More images from Anyer/Carita in West Java ...

Wading in the water at Curug Gendang (GoPro image)

Touring around Karang Bolong Beach (Canon 40D image)

Curung Gendang waterfall from the top (GoPro image)

Curung Gendang waterfall from the bottom pool (GoPro image)

Curug Lawang in Anyer, Indonesia ...

These three boys took me through the back roads of Anyer to see a wonderful waterfall which was certainly one of the highlights of Java.

We doubled up on motorbikes and rode for a half hour over unpaved, potholed roads. People were hanging around in groups outside their houses or in front of little stalls selling various items and as we drove by they were pointing and smiling and waving hello!

The trail leading to the waterfall was about half hour through the jungle and since motorcycle theft is a common occurrence in Anyer, the boys opted to bring their bikes. The tiny path was very muddy and the motorbikes got stuck more often than not.

The guys were very careful to keep me in the middle throughout our trip. One bike was in front, one was behind and one guy was on foot with me. Their concern for my safety was cute. We ran into very few people along the way and I felt completely safe.

At one point, the guy I was walking with, Necky, took off his shirt leaving him in a see-through white tank top. He apologized for removing his shirt but said it was too hot. Did he think I'd be offended by him wearing so little?! Ha!

The jungle was loud from millions of critters with stunningly lush greenery. When I finally caught sight of the waterfall, all I could say was WOW!

Although two of the guys didn't speak a word of English and the third spoke very little, we swam, we laughed and had a whole bunch of fun! It was great to be with some friendly locals and to experience the everyday lives of those in Anyer.

On the way back to the resort, we stopped off at their friend's house where we snacked on fresh fruit. I had some delicious soursop while the boys devoured a whole bunch of durian.

One thing of note is that EVERYONE seems to love durian in Indonesia. It could be seen all over and people raved about it. They urged me to try it again, stating that the durian in Indonesia is different from durian in other countries. (I have tried it in Taiwan and Malaysia) They got a real laugh out of the look on my face while eating it and I was sad to tell them that Indonesia durian wasn't any better!

This day reminded me of why it is that I love to travel. A great day indeed with some great company!

My first tour of Anyer, Indonesia ...

An amazing beach in front of the Anyer Cottage Beach Resort

Looking out from my second floor balcony at Villa Nine

The best food I had throughout my time in Java —spicy and scrumptious

Watching the sun go down from my balcony — could stay here forever

Java — Day 8 and 9 ...

Train tickets and plane tickets in Java are very comparable so Vernon and I decided to fly back to Jakarta with AirAsia after that horribly dangerous bus ride from Probolinggo to Yogyakarta. Upon arrival in Jakarta, a shuttle from the Puspamaya Hotel picked us up as this was where we had booked a room for the night. Vernon had a 4:40am flight and this hotel claimed to be close to the airport.

The hotel wasn't too near the airport and since it was Valentine's Day, they were having a function making the restaurant and pool closed to regular guests. We were a bit disappointed to say the least. (see my review on TripAdvisor here)

The evening went quickly and Vernon headed out around 12:30am to catch his flight. I had an 11:00am taxi booked to the west coast of Java. (One way fare: Rp$800,000/NTS$1,900/CAN$77) The price was a bit steep but it being a Sunday, there were no trains and I didn't want to deal with the buses.

Day nine started with a cold buffet breakfast offered by the hotel. I sat in the restaurant drinking coffee and catching up on my thoughts of Indonesia. After that, I showered and packed up my things. I was looking forward to some beach time!

The ride over to Anyer took about two hours, mostly on a toll road. I had booked a few nights at a beach resort called The Acacia. (see my review on TripAdvisor here) The resort was nice but empty; I was their only guest on Sunday night.
The pool at The Acacia in Anyer
First thing I noted was the big sign out back of the resort stating, 'DO NOT SWIM. DANGEROUS.' This isn't something one wants to see when staying at a beach resort. The pool was nice and this is where I spent the day. The first thing I ordered was a beer which seemed to baffle the staff. My beer arrived ages later and it was warm. They did bring a glass with ice and apologized for not having any cold beer ... what?!?! I was beginning to regret my decision of going to Anyer over Bali.

