Yogyakarta and a Treacherous Decent to Langse Cave
After our quick stint in Jakarta we hopped on a night train to Yogyakarta which is located in south eastern Java. We were told that Yogyakarta is one of the cultural epicenters of Java which, I could kinda see as there were many temples scattered through out the area. The scenery, once you were out of the city, was amazing. The city itself was located just below an active volcano, Mount Meriapi. Which, one day, will probably destroy all of Yogykarta. But to be honest, Yogykarta was just another big city with people trying to sell you things at every street corner. Through our time in Yogyakarta, we came to understand one of their sales tactics very well. When we first arrived in the city, we were told that there was an art festival with artists from all around Indonesia. Wanting to go see the art festival, we followed a local Indonesian to what we thought was the festival, but was just some art gallery. Upon entering, we were instantly asked what paintings we wanted to buy. We walked out the door just about as quickly as we entered. Throughout the rest of our time in Yogyakarta, we were informed of about 6-8 more of these “art festivals”. We quickly learned that the word “festival” was used instead of studio to attract more visitors and ignorant tourists such as ourselves.
We spent most of our time in Yogyakarta checking out temples and historical buildings. We woke up for sunrise to see Borobudor, a 9th-century Buddhist Temple, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Borobudur is arguably the most famous temples in Indonesia. Although the sunrise wasn’t anything fantastic, we were able to see the temple without the hoards of tourists and local school field trips. Through out the temple there are also various statues of Buddhas in many different positions and most are located under stupas (the bell shaped structures). Most of the temple has been reconstructed and restored due to a variety of events. There was the eruption of Merapi in 2010 which, littered the temple in ash. Also, in 1985 some ass hole terrorists decided to set bombs on top of the temple and blew up 9 stupas. These events, high tourist traffic, and weather have lead to massive reconstruction and restoration on the temple. All in all, the size and detail of the temple was pretty incredible.
We spent our other full day in Yogyakarta taking scooters south in search of Langse Cave. After a hour and a half ride through small towns, rice paddies, and jungly hills we arrived at our first stop of the journey, Krakal Beach. We were surprised at the cleanliness of this beach. Unlike many beaches in Indonesia, there was little to no trash on the beach or in the water. We had heard that there was good snorkeling at the beach, but we arrived at low tide and snorkeling in 2 feet of water proved difficult. Fighting the strong currents, we swam out to a rock that was 50 meters off shore. Here we were able to explore a cave inside the rock. The cave was small and more of an archway in the rock. On the other side of the cave we were greeted by a huge pile of 5-7 yellow-lipped sea krait (coral reef snake). These snakes are highly venomous however, they are nonaggressive and rarely bite humans. If you are lucky enough to bet bitten, you have 6 hours to get to a hospital before the venom eats away at your heart and kills you. Although there isn’t a high risk of death from one of these snake bites, seeing the pile of snakes was enough reason for me to get the f**k out of that cave (after snapping a few photos of course).
We continued north from Krakal and finally made it to the trailhead of Langse Cave. The cave is only about 750 meters from the trailhead, but theres a catch. The cave is at the bottom of a 400 meter cliff. The trail leads you straight to the cliffs edge, where bamboo sticks are tied to the hillside to assist you in your decent. With about a foot between us and the cliff’s edge, we shimmy along the cliffside to ladders locals have set up to descend the rest of the cliff. With no other choice then to trust these ladders, we descended the 400 meter cliff to the cave. Just outside the cave there is a platform for meditation. When you enter the cave you are overwhelmed by the smell of incense, as many people go there to pray. The cave was no more than 200 meters deep, and is the 2nd most humid place I have ever been in my life. The first is a steam room. An hour passed, many photos were taken, and we began our assent and ride back to Yogyakarta before the rain came.
As far as the main city of Yogyakarta goes, I was mostly impressed by the food. Most of the food in Indonesia has been pretty average. Meals usually consist of Nasi Gorang Ayam or Mie Gorang Ayam (fried rice with chicken or fried noodles with chicken). Another local favorite is to make all the fried chicken (ayam gorang), tofu (tempe), or some fried veggie mix, and place it in the window for the whole day. This usually leads to lukewarm, soggy fried food. This was not the case with some food stands in Yogyakarta. The street food there was quite impressive. Right outside our homestay, from the hours of 4-7 AM, a lady would sell a local breakfast called gudeg ayam. The breakfast consisted of rice, chicken, some leafy veggies (I think it was kale), jackfruit, hard boiled egg cooked in brown sugar (tahur), a sweet crisp beef skin (krecek), and of course sambal (a spicy chili sauce). All of these ingredients are wrapped together in a banana leaf, and cost 10,000 rp which is about $0.75. The jackfruit is pretty labor intensive to make, as it is boiled for 13 hours with brown sugar, salt, and water. The taste is more savory with a little bit of sweetness added to it. As gross as the crispy beef skin sounds, it was probably the best thing in the dish next to the jackfruit. The texture of all these ingredients, and the slight sweetness from the krecek and jackfruit, blended with the spiciness of the sambal tied this dish together and made it unforgettable. In addition to this delicious breakfast, which we also ate for dinner once, we fell in love with these fresh spring rolls. Located on a cart, on the side of the street, these spring rolls are fried fresh per each order. During our first visit to the stand, there was a 45 minute wait for just one spring roll. The rolls were made of a quail egg, chicken, noodles, and bean sprouts wrapped in a sort of thin rice tortilla. Then deep fried and served with cheese and chilies. These were a little more pricey than the gudeg ayam, coming up at a whopping 9,500 rp for one.