actually felt sorry for the driver but it was the owner who never got back to me to confirm my flight details. Still, I sincerely apologized to the driver for making him wait even though I wasn't at fault. I really felt bad about it.


my mornings in Ubud


The first thing I found in Ubud is peace. Inner peace. Peace of mind. Whatever you call it. It is such a peaceful place. My mornings usually starts with meditating, reading a book and sipping coffee. It's always a wonderful day in Ubud. I wasn't trying to be an Elizabeth Gilbert here. That was what I really I felt in this place. My mind was instantly clutter-free. And no, I'm not experiencing midlife crisis like Ms Gilbert when she embarked on her journey. ;)



breakfast prepared with love


Everyday, I was being fed by Wayan with their hearty breakfast. Nothing perks you up in the morning than someone serving your breakfast with a big smile. The Balinese are warm and gentle people. They will always greet you with a smile. :)


Walks Around Ubud

I have no fixed itinerary in Ubud. My purpose of visit here is just to relax and reflect about things. Slow paced, journey to self-enlightenment sort of thing. It is far from the wild party scene in Kuta, which is why I opted to stay here. It is the cultural center of Bali. You can find a lot of art galleries and unique architectural sights here. Adding to the charm of Ubud are its rice paddies and cooler climate.


Balinese Offerings

One of the first things that bewildered me during my walks in Ubud are these pretty little offerings I see everyday.




They are usually made up of colorful flower petals, bread, biscuits, candies and an incense. I see them in my home stay, in their houses, in the stores, in the streets, in the temples, everywhere.




For the Balinese, these offerings serve as gifts. They offer it to the spirits of the Gods. They also offer it to the demons at the same time, so they will go away. They make these offerings every morning. This is one thing unique to Bali and I loved this peculiarity.


Offering Preparations

These offerings is a huge part of their daily lives. They believe that good karma awaits to those people who participates in the preparations.







I passed by one of these halls near the palace and saw these women very busy doing something. I got very curious along with the other tourists passing by and we came closer to see what they were doing.








These women were actually making biscuits (I believe) for the offerings. There are offerings that can only be done by men and there are others that can only be done by women. Very interesting.








They consider the preparation process also as an act of worship. It is an integral part of their everyday tradition believing that it will bring them good luck and it will protect them from the bad ones.



The Artsy Ubud

Another thing you'll notice when you go around Ubud are the extensive collections of artworks. Aside from the fine art galleries, you will see a lot of stores selling paintings everywhere.


paintings


You will see little cute paintings to huge fine ones. I would love to buy and bring home some of these paintings but it wasn't part of my plan. I'm also not prepared to exceed my baggage limit and to pay extra money at the customs.


decorative crafts


There are so many things you can buy here. You can buy quality artworks for a reasonable price. It is not just limited to paintings, but you may also see beautiful wood carvings and stone sculptures.


sculptures


It is always a delight to walk in the streets of Ubud. You don't have to be an art-afficionado to appreciate their charm.



Puri Saren or Ubud Palace

I did not book a single tour here. Everyday, I just bring a map, go out and walk wherever my feet take me. Not to far from my home stay is the Ubud Palace.



Puri Saren


It is only a 15-20 minute walk from Jalan Sriwedari where I stayed. It is located at the intersection of Jalan Raya Ubud and Monkey Forest Road which are two main roads in Ubud. It is just at the opposite corner of  the Tourist Information Center and across the Ubud Market.




It is a Kingdom Palace with traditional Balinese houses which served as the residence of the King of Ubud until the 1940s. It is built back in the 1800s. They say some of the heirs of the Royal Family still live here up to this day.




There is no fee to enter the palace but there are some parts of it which is not accessible for the tourists. The palace has been well kept by the Royal descendants. It's Balinese architecture and garden is very well preserved.


plaid black and white


The black and white sarong being worn by the guardian statues actually has a meaning. For them, it means the duality of life. Like the good and the evil or the yin and the yang.