Later in the day, the general manager of the hotel found me and introduced himself. He had come over from Jakarta when he learned that a foreigner would be coming for a few days. He promised to take me on a tour of Anyer (free of charge) the following day. The GM is from Singapore but has been living in Indonesia for eight years. I learned a lot from him about the two countries and had it not been for him, my time in Anyer would have been much shorter than it was.

The stretch of beach outside The Acacia
I took my first sunset walk along the beach and could tell by people's reactions that foreigners weren't seen too often around those parts. Many stopped me to ask for photos and smiles were all around. After my walk, the GM offered to take me out of the resort for some dinner and I accepted.

We drove about twenty minutes to a roadside restaurant. It was here that I tried Bull Balls Soup. I have to admit, it was delicious! We had other random bits and bites and everything was scrumptious! I ordered an apple juice and I love that it came freshly made.

We had a few beers together back at the resort before I retired for the night. I was still a bit hesitant about staying in Anyer but remained positive and looked forward to the personal tour the following morning.

Java — Day 7 ...

Mount Merapi in the distance from the Borobudur temple (Canon 40D image)
The day started with a 3:10am alarm, although I was already half awake anticipating the Borobudur temple. This is the largest Buddhist temple in the world and was built in the 9th century.

The sunrise tour starts from the Manohara hotel. Apparently if you stay at this hotel, you have free access to the temple anytime. The sunrise ticket was Rp$380,000 (NTD$920/CAN$37) and worth every rupiah! The hotel provides you with a flashlight and a small souvenir on the way out.

The driver, Vernon and I walked over to the temple and climbed fifty or so steep uneven steps. It took about an hour before the sun made an appearance. It was beautiful! After the sunrise, we slowly made our way down and around each of the six square platforms. It was only when we finally reached the bottom and looked back at the temple did I realize how big it actually is. WOW! We continued to wander around the temple, seeing it from all sides. What an impressive place!
Wandering around the top of Borobudur (GoPro image)
We headed back to the hotel around 8:30am and were poolside by 9:30am. We started drinking beer around 11am and enjoyed our last day hanging around the pool. At 2pm, the afternoon rain started and it was about this time that Vernon returned to the room with a bottle of red wine. One bottle turned into two by the time we ordered dinner on the patio. It was a great way to end our time in Yogyakarta.

Bed time came super early due to the shenanigans. We were scheduled on a noon flight back to Jakarta the following day. Vernon was leaving Indonesia and my plans involved getting to the west coast beaches of Java after his departure.

Exploring Prambanan ...

The wonderful Candi Sewu — an 8th century Buddhist temple

Candi Sari — another 8th center Buddhist temple

Mount Merapi — the most active volcano in Indonesia

One of the twin guards at the Sewu temple

Java — Day 5 and 6 ...

After a 4:30am check-in, we slept immediately and stayed in bed until 8am. We were booked into an awesome place called, Rumah Mertua in Yogyakarta. (see my review on TripAdvisor here) The room was approximately Rp$400,000/night (NTD$1,000/CAN$38) which included a wonderful breakfast. The rooms were ridiculously clean, the beds extremely comfortable and the shower was hot and high pressured! Awesome!
The pool at Rumah Mertua
The hotel has a lovely pool and that is where we spent the day, drinking beer and snacking on delicious food. The weather was perfect for a day of pool shenanigans. We didn't accomplish much that day, expect for fun and relaxation. We also managed to book some tours to see some famous temples in the area.

We were in bed early to get a full night's rest as an alarm was set for 7am.  We were scheduled to visit the Prambanan temple. Entrance tickets: Rp$215,000 (NTD$520/CAN$20)

Day six started with a yummy breakfast. Every morning, this hotel gives the guests complimentary mixed fruits and fresh fruit juice along with local Indonesia snacks. Each day the juice was different. We had watermelon, guava, papaya and my favorite, Soursop. On top of this, guests can order one thing from a small menu and most days I had the banana pancake! Simply delish!

