Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by mumunmumun on 14 September 2012 • Itinerary
Traveled Solo City in May 2012
*shouting* Can you hear the loud music in the background? It’s carnival time! Woohoo!
We set out to Solo to finally see the Solo Batik Carnival (SBC). Our friends, the Explore Solo Community, were kind enough to invite us to enjoy what the city of Surakarta / Solo offered along with its festivity. Did you know that Surakarta is nominated as the ‘7 wonder cities of the world’ along with Jakarta? We just knew not long ago too. I’m sure you’re like ‘What? What does that mere city have that other Indonesian cities don’t?’ We found out that the Surakarta or Solo City area has so much to offer including some kinky stuff! Roxanne, should we turn on the red lights?
Solo Batik Carnival 2012 – It’s the fifth year and its themed Metamorphosis. We saw hundreds of colorful costumes strutted down the event catwalk at the Sriwedari Stadium.
Kemuning plantation – Tea drinking at a tea plantation. A great relaxing session with awesome views and tea no more than IDR 10,000 / cup.
Cakra Homestay – an old batik workshop turned into a homestay by the owner. Our room was IDR 175.000/pax including AC and a simple breakfast.
Jl. Cakra II/15, Kampung Batik Kauman, Solo Tel (0274) 634743
Bubur Sumsum – A traditional sweet dish sold by the local door to door seller. Heart. One portion is no more than IDR 5000/portion
Bakso Rusuk – Typical Indonesian meat ball soup with it’s speciality, meat ball made of ribs. IDR 15,000/portion.
Jl. Solo – Karanganyar, Tawangmangu km 7 Ruko 64 Dagen, Ph: +62 (271) 825118
Bale Padi–Eat rice surrounded by rice and staring at the high rise mountainsin the distance. Life is good. Food is quite nice. Dishes are about IDR 20,000/portion.
Jl. Kadilangu, Baki Pandeyan, South Solo. Ph: +62 (271) 6727330. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pecel Solo, Waroeng Tempo Doeloe – A local dish consist of steamed veggies with rice bathed in peanut sauce. In this venue, there are other dishes to munch on. Prices are less than IDR 20,000/portion.
Jl. Soepomo 55, Surakarta. Ph: +62 (271) 737379
Galabo – The collective of street vendors selling mostly local food for less than IDR 20,000/portion. It’s located right in front of the PGS market and only open at night.
Rabbit satay – At the foot of Candi Sukuh. A portion is no more than IDR 15,000.
Private car – We visited most of the outskirts of the town with Explore Solo in a private car.
Becak – Is one way to get around the inner city and, in our case, the outskirts too.
Taxi – You can get to any destination from train station with a fixed price from the official station taxi servce, as well as getting you around town.
How to get there
We took the Argo Lawu night train from Gambir, Jakarta, on a Friday and arrived at Solo Balapan Station in Solo the next morning for IDR 360,000/pax . We came back using the Argo Dwipangga on a Sunday night train from Solo to Jakarta for IDR 335,000/pax.
This weekend trip was spent with Mas Taufik from Explore Solo Community , our friends Jaka and Cici, also their friends David and Bellen from Granada, Spain. It was a good and interesting mix especially when you have people as expressive as the Spanish.
As you have probably noticed, we’re no party goers. In that sense, we’re not really running after every festival and event held in the name of culture and tourism. It took us 5 years before finally saying ‘yes’ to see the Solo Batik Carnival 2012, most likely because we trusted the Explore Solo and their recommendations (We traveled with them to Tomia. Stay tuned for that trip.)
The theme was Metamorphosis which basically showed the process of batik making from a blank piece of white mori cloth, drawing of the pattern, to applying the colors one by one. The parade started with a line of black and white costumes, followed by primary colors, then secondaries like purple, green, and orange. All of the costumes were beautiful, detailed, glitzy, and glamorous.
The Carnival started in the Sriwedari Stadium for about 3 hours to then continue to the 3 km parade through the city. Those who paid to see it in the stadium had the chance to see most of the costumes calmly compared those watching on the streets. But it was a bit too formal. My two cents were written here.
In the end, there is no doubt that we love the festive ambiance of the carnival. The dancing, smiles, experiencing and learning something new is always enjoyable, especially something like a peoples party where anyone can participate. I can’t say that we’re gonna go festival hunting after this but I can say it won’t be our last.
The real question that pops to mind is, out of all the candi’s we have in Indonesia, why on earth are the candi’s of fertility only found (or popular) on the outskirts of Solo? You’d have to wonder, does this say anything , anything at all, about the people of Solo? Anything?
I would have to think that the Solo people are secretly kinky or they think highly of fertility. I happened to read that Solo has the densest population in Central Java. Enough said! Muahaha…
I’ve always wanted to see this erotic candi. Being part of a country where it is too taboo to talk about such subjects as sex, it’s always fun to refer back to our ancestors that even had a candi to openly worship the matter. It’s like picking on your Mom and Dad when you found out they were hippies after they grounded you for smoking pot.
