Cycling in Jogja, and couchsurfing part 1

After a painfully cold 8 hour night train from Malang to Jogja (as Yogyakarta is more commonly known as), with barely a wink of sleep, I arrived at Tugu station at 4am in the morning. One good thing about sunrise in Indonesia is that it’s really early. I only had to wait 1 hour at Indomaret, using free wifi and charging my phone, before I took a leisurely 5km stroll to my hostel. I walked down an empty Malioboro Street, the main shopping boulevard of the city. It was nice to take it in with hardly anyone around, except for a few joggers and hardworking becak drivers. I hadn’t planned on arriving so early, but decided that staying a night at a hostel was the only way not to waste the day waiting around. After a quick breakfast at Rumah Panjaitan, where each guest is allowed 6 slices of bread, a variety of jams and 1 (yes, 1) egg, which you cook yourself, I decided to go rent a bicycle to visit the Imogiri pine forests. I had seen many photos of it on Instagram, and it reminded me of the bamboo forests in Kyoto. Since Japan was a little out of my budget, this more than fit the bill. What surprised me was how difficult it was to find a bicycle. Every shop was renting motorbikes, and those few which had bicycles were not open. Nonetheless, in my search for a bike, I realised that the city was a treasure trove for good graffiti.

This was just outside my hostel.

When I finally got a bike, I cycled approximately 20km to Imogiri. The route was relatively flat, and save for the traffic, it was a really nice ride going past rice fields and watching the city slowly give way to villages. The first “Imogiri” I reached was actually where the ancient royal tombs were, and after a crazy, never ending flight of stairs, I reached the non-attraction. I guess it was quite cool to be the only one there, but that was not what I came for! Determined not to go back empty handed after braving the traffic, I walked a little further, and found the start of a very steep hill, where the pine forest, or hutan pinus, was located at. I knew I wasn’t going to make it up 7km, so I parked my bicycle at a discreet spot, hoped for the best that I would remember where I left it at, and out came the hitchhiker’s thumb. Once again, within 5 minutes, a kind soul brought me all the way up. The forests were quite eerie, and I had a fun time trying to make artistic shots of the super tall trees.


It was also really muddy, and I almost lost my slippers to the gunk. What was supposed to be an easy walk turned out to be a dirty day yet again.

I had read that the famous sunset spot at Mangunan fruit orchard was nearby, and since I was on a hitchhiking roll, I decided to try my luck again. One guy, who was working in the Imogiri village, offered me a lift when he saw me walking slowly down that uber steep path. We made some sort of conversation in Bahasa, and he got us in for free and walked around with me. When he asked why I was alone. I didn’t know how to answer that question, so we left it at that. The views from Mangunan were really quite something, and I could imagine how sunset would have looked like if it weren’t raining in the evenings.


After a short stroll around, we headed back down, and as expected, I did forget where I left my bike, and walked up and down the same street to the amusement of the villagers there. Traffic on the way back was much worse, and I nearly got into a couple of accidents. Thank god I was oblivious to the fact that they were about to happen, or I would have been much more afraid. As I still had time, I was considering cycling to Prambanan, but decided that bicycling was just too stressful for a novice like me.

After chilling abit at my hostel, I met up with A, a couchsurfer who had contacted me a few weeks ago. A uni grad who worked at a batik shop, she picked me up on her motorbike and brought me to see some of the main sites in the city.  What struck me the most was how ambitious she was- she wouldn’t have been out of place in Singapore, and I was glad to have her company for some thought provoking conversations. A brought me to try Gudeg, the local dish which is a sort of jackfruit and beef stew. It was really spicy, and I loved it. This was the first and only day that it didn’t rain when I was in Indonesia! To celebrate it, we went to Alun-alun Kidul, the night market where families could sit in the middle of a field with the street food they ordered, and ride the neon-light covered cars circling the area. Literally a pasar-malam on steroids.


The next day, I had planned to make an early start to Prambanan and maybe catch an afternoon bus to Borobudur, but the bed was just too comfy and after barely sleeping for 3 nights in a row, I gave in to a late start. Taking the Transjogja bus to Prambanan was really easy and cheap. For 3600 Rp, about 40 cents SGD, it took just an hour in a comfortable air conditioned bus straight to the Hindu temples. I bumped in to M, the only other tourist on the bus, and we decided to explore the ruins together. M was an Australian university student doing an internship in Jakarta, and it was quite refreshing to meet her and have a proper conversation! We had lots of fun deciphering the carvings on the walls, some of which depicted bestiality, orgies and big big penises. Yup, this was a holy temple site. It was definitely a beautiful spot, made even better by the lack of crowds.


After we parted ways on the bus back, I chilled a little at my hostel before moving to my couchsurfing host S’s place. Initially, the 6 days I planned to stay at Jogja seemed like a lot, but I could easily see myself walking around the city just hunting for graffiti, or eating the countless street snacks. The city mouse in me appreciated the bustle and liveliness of Jogja after a few days in the rural areas. And I guess this is what traveling is all about. It makes you realise small but significant stuff like this. I also gathered that my traveling style had changed, that I was less penny wise pound foolish than I once was, and that was a huge relief. Still, I couldn’t wait for the second part of my time in Jogja. Little did I know how epic the people I were going to meet would be.


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