We hired a driver from the hotel for Rp$85,000/hour. He spoke English and told us quite a bit about the city and Mount Merapi. We could see the steaming volcano in the distance and the guide told us that it erupts every four years. The last eruption was in 2010 so the people of Yogyakarta are nervously awaiting the next one.
Looking back at the Prambanan temple after exiting
Prambanan itself is a very impressive Hindu temple; it's the largest in Indonesia and one of the biggest in Southeast Asia. While Prambanan is magnificent, within the complex, there is a more spectacular temple called Sewu. It is about a 1KM walk away from Prambanan and the walk may have been what deterred others from going over as Vernon and I had the whole place to ourselves! It was wonderful!

We returned to the hotel in time for lunch and to a new room. We were upgraded to a bigger room with a private outdoor patio. It suited us perfectly as it started pouring rain late afternoon and it continued into the evening. We enjoyed our first bit of rain in Indonesia from our patio with cold beers. Apparently February is the wettest month of the year yet we had fantastic weather!

Rumah Mertua offers spa services. Since it was raining, we treated ourselves to a ninety minute massage. (Rp$200,000/NTD$485/CAN$20)

After a late dinner, we retired early as an alarm was set for 3:30am. We were heading to see the sunrise at the famous Borobudur temple in the morning!

Ijen Crater, East Java, Indonesia ...

Overlooking the stunning Ijen Crater (GoPro image)

One of the workers at the Ijen Crater (Canon 40D image)

Visitors are NOT prohibited from going down (Canon 40D image)

Gorgeous views on the walk down from the volcano

The photos I have from the Ijen Crater could also stand some work. The place itself was so incredible and I feel my images just didn't capture that. Our driver asked us to be back around 8am and that was when the sun was just starting to appear from the behind the mountains and onto the largest and most highly acidic lake in the world. I could have easily spent the entire day here and would go back in a second with a much different plan. Again, do yourself a favor: add to bucket list. Wow!

Java — Day 4 ...

Day four was a very long day that began at 2:30am. We were scheduled to leave at 3am from the guesthouse with all of our gear as we would not be returning. We were handed a boxed breakfast that contained a hard boiled egg and two dry, stale pieces of white bread. Also there was a small bag of chocolate sprinkles which I didn't dare eat after looking at the contents.

We arrived to Ijen around 4am and had to hike 3KM to get to the crater itself. It was a tough hike and I was having trouble finding my breath. Once we reached the crater, we could see the blue lights down below! Unfortunately we spent five minutes wheeling and dealing with the miners about the cost of getting down there and didn't get to see them close up.

My gas mask at Ijen Crater
The small charge to the miners came with a gas mask. The volcanic gases shooting out stung my eyes at first but it was an amazing thing to experience. The number of miners walking around without masks was unbelievable. Have a quick read about the blue lights, the miners and the crater here. (Wikipedia link) It's a phenomenal place and certainly the highlight of the trip.

Again, the only regret was doing this on a tour as the driver asked us to be back around 8am. The sun was starting to come up and every time I looked at the lake, the view was different. I could've stayed the whole day. There is a guesthouse at the base of the crater and if I were to do it again, I'd rent a motorcycle and do it on my own as the walk down the volcano in the daylight was equally stunning with its various greenery.

And like that, we were back in the van for the four hour ride back to Probolinggo, stopping once for lunch along the way. We arrived in the city around 1pm and had time to kill before catching an overnight bus to our next destination. We got a cheap room for the day (Rp$115,000) to shower, change into clean clothes and rest. I had been in the same clothes for two or three days and putting on something fresh felt great!