The Sukuh candi is located 40 km east of the city and 910 m asl, up on the mountains. From here, we can view Solo,which was breath taking. It took us a few minutes just to enjoy it before exploring more of the candi grounds.
From the gate of the candi, you will see a lot of 3D rock carvings showing reliefs of what possibly is men squatting and letting it all hang out, shapes of vaginas and symbols of the womb.
The candi itself is trapezoid. Mas Taufiq explained that this shape isn’t a very common candi shape in Java. It’s very much like those found in South America. Although I’ve heard that it’s an alien-like mistery, some have also explained it a very common structure, like a block structure a child would make. It’s just primitive. But it is then again contradicted by the uncommon carving shapes such as the facial structure, the body positions, and wings. We’re not the ones to say anything of which is right or wrong. Personally, I haven’t seen any similar carvings on other Candi’s in Java. It was very interesting.
OK! The term erotic might me an exaggerated marketable adjective to describe the candi. The fact is, the candi is about fertility, which still means genitals. Hanging penises and triangle shape symbolizing vaginas were everywhere. Some reliefs were even hidden or suddenly pop up on some wall for unknown reason.
In between our trip from Candi Sukuh to Candi Cetho, we stopped to get a cup of tea. I feel very British just writing this. Muahaha! *fixing my little hat position*
The Kemuning Tea Plantation is located in between the candis. You can detour a bit from the main road to just choose a hut and have the local tea. Since I’m no tea expert, I’d have to say the tea was good, but the view was greater. The hilly area provided a fresh back drop to every sip of my tea.
The plantation was pretty crowded by the locals spending yet another weekend somewhere nice. Most of them were teenagers. I guess any chap would love a cuppa tea. *british accent*
A cup is no more than IDR 10,000/cup, but it was a tall glass and not a small cup.
Another ‘erotic’ candi is theCandi Cetho, located about 5 km from Candi Sukuh and is on higher grounds. Located 500 m above Sukuh makes this candi a lot cooler and a bit more effortful to reach. It’s a …er… nice walk to the top and an even better cardio work out. The roads are located on steep hills making both man and vehicle have to push their pedal to the medal.
It is said that Candi Cetho is the female version of Sukuh. Not saying there were more vaginas, it’s just less masculine. When arriving at the front gate, you’ll instantly remember Bali. The tall triangular gates and the whole surrounding view is similar to what you’ll see in the land of the Gods. Mind you, these gates are fairly new. The stone dude at the front gate was interesting. It looked more like an African more than a Javanese, beard and all.
The candi had a few levels climbing to the very top. A huge fertility symbol lay at the first levels. Anyone that passed it, including foreign visitors, had to stop and easily assume the obvious: penis meeting a vagina. Ah, it is definitely another universal language. Around the candi there are statues of turtles, reliefs of coconut trees, and reliefs of crabs. Weird that creatures of the coast images would appear way up here.
On the highest level of the candi, we found little old huts with a few stones which were worshiped symbols. One distinct difference this candi has compared to Sukuh was, Cetho still had an active praying spot on the very top level. Only those that have come to pray that are allowed in.
Candis of fertility not only apply to humans and the blessing of their reproduction, it is also dedicated to the fertility of the land around. Take a look around and you’ll see the green growth. There’s a lot to be thankful for.
Psstt! Rumor has it these candis are still used for mystical sexual rituals for fertilizations. Not sure if it’s for the people themselves or for the land as a whole. They do it secretly of course.
This hostel was a recommendation from Nindya, a fellow blogger. We stayed aday and a few hours at this homestay. We arrived really early in the morning to then have an early check in, which turned up on our bill as 2 days. Oops! Negotiated, we were allowed to pay half a day for the early check in.
This homestay was once a workshop producing batik. It was then turned in to a homestay for reasons which will remain a mistery to us *cue twilight music. Parts of the homestay has two floors. Some rooms have AC and unfortunately, being sweet blood that I am, they also have a lot of mosquitoes around. Vira had no problem sleeping, lucky her!
Best thing about this homestay was… IT HAD A POOL! Hooooo…. considering Solo was really hot during our visit, it would have been great to jump in that fresh pool. But we didn’t bring our bathing suits. Yes, we owe ourselves a canonball!
Our room cost IDR 175,000 / night. Prices include a very simple breakfast at the common room for guests.
Jl. Cakra II/15, Kampung Batik Kauman, Solo Tel +62 (274) 634743
The firstmorning, we had a traditional sweet dish sold by the local door to door seller who just happens to be walking down our lane. Heart. Bubur sumsum is a sweet dish that is a good source of sugar in the morning. It’s made of rice flour with palm sugar sauce, and in our case there was some pink sagoo pearls. De-li-ci-ous!
