JAVA, INDONESIA
 
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We arrived at Jakarta's international airport, Soekarno-Hatta Airport - on Tuesday, November 11, 2008, after a brief flight from Singapore.   It took more than an hour to clear immigration, including purchasing a 30 day visa on arrival.  Our trip was planned for 29 days to be sure we did not stay beyond this limited time.  The 16-mile (25 km) taxi ride, in mid afternoon, to our centrally located hotel took more than one and half hours.  This introducted us to the terrible gridlock that Jakarta suffers.
 
The two of us travel independently and had made all hotel and most transport reservations via the Internet.  The Hotel Borobudur, which is highly rated, was pleasant and offered a wide variety of restaurants.  We always look for centrally located hotels and, if possible, owned by local or national firms (not international firms).  
 
Our travel plans, which we accomplished, were to spend three nights each in Jakarta, Surakarta (Solo), Malang, and four nights in Yogyakarta (Yogya), before leaving Java for Bali and points East.  Travel between these cities was by train.  The seven hour trip from Jakarta to Yogya took nine hours.  So, rather than wait for the train four days later to go a little more than an hour on it to Solo, we hired a taxi at a fine rate.  We took our planned train from Solo to Surabaya where we were met by a driver to take us to our hotel in Malang - about an hour and half south.  There are no ARGO trains from Solo to Malang.  If you are interested in the Indonesian train schedule it can be found here; and an explanation of train types and options can be found here.  Almost all train service is limited to Java.  
 
Java:  It is the most populous of the 17,508 Indonesian islands, with approximately 62% of Indonesia's population, and the most populous island in the world with 130 million inhabitants.  Almost 70% of the people are Javanese; the two other dominate groups are Sundanese (20%) and Madurese (10%).  Java is of volcanic origin and has 38 mountains which divided the island into many valleys.  The highest is Mt. Semeru at 12,060 feet.  Java is 90% Muslim with pockets of Roman Catholics and Buddhists; other relgious groups also exist.  
 
Jakarta:  In Jakarta we took a five hour tour of the city, including the original citiy - Batavia, and the National Museum.  We also spent a day on our own walking about visiting the many parks, "heroic" monuments in the Soviet style, and other places tourists should see.  Jakarta is very sprawled out including the "central" area where most of the tourist attractions are.  
 
There are four train stations in Jakarta.  Fortunately, the express train to Yogya, our next destination, left from Gambir station, only a few blocks from our hotel.  
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Yogyakarta (Yogya):  One of the motivating reasons for going to Indonesia, was to see Borobudur, the vast Buddhist temple near Yogya.  Also near Yogya is the superb Hindu temple complex of Prambanan.  Thus, we needed three full days in Yogya, because within the city there are also some interesting places to tour, including the Sultan's palace - Kraton.  The photographs I took at both Prambanan and Borobudur are posted separately from these Java photographs. Click Here
 
Yogya is an interesting city and somewhat more mangeable than Jakarta for the tourist who prefers to walk to most of the important sights.  The traffic though, was just a deadly and heavy as Jakarta, but seemed to move at a slightly slower pace.  There are fine shops and department stores here.  It is enjoyable to wonder the main streets of the city and see the hundreds of venders.  The department stores are air conditioned, so they were welcoming after strolling for hours.  Yogya has become the art and cultural capital of Java, if not of all of Indonesia, although Ubud, Bali will argue this point.
 
Surakarta (Solo):  Solo, our next stop, is similarly interesting as Yogya and even smaller.  Near to it are two of the "most unusual and stunningly beautiful positioned temples in Indonesia."  These Hindu temples, about an hours drive, are built into the side of Mt. Lawu.  Our hotel was OK and well located.  
 
Malang:  The five hour train journey to Surabaya from Solo was timely.  We were met by a driver from our hotel in Malang.  Once on the express highway, the driver offered us a small ice chest with two plates, each filled with fresh fruit.  Additionally, we had cold towels to freshen up and water to drink.  It made for a pleasant drive in the early hours of the night.  Upon arrival, our elegant hotel received us as if we were members of the family.  The Tugu Malang hotel is one of several in the Tugu chain.  It tries very hard to be unique and offers many amenities, such as tea in afternoon with soft, live local music and freshly cooked snacks.  The public spaces of the hotel must be five times greater than the 49 rooms for guests.  
 
Malang is popular with expatriates and is elevated, thus offering a slightly cooler climate than other major cities in Java.  There is a fine Chinese pagoda in the city.  Nearby are several small, but excellent, Hindu temple complexes.  Almost all of which we visited during our stay.  
 
From Malang, we returned by car to the airport in Surabaya for our flight to Denpasar, Bali, Monday, November 24, 2008.  (Bali photos are here.)
 
The following photographs are arranged in the order in which we traveled.  
This map of the Island of Java (below), situated between Sumatra to the West and Bali to the East, shows the four cities we visited.  We began in the North West in the capital, Jakarta (three nights).  From there we went by train to Yogyakarta (Central Java) spending four nights.  We visited one day in Borobudur, another in Pambanan, and the third within the city.  From Yogya we went by hired car to Solo for three nights.  We then went by train to Surabaya (East Java) where we were picked up at the station and driven to Malang for a three night stay.  We returned to Surabaya to fly on to Bali.