“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Ernest Hemingway


22 March 2015

Visas and vistas in Java’s historic hub

7th - 13th March 2015

We were a little upset about leaving Pangandaran as we could have quite happily chilled out there for a fortnight but as usual it seemed no sooner we unpack it’s time to bundle our belonging again. Once again our outbound mode of transportation was a cramped minibus but at least the seven hour journey was bearable.
queuing at the Kraton
    It was mid-afternoon by the time we reached the hostel area of Java’s city of culture and history, Yogyakarta (also spelt Jogjakarta). Finding some overnight digs is straight forward enough as there are three pedestrian alleyways (conveniently signposted as gangs 1, 2 and 3) opposite the central railway station. Each gang offers a number of guest homes, restaurants and other useful services so there is no real need to venture long distances, unless you want to. We booked a room at “Setia Kawan Losmen Guesthouse” opposite the popular “Andrea Hotel”. Setia Kawan was comfortable enough and for a reasonable price of Rp 100,000 our stay included free breakfast, en-suite bathroom and A/C.

It's lavish for Indonesia at least
     We decided to wander the streets on our first full day and headed toward the “Kraton” area. The Kraton makes up the very central district of the city and is home to the palace grounds. The grounds are a good way to kill an hour although if you visit expecting grand and expensive artifacts it may be a little disappointing. Many of the exhibits seem to showcase the royal families “incredibly fascinating” collection of tea pots, coffee mugs, cameras and other everyday items. Don’t miss the cutlery, frying pan and spatula exhibit you’ll only regret it. If you have not seen a shadow puppet show before the palace contains a nice seating area to highlight this important ancient form of entertainment although it is better to visit in the evening to experience the show in all its splendor.


     To see the best that Yogyakarta has to offer you have to venture outside the city. Java’s most popular attraction Borobodur temple is around an hour’s drive away and the best tours leave early at around 4am to capture the sunrise over the temple from a nearby vantage point before visiting the temple proper and then returning to Yogyakarta to visit another popular temple Prambanan. We booked the tour at the main tourist information centre with some friends from Pangandaran and prepared for the early morning wake up call.
sunrise view
A local minibus driver picked us up bright and early and headed to the vantage point. Sadly our efforts went unrewarded as fog and cloud cover obscured the sunrise (it is the rainy season so it was always going to be a long shot), however it did highlight another type of tourist that without fail offers a comical spectacle. I’m talking about the “TRIPOD TRAVELLERS”. Despite it being obvious from the outset that opportunities of photographic bliss would be limited, these idiots still jostle, push, fight and distract their way to what they believe is the perfect spot for panoramic photographs.
Tri-plodders fighting for that perfect foggy view
In fact some of the more experienced “Tri-plodders” seem to have spent so much time standing next to their beloved camera stands they begin to resemble the cumbersome items. Many carry one of those hiking sticks with a handle which allows them to turn the stick into a seat. Ironically as they sit there with a branch shoved firmly up their bottoms they fail to realise that as they now have three legs and should have just taped the camera to their head instead and saved themselves a few hundred queens’ heads.

Bruvs on Borobodur

     Borobodur was a much nicer experience and although it’s fair to say we have visited so many temples in the last few months few live up to the spectacle of the Khmer temples of Cambodia, Borobodur was a real surprise. After climbing the many steps to the top visitors are presented with a collection of small domes containing stone idols. The temple itself sits in a valley surrounded by sleeping active volcanoes in every direction. It’s easy to see why people see the area as a special religious sight.
what a view!


You can see why faith is important here
 Talking of religion and spirituality, unusually the peaceful serenity atop the temple was disturbed by the incessant chanting of what I at first believed to be a school of monks. It was only when they crept into eyeshot that it became apparent most of the howlers were western tourist who had obviously paid money to be involved in some journey towards spirituality. Now it’s important to say at this point that I consider myself an atheist and although I accept many people use religion to achieve great things there are aspects of it that are quite hilarious and this was one such example. Stereotypes are sometimes a bad thing but on this occasion it was hard to ignore the demographic of the people paying good money for this sponsored groan-athon. At first glance no similarities existed. It was a mixture of men and women of different ages and ethnicities. However almost all had dreadlocks, silk trousers, hemp shirts or the dreaded top knot. After travelling Asia for six months we have met many people who fit this category and I can safely say that the only reason these people persevere with looking like an utter imbecile is so they can head back to the hostel and boast about how spiritually cleansed they feel. That’s all well and good but I think the only thing that’s been truly cleansed is their damn bank account. No wonder the monk had a smile on his face because essentially his found a way to make money by doing very little. 

Where's Jono gone?
The group of twenty or so tourist followed the monk in slow precession circling the temple before climbing to the first level where they would circle the temple again and so on all the way to the summit. Always moaning inaudible notes and waving their hands in a way that resembled the Macarena. The ones nearest the monk at the front always looked keener than the stragglers who judging by their faces had finally realised they could have done the same thing for free without forking out $50. They say there’s one born every minute but it’s not every day you get a group of them at the same place (unless you visit Old Trafford at a weekend).
A gaggle of morons
    Our third and final stop was at Prambanan temple and after Borobodur it was a little bit of an anti-climax. The sight was a pretty much an undamaged replica of the ruined temples we saw in Thailand in Ayutthaya, except it lacked any real character. If you haven’t seen an Asian temple before try to visit this one before Borobodur and you’ll see what I mean. Sure the carvings are exquisite but the temple itself felt dingy, smelt of urine and offers limited photographic opportunities unless you like the sight of Yogyakarta in the background. All was not lost though because we got to see our minibus driver have an argument with another passenger after they realised they had paid more than us for entry. They got their money back in the end and our pissed off driver was kind enough to give us an aggressive drive back to our guesthouse.