Every night, Ubud Palace also becomes a stage of Balinese traditional dances and performances with gamelan orchestras. It serves as a perfect setting with its gilded traditional gate and guardian statues. I watched these performances twice in this palace.



Ubud Water Palace

Another interesting place I saw on one of my morning walks was this palace. It is also located along Jalan Raya Ubud to the west, at the same side as the Ubud Palace.        





I was walking towards the direction of Ibah Villas to go trekking when I passed by this seemingly intriguing place. From the outside, you'll see Cafe Lotus on the right side and Starbucks Ubud on the left. There's a small gate in the middle and I peeked from it. Nobody seems to mind so I entered the premises.






I was surprised to see a beautiful temple inside the compound. I thought to myself, "I found the Water Palace!".



The Water Palace


It was so pretty. There's a long aisle going to the main temple and on both sides are lotus ponds. From afar, the temple looks like floating at the pond. Gorgeous!



sea of lotus

lotus in full bloom


It was so surreal. And those two trees at the sides of the stairs which are leaning on both sides added to the dreamlike setting. Like the other temples in Ubud, it has a very ornate architecture.





There are also traditional performances being held here at night. I'm just not sure if it's as frequent as the shows at the Ubud Palace. I would have loved to try the Starbucks there but I promised myself not to indulge into something I can also find in my home country. I almost gave in because it was the most beautiful Starbucks location I've ever seen.


How or where did I find "love" in Ubud? It's in the way the Balinese people do things. Just watching them prepare their everyday offerings and seeing the passion they put into their artworks displays love. I saw love on everything they do and I felt love on their warm and gentle smiles. No matter how much I will miss Jogja, I know I'll be fine in Bali.


"I needed no better reason for the journey than to be exactly where I was, knowing what I knew. Those were the times when I felt full of natural wisdom, scratching at heaven's very door." ~Ted Simon, Jupiter’s Travels



This is Part 1 of my Bali travel series.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Kukup Beach and Indrayanti Beach: Jogja Road Trip Part 3


Indonesia Day 4 (continued)

We finished our caving activities around 2:00 PM already. Too late for lunch. I had heavy breakfast so I was fine, I wasn't sure with my buddy. Though he munched on a lot of sweets while we were waiting for our turn earlier, he hadn't eaten breakfast. Before heading to the beach, we had lunch somewhere first. It was in a Masakan Padang, which is my favorite. I'm a fan of their spicy fried chicken! I love it. Then our road trip continued.



southern end of Jogja!


It is another 20 kms going to the beach. Wow. I thought it is just nearby. We were back in an exciting trail of ups and downs and winding roads. Again, I enjoyed the ride because of the stunning backdrop. The dreamlike forest, karst landscapes, the mountain breeze and watching our shadows on the motorbike as the sun goes down. It was all amazing. I'm strange, I know. We reached the coastal area within 40 minutes. We took a short-cut route. There was like a toll gate before you can access the road where the beaches are. They charged us Rp 10,000. I heard my friend argued a bit with the toll guy but it is what it is.


Pantai Kukup

We reached the long coastal road where the beaches are all lined up. Zakiy pointed me the way going to Baron Beach to the right, which is still 1 km away. We just went ahead to Kukup. We were not asked to pay for a fee to enter the beach, so I suppose it is a public one. Or maybe the Rp 10,000 we paid at the gate gave us access to all beaches in the area. I'm not sure, because they spoke in Bahasa.

 
my first glimpse of the Indian Ocean


Kukup Beach along with the other beaches is located in Kemadang Village in Tanjungsari District of Yogyakarta. If you're coming straight from Jogja, it is 70 kms away and it will probably take you 2 to 2 1/2 hours. By the way, "pantai" is the Bahasan word for beach.



infectious happiness :)


The beach is quite a long walk from the parking area. You will pass by a long path way with markets, where the locals are selling their fresh catch and seafood products. The beach is nice. It doesn't have the whitest nor the finest sand but it's okay. I only saw a few tourists in the area. Mostly locals frequent the place. It is very windy. It's a great place to just to hang out and get some fresh sea breeze.



chill beach


On the left side, there's a rock island with a gazebo on it. It is connected by bridge from the main shore. Some people say it's the Tanah Lot of Jogja because of it's similarity in structure and location. The beach is just what it is. No cottages, no facilities for visitors. I guess I can safely say that this is really a local chill out beach.
 





