Monday, March 4, 2013

Temple Tour: Candi Borobudur

November 14, 2012 – Temple Tour
   *take Transjogja bus – Malioboro to Jombor – 3,000
   *Jombor bus to Borobudur – 20,000
   *Borobudur – entrance: 200,000 (20usd)
   *Borobudur to Jombor bus station – 20,000
   *Jombor to Transjogja Maioboro-3,000
   *transjogja malioboro to Prambanan – 20,000
   *Prambanan – entrance: 165,000 (18usd)
   *Prambanan Transjogja to Malioboro – (20,000)

That’s a copy of my detailed itinerary for my supposed DIY temple tour in Central Java. Total expense for transportation only for the DIY tour is around 86,000IDR. Some travel agencies offer transport tour for only 65,000 to 75,000IDR. As always, the downside of joining group tours is that you cannot own the time of your tour.

So I decided to scratch that part of my iti, because I accepted the offer of the kind family I met in the railway station (obvious bang nakalimutan ko ang name nila. Tsk. Tsk.) Free transport tour to Borobudur and Prambanan temple – means saving 86,000IDR. Saving 86,000IDR means more KFC. Haha!

The night before, I texted the travel tour owner to confirm my stay in Anda Losmen. They told they’ll pick me up at around 430 in the morning. But it was almost 530 when they arrive. (Borobudur temple opens at 6am.)

Borobudur Temple
Entrance fee:
180,000 IDR/20USD (foreign visitors)
90,000 IDR/10USD (foreign students with ID)
 30,000 IDR (local visitors)

I never get tired to exploring temples. I must admit I vaguely remember all the details of the  history of Angkor Wat temple, but I cannot forget how beautiful and magnificent the temple was. Now another Buddhist temple in central Java left me with so much awe-wow moment.

Entrance fee in Borobudur temple can be very hefty. This is after all one of the country’s tourist hotspots, so expect a double even triple charge for foreigners. But there’s always a way for a kuripot traveller like me. I first plan to act like a local in order to avail the cheapest entry fee. But since, I accepted the free transport offer of a travel agency, I had to join other foreign visitors, and be one with them.

The next thing I did was to pretend to be a legitimate student of a university. I know, what I did was a crime, but it’s one of those days that you have to make a crazy ‘diskarte’ to save a big bucks when travelling. Haha. Besides, I didn’t come up with this idea all by myself. I got this from research. Haha. And I didn’t make such claims without any document to support it – my Recto-made ID. (sabi nga, wag tularan!)

Right after securing my student pass, one of the attendants assisted me on how to wear the sarong. It’s their way of showing respect to the holy temple especially from visitors who will be wearing shorts and short-shorts. There’s a different sarong for foreign and local visitors.

I then took advantage of the free coffee being served in the office. We were oriented for a minute then we proceeded to the tour – all by ourselves. It was a weekday, yet, there were a lot of visitors in the area most of them were local students from Surabaya and Bandung.

But these students aren't there just for the tour, but to learn and practice their English – by talking to foreigners visiting the temple.

So while being in awe at the grand temple in front of me, students started to flock the view. Mobbing most of the white-skinned tourists entering the temple. Oh well, I thought they won’t notice me, being tanned and dark skinned and all – before I knew it – I was there, talking to them, after all, I was wearing the sarong for foreign visitors. So there I was, answering all their scripted and much memorized questions – what’s your name, where you from, when did you arrive in Jakarta, what do you think of the Borobudur temple etc. They’d better do it right because their respective teachers were documenting the whole thing. Haha.  They also shared bits of Indonesian culture – food, dance and few local words which I can no longer remember. And to end the discussion, you have to grade them how do you think the whole conversation exercise went.

brown sarong for locals, white for foreigners

It was fun at first, really. I was just amazed how eager they were to learn English. But after having three different batches of students – it began to sound a little annoying. They asked almost same questions over and over, except the last one, where I talked to college students. But the interview basically ate up my tour time – c’mon as much as I wanted to tell them my story, I still have a temple to explore and I was running out of time. When I saw new visitors coming up the stairs in the temple, I started to beg off interviews from the kids and started my tour. This time, I was in a hurry because I only had few minutes left from our allotted tour time. But still, it was a wonderful experience talking to them.

