Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by viravira on 2 December 2016 • Destination
“Tomorrow night we’re throwing a Halloween party. Do you wanna join?” asked Jack, the manager of Bhumi Hostel. “Sure, I guess. Yeah!” I said, not knowing for sure what I was getting into, but a party with costumes always sounds great. “Great! It will include a vegetarian dinner!” Even more interesting, a horror themed party with a healthy menu.
It has been three years since my last stay in a hostel. I decided it would be my last hostel because I felt the party they were having in the lobby was too loud. I felt I was too old for that kind of setting. But when I was looking for a place to stay in Kotagede, Yogyakarta, I had a few considerations which finally lead me to book a bed in Bhumi Hostel. I was traveling alone for about a week, so I wanted a place where my shy self could easily talk to other people. I had a tight budget, and I planned to explore more of Kotagede. I found only a few options that fit all the criteria, so Bhumi Hostel it was.
(Read my thoughts about Kotagede here: Why I’m in Love with Kotagede, Yogyakarta)
The minute I stepped in Bhumi Hostel’s yard, I felt the hospitality right away. The staff – Jack and Farras – and a few European guests who were sitting around at the terrace introduced themselves to me. After a bit of registration, Farras gave me a tour of the hostel, showed me the facilities and explained all the rules.
As a true hostel, Bhumi houses dormitory rooms. They’re all 6-bed non-mixed rooms (female or male only) with shared bathrooms, and a deluxe dorm with an ensuite bathroom. For those who’d like a little privacy there is a Private Room with a double bed. The dorm rooms are a bit small, but just enough for keeping your stuff and sleep.
Chairs, tables and a hammock are provided on the terrace. Chairs and a sofa in the reception area are also free for anybody to sit on. While in the pantry there is a long dining table with benches, where guests and staff can have breakfast together or do whatever all day long.
All rooms are equipped with air conditioner. Wifi is accessible in the whole area of the hostel. Each guest in the dorm room is entitled of a locker inside the room, and each bed has curtain for a little privacy. Hot shower is available. Linens, towels, shampoo and bath gel are provided, but a hairdryer is not. You can wash your clothes or undies manually at the washing area in the back, and you’re allowed to use a scoop of detergent freely each day.
Breakfast is included, often local vegetarian menu that they buy from the nearby food vendors. On special occasions, they’d cook for guests using some herbs and vegetables grown in their garden. Books are stacked in the common room, and you’re welcome to swap them with your used books.
The standard list for this would be: Masjid Agung Mataram Kotagede (great mosque), the Royal Cemetery, Kampung Alun-Alun (village), Pasar Legi Kotagede (traditional market) and Monggo chocolate factory and showroom. Kotagede is also known for the silver craft. It also has a few upscale restaurants, like the Omah Duwur and Sekar Kedhaton. All of these places are walking distance from Bhumi Hostel.
The rules at Bhumi Hostel in general are the same like at any other hostel. Hostel living is a very communal thing, especially if you’re staying in a dorm room. You’re expected to stay quiet especially between 11 pm and 8 am, while talking with each other in the rest of the day is totally advised. You are to clean after yourself, like doing your own dishes after meals.
“We like having you around. It’s rare that Indonesian guests mingle with us,” said Jack when we were both doing work on our laptops in the pantry table. “Really? It’s so fun, I love hanging out with you guys here!” And I meant it. I understand that most Indonesian tourists aren’t familiar with hostel living, they’d prefer to stay in a hotel rather than sharing bunk beds with strangers, simply because the backpacker traveling style is rather new here.
I liked how friendly the staff was, so even though I was staying in low season when they’re not having so many guests, I could still exchange stories with the staff when I wasn’t out exploring. Of course I’m advantaged because I speak Indonesian, but some of the staff, Jack and Farras, speak English really well. Iwan and Irfan don’t speak English, but they always make sure your needs are met in terms of service. Sari, the owner, also lives there and mingles with guests sometimes. So do the cats Cleo and Sugih, and the dogs Scotty and Djani.
The fact that Sari adopted these four-legged furry children is also what I love about Bhumi Hostel. They support animal shelter not only by adopting, but also donate some of the money they earn. Any friend of cats (okay, and dogs too) is a friend of mine.
At the time of my stay, there was a group of guests from Jakarta and solo travelers from Belgium, The Netherlands and France. Almost everyone was easy to chit chat with, a few even talked with me until late in the pantry. This kind of meeting where I exchange stories with people from around the world is always interesting to me. Two of the travelers told me how fascinated they were about how diverse the people they met only in a few days in Yogyakarta. “You and Jack speak English very well but the people I met outside, like the drivers and at other places, don’t understand English much. How can that be?” Feline from Belgium asked. Well, I don’t always have the answer to questions about my country, but it’s always interesting to find out what others think of it.
The people you meet can make and break a trip, but for real, the comfort of your stay also can. Bhumi Hostel occupies an old house with such design and materials that cool off the temperature inside. Though the dorm room is air conditioned, I didn’t always need to have it on even though it was a hot day.
Another plus about staying in Bhumi for me is how easy it was to find budget food nearby. Food stalls were abundant, different vendors and types of food in the morning, noon and night, located on the sides of Lapangan Karang, an open field across the hostel. My favorites were the tongseng ayam (curry-like dish with chicken) for lunch and the fried noodles or the beef satay (they call it “sate Karang”) for dinner.
Bhumi Hostel is in walking distance to many interesting spots of Kotagede, as you can see the example on this map. It is also easy to get around if you want to visit other sites in Yogyakarta. There is Go-Jek service now in the city, or the staff could also call a cab for you. There is also a TransJogja bus stop on the other side of Lapangan Karang, which can take you around the city, even to Prambanan Temple. If you prefer to rent a motorbike or a tour, Bhumi’s staff can arrange it for you.
All in all, I really loved staying at Bhumi Hostel. It was the combination of everything they provided that made it comfortable for me. Sure, sometimes I had to sort of sneak my way in the dorm just not to wake others up, like in any other hostel, but everything else was perfect. When I thought my hostel days were over, Bhumi changed my mind.