Travelling between Java to Bali (Guest Post)
Will Peach is one of the site editors over at Gap Daemon, the gap year travel website for backpackers and young travellers. You can also catch him talking about what to see in Spain on his site My Spanish Adventure.
Travelling between Indonesia’s best-known islands, Java and Bali, is a lot easier than most backpackers might think. Having done the trip myself, soon after finishing a stint teaching English in Vietnam, I found out just how straightforward it is.
Looking to do the same? Here’s how I’d recommend tackling this epic adventure of booze, beaches and bare-naked Aussies!
Set off from Jakarta, Indonesia’s biggest city (with a population just short of 9 million), and use Jalan Jaksa, the city’s premier backpacking area, as your starting point. It might not be as “happening” as other Southeast Asian backpacking districts (like Bangkok’s Khao San or Saigon’s Bui Vien for example), but the strip of thin road running the length of Jalan Jaksa is home to lots of cheap hostels.
For around USD$7 a night, you can snag a non-air-conditioned room at places like Bloemsteen Homestay. The sweltering little bedchambers here make for a good centre point to see the rest of the city and sites like Monas, Jakarta’s 442ft tower that recognises Indonesia’s long fight for independence.
After a walk around Monas and a quick glance at the display cabinets recreating pivotal events in Indonesian history, your stomach will probably be rumbling. Head to Café Batavia, located in the corner of tourist-heavy Fatahillah Square. It’s not cheap by any means but Café Batavia outdoes itself with its colonial splendour and conjoined photo gallery. Here you can also see parts of Indonesia’s former past as a Dutch colony.
The strangely named Yogyakarta, or Jogja, as it’s more popularly known, is a must-stop on your way to Bali. Arrive here via train, which you can take at Gambir Station, very close to Jalan Jaksa. The 6-hour journey, which runs about 276-miles, is best done at night. Don’t worry about booking in advance as you can usually get tickets (US$20-30) simply by rocking up one or two hours before.
The best way to take in Yogyakarta, Java’s cultural heart, is on foot. The first thing you’ll likely to notice – and worth random roaming alone – are the countless examples of graffiti that cover every inch of Jogja’s streets.
I’d recommend ambling from Malioboro toward the Kraton, where the palace of Jogja’s royal sultanate can be seen. If you’re interested it might also be worth nipping in for a look at the many batik shops Jojga is home to (mum might be wondering where her souvenir is otherwise).
If you’re wondering about decent eating and sleeping options in Jogja check out the area of Prawirotamen and Sosrowijayan. One of my favourite cafes in all of Southeast Asia, Via Via, can be found here. This Belgian-owned café cum restaurant also serves as an artistic hub with workshops and concerts running most evenings.
Another reason for a stay in Jogja is because of its closeness to the famous Borobudur and Prambanan. These two temple complexes are easily visited from Jojga’s backpacker districts and both can be seen in a day. Arrange a ticket with local booking agents but be prepared to haggle hard. Vendors will usually throw in a sunrise at either of the two spots too so pip for Borobudur which has the better views.
During your time in Jogja look into purchasing a bus ticket which will carry you onward to Bali. Routes differ but it’s well worth choosing the 2-day excursion ticket that includes a stay at the Bromo Tengerr Semeru National Park. Looking up at the 2,329m tall Gunung Bromo volcano, you’ll realise just how worth it is travelling over Java into Bali.
My ticket brought me a night at the very basic Bromo Permai hotel, set deep within the park itself. Needless to say 3-hours is all the bed rest I got before waking for the chilly sunrise at the volcano the next day. How many you’ll get is anybody’s guess.
With 500-miles under your belt since Jakarta it’s time for the last leg of the journey. Hop back on the bus and make your way to the ferry station on Java’s edge and get on board to Denpasar, Bali’s capital. From there the island is your oyster. Check out Kuta or Seminyak on Bali’s south coast if the beaches are your thing (beware the naked Aussie’s) or maybe head inland to Ubud for an arts and culture filled stay.
The best thing about this trip? It’s a shade cheaper than flying and you get to stop in some fantastic places along the way. Do it!
The Route: Jakarta – Yogyakarta – Probolinggo – Denpasar
Jakarta to Yogyakarta (Train RP 200,000)
Yogyakarta to Bali with Sosro Tour and Travel (RP 280,000)
Total travel cost: RP 480,000 or US$ 53
Days spent: 6
Having done a similar trip to Will, we can certainly recommend the whole Java to Bali experience. Especially a visit to Bromo which is definitely not to be missed! If you would like to share your own adventures with us too, just let us know…
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