We eventually wandered out for some dinner before being picked up at 6:30pm. This driver took us to another travel agency where we were to wait for the bus which we thought was scheduled to come at 7pm. It was 8pm before a minibus finally came. The bus seated 18, including the driver, but we were the only two on the bus for the whole trip. We expected the bus to stop and pick up some others along the way but it didn't. The driver didn't speak a word of English and he drove like an asshole the whole way. I now see why some of the travel sites don't recommend buses as a form of travel in Indonesia.

We arrived in Yogyakarta around 4am. The driver dropped us off in a tiny alley that had a lot of hotels. Since we had made a reservation, we went to the main road in search of a taxi. We were hoping that our hotel had a room for us. We had called them the day prior to say that we would be arriving in the wee hours of the morning but they weren't sure whether a room would be ready or not. Thankfully they didn't fill the room and we were able to check in immediately and, once again, it was straight to sleep — boy, did it feel great!

Mount Bromo, East Java, Indonesia ...

Walking around the edge of Mount Bromo (GoPro image)

The steps up to the top of Mount Bromo (Canon 40D image)

Hiking up to the top of Mount Bromo and looking back (GoPro image)

This may be my favorite shot of Mount Bromo. (Canon 40D image)

The photos I have from Mount Bromo could stand some work and there aren't that many. Whether it was from the excitement of being in Indonesia and still catching up with Vernon or from having a Canon 40D, a GoPro and a most excellent camera on my new iPhone 5, it's hard to say.

A tremendous view, too many gadgets and three years since I've seen my friend all played a big part in lacking photos. Either way, do yourself a favor: add to bucket list. This place is absolutely amazing!

Java — Day 3 ...

As a 3:30am pick up turned closer to 4am, Vernon and I began to wonder if the guy we had handed Rp$2,600,000 (NTD$6,295/CAN$250) to was now having a good laugh ... the things you do when you are traveling.

Jeeps and jeeps and jeeps were going by in complete darkness and finally we found ours. The ride to Mount Bromo was bumpy and we couldn't see much except for dozens of Jeep lights bouncing around in the dark. The road was rough at times and the seven of us giggled excitedly most of the way up.

The morning was cool and clear and the outstanding Mount Bromo was settled on a sea of clouds. We waited until the sun came up before heading down to find our jeep. The jeep took us to another place for a different view of Bromo before heading to the actual volcano itself. At this point, one can have a look right into the steaming Mount Bromo. The whole trip was stunning and I found myself wishing we had more time.
Mount Bromo (iPhone 5 image) — more images in album on sidebar (wish they were better!)
We headed back to the hotel around 8am and had time to grab a quick breakfast and shower. The breakfast provided by the hotel was horrible. Fried eggs and dry white toast with a coffee that was undrinkable. After that, we headed for a quick shower as our van was leaving at 9am for the next stop of the tour.

It took two hours to get down from Mount Bromo and the ride was beautiful. In Probolinggo, we had an hour to wander around before our next van arrived. We walked around in the scorching heat and picked up some snacks and cold drinks for the next leg of the trip which would be a 4.5 hour drive.

The ride over to the Ijen Crater (shown on map) offered stunning scenery. The first half the trip was scary and exciting as we drove at top speeds in the oncoming traffic lane while the other half was spent slowly winding through small mountain roads that could hardly be called roads. They were full of potholes and barely paved. We went from a city highway to the rainforest and the latter half of the trip was gorgeous with the sights, the sound, the smells and tiny random interesting villages.

Upon arrival at the Arabica Homestay (see my review on TripAdvisor here) we could see immediately that the hotel was beyond budget; the room was moldy, smelly and gross. Water spurted out of the toilet every time it flushed and the shower shot out in every direction except down. The water was either scorching hot or freezing cold. There were no toiletries and the towels they provided were about the size of a hand towel.

Buffet dinner was very basic at Rp$50,000 per person. They prepared a family style meal at our table that consisted of eggs, instant noodles, rice, chicken wings and freshly made strawberry juice. It hit the spot. After dinner, we walked to the cute village not too far from the hotel to admire the tiny houses with wonderful gardens and then it was bed early, once again, as we had a 2:30am wake up call to see the superb iJen Crater.