It's a great spot for kite-flying. I enjoyed looking at the local kids cheerfully watching their kites soaring in the sky. I easily get fascinated just by watching happy people. I can also feel their happiness. :)


the always enraged Indian Ocean


This beach is not good for swimming though. The waves are too strong and big and the currents treacherous. All you can really just do here is relax and enjoy the beach scene. They also say it is a good spot for fishing because it has a rich undisturbed marine life. You may see the beautiful coral reefs in different colors when it's low tide.



Pantai Indrayanti


We left Kukup short of an hour. We cruised the same coastal road towards the direction back to Jogja. We already passed by Krakal, Drini and Sundak beaches when we saw this what seemed like a more laid-back beach. Zak and I both found it lovely, so he pulled over and we checked it out as well. Same thing, we were never asked to pay for an entrance fee or whatever.


a quieter beach

You can find this at the east side of Sundak Beach. Indrayanti is not the original name of the beach. It is the name of one of the owners who put up a cafe and restaurant under her name which became famous to the visitors. It used to be called Pulang Syawal but people now call it Indrayanti Beach.


yay! safe for swimming!

Unlike Kukup, this side of the coast has calmer waters. The waves here are a more subtle. People can swim! Hooray! :)


big waves afar


I was actually amazed that these big waves from a far do not hit the shores. There might be corals breaking it before it gets to the beach. Like the other beaches in this area, there were also parts with rocky cliffs present.


the rocky side


The beach actually has two sides. The first one is where majority of the people are, where it's suitable to swim. I was also surprised that this beach has good amenities. They have cottages and restaurants. They cater more to the tourists.


random solitary guy



The other side is this, crowd less and more tranquil. Just a long stretch of white sand and a coral bed covered shore. That explains why they're not flocking here, not good for swimming.


beautiful beach


Indrayanti has a longer beach than Kukup. We loved walking on this beach. It's super quiet. Sand on your feet, the sound of waves, the dramatic sunset, the smell of sea air - I was totally in touch with nature. Such a wondrous bliss!






I waited for the sunset. One of my favorite things to do. It was partially covered with thick clouds but to me, it was still just as amazing. I always love watching how the sun rises and sets in different parts of the globe.



just lovely...


When the sun had set, it was time for us to go back to Jogja. Yes, we traversed the same mountainous roads. This time, in the dark, downhill, with the same devil may care speed! But he knows when I'm starting to get scared. I am grabbing his shoulders real hard haha. It was double the thrill going back. So happy we made it safely.

lousy photo :(


I felt really terrible for not getting a good shot of this place. That was Jogja's Bukit Bintang. I told my friend that the Bukit Bintang I only knew was the shopping district in KL. This is their version of it hehe. You will pass by this area when you're traveling back to Jogja from Gunung Kidul. It's at Km 16 of Jalan Yogya-Wonosari. I know I didn't give it justice with that blurred photo but in reality, the panoramic city view of Jogja at night is stunning. It looks like a popular dating place for lovers. Most of the people there were couples so I just told my friend not to stop anymore hehe.


*****


I promised him a dinner treat anywhere he wants on my last day in Jogja, just to show him my gratitude. He took me to this nice and cozy restaurant in Giwangan, named M.Y Steak Resto. The place is gorgeous. I'm not sure if I was already hungry or if I was awe-stricken that I forgot to take a photo again. But tell me, the place looks sweet, right?


photo credit to M.Y Steak Resto


I loved it's atmosphere. Open, fresh and comfy. It is a really a nice place not only to eat but also to talk. The lighting adds to the intimate feel. We both had a steak and we both had it medium-rare. My first Western food in Indonesia. A reward after our long day on the road. 




western for a change


The steak was good, cooked just the way we want it. I was just not a fan of the side veggies. Though I'm not sure if that's how they really cook or season it in Indonesia.


refreshingly good


I loved my dessert. It was like our halo-halo but not quite. The variety of fruits on it were entirely different. I can't describe it but it was superbly delish! I forgot to write what it is called. Maybe I was too dazed from our heart-to-heart talk haha. That "happiness" conversation. Wise words my friend, wise words. It's always nice to talk to someone who just sees the present you. Good day, good food, with good company. And no, he never let me fulfill my promise to treat him that night. Always the cavalier that he is.


