(The uncommon and adventurous week in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) with the personality-plus Orangutans can be read in prior posts on TravelsWithSheila.) Most travelers have the common belief that airplanes depart either on time or late. That is not the case in Asia. Asian carriers call your flight, load up the plane, and leave as soon as boarding is complete. They also change flight times and cancel flights without explanations. This was the case today. An early call from Fery that the IAT flight to Semarang was now leaving 45-minutes early and to hustle. Bolted down breakfast, transferred to Pangkalan Bun’s tiny airport and then waited until the plane left exactly at the scheduled time…not early. There was a 13,000 Rupiah departure tax here and that too is constantly changing.
FYI: There is very little shopping in Kalimantan with the exception of Camp Leakey (t-shirts, etc.), the Pangkalan Bun jeweler, and a few counters selling souvenirs inside the Pangkalan Bun Airport. If you come across something, buy it.
There were no flights options from Pangkalan Bun to Yogyakarta where the Imaginative Traveller Java/Bali trip would begin which is why we had to fly to Semarang first and then drive by car to Yogyakarta. It was extremely easy for guide and driver to pick us out of the Semarang airport crowd since we were the only westerners on the IAT plane. They had the Semarang left-behind suitcase in the car and off we went on an interesting 3-4 hour ride.
Nursery centers (I would kill to grow a few of these tropic plants in cold Chicago)…View image, locals peddling and pushing humungous loads on their bicycles…View image, one small village with an unusual entrance sign…View image, colorful kites – dragons, bird and eagles fluttering colorfully in the breeze, and one place was selling the most fabulous items made from wood for gardens. I lusted over the 20-foot tall giraffe…it would have been stupendous in my backyard.
Incredibly heavy traffic ground to a halt because it was Wiasak, a Buddhist holiday celebrating Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and reaching of nirvana, all on the same day. Not only was there the big Wiasak celebration at Borobudur, not far from Yogyakarta, but it was also a three-day holiday for Java, and we hit the mother of all traffic jams. Instead of taking 3-1/2 hours, the drive to Yogyakarta took 4-1/2 hours. Super aggressive drivers, including ours, took matters into their own hands by driving off-road into the mud, grass, through gas stations, making two, three and four lanes of traffic where there should have been just one. Very tiring.
The Wisma Gajah budget hotel/guesthouse, Jalan Prawirotaman 4, is located in the thriving Prawirotaman district. This was Imaginative Traveller’s “official” hotel and the group tour would officially begin tomorrow. There are both double and single rooms, ranging in price from 80,000-140,000 Rupiah with a swimming pool and restaurant on site. (We never saw anyone eating any meal other than breakfast here. The hotel/guesthouse (I’d call it a large guesthouse), had air conditioning, looked “decent,” and had location…location…location. A pleasure to actually unpack for a few nights in one spot.
Conversion rates, 9/2009, are $1 U.S.=9,435 Rupiah, 1 GBP=15,000 Rupiah and 1 Euro=14,000 Rupiah.
Prawirotaman is lined with guesthouses, restaurants (called “restos”), money changers, ATMs, Internet and one promising-looking antique shop. Since we’re both too tired to really explore, and have two more full days in Yogyakarta before touring really begins, found a restaurant down the street. Resto Renzo Cafe had cobra satay on the menu and at first, I thought that was a misprint. No, they do serve cobra. We settled for a large Bitang local beer, tuna sandwiches, and fries. After all, even although I adore them, how many times a day can I eat my favorite fried noodles? FYI, you pronounce and shorten Yogyakarta to “jog-jah.”
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