Started the day early as the inaugural Silkair flight to Semarang from Singapore was jetting off at 845am, which means we had to get to the airport for check in really early. My travel mate Rendall joined me at the carpark (walking distance from his home) and my dad sent us to the airport before going to work.
Though it was an inaugural flight, there wasn’t any fancy stuff going around the counters, check in was business as usual. However, before boarding the plane, we were each given a bird-in-a-cultural-costume soft toy and a certificate to commemorate the taking this flight. Flight time was about 2 hrs and over in a snappy shuteye and soon we landed in an unfamiliar Semarang city of Central Java. That was when we experienced something that was not expected in the usual flights. From far we saw a fire engine parked by the lane side and as the plane taxied towards the gate, the water cannon salute was given (where the fire engine activated the hose so that the plane could pass under it). It was pretty thrilling to experience that the first time. On top of that, there was also a red carpet decked out to welcome first Silkair guests, felt like a VIP (just a little). Of course we took pictures, who could resist?
Got off the airport and boarded a taxi to Joglosemar office in Semarang for our trip to Yogyakarta. Asked to go on meter and it was just a couple of dollars. The Joglosemar office was located at the same building location as the Semarang Tourism Information Center, to the left hand side of the building. There was also a small stall that sold foodstuff and drinks. We proceeded straight to the office where there was already a customer. Small counter so we just waited till it was our turn. There were 2 options with various timings and so we took the one next available which was a 20 seater luxury coach (something like those coaches that you take to go Genting) and it came with tiny packed lunch. They weren’t really good at English but we figured.
There was some time and so we visited the Tourism Information Center. Went in the entrance but did not see anyone around. Someone then came out from another room and asked if we needed help in which we mentioned that we needed some maps and information. She went on to lead us through the door into another bigger room where there seemed to be a library and place where they keep the brochures and stuff. They were very helpful in pointing out the various attractions available in Semarang and maps for Java and Semarang. After getting what we required, we excused ourselves and went back to the sitting area outside to wait.
As time drew closer and closer, we got a little concern if we have been missed at all. There were coaches arriving and parking at the busy main road since the internal parking space was full of mini buses already and we weren’t sure which were the buses. As the drivers and their assistants reported back to the offices, we tried to ask them but got a confused response. But this didn’t last long and soon enough, the office staff and the drivers came out to call for the various destinations for the buses. There weren’t many passengers but we just sat at the allocated seats first.
Yogyakarta is about 130km away on Google map and I thought the trip would just be around 2hrs if not less. It took about 3.5hrs. The bus had to make a few more stops collecting/depositing cargo goods and passengers. After about a 30mins drive, we were finally on the continuous movement towards our destination. However, as expected, the roads were all single lane in each direction and loads of heavy vehicles took this lane for transit. Therefore instead of moving at a highway speed of 80km/hr, we were probably 40km max on busy roads and frequently at standstill too. But I guess there weren’t any faster way there since this was the only road.
Finally we arrived at the office in Yogya. From here we were supposed to get a taxi to our hotel but as we walked to the main road, there were no taxis in sight. We walked along the road and soon reached a food stall and thought we should have a bite. It was a road side burger stall so we each bought a burger.
After food, we continued along the road often looking behind to see if there were any taxis. Then we saw a chance in the form of a bus and it stopped for us. We asked the guy at the door if this went to the place where we wanted and he nodded. Then we found ourselves seated amongst the locals. Aboard, we met a taxi driver on his off days who could speak English and he advised us the payment of the fare to the door guy who got us boarded, which was pretty cheap but we didn’t have the change and ended paying 10k Rupiah. He was also kind enough to show us the place to alight, which was the same place where he alighted. Interesting experience there.
Once off, our bargaining skills was put in practice with the haggling of price for trishaw cyclist to bring us to our hotel. Based on our thumb sucking ability, we asked for a mere 20k to our hotel. From there, it was a breezy, squeezy (2 guys with backpacks) 15mins ride to the hotel. To be honest, we felt really bad that the distance was really far and in the end, we paid 30k instead, which wasn’t too much more anyway.
Reached the hotel and checked in at the Jambuluwuk Hotel. The room that was given to us was pretty clean and spacious. The view wasn’t fantastic but it was one of the tallest buildings around. There were other rooms facing the Merapi volcano and that would probably have the best view, facing both sunset direction. We weren’t planning a long stay anyway so it didn’t really matter. After a while we proceeded to the Malioboro shopping street for dinner and walkabout, an easy 15mins of walking. The weather was somewhat cooler than Singapore, making the stroll breezy.
There were quite a few food stalls and we dropped by one stall that sold some fried pancake like food (Roti Bakar), not sure of the name as it was in Indonesian. Though we didn’t know Indonesian, our finger pointing and charade skills managed to get us through. Wasn’t satisfied and bought some fried stuff from another stall. Then continued walking along the street, lined with many shops selling many touristy stuff that repeated frequently. Not very interesting if you aren’t interested.
Bought orange juice from a fruit drink stall from a shop but unfortunately, it was more water than juice, tasted pretty bad. We continued into Malioboro mall and visited a noodle restaurant searching for some Indo Mie. We didn’t really get that but some other noodles. Nothing much to shout about except that it was cheap and we were filled. We also weren’t interested in the mall stuff and left soon after.
Walking back to the hotel was just as simple. Explored the hotel for a bit, there was a small business center, a pool and a spa. We were looking for a bar with a live band but there wasn’t anything on a Monday night. Went back to the room, spent some time on the wifi before going to sleep, ready for a more exciting day the next day.