By the way, these sellers are very common in smaller cities such as Solo. They walk around the alleys and neigborhood selling their goods and its usually yummy!
One portion is no more than IDR 5000/portion
This is a typical Indonesian meat ball soup with it’s speciality, meat ball made of ribs. It was our first official breakfast. The broth of the soup was tasty but not too tasty which was very good. The meat balls are meaty and there are a few variants of meat balls. You can also have additional beef strips in your broth. The meat balls are served with a few herbs and your choice of noodles or rice noodles. Slurp!
One portion is no more than IDR 20,000/portion.
Jl. Solo – Karanganyar, Tawangmangu km 7 Ruko 64 Dagen, Ph: +62 (271) 825118
We were directed to Bale Padi by the homestay keepers (not owners, mind you). They said that a lot of the guests go there and it’s quite popular because people like it. So based on that rumor we decided to hunt this place down for a good grub.
We couldn’t find a taxi to get there. Yes, you should get a taxi to get there. Don’t do something out of the box… I don’t know… say, take a becak ride out there… like we did. Guilty! In our defense, we couldn’t find a vacant taxi and we didn’t know it was that far! And we did double the crazy cheap price that the driver offered (I think he hadn’t had a load all day and could be desperate).
Bale Padi, or translated to rice field hut, is conceptually a hut in a rice field. So you eat amongst the rice that is growing. Nice touch, hey? So they have a venue located just on the side of a vast spread field and there were mountains in the distance just to make the view perfect.
We ate local dishes starting from bean cake (tempe), gepuk or smashed marinated beef, a few types of veggies, also a little of this and that. Not to forget the chilli paste. To top things off, we had an iced coconut drink in the name of a hot sunny day.
All in all, we spent IDR 150,000 for a lot of side dishes and a very worthy view.
Jl. Kadilangu, Baki Pandeyan, South Solo. Ph: +62 (271) 6727330.
Compared to the usual street ‘warung’ this one was a bit more modern. Basically it still sold traditional Javanese dishes, which is common in Solo, but not common for these Jakarta and Spanish tongues. The food was good. Our tummies were happy.
The venue itself was very nice. A lot of wood furniture and a brown basis decor making things feel even traditional. You can choose amongst the dishes that are presented on the main table. Ask away what you’re actually eating if you need some certainty.
They also serve traditional herbal drink called es kunyit asem which is a sweet soury drink with a herbal taste with ice. I was one to taste and it was fresh but kinda eliminating much taste from the dish I ate, which was a traditional pecel and a few side dishes.
The food didn’t cost much. Just about IDR 20,000/portion.
Jl. Soepomo 55, Surakarta. Ph: +62 (271) 737379
At the gate of Sukuh, there is a rabbit satay vendor, Pak Kemis. Because ‘Kamis’ means Thursday, we guessed he was born around that day, don’t you think? A small simple local vendor providing very tender meat. This satay is bathed with peanut sauce and sweet soy sauce as a lot of satay does. The meat was very tender and yummy. It takes skill to be able to pick the right rabbit and cook it into a great portion of satay. Luckily Jaka was a bit hungry so we all munched on his portion.
One portion was about IDR 15,000.
To the Candi’s
We were very happy to find out we had a great guide for the day… and a car. Woohoo! Mas Taufiq drove us around to the intended destinations. Luckily, the car was strong enough to lift a car full of passengers all the way up to both Candi’s which were located on a hilly terrain.
This candi is located about 40 km east from Solo. We drove up approximately 1 hour in relax mode.
This Candi is located about 5 km from the Candi Sukuh. Usually people that visit the Candi, visit both in one go.
We’re big fans of becak! We usually take the time to ride one when we travel especially in cities in Java. But! We advise to you all, DO NOT TAKE A BECAK TO BALE PADI! It’s super far for a becak. Better take an ojeg or a taxi to be more reasonable.
It would probably cost you about IDR 20,000 on taxi fare, without feeling bad for the driver.
Once you reach
the Solo Balapan station, you can get a taxi from the official taxi service table. Every destination has a fixed price given by the officer. You would just have to pay the amount as written on your bill. The cars are private cars but under the taxi organization. Don’t worry! In the dead of the dark, you’ll be alright. We were. The people of Solo are really nice.
Since we work in Jakarta, we took night trains on Friday and Sunday, also to reduce cost on hotel rooms.
Both trains were pretty similar in service and speed. We got to our destinations pretty spot on schedule. The food was edible, the AC was as usual too cold for me, and it is important to bring a cover for your eyes also maybe earplugs. At night, the lights are kept on and there will be shouts of local food vendors trying to sell their goods but not being able to jump aboard when the train transited at stations. Yes, they had to yell about 5 times in the dead of the night, hoping someone would buy something by the fifth yell. Earplugs!