    If you visit Yogyakarta you have to try the temple day tour. On our occasion we didn’t get a good sunrise but that’s the way it goes sometimes and in many ways Borobodur makes up for the tours faults.

The carefully carved spires are impressive
Travelling Tips at the temples
·         The minibus drivers will try to sell you entrance tickets before entering the temples. Just kindly decline and buy a ticket at the appropriate desk. The drivers buy the tickets themselves to sell on at a slightly inflated price.

·         It is possible to buy a combo ticket for both temples although it’s not clearly advertised at the desk (The signs only show adult and child prices for one temple). If you request the combination ticket the women at the ticket desk will know what you mean and you can save a little money.

·         Visitor with student cards pay 50% less. Just try with a driving license, who knows you may get lucky.

Traditional Go-cart track at Prambanan

     I would like to say that we visited more sights on our 6 day visit but unfortunately for us we had an administrative barrier to cross in the form of a visa extension. Unlike Malaysia and Singapore visitors from the UK and other countries can only obtain an initial 30 day visa on entry unless they apply for the two month visa from their home country. Obviously we haven’t been home for a while so were therefore stuck with the initial 30 days. This visa can be extended for an additional 30 days if you need longer and we sure needed more time to get to Bali and Lombok to search for a final boat.

     Many people apply and obtain the Indonesian visa extension however sometimes the procedures can be a little confusing and advice online is limited so here is a quick guide on obtaining an extension in Yogyakarta (other immigration offices may vary in speed and professionalism). It took three long days but we finally had our visa and were ready to continue through Java towards Bali.

Getting a visa extension in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

1.       The immigration office is located next to the airport car park at this address:

Immigration office:

Jl Solo KM. 10, PO BOX 19 YKAP, Yogyakarta, 55282

2.       A taxi from the main roads near the hotels in gangs 1, 2 & 3 cost around 40,000 – 50,000 Rp. (haggle for the best price or ask for the meter).

3.       The immigration office operates from 8:00 – 16:00 Mon-Thurs, 08:30 – 16:00 Fri and is closed Sat & Sun. Although it’s important to note that the office that deals with visa extensions closes at 14:00pm on every open day.

4.       A lunch break operates from 12:00 – 13:00 and the whole office shuts down for the duration. No staggered lunch breaks here.

5.       A dress code does exist and it’s advised to wear a long sleeved shirt, trousers or shorts covering the knees and proper shoes, no flip flops. Although in reality all the Indonesians wore flip flops and sandals.

6.       You need to hand in your passport with Indonesian visa, 1 completed form, 1 copy of passport, 1 copy of Indonesian visa and 1 copy of the departure card (it helps to have additional copies and there’s an office at the immigration office to photocopy items. Just ask at the help desk and they will direct you.

7.       It takes 3 days to process and you have to visit consecutively.

8.       There are places to charge your electronic items so take a laptop of something to pass the boredom if you don’t have a book.

9.       Take some snacks as you never know how long the wait will be.

10.   Make sure you have a flight booked for onward travel. We have heard mixed messages regarding this and we had to return to our hotel to book a cheap flight as they wouldn’t even accept our form without an onward ticket.

11.   Day 1) collect the extension form from the front desk. Fill it out and add the passport and photocopies. Hand in at visa extension desk to the left. Wait for receipt and you will be told to return the following morning to pay.

12.     Day 2) return to the immigration office with your receipt and hand it to the guy at the extension desk. Wait until he gives you your file back and walk to the far side of the building to the pay desk. Hand in your file and wait. When called up pay 355,000 Rp for the extension. You will received another receipt. Return the file to the extension office guy and wait for him to check it. After a while he will hand the file back to you at which point you walk a whole 10 yard to an adjacent office and give the file to them. Wait again to be called out where they will ask a few questions about why you want the extension, take a photograph and scan fingerprints. After all this you will receive yet another receipt and asked to return the following day to collect your completed passport. This part took 6 hour but it will vary depending on how busy the office is on the day.

13.   Day 3) return to the office and hand in your receipt at the extension office. The guy will eventually present you with your file and the completed passport.

14.   Oh yeah don’t expect any order. You may wait hours and some people will take a lot less. That’s the luck of the draw.

It is a frustrating process and to be honest arriving early doesn’t always pay off as everyone tries it thinking it will be quicker and it ultimately results in large queue. In the morning most of the staff seemed to spend their time dicking about hitting each other with magazines and playing candy crush but don’t get too pissed off its just the way it is.

The staff seem to buck their ideas up at around 13:00 after their lunch break as they have to process everyone before the day ends. We saw a guy roll in at 12:45 and he reached the same stage we were at within the hour. It had taken us six hours.

I hope this helps you enjoy the horrors of the immigration office.

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