Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Traveled to Dieng in March, 2012
Sunrise, potatoes, and getting lost. Those were the highlights of our road trip to Dieng Plateau, as would be for just about anybody visiting the area. The getting lost, too? Well, we’ve heard stories, but it’s probably just us and our GPS gadget.
Continuing the trip after a full day in Semarang as written by Mumun here, we finally got to where most mountain/high-plateau lovers would go when in Indonesia. Seeing how beautiful it is, that’s not a wonder. Dieng is located 2000 meters above sea level and smacked in the middle of Central Java. Its name is said to mean the place of Gods, because it’s so high. But how come I still can’t declare myself as a mountain/plateau lover?
Next to the fact that the highland contour forms such a beautiful scenery, this sunrise watching is what Dieng Plateau is most known for. Arriving in Dieng late in the afternoon, we prepared ourselves for the trip that starts waaaay earlier than our usual morning routines. What exactly did we need to prepare? A strong mentality to wake up at 3.30 a.m. plus jackets, sweaters, hoodies, blankets, bonfire, iglo, basically anything to keep ourselves warm. You Europeans and North Americans, moreover Canadians or Himalayans probably won’t be needing so much preparation like we did cos you’re used to cold weather.
Anyhoo, Pak Didi our guide had briefed us in the dining room of Bu Djono homestay that night. At 4 a.m. the next day we were ready to go, riding our borrowed car about 20 minutes to the Sikunir hill. With our eyes still shut and having to climb the hill was like one of the hardest moments in my life. Mumun and I had to take a few stops just to catch our breath. I swore that would be my last time climbing a hill! But then again, I had sworn the same thing a decade ago when I was freezing cold seeing the sunrise at Bromo mountain…
That was about the climbing. The sunrise itself, honestly, was a little bit disappointing for me. Yes, it’s beautiful, it’s just that I expected something more spectacular than that. I almost quit halfway to the top cos it was already rising anyway. But I thought maybe it would look more gorgeous at the top. Turns out, it was just the same. So to me personally, the climb to see the sunrise was more about achieving a goal rather than granting myself with a spectacular view as I had expected. Hokay, no more sunrise watch for me, except there’s a greater catch to it! LOL..
Did I regret it, though? Nope! I’m glad I found it out myself, I’m glad now I know what Dieng sunrise is like. I’d rather be killed than being a curious cat forever. *singing a dramatic opera tune*
Tents were set up on the hill, people were cooking simple breakfast. It must feel awesome waking up to such view above the clouds. And they must have steel-thick skin o_o
Mumun’s take on it: Personally I love the fact that I didn’t have to walk so much to be above clouds. It was a semi surreal moment to be so high looking down at clouds but not being in an aeroplane. It would have been nice if there wasn’t that many people. And I have to second Vira, next sunrise would have to offer something spectaculaRRR for me to get up so early!
We were huffin’ and puffin’ but we kept our spirit up since we were already so close to sunrise view point! Pak Didi pulled us up once a while, while the boys were far ahead of us. And finally we got to the top in exactly 30 minutes as Pak Didi had promised. Yay!! *mountain dance*
More people climbed up and the hilltop became more crowded. Everyone was taking pictures of the clouds and the mountains across, two of which were the Sumbing and Sindoro mountains. It was a perfect spot to make new avatars or profile pictures! LOL.
We met Ben from Germany who later joined us to the next spots after we picked up his girlfriend Stefani who was having cold so she had to wait in the homestay while Ben was watching the sunrise.
I’m no geologist and I know only a teeny weeny bit about volcanoes. What I remember from my elementary school textbook was that Java Island is so fertile because of the after effects of the many volcanic explosions. The materials from the explosion settled and formed the fertile soil. Is that right, Mumun the Biologist?
Mumun: I award you an A+. Good work!