Borobudur temple is the largest Buddhist temple in the world. It is also one of the most complex I’ve ever seen. From afar, it may look similar to a pyramid. But when you take a closer look in it – you’ll see magnificent features and intricate designs that made this temple into the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site. History dictates it was once buried into volcanic ash and was abandoned for hundreds of years until it was rediscovered.

On the top floor, you will see the most photographed stupa of the temple. There are 72 stupa (bell-like designed monument) surrounding the main dome that is located at the heart of the temple. Inside these stupas are 72 Buddha statues, sitting in different meditating position, protected and covered. They say the Buddha statue inside the stupa symbolizes the holiness of the spirit of the monks.


But there are some special stupa that is open for prayers and pilgrimage, like this one.

They say it’s best to visit the temple for the sunrise, at around 4-5am, but it’ll cost you more. The price you have to pay if you want to see the beautiful transformation of the temple once the first ray of sunlight kisses it and displays the various color of volcanic stones the temple is made of from. (Regular operating hours in the temple is 6am to 5pm.)

Some facts on Borobudur temple:
The largest stupa, right at the heart of the temple has a lightning arrester to protect it from bad weather.

It has a total of 1,460 reliefs that illustrates a story and more than a thousand panels for decoration.

A total of 32 lion guards surrounded the temple.

There are 504 Buddha statues in the entire temple.

Persistent souvenir vendors will mob you at the exit of the temple.

Note: Don’t be surprised, it’s a long walk from the exit of the temple to parking area where the tour vans and your tour mates will be waiting for you.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Spelunking Bayukbok Cave

One of the highlights of the trip to Mt. Manalmon is to explore Bayukbok Cave.

We were told there are three caves in the area, each cave charges 30 each. But Kuya AL just asked for 60pesos for all three. Well, the first cave which is the Madlum cave is nothing but normal – nothing extra ordinary. You can actually explore the small area by yourself. So parang di rin kami naka discount.

Bayukbok cave is said to be the hideout of guerillas during the revolutionary era. Just like Cu Chi tunnels of Vietnam, these caves served as the shelter of our forefathers from the historic battle against Japanese colony.

From the camping area, we started our descent a little past 9am. Back in the registration area, we left our bags in their conference room – and get ready for spelunking. The cave is located at the other side of the river, and this time, we were motivated to try the monkey bridge. No one dared to try it first but me … But I wasn’t alone, because Kuya Al was there to complete our tandem.


First few steps were scary. Reaching the middle of the wire bridge became more terrifying. I could feel my legs shaking, so I had to stop in the center, rest and relax for a moment to regain my fading strength. Kuya Al said the wire can carry up to two persons at the same time. At least you have someone to give you confidence and cheer you up to continue the heart pumping activity.

So pair by pair, we successfully finished the monkey bridge – buti walang nahulog kundi nakakahiya. Haha. But according to Kuya Al, wala pa namang nahulog dun ever. Well, looking back, it was an easy task, so long as you have that adventurous heart to try it. Tip: Try not to focus your attention down the river. Hold the wire firmly but not too strong. Relax when you feel like your legs are uncontrollably trembling. Take one step and just glide all throughout. Most of all, enjoy the moment.

The monkey bridge served as a warm up for our spelunking activity. It somehow boosts up our spirits.

Bayukbok cave is a series of interconnected caves. Their leaflet says it’s a 4km roundtrip with hardness scale of 6. I have personal idea about the hardness scale, but yes, exploring these caves was indeed hard. Rates: Caves 1-6 (150 per 5persons), caves 7-8 (150 for 5persons). So we decided to take all the cave, and we started with the hardest – caves 7-8.

