I have travelled a lot through Java since I arrived almost a year ago. In that time I’ve travelled the entire length of the island for Travelfish.org covering all of the common sights in Java as well as many that are off the beaten track. To be honest, it’s hard to stay on the beaten track in Java and it’s only because many people freak out when they arrive that they speed through the island towards Bali without so much as stepping on a beach or climbing a volcano (except maybe for Gunung Bromo). Central Java is a magnificent part of Java that surprised as it has a bit of a reputation for being desolate. And when you compare it to East and West Java, that might ring true. But Central Java has Borobudur and that is the biggest tourist attraction in Indonesia outside of Bali. Plus, there are some other places that I reckon are some of the best in the whole of Java.
Semarang – capital of Central Java
Semarang is the capital of Central Java and is where I flew into. It’s simply a big city with a great old section which floods occasionally. It flooded when I was there and the becak driver was driving me home in water that would have otherwise been up to my thighs. Needless to say I got wet — especially when the guy couldn’t peddle any more because we’d gotten stuck in a hole. The old town is basically a bunch of old buildings that are sadly falling into a state of disrepair.
Move out of the old town and into Chinatown and you find a part of the city that is surprisingly well-looked after. Chinatown is a great place to go on weekends when food markets are set up there.
The Karimunjawa Islands are located about 100km off the north coast of Central Java — a cluster of small islands, some of which are inhabited by fishermen. Tourists go there because the water is crystal clear, there’s plenty of coral for snorkelling and the sand on many of the beaches is simply blindingly white. It’s a basic place where food is simple as is most of the accommodation. You rarely see another white person while you’re there and riding a motorbike around the island truly gets you into virgin territory for foreign visitors. This place is magical and is one of my favourite places in Java.
Dieng Plateau is another one of my favourite places, but it couldn’t be more different than Karimunjawa. Dieng is located at 2100m above sea level and is home to the oldest Hindu temples in Java, boiling pits of mud and farms that spill down massive steep mountains. It’s cold, cloudy and absolutely enchanting. Overnight temperatures often dip below freezing in the dry season and day time temperatures can be quite frigid too, especially after having arrived from the stifling lowlands.
The great thing about sleeping overnight in Dieng is that most of the accommodation is located in people’s houses. This means friendly and warm service and some of the quirks you’d expect in an Indonesian house like no heating when it’s practically snowing outside. Needless to say, you do breathe steam out of your mouth the whole night and if you need to get up to go to the toilet in the middle of the night, you’re in for an icy trip across the tiled floor in bare feet as of course Indonesian bathrooms are constantly wet. The best way to get around this is to dehydrate yourself.
These random photos are of a place that isn’t in any of the guidebooks and won’t be in the travelfish guidebook either mainly because it took all day to get to on the back of a motorbike. Almost did me in. Only stayed for about 15 minutes and got bored, but it does make for some good photos. Everyone loves a mud pit!
Of course there are other places in Central Java that I went to that I could go on and on about, but no one has time for that. And there’s also Yogyakarta and Solo, both of which are already written up for travelfish and I didn’t have to visit. Central Java is truly magical and almost completely untouched by white folk. I went about a week without speaking to another one. YES! What you reckon? Good place or not?