That was a blast for a last day. It's so true when they say, time flies so fast when you're having a good time. We both couldn't believe I was leaving the next day already. I made it back to the hotel by 9:00 PM. I still had to pack for my departure the next day. Back in my room, I was laughing with myself thinking about that risky road trip. Oh the things I've been doing when I'm traveling.


"Trust enables you to put your deepest feelings and fears in the palm of someone's hand, knowing they will be handled with care." ~Carl S. Avery 

"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” ~Ernest Hemingway



This is Part 4-2 of my Yogyakarta travel series.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Goa Pindul and Goa Sriti Caving Adventures: Jogja Road Trip Part 2


Indonesia Day 4

Part of my original itinerary was to climb Mt. Merapi, but I ended up canceling it. Just by observing the everyday weather (temperature), I knew it gets terribly cold in the mountains and I was unprepared for that. I wanted to replace my hiking plan with another outdoor activity. Looking at the tourist map, the closest ones will be Parangtritis Beach (28 kms) and Cerme Cave (22 kms). But the beach didn't appeal that much to me, so I asked my friend Zakiy about the other options I have and asked him for directions. Apparently, they are quite difficult to get to and there are no direct buses going there. Again, the "damsel" was saved "in distress". He offered to just take me to them places. I never wanted to take too much of his time again like what happened the other day. But a few minutes later, he's already in the hotel picking me up.

Before I rode the bike, he smiled and asked "You don't ride motorbikes in the Philippines, right?" I answered "Yeah". I mentioned that to him the first time he took me for a ride. And he knew that our trip to Solo the other day was the longest I've ever been on a motorbike. I had no idea that we are going to have an even wilder ride that day. Maybe that was the other reason too why he brought me a different helmet. Devious guy haha. I unknowingly subjected him again to another long drive. It is 50 kms going to Gunung Kidul where the caves and the beaches are. He told me it's shorter in distance compared to Solo but he never mentioned that the roads are more dangerous!


Jogja to Gunung Kidul


Gunung Kidul literally means South Hills. It is in the southeastern part of Jogja. It is a karst region which means majority of it is made up of limestone hills. That is also why there are presence of numerous caves in the area. Soon enough we were traversing up and down the winding roads of southern Jogja with heaps of full sharp curves. My daredevil driver was even overtaking big buses and fully loaded trucks in blind curves. Geez. I don't even have a travel insurance! My Mom won't let me travel alone anymore if she knew what I've been doing! But that was so thrilling and fun! ;) The way going there is also very scenic. The limestone formations, the teak tree forest, the lush plantations and the wind across your face, uh-mazing! The jitters and the joy at the same time are pure ecstasy.


it's so un-paired! ;)


We made it to the base camp in an hour. Woot! The life-threatening journey has paid off haha. I guess if we were in a car, it'll be half an hour more. Among the options offered, we just took the Goa Pindul and Goa Sriti Package. Goa is the Bahasa Indonesia word for "cave".


Goa Pindul

After registration and payment, we changed into our caving outfit. They provide life vest and "rubber" shoes for caving. They also have a locker area where you can secure your valuables and leave your belongings. Free ice cold tea is also available. I ended up wearing shoes of different sizes. There were so many local tourists that time because it was a weekend. They ran out of my size. :)


Our first activity was the Pindul Cave Tubing. The starting point is in this river.


ready to go


We were just five in our group. We were with three local buddies. I spotted just a few foreigners. Aside from me, there were just two European young girls and one Chinese family. There were two guides assigned in our group.


here we go guys!