And that’s what I saw almost all over Dieng Plateau. Lavish forest and endless rows of potato field. But it was also a rather strange thing – to Mumun, cos I wouldn’t have thought of it – that the crops can grow so close to the craters, as it was risky for the farmers to be exploited to the toxic suphuric air. The levels of it are unpredictable, risking the safety of the no-fear farmers.
Mumun: It amazed me how Sikidang, and most of the crater-lakes, are still very active. There we were, 2 meters from the bubbling crater which could just cough and melt us away. Usually, you don’t see a bubbling crater, you only see fumes coming out of rocks and such, but this was nature’s live jacuzzi. This crater is also said to move from time to time, depending which side is more active. We did have to watch where we were stepping.
Despite all that, the craters formed such scenic so-called lakes and boiling hot puddle of sulfuric mud. Pak Didi also guided us to this hot water spring, where the locals had made some sort of tubs under the water channel. It’s amazing to us that we had to dip our feet about 5 minutes in the ‘hot jacuzzi’ to get used to the hot water, whereas locals apparently shower there and children like to canon-ball into the tubs! GERANI-HOT!
Being tourists, Arjuna Temples was our next destination. I can’t remember how long the ride was from the craters and hot water spring, but I remember we had fun making levitation photos around the temples. It’s a Hindu temple complex by the way, now consisted of only five temples out of what’s said to be thousands in the beginning.
In between our stops at lakes and craters, we stopped by at a market. It seemed that potatoes were the main commodities, which wasn’t surprising. The red potatoes were eye catching. Don’t ask me what’s the difference with the regular potatoes though, I can only tell you they differ in color. *palmface*
Some of the potatoes were sweet potatoes. In a country where rice is the definition of a ‘meal’, having a lot of potatoes around us was… interesting. It was kinda refreshing eating endless supply of fries during our stay in Dieng.
Crackers, cooked and half processed, were sold in many stalls. So were other crops like chili peppers, cabbages and carrots. We got a bit hungry, so we sat at a stall eating fried munchies.
Dieng Plateau is far from the beach and I doubt the locals are fans of reggae music, but dreadlock hair is a big thing amongst the locals. By big I mean it’s an important matter when a child grows dreadlock hair. We can read your mind when you think, what the wha??
It is said that certain children would suddenly catch high fever and then grow some dreadlock hair. It would grow dreadlock no matter how often and how short you cut it, unless the children themselves ask for the hair to be cut or shaved. When that happens, these children can ask for whatever they want and it has to be granted. If the wish were not met, the dreadlock hair would grow back.
The hair cutting ceremony has now been sort of commercialized for tourism purpose and known as the “Festival Anak Gimbal” or “Dreadlock Kids Festival”. It happens once a year around June, attracting so many tourists click clacking their shutter releases in the event. Now, all you Rastafarians, aren’t you wishing that you were a dreadlock kid?
We were driving by a plantation on our way to the homestay, when suddenly Pak Didi told us that we just passed a dreadlock kid. We took a quick u-turn and our car was approaching the kid. Jaka and Mumun, who were most excited about this dreadlock kid phenomenon, got their cameras ready and approaching the kid for a little chat and click clack session.
Mumun: The kid was too shy to talk to us, but I could sense that she knew we knew how special she was. Nonetheless, I was so happy to see one of these kids.
Honestly, this whole idea of magical dreadlock thing is just too weird for me. I’d like to find out a scientific or maybe medical explanation on it someday. Oh and, I wonder how do these kids feel about them being the objects of tourism. Outsiders passing by and snap some shots in their faces. I just hope these people take pictures politely enough, not treating them like in a people zoo. Can I get an AMEN!
There are several homestays at Dieng Plateau, but Bu Jono’s is the one most reviewed on the net. Not feeling like taking more risk, we decided to reserve rooms by phone about a week before we started the trip.
Each room cost about IDR 150,000 / night for 2 people. Extra beds were available upon request, each of our rooms had a private bathroom with hot shower.
