Pt I: Prologue
Pt II: Getting There
Pt III: Phoenix Hotel and Yogyakarta
Pt IV: Borobudur
Pt V: Kaliurang (and rest of the day)
Pt VI: Village Cycling Tour & Paprika
Pt VII: Going Home
Pt VIII: Epilogue
We decided to look for activities to do on Day 3 and the village bicycle tour (120,000 IDR/pax) offered by ViaVia Cafe seemed the most interesting. After reserving our places through e-mails a few days before the tour, we turned up at ViaVia Cafe shortly before 8am.
Some of the tour participants were slightly delayed and we had to wait a while
There were six tour participants in total; three Americans, a Dutch girl and the two of us. Since we had quite a big group, we had two guides instead of the usual one. After selecting our bicycles, we were off for our village tour.
To get to the village, we would need to cycle on the busy city roads for around 10 minutes before the turn-off. It was quite unnerving sharing spaces with cars and motorcycles but we just kept calm and pedaled on.
Midway through the short ride, one of the guides spotted the rear tire of Ying’s bicycle was deflated. She got us to stop at a car tire shop and made sure that the tires were at a correct pressure. She had to pay some money but I wasn’t sure how much exactly.
We caught up with the rest and the turn into the village and it seemed another world away from the main roads.
The first stop was a home factory making fish cracker or keropok.
The smell of fish permeated the work area where several men were making the keropok.
Our guides shared with us that each piece of keropok is sold for 500 IDR in the market; restaurants usually purchase them for 700 IDR each from the wholesalers. This home factory was operated by members of the same family and they aren’t locals. They hailed from West Java which is famous for its keropoks.
Our guides patiently explained to us the process: first they would mix canned sardines, water and floor and turn them into paste before transferring to the machine where one guy would be on top operating it. The paste would be compressed into line-like form and the men below would mould them into shape.
We were urged to give it a go at making keropoks and as expected mine was hideous.
The next place that we visited was the “Village Bank”.
None of us could guess why until our guides told us the answer.
Villagers who accumulated some savings would purchase calves and reared them for a couple of years before selling them for a profit. If I didn’t recall wrongly, a calf cost around 3 million IDR and one could be sold for 7-8 million IDR several years later. The best time to sell them is during Hari Raya Haji where there is a high demand for them to be sacrificed for the festival.
The local government had built the place for villagers to house their cattle; owners needs to pay an annual nominal rent and takes part in the nightly guard duty rotation.
Beside the cattle, there were other inhabitants too.
One of the guides also introduced us to a plant (name forgotten) whose leaves could be crushed to produce red dye and the dye was used by ladies as lipstick in the past. Very fascinating.
Back on the road:-
It was a really hot day and we tried to hydrate ourselves whenever we could. Oh yeah, the tour came with a complimentary bottle of mineral water.
After a longish ride, we reached our next stop where we were supposed to see the rice huller in action. Sadly neither were working that day.
One of our guides told us the price of 1 kg of top grade rice in Yogyakarta; we shared that the price of rice in Singapore is three times of that. One of the other tour participants joked that we could smuggle some back to sell. Despite having three harvests per year, Indonesia is not able to produce all the rice that it needs and has to import more from countries such as Thailand.
We rode past a guy who was threshing rice on the road and our guides stopped and asked him if we could try out his machine.
Seeing how hard the growing rice process is, I couldn’t help but recall the Chinese poem 悯农 (Sympathy for Farmers):-
锄禾日当午 Growing rice under the noon sun
汗滴禾下土 Sweat dripping onto the ground
谁知盘中餐 Who can understand
粒粒皆辛苦 The toil behind each grain
Sorry if I have done the English translation poorly; please help to correct it if it’s inaccurate.
Following the rice threshing, we went to a brick ‘factory’.
Apparently the land was no longer fertile enough to grow rice so these guys dug the soil and used them to make bricks.
They would mix the soil with water and then make the bricks with the mould.
After they were dried in the sun, these bricks would be baked in a kiln. As much as 40% of the bricks made would be rejected by the end of the processes. Each brick would be sold for 500 IDR, same price as one piece of keropok.
One of the Americans was actually an expat in Indonesia and had been based in Jakarta for three years. His sister and her boyfriend were visiting so he tagged along with them to visit Yogyakarta. He actually could speak fluent Bahasa Indonesia and impressed the friendly brick guys with it.
Some of us decided to get our hands dirty and tried out making bricks.
I noticed that every brick had a letter C drawn onto the surface and asked the guides why. Apparently it would help to hold the bricks better when they are stacked on top of one another. Our brick designs weren’t limited to C; we could draw/write anything on them.
Let’s hope that these bricks hold and won’t cause structures to collapse.
After thanking the brick makers, we were on our way again.
The guides noticed some women planting rice and stopped to ask if they would let us have some hands-on.
I didn’t volunteer because I didn’t want to put my legs shin-deep in the soil. Apparently planting of saplings was a job for the females because of its association with fertility. That didn’t have any bearing on me not volunteering though.
Before our last stop, we passed by a cemetery and our guides asked if we knew why all the headstones were facing in one direction. It wasn’t hard; the tombs were facing in the direction of Mecca. The guides followed up with an interesting fact; local Christians also buried their dead in the same direction because they just followed their Muslim neighbors. This made a neater cemetery.
The last stop was a house where tempe was being made.
Interesting fact: tempe are made from soya beans imported from US. Local soya beans are mainly used to make soy sauce.
The packed tempe will be left to ferment overnight and its appearance would change drastically.
I preferred the savory martabak more.
While having the snacks, the tour participants started chatting. It turned out that the American expat had studied Mandarin for one year in Beijing and worked for another year in Shanghai. We chatted about the Chinese dialect situation in Singapore as well as the haze problem caused by Sumatran forest fires. The Dutch girl was traveling in India and Nepal before coming to Southeast Asia and she highly recommended Nepal as a destination.
The village bicycle took almost 4.5 hours in total and we returned to ViaVia at around 12.30pm.
Payment was only done after the tour was completed and we were happy to give some tips to our lovely guides who were helpful and informative throughout.
We ended up having lunch at ViaVia cafe as well.
We also decided that we deserved some ice-cold Bintang after our morning workout.
The Jakarta Post’s headline caught our eyes.
I couldn’t recall what exactly I had but it was a chicken dish which came with fries. Ying had red snapper curry with rice if I wasn’t wrong. Both were decent but not exactly spectacular.
Due to our exertions, we just rested in our room until dinner time.
We were debating between eating at Paprika or ordering room service. We were glad that we went down to the restaurant. The service was excellent.
Despite being a weekend evening, the restaurant wasn’t really crowded. Most of the patrons seemed to be hotel guests and the staff warmly welcomed us when we approached the restaurant. The smiley staff who was taking our orders recommended us the lobster special; we declined and ordered gudeg, mixed grill and gado-gado instead.
The chili for the keropoks was really awesome and I couldn’t stop munching on them.
Silly us didn’t realize that there were more ingredients underneath the banana leaves until after we started eating. Quite hilarious when we realized that.
The main courses arrived and we were impressed with the presentation.
The staff pro-actively offered to take a photograph for us.
Sad to say, gudeg was really an acquired taste and the texture of the braised beef skin (sambal goreng krecek) was too weird for me. In contrast, Ying’s mixed grill was nicely done and we enjoyed the dish.
The friendly staff asked if we would like desserts after we were done with the meal but both of us were too full to partake. The bill came and it was slightly less than 3 million IDR (S$40) for the two of us. Really value-for-money for a nice place with impressive service.