Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tips and Tricks : Surviving Jl. Malioboro

Yogyakarta (and its famous name counterparts like Jogjakarta, Jogja, Djokdja) was my preferred places to travel in Indonesia, even more so than Bali because I am a certified cheapskate and I yearned to step foot on  the Unesco Heritage temples, namely Borobudur and Prambanan found over here. Thus, when AirAsia released their promo period, my trigger happy fingers landed my travel partner, Rave and I to this land, Jogja Never Ending Asia. The total spent for both return flights and accommodation for 4 days 3 nights for 2 people was RM673.56 (essentially RM336.78 per person). 

Sharkie, Travel360 and the Arrival Departure Card to Indonesia
Anyhow, on the 21st of February, we took a noon flight from LCCT to Adisujipto Airport, located approximately 24 minutes away from our accommodation. The airport was bustling with tour and taxi agents, very little eateries and zero place to find data plan for your smart phone (or there is, but it is well hidden like a buried treasure). With only one runway, you can only imagine the horror of lining up to clear your immigration entrance. Lucky for us, we alighted the plane pretty kiasu-ishly early, and survived the queue but still ended behind the pack somehow. Bummers.

A glimpse inside the Adisujipto Airport
The airport is very near to Candi Prambanan, but since we pre-arranged a tour on the following day, we decided to drop by a local favorite restaurant before heading to the hotel. Ayam Goreng Suharti which was minutes away from the airport, was what we had for lunch. The Javanese fried chicken was indeed tender, and mimics the 'ayam penyet' (stop rolling your eyes, I know that they're not the same) chicken that I had over in Sarawak. Put it short, this fried chicken, the greasy crunchy tender fried chicken, you should try when you're in Yogyakarta. This is NOT the only fried chicken joint, you may find some other in the city itself. Our cab driver was kind enough to stop by the restaurant and waited for us to finish our lunch before dropping us to the hotel. Total spent for lunch was 73,700 rupiah and the taxi was 70,000.

Aaah, POP Hotel. Our humble accommodation for 4 days, 3 nights. The hotel is relatively new, vibrant color schemes, Wi_Fi and free breakfast. Plus it is walking distance from Malioboro Street and the iconic Tugu Jogjakarta and the Tugu Train Station. TV included, which we spent most of the time in the room polishing our Bahasa Indonesia language. By the way, rumors has it it is true that the toilet/bathroom door can't be locked and the frosted glass allows you to see a vague color silhouette of your naked room mate. Just saying, if you're interested.

You only need about 10-15 minutes, 10 seconds if you mastered shunpo (瞬歩) to walk to Jl. Malioboro. From our hotel, we passed by a very adventurous intersection with the Tugu at the center. First time pedestrians in Yogyakarta, you're in for a challenge. If you survived crossing the streets, you'll live to see the path to Jl. Malioboro, from where I came from this street is the equivalence to Petaling Street plus Jonker Walk. Along the street you will find becak (rickshaws) and andong (horse carts) ready to take you for a ride around the Malioboro vicinity and certain tourist spots in town.
Clockwise from Top Left : Stasiun Ka Jogjakarta (Stasiun Tugu Train Station), Bus Stop for TransJogja, The Iconic Tugu Jogjakarta, The train track that separates Malioboro and towards Tugu
Stroll along further you'll be spoiled for choice from various souvenirs, batik, clothes which are sold pasar malam style, in which you will have to hone your haggling skills and use them wisely here. Once they sniff fresh blood, they will slit you dry. Okay, that is exaggerating but it is true. Most of the stalls here are selling the items at jacked up price and you have to make your own judgement whether or not to bargain for that item. Bro tips, bargaining for good price is one thing, do remember that people over here with these jobs are doing it for a living. Be respectful, put up a smile, and decline/walk away if you decided to not buy the items, and not sneer. :)

From Top Left : Batik, Fruits and Goods, Dragon Statue, More Batiks, Chinatown?
FOOD. Abundant over here, which included loads of Indonesian local delicacies such as Mi Bakso, Mie Ayam, Nasi Kucing etc which you can buy from the hawker stalls or have it local style, at the lesehan along the street. People over here are comfortably fine with sitting on mats and have their meal. Think of it as a picnic encounter.
Clockwise from Top Left : Indonesian Street Food, Beringharjo Market - Batik Market at it best, Andong - Horse Carts, Motorcycle abundance at the walkways of Malioboro Street.

All in all, I felt that Malioboro is a lively place, and strangely enough it seems like everyone knows everyone here. Every few meters we walked, people will greet each other like good friends.

