The Best of Java and Bali


01

Arriving in Java

This trip starts at the airport of Yogyakarta, upon arrival in the ancient Sultan’s city. Rest of the day and evening are free.
02

Yogyakarta: A royal City

Today you'll explore the typical sights & sounds of Yogyakarta. As the vanguard of Javanese culture, the Sultan's palace takes center stage. Surrounded by white-clad houses and quiet lanes, there is hardly any traffic in this part of town. Nearby you can walk through the ruins of Taman sari, the former pleasure dome of the Sultans. There are ponds where once princesses bathed, watchtowers and underground corridors. A becak, the omnipresent bicycle taxi of Java, is ideal to explore this area ! These days the fine art of batik comes from family compounds in villages surrounding the city. Young girls and women use the cap and canting to create intricate and colorful designs. In another quarter of town, aging silver smiths continue crafting wonderful home ware and exquisite jewelry. There are many legends and local tales connecting Kota Gede to one of the old capitals of the Kingdom of Mataram. Last century, Kota Gede became synonymous with local silver handicrafts. After lunch, you'll visit the plains of Prambanan. This is a magnificently renovated temple garden, dedicated to kings who once considered themselves as Gods. The centrally located Shiva temple overlooks a series of smaller shrines, spread out over an open-air museum of Hindu-Javanese antiquities. The walls feature marvelous examples of Indian influenced culture once predominant on Java. This is how the palaces and tabernacles of powerful Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms must have looked like in the 7th and 8th century AD.
03

Yogyakarta: Ancient Temples of Java

A leisure drive out of town takes you to the site of Borobudur temple, one of the most formidable Buddhist landmarks in the world. Lying tranquil against the splendid background of the Menoreh mountain range, it is one of most impressive monuments ever erected by mankind. The terraced temple tells the times and lives of the Lord Buddha in well over 1.500 reliefs. While climbing to the top, it offered the faithful pilgrim a full-length set of Buddhist teachings. The renovation, finished in the early eighties of last century, sublimely reflects the will of man to preserve the past. Once enshrined by a wild jungle, it took over ten years and great effort to renovate the monument. Now it belongs to the finest examples of Buddhist architecture. Return to the hotel in the early afternoon. There is ample time to explore Jalan Malioboro, Yogya’s famous shopping street. At dusk, numerous temporary restaurants are set up right on the sidewalks. This is Yogya's favorite hangout for shoppers and students alike, where one gets a cheap meal and exchanges the latest gossip.
04

From Yogya to Sukapura or Tosari (Near Bromo)

Early morning flight to Surabaya. Drive onto the direction of Bromo, one of the most accessible volcanic locations in the world and scene of out worldly beauty. You leave the industrial hub of Surabaya through non-descript highways, but after a while the landscape turns quintessentially Javanese. Past amazingly laid out patches of vegetable gardens against the mountain slopes, you'll reach Sukapura or Tosari. Time permitting, you walk for about 45 minutes to a secluded waterfall, depositing its magnificent jet stream of water from a height of 200 m onto the surface of the earth below. The rest of the day and evening are free. Take a rest, gearing up for a fascinating early morning excursion.
05

From Bromo to Ubud

After an early morning rise, you walk to a nearby point from where a magnificent sunrise can be observed. It is a magic moment when the sun casts its first rays over a sea of sand. At its periphery, volcanic cones rise up from the earth's surface. Mount Bromo is one of them, hissing and fuming with volcanic activity. This awesome sight was the result of a prehistoric eruption eons ago. In a shimmering distance you'll have stunning views over the Semeru massif. Circumstances allowing, you will move toward Bromo for a final ascent to its peak. Then it is back to your hotel for a hearty breakfast. Return to Surabaya to catch your flight to Bali. Upon arrival, we will take you straight into the heart of Bali. For many centuries, the rulers of the powerful kingdom of Ubud, were patrons of the arts. In the early 20th century, European painters successfully fused tradition with western concepts, laying the groundwork for an art direction that flourishes up to this day and age!
06

Ubud

Explore some of the holy sites around Ubud. There are charming little temples such as Tirta Empul protecting the sacred wells where Balinese fetch their holy water for ceremonies and giant shrines hacked out of a mountain wall. Gunung Kawi remind the present day visitors to ancient rulers. A giant carving looking like an elephant's head, arches the entrance to Goa Gaja, a cave used once for medieval meditation. Observe the Balinese pay tribute Gods and demons alike, in their never ending effort to balance to positive and the negative. Delicately made offerings are placed on shrines and every other location deemed to be charged by unseen forces, especially so at temples and crossroads. After lunch you may visit the local art market stuffed with an abundance of caringly made local handicrafts are. On main street, the Neka museum houses priceless paintings of local and foreign masters. Get a first-hand insight in the cultural history of Bali ! Afterwards the numerous art galleries lining up the streets of this amazing little town in Bali's mountains, beckon
07

From Ubud To Pekutatan

Travel from Ubud to West Bali. Along the road you'll pass by temples with deep significance for the Balinese. The sleepy town of Mengwi is the site of a magnificent royal sanctuary. Three courtyards, numerous shrines and holy meru's reflect Balinese temple architecture at its best. A surrounding pond shuts out the mundane world. Enter from the lowest courtyard, dedicated to the negative forces of the Universe into the realm of human beings, where Good and Evil are supposed to balanced by and endless cycle of ceremonies and offerings. Non-believers are not allowed to enter the highest courtyard, but walking around it allows excellent observation of the heavily carved shrines. Proud merus or Balinese temple towers pointing to the sky, rule the peaceful realm of the Gods. Tanah Lot, located on the western part of the island, is another remarkable landmark for the Balinese people. It is firmly considered as the location where the first Hindu priest from Java set foot on the island. Late afternoon you reach Pekutatan, the ideal location to spend the night before continuing this trip the far northwestern point of Bali. Your hotel is located near a beach where the traditional jukungs return from the sea with their catch.
08

