Sunday, July 20, 2008


JULY 4TH 2008 (Day 1)

A mountain peak loomed above the clouds on my left, as the Air Asia plane prepared for landing at the Adi Sujipto airport at the outskirt of Jogjakarta. Could that be Mt Merapi, the active volcano that last erupted in 2006? I did a mental note to visit Mt Merapi. The mountain range make way for flat fertile land as the plane lose height and Jogjakarta came into view. Somewhere in the plane's belly was my trusty Merida MTB, converted into a touring bike, my means of transport for the next 7 days as I explored a small portion of Java Island. Java is so huge that it would take months to soak in all the various landscapes and culture, and its people.

Touching down in late afternoon, a flower girl was waiting, certainly not to garland this lone traveller who only had his bicycle as companion. But sometimes, we lived on hopes and its hopes and faith that kept one going.

I quickly looked for a spot to assemble my bike. A taxi driver, hoping to bag me as a passenger approached, but wasn't disappointed that I would have my own transport. He was still friendly when I asked for direction to Jogjakarta. Welcome to Javanese hospitality.

It took me about 45mins to assemble my bike and rode out into the traffic. The ride was pleasant enough, traffic slightly heavy. My destination would be Marlioboro, only 10kms away. Noticed the almost similar spelling with a nicotine brand.

Spedamoto (motorcycles) were in large numbers but surprisingly I didn't notice any "rempit-like" behaviors. Bechak (trishaw) were also present in large numbers.

Wan Malik, a seasoned traveller, was in Jogja a few weeks earlier. He had booked me into Losmen Pak Budi. A losmen is a real budget accomodation, down to the very basic. Losmen Pak Budi is located in a lane (called Gang), a stone's throw behind the busy and famous Marlioboro street. The Gang boasted several other losmens of different sizes and price ranges. Though called a "gang", there were no gangsters as I made way in the gang. There were on the other hand, activities typical of a small narrow street.

For one on a cycling tour (hence a real budget tour), Losmen Pak Budi therefore met the criteria to a tee! It had to be the cheapest of the cheap --- memang cheap skate la! One night stay costs me the price of one spare tube, IR40,000 about RM15 ha...ha...

"Checking in" upon arrival, Pak Budi and his wife welcomed me with a glass of warm tea. Morning and evening tea were included in the rate. My room, which is a room in Pak Budi's house, came with attached mini bathroom-cum-squatting toilet with a water-filtered tap. A thick cloth tied around the tap was the "filter". Mosquitoes (though not in large numbers) came with the package on my first night. A gentle comment the following day got me a mosquito repellant which worked wonders.

I showered, refreshed and tested the bed. Bed OK and clean. I had to lower the windows otherwise the kids playing outside could peep in. A good rest and very soon it was getting dark and the stomach was ready for food.

I made my way into Marlioboro street. It was choked with jay-walkers and peddlars selling anything and everything. The already narrow road were made worse by the becak and the horse-carriages. It was after all Friday night and following day is a weekend. I took a quick tour, not wanting to stop too long for the peddlars to invite me to their stalls. I need to look rather disinterested and I was actually. My focus guessed right....makan.

Nasi Padang (what else) was available.

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