Arriving in Java: first stop Jakarta
Our first destination in Indonesia was Java island. Based between Sumatra and Bali it was an easy hop from Singapore. Java is one of 18,000 islands within Indonesia. It has an abundance of culture, history and agriculture – right up our street. But most of all is has active volcanoes – something Ethan wanted to see during our travels!
Our itinerary for Java
We wanted to take things at a leisurely pace. I was still tired from running around South East Asia and I didn’t know this area very well. We decided to stick with the well known areas:
- Jakarta – 2 nights
- Train to Yogyakarta
- Yogyakarta- 4 nights
- Borobudur- 1 night
- Grab taxi to Borobudur
- Yogyakarta – 1 night
- Train to Probolinggo
- Probolinggo – 1 night
- Local bus to ceremolawang
- Ceremolawang- 2 nights
- Local bus back to Probolinggo
- Probolinggo – 1 night (we didn’t have to stay another night but as we needed a full day to travel to Bali by train, ferry & bus we decided this was a better option!)
- Train to Banyuwangi Baru
- Walk to ferry terminal (we got a bus – more info to follow)
- Ferry to Bali
Total: 12 nights
Note: we didn’t include the other famous site Mount ijen with its blue flame. We felt 2 early morning sunrises & climbing were enough for the boys (and me 😉)
Getting around Java
Trains – By far the best form of travel is train!
Java has a fabulous & easy train network with good facilities, helpful staff and good reliability! I was very impressed (although it was squat toilets).
But the views, oh my goodness!! They were a mix of Vietnam and China. Beautiful green paddy fields and agricultural that went on for miles!!
Buses – these are the cheapest and most commonly used transport, more frequent than trains and cheaper than flights. There are a range of bus services, but it’s recommended to pay extra for air conditioned, reclining seats and toilets for those longer journeys!
There are also minibuses which travel shorter distances known as bemo. These tend to stop and go constantly and can get quite crammed. It adds to the entertainment and locals have always been courteous to us.
Flying – Alternatively if you are short on time there are lots of internal flights. They tend to have fairly competitive rates as their ‘go-to’ way to travel across Islands But to be honest, in Java, by the time you factor in travel to the airport, check-in and baggage collection, I’d question how much time you really saved! Plus the views from the train shouldn’t be missed!
Getting a SIM card in Indonesia
Geez! This has to be one of the most complicated SIM card packages we’ve found. Namely because we needed data that would work in Java, Flores, Lombok and Bali. Most packages only seem to be set up for regions – so if you buy the wrong package it won’t work in another region! Be careful.
Due to this it is recommended that you go and visit an actual store if you plan to travel across regions. The best is Telkomsel. The store you need to find is called GraPARI.
The staff were slightly confused by our request and there were lots of shrugs but we did get there in the end. Note: make sure that the app works while you are in the store as this is how you can load a package and top up!!
The process of actually getting a SIM card was straight forward & cheap – it was the data which was the problem. In the end we went for their family data package called, family quota (20gb) for 30 days was IDR 150,000 (Indonesia: Kuota keluarga) the benefit of this was that you could share the data with up to 5 other devices!! We had no issues and it’s worked all over Indonesia.
Ring of fire
As it is also on the ring of fire! I have to admit this was one aspect of travelling here that made me a little nervous.
The ring of fire means that earthquakes are a regular occurrence! Like practically every day!! I had no idea. Ok, so they aren’t all disastrous, but they are just bubbling away throughout this region. We downloaded an app to monitor things. I mean, would you know what to do in an earthquake?!
Forewarned is forearmed, so always head into open space when it is safe to do so. In case of tsunami warnings move further inland and uphill. I even researched the highest building in Gilli air as this sand cay is completely flat – it’s the mosque by the way!
We never had any incidents but there was one small earthquake near Jakarta the day after we left and another felt near Lauban Bajo a few days after we were there! It’s something to be aware of, but don’t let it consume you. This is a beautiful area of the world which we have loved visiting!
We flew into the capital Jakarta, but we’d read that it’s not a city that you want to spend time in. I was under the impression it was a city with troubles; I can’t say where that came from. It was only afterwards that someone told me there had been unrest and demonstrations only the week before. But we never saw anything and wandered around the city freely.
In fact I was pleasantly surprised at how clean the streets were and how friendly the people were. Several times guards stopped traffic to help us cross the roads.
But there wasn’t really a huge amount to do here. And it definitely wasn’t set up for tourists. I liked it!
Where to stay
We stayed in a RedDoorz hotel (some local brand!?) And was called hotel paragon. It was nice enough.
It’s trying to be a flashy hotel but missing all the key components. There really wasn’t a huge amount of choice in the budget category.
Where to eat
As with any city it depends where you stay but around our hotel we found a couple of places.
Menteng Wok Street Food – a strange little place serving basic Indonesian foods and over priced in my view. But as it was our first night and it was late we were glad just to have some food.
Circle K – a shop like a 7 eleven. But it had seating outside and seemed to be popular with locals. There was a microwave and hot water so that you could make the dishes on sale.
Melly’s Garden – a nice little gem, with Western choices and nice atmosphere. It was very busy and didn’t feel like you were in Indonesia. They also had beer! Not extortionate but provided a nice meal and night out.
Grand Indonesia – so many food outlets within the mall. But at the far end there is a good court offering lots of different options. It wasn’t cheap but it served a purpose while we were out exploring.
Things to do
We decided the best way to see Jakarta was on foot! It’s a huge city, so we only aimed to explore a small area. First we went to,
National monument – a huge garden complex with a tall monument in the middle. But also inside the gardens is a deer park. You can see them roaming around the enclosed area.
The park itself is situated next to a train station. We ended up walking around in circles as none of the gates were actually open, but we could see people inside. Eventually we have up and just went to the train station for a croissant breakfast at ‘Rotio O’. Ah well!!
We were then told there was only once open entrance and had to walk another 1km to the entrance, so we decided again going in.
Instead we carried on through the city to…
Grand Indonesia mall
My primary reason for going was to get my hair cut! Plus, if anything we just wanted to cool off in the air conditioning. It’s a huge mall and there were a few toy shops too so the boys enjoyed having an explore. Nothing special but if you are in need of anything you’ll probably find it here.
If we had been there for another day, we may well have visited Jakarta old town. You’ll find most of Jakarta’s museums in this area too.
A couple of days was more than enough in Jakarta.