We entered the cave through the river. It's an underground river similar to what we have in Puerto Princesa, Palawan only way smaller and narrower. It is 350 meters long.


no flash


That was how dark it is without the camera flash, as in super dark.


now with flash


You have to be careful in some parts inside the cave or else your head might hit some of the stalactites. It is very dark inside. You will only see what's being lighted by the guides' lamps.


bats!


There are many interesting formations inside the cave and a lot of bats too. Unfortunately, the guide only speaks Bahasa so I can't tell many things about the cave. My friend just translates everything to me.






Before passing through the exit, there's a large chamber with a big hole. This part is also swimmable because it has a deeper water level.


light!


You can leave your tubes and swim on your own in this part of the cave. Well, I am a non-swimmer so I just stayed floating there hehe.


define chill :)


My crazy swimmer friend dived from the cliff inside the cave. Now I understand why he wants to take a break from writing his papers haha.


look who's enjoying here


It took us 45 minutes to finish this course.


Goa Pindul exit behind us


That was a fun and refreshing activity. We enjoyed it a lot! Next is cave spelunking! :)



Goa Sriti

Not too far from Goa Pindul, we were transported to the jump off point of Sriti Cave. You will be provided with helmets before you proceed to the cave.


ready for the next adventure


You have to trek for about 15 minutes before you reach the actual cave entrance. At that time, it was only us who enlisted for this activity so we only have one guide.


easy, very easy



then it's gets more exciting



The trail was easy. The only thing that makes it difficult is the darkness. We only have one light which is coming from the guide's tiny head lamp.


my friend always behind me



There are also parts of the cave that has deep waters. The water here was so much colder than in Pindul. Well, this is an enclosed cave all the way. No slightest amount of sunshine penetrates here.



where we at now?



It's an exciting cave I must say. It's a series of dry and wet courses, of narrow and wide pathways.



it's like a huge hand grabbing you from above



I actually didn't know how lovely this is cave is until I saw the photos. It was too dark inside for me to see everything hehe.


happy cavers


I was just happy and thankful that our guide loves to take so many pictures haha. Terima kasih!!! :)


blind in the dark

The cave is 100 meters long and it took us about an hour to finish spelunking.





Like the other places in Yogyakarta, there are also stories and legend about this place. They say the King has hidden in this cave during the Dutch colonialization. Another story is about a King who became a bird and a rock. Too many Javanese folklores.



swimming in a cave? why not?



This by far was the highest level of water inside the cave. I asked the guide if it gets any higher than this, but he said it doesn't. I'm not sure if he just doesn't want to scare me haha. It's the first cave I've been to with water that high. It wasn't alarming though. It's very safe.


yey! we made it!


Then the 100 meters was over. Zakiy was asking me if I'm okay. Well of course, I was. This was nothing compared to the 4 hours of spelunking in Sagada and the more rigid cave in Islas de Gigantes in Iloilo (both in the Philippines).


our ride


We were transported back to the base camp after this. They have bathrooms there where you can take a shower and change your clothes. About my oversized one shoe (Size 9), no it didn't slip off my foot. I survived those two caves without losing it haha.

If you're seeking for adventure and outdoor activities in Jogja (aside from hiking Merapi), I recommend you to try this! It's an invigorating break from the temples and the sight seeing tours. Then, time to head to the beach! :)


What to bring:

1) Extra set of clothes
2) Headlamp or torch light
3) Waterproof camera (but a regular camera will do, the guides are expert on handling your cameras without getting it wet)
4) Toiletries and towel, they don't provide these.


Contact Information:

Karya Wisata
Address: Karangmojo, Beriharjo, Gunung Kidul
Email: marketing@goasriti.com
Website: www.goasriti.com
Contact No: (0274) 7138725; 0813 9276 7101
Rates: Goa Pindul - Rp 30,000; Goa Sriti - Rp 25,000

Note: Their website is in Bahasa Indonesia.


“If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world, and that his heart is no island cut off from other lands but a continent that joins to them.” ~Francis Bacon




This is Part 4-1 of my Yogyakarta travel series.