Malioboro Picnics :)
Now, to the becak andong rides. The riders are VERY persistent, and as usual good etiquette would be smile and decline if you wish not to take their service. However, you SHOULD try one of these rides, even the local use this method of transportation. Bro tips, when they said they will take you keliling (around vicinity ride), they will actually take you to ALL the available batik stalls and/or bakpia stalls around. Maybe not all, but we seen pretty much most of it and frankly we were at a verge of boredom after awhile since we weren't interested in buying the batiks anyway. If you're taking the becak at night, you may opt to skip the keliling tour. Just use the service to get back to the hotel, or get into a specific location that is not necessarily in Malioboro.

Becak ride is a great experience non-the-less. The passenger's seat is in front the cyclist, and when the becak crosses a busy road, take its as a theme park ride. The motor vehicles were only distances away from us as we are well exposed. Essentially, we are paying for the joy ride as well. Again, bro tips, HAGGLE if you must, these becak  drivers will put on a very good pity face and persuade you to pay more than you intended to pay initially. They are not bad people though, but if you're calculative on your dollars and cents, the around tour would only cost around 30,000 - 50,000 rupiah and not more. You can do better than us, I supposed. We are HORRIBLE at bargaining prices.

Oh yeah, on the way back we crossed by a railway track, a first for me. Pretty bada** I must say for myself. In short, to survive Jl. Malioboro, the iconic marketplace in central Yogyakarta, be smart in bargaining for the price that you are comfortable with. Becak and/or andong  is an experience you shouldn't miss, but keliling tour at night is not necessary, you are better off maximizing the ride during daytime so that you can
  1. Skip walking under the scorching sun
  2. Stop and visit the various tourist-y spots in the central (Taman Sari, Vredeburg Fort and Kraton) 
That's it for Day 1, essentially we did what we planned to do, a night stroll at Jl.Malioboro. The next day would be the one we anticipated, Candi Borobudur, Candi Prambanan, Pawon and Mendut. Till the next post!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Day Trip In Brunei Darussalam

The trip was ages ago, back when I was still studying in UNIMAS, Sarawak. I was actually in my Miri holiday, when my friend Larry slotted a day trip to Brunei. 

Brunei is significant to me, as it was the first foreign country I've visited, and also the only country I've traveled by car to. The immigration booths, located at Sungai Tujuh (Brunei) is only approximately 30 minutes or so from where we were traveling from (Miri). Immigration waiting hours varies, we actually went on a non-peak day, thus immigration clearance was easier. 

From Sungai Tujuh to Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB), the capital of Brunei is around 1 hour 30 minutes drive, depending on the phase you're driving of course. Very much like Singapore, I observed, in terms of the cleanliness of the street as well as the driver's etiquette. Culture shock to me, pedestrian crosser are given priority on the road, yes, the car waits until you cross the road. Never I would see that happen in Malaysia (unless there's the traffic light in place).

They do use Bahasa Melayu in Brunei, and their currency was 2:1 when I was there back in 2009. (2.5:1 now). Oil, is what propelled Brunei to be the 5th richest country in the world, and no surprise in that for our Malaysian car, we are not able to refuel the car from a certain distance away from Sungai Tujuh. Brunei is an Islamic country, if mosques and Islamic architectures intrigues you, this might be the place for you. But to me, a day trip was actually more than sufficient, just to cover a few tourist-y spots.

Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque is a royal Islamic mosque located in a heart of BSB, the iconic golden dome (pure gold, mind you) and the mahligai barge replica can't be missed. A marble bridge leads to that boat like structure in the lagoon. 

You might also would want to see Istana Nurul Iman, the official residence of Brunei's Sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah and the seat of the Brunei government. It is not assessible unless on annual Islamic Celebration like Hari Raya Aidilfitri. 

We also visited the Royal Regalia Museum, The museum was established in 1992 in commemoration of the Silver Jubilee of Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah’s accession to the throne. Shoes are not allowed in the museum, very much to Asian culture. And also, we met host Oli Pettigrew (of all places) over here.

If you want a luxurious accommodation while you are here, do check out The Empire Hotel and Country Resorts, a good mirror to Brunei's majestic and cultural heritage. 

There's a theme park known as Jerudong Park, but it was letdown to me. The theme park was rather run down and there's not much of a crowd over there. 

Eating in Brunei, pretty much their food is similar to what you may find in Sarawak, the highlight dish for me is definitely Nasi Katok, a compendium of rice, anchovies and chicken (almost similar to Nasi Lemak) and they're selling at $1 only when I was there. Dirt cheap meal, I had 2 servings for my dinner there.

I guess there's nothing much to see in Brunei, a day trip there is more than sufficient if you are around that area anyway. I would think people is curious to see how South East Asia's richest country is really like, but don't be surprised of its rather humble surroundings, as Brunei moniker suggests, its the Abode of Peace.