The writer’s maiden visit to this city recently was a mix of distress and joyful moments.
After alighting from the plane that flew into the Adi Sumarmo Airport in Solo, I discovered that my baggage had gone missing.
In disgust and after waiting in vain for some three hours on the news of my missing baggage, I discovered that the bus that was supposed to take me to the hotel had left with the other members of the entourage, minus the writer.
I tried calling organisers of the trip (in conjunction with the Borobudur Travel Mart) on my handphone but lady luck seemed to have deserted me that day as the calls made were unable to get through.
Hence this writer was forced to look for another transport. Upon finding one, the writer’s heart plummeted lower when told that the journey to the hotel would take about three hours.
What a reception on my very first visit to Yogyakarta.
However upon reaching the Asri Puri Hotel in Magelang, the writer’s view caught the presence of padi fields around the premises and the scenario at the huge tracts of green padi stalks was so serene and enchanting.
That made me momentarily forget my missing baggage.
BANARAN, THE COFFEE VILLAGE
On the second day, the writer’s entourage headed for Semarang, a journey that took some five hours. Along the way the group had a feast over the beautiful scenery on both sides of the road. From afar, we also enjoyed the breath-taking view of the volcanic Mount Merapi.
The coffee village of Banaran is located at the Bawen road in Solo, about 1.5 km from the Bawen bus and taxi terminal.
According to the tour guide, the village offers one of the best coffee in the world. This is no surprise as Banaran is surrounded by coffee orchards.
Unfortunately we did not have the opportunity to visit the coffee orchards due to time constraints but were able to witness how the coffee beans were processed into coffee powder.
Later, we were taken to a cafe where we enjoyed coffee and soya bean cakes locally known as ‘tauhu serasi’.
This delicacy originates from Ambarawa in Bandungan.
Apart from the tauhu, there were also delicious fried bananas and ‘murtabak’ for the visitors and those who wished to bring home the famous Banaran coffee, they could buy it for only RM3 a pack.
After sampling the ‘out of this world’ coffee, the entourage proceeded to the Steam Locomotive Museum located in Ambarawa, north of Yogyakarta.
This is the only museum in the world that allows visitors to take rides on railway steam engines. On board the train, one could not miss the natural and pristine beauty of the environment as the locomotive chugged along the rail tracks.
The railway station built in 1873 is still operating for the stretch between Ambarawa and Bedono, a distance of nine kilometres.
Along the way, the visitors’ attention caught the green and expansive paddy cultivated on hill slopes, which at times appeared to be ‘never-ending’.
For those who wished to experience the life of a farmer like planting the maize and paddy for themselves, they can opt to stay for the night at Desa Blumah, one of the 14 villages in the Kabupaten (district) Kendal.
The village is located on hilly land and the area inhabited by farmers has a temperature of 20-22 degrees Celsius.
Despite being located in a rather remote area, this village is equipped with basic infrastructure and facilities like the power supply and telephone lines and as maize is the main crop there, the daily staple food is therefore rice mixed with corn.
Apart from the food crops, the other cultivation at this village are the herbal plants, used as ingredients for the alternative medicines.
At this village, there lies another attraction. Here the visitors can enjoy the ‘cool and fresh’ air at an eight-level waterfall which is surrounded by the beautiful flora.
The visit to the waterfall, named ‘Air Terjun Semawur’ by the villagers, needed the presence of specially-accredited travel guides as the flora and fauna there comes under the protected category.
Discovered sometime in 1990, the 294m-high and eight-level waterfall has its own myth where people believed that the water taken from the spot has the ‘fountain of youth’ features like keeping young and fit as well as the cure ailments.
The highest level at the waterfall is 43 metres high and seven metres wide.
Despite the setback experienced in the early part of the visit, this writer found that Yogyakarta is still among the list of preferred destination among the foreign tourists to Indonesia.