Mumun and I got the smaller room because there were only 2 of us girls and 4 of them boys. But we ended up crashing at the boys’ room cos ours was a bit damp and their room was big enough for 6 anyway. It was like a sleepover and Mad ironically entertained us with his story about the riot that happened when he was little and living in Ambon. All the while, Jaka was sleeping like a log, but the snoring one. The other boys joined the snore choir later and I managed to fall asleep with it as lullaby.
Bu Jono Hotel & Restaurant
Address: Jl. Raya Dieng no. 16, Km 26, Dieng, Wonosobo
Phone (mobile): +62 813 277 91 565
Private or hired car
We were road tripping with our friend Boyo’s car, who sadly failed to come along due to work stuff. Jaka jumped in the wagon with his awesome Tomtom GPS gadget. As most of the gang were boys, the GPS voice was set to this woman voice named Irene. It was so funny that it had a name, it felt like we had a new road trip member! And an member we can blame for getting lost. LOL.
Irene was very good at reading maps unlike me and most girls.. LOL. She was a very helpful in finding us the way.. until she got us lost in the middle of nowhere. *suspenseful backsound* We had to ask locals for direction and wasted about 5 hours trying to find the way to Dieng – including lunch and tea stops. Apparently, even a gadget such as GPS wasn’t sophisticated enough to conquer the enigmatic road to Dieng. There were some roads that Irene advised us to take that weren’t built for cars, yet.
As we were using a private car, I don’t have much info on public transportation to get there. But here are some that I gathered from talking to other tourists who took public transportation: take the bus from Wonosobo, the gateway to Dieng Plateau, which perhaps would cost you about IDR 8,000-10,000 / pax. People usually enter Wonosobo from the nearest big cities, Yogyakarta or Semarang. The bus to Wonosobo costs about IDR 50,000 / pax.
Bu Jono Hotel & Restaurant
Staying at Bu Jono’s we automatically ate in the restaurant/lobby/breakfast area. They’re most known for the Swiss Rosti and that’s exactly what each of us was having for dinner. Unlike the real Swiss Rösti where the potato is roughly grated, the one at Bu Jono’s was more like potato wedges. It’s served with veggies and scrambled eggs or you could ask for a fried chicken to replace the eggs. A portion of Swiss Rosti ala Bu Jono cost IDR 25,000 and it’s enough for 2 to my standard.
They serve a lot of menu, like pancakes, rice, soups, noodles, bread, hot and cold beverages. The food prices range from IDR 3,000 to IDR 28,000, while the beverages are from IDR 1,000 to IDR 9,000. Beer is IDR 30,000 / bottle.
Did I tell you we got lost trying to get to Dieng? We wasted about 5 hours looking for the plateau, thanks to Irene. But there’s alway an upside to everything! We had to stop for lunch when we were somewhere in Bawang area, don’t ask me where that is exactly.
Rahayu diner, the only trustable looking diner in the area (there weren’t many choices anyway). Fortunately, the food was good. We had red rice with fried chicken, and Mad initiatively asked the cooks to make us some fried cabbage. It wasn’t on the menu, but he just couldn’t resist seeing cabbage in the raw vegetables dish, he had to have it fried. And for his persistence we thanked him cos the fried cabbage turned out to be yummy! Cabbages aren’t usually fried, and that was my first.
We were getting closer to Dieng and we were passing the Tambi tea plantation. It seemed like I was the only one in the gang that wasn’t aware about Tambi tea. Curious what it was like, we stopped for an afternoon tea, sipping some glasses of Tambi tea in a wooden hut by the main road. We took our time, drinking while enjoying the view of the valley between Sumbing and Sindoro mountains in the light rain.
None of us could really tell the special taste of Tambi tea, it was like any regular tea to our taste buds. But maybe it’s just us amateurs. Tambi tea is exported to some countries, so I think there’s gotta be something special about it, no?