From Pekutatan to Randu Agung / Ketapang (East Java)

Continue the winding road to the most northwestern point of Bali. The rolling hills proof you are passing through Bali's rice growing area. At particular temples, bus and truck drivers take a short break to get a priest's blessing before leaving Bali. Soon you'll reach Bali Barat National Park, a nature reserve with an abundance of almost extinct birds. At one particular village at the fringes of this reserve, Christians and Hindu's live together in a peaceful village. There is even a Catholic cathedral, with typical Balinese architectural elements ! Continue your trip. Rice fields roll down from mountain top to the sea. Finally, you'll reach the Gilimanuk. A continuous stream of ferries connect this bustling port with Ketapang on the other side of a mile wide strait. From Banyuwangi, you'll drive uphill to Rande Agung, a location with a true Shangrila-like environment, hidden deep in the East Java country side. Surrounded by valleys, rolling rice fields and misty mountain peaks, the Ijen Resort occupies one of the most beautiful spots in the world. Or stay in Ketapang, not far away from Banyuwangi, a charming, provincial capital.
09

Randu Agung / Ketapang

After an early rise, 4wheel drives take you the 'sulfur mountain'. An exciting trip though rubber palm tree plantations and clove gardens, leads up to the above 1.000 m sea level. From there on you'll walk with the local sulfur miners straight up the mountain. Generation upon generation of local East Javanese, earned a living in harsh circumstances. From the crater rim, the view on the lake is fabulous, while deep down at the lake shore, the earth hisses and fumes. Steam evaporating from a pipe, immediately solidifies into a yellow crystal. The laborers cut it loose and put large chunks into handmade baskets. Freight of 80kg is then carried by man to a weighing station halfway down the mountain. Finally, it will be delivered in a simple factory in Banyuwangi for processing. The ultimate destination is Japan, where sulfur is a highly sought after mineral for the production of cosmetics.
10

From Randu Agung to Lovina (North Bali)

Leave Rande Agung and drive towards Banyuwangi. Or head straight for Ketapang to an authentic coffee plantation. Depending on the season, you'll be able to see the harvesting or processing of coffee. Having lunch at the owner's residence, reveals the atmosphere on what once was a colonial enterprise. Nowadays, they are privately held or government run. All of them are important for the export driven economy of Indonesia. Then it is off to the harbor, to catch the ferry back to Bali. Drive along the north coast through the Bali Barat National Park to Lovina, the resort town near Singaraja. On the way you stop at a road side temple with a whole colony of monkeys. Check-in in your hotel in Lovina.
11

A Day in North Bali

Enjoy the incredible beauty of the north Balinese landscapes. The northern slopes of Bali's mountains are much steeper than in the south, thus providing some of the most stunning scenery in the island. Rice fields bordered by palm trees, coffee and clove plantations and idyllic villages tucked in the mountain sides, make this area is ideal for scenic easy. Time permitting, you hike an interesting path along waterfalls and hidden shrines. Stop at Bedugul for a visit to the holy site of Ulun Danu temple at the shores of Lake Bratan. This interesting temple effortlessly combines Hindu and Buddhist architectural elements. Return to Lovina for the night.
12

From North to East Bali

Today you drive to East Bali. First you stop at a subak temple nearby Singaraja. Subak are traditional organizations that handle all things related to water distribution within a village community. Because of their importance, they often command a dedicated temple. Stops at Penelokan with stunning views on a lake and mount Agung in a shimmering distance. You are on the rim of the magnificent caldera of Mount Batur. In its center rises a smoldering volcanic cone. Further down the road, you'll find the renowned temple of Besakih, built against the southern slope of Gunung Agung, a sacred mountain for Balinese. A sprawling complex of shrines, dedicated to an unknown number of gods, makes out the religious center of Bali. On designated days, Besakih brims with colorful activity. Row after row of women climb the temple stairs, proudly carrying a heavy load of flower and fruit offerings. They are meant to stabilize the Universe or to finalize a complicated religious ceremony. Finally, you descent to the east coast, reaching Candi Dasa, where you will spend the next two nights.
13

Mountain hike in East Bali

First it is off to Tirtagangga, surrounded by arguably the most beautiful rice fields of Bali. Its main attraction however, is an open air pleasure garden built by the last raja's of Karangasem, aptly named The Water Palace. It certainly proofs their near obsession with pools and fountains. Well-restored, it features a terraced area with numerous pools, water channels and fountains, set in a well-maintained garden with large stone statues, depicting traditional Balinese mythological figures. From a small village in the mountains, you'll start a fascinating hike leading past isolated communities that rarely see a visitor. In the late afternoon, you'll arrive at Tenganan, home to the Bali-Aga. Considered as the 'original' Balinese, their culture is somehow different from the other Balinese. Up to this day, they are masters in ikat, an extremely difficult method of weaving with spiritual connotations. Some ikat is supposed to protect the owner from decease.
14

End of this trip

This trip ends when checking-out at your hotel in Candi Dasa around noon time.
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