It was the first caving experience for everyone, except for me and my boyfriend. So just imagine how surprise they were when we started to crawl, squeeze ourselves to the narrowest paths and climb the rockiest and sharpest limestone. The real adventure is here.

After finishing caves 7 and 8, we walked back in an open, grass-rocky hill – and traversed the second part of our spelunking. And we started it with rappelling. It looked easy and simple, but it’s quite challenging. Compared to caves 7 and 8, caves 1-6 is little less complicated but still, some parts of it can be death defying. Aside from rappelling, we also had to climb a swinging bamboo ladder placed in one of the rock walls.

And we thought the final part of all is the least difficult because we had the sunlight to our advantage. We were wrong. We had to climbed up an open rocky cliff – no harness or any supportive gadgets but your grip to the stones and your flexibility to bend and twist your body to ascend one of the risky parts of the cave. 

It took us more than two hours navigating one of the best caves I have ever been to. I got one bruise on my knees – and unnumbered fun and body aches.

*collage photos courtesy of Allenson  Varquez

Riverfront Camping in Mt. Manalmon

It’s been a long time, I know. Honestly, I’ve been busy doing nothing. I still have few back logs about my solo backpacking in Indonesia last year. Been wanting to post updates, trust me, my spirit is willing but my body is just too weak! Haha. If not for the intense adventure I had last weekend, I wouldn’t have any strength today to start my-first-story-of-the-year.
Unlike my other adventure, this time, it was my beloved boyfriend who organized the trip. This is indeed a new year for me. He started his new found hobby last year, when he and his group of friends went to Anawangin and  Nagsasa in Zambales. Then it was succeeded with another overnight camping adventure in Batlag Falls in Tanay last month. And just last week, I had one of the most extreme and most exciting camping trips ever.

I normally don’t travel on a weekend to avoid the crowd, but since J and his friends has Sat-Sun offs, he didn’t give me much choices.

While planning the trip, one of the major concern we had to consider, is that fact that his friends aren’t actually the ‘climber’ type. They want something adventurous but not ‘too’ hardcore… They want to camp and they want to swim as well. And most of all, the words ‘cheap’ and ‘budget’ must also be taken to consideration.

With all these conditions to think about, we knew exactly where to bring them. Mt. Manalmon.

Mt. Manalmon is part of the preserved Biak na Bato National Park. History said that this is one of the hiding places of Katipuneros during revolutionary era. Now, this part of San Miguel, Bulacan slowly became a paradise for thrill seekers and nature lovers. 

We left Cubao – Baliwag bus terminal at around 930am. Five from the group just came from their respective shifts so we had to wait for them – but it was actually J and I who were late at our meeting place. SHAME! Travel time from Cubao to San Miguel, Bulacan is approximately 2.5 hours. Fare: 117Php/oneway.

Tricycle drivers mobbed us as soon as we get off the bus. It was about lunch time, so decided to take our lunch first before heading to our ‘climb’. One of the tricycle drivers suggested that we take our lunch on our way to the jump off, besides there were no visible karenderia in the bus stop area. So we hopped into the trike and stopped in the next few meters – and ate in a karenderia, where we saw other campers and climbers eating.

J’s friend bought rice for takeout for their dinner. And off we went back to the road. Travel time from bus stop to jump off point is approximately 45mins. Fare: 200 per trike (3persons - in our case, because we had big bags, tents etc.) But normally, for day trippers, trike would fit 4 persons.

When reaching the jump off, these mesmerizing views will warmly welcome you.

Registration area is at the other side of the river and the only mode of transport crossing the river is the balsa/raft. It can carry up to 12 persons, provided they weigh not more than 100kilos each. In short, basta hindi masyadong matataba ang sakay. Haha. Otherwise, manong driver will have to go back and forth for the other passengers. Travel time: less than a minute. Fare: 5php each. Aside from the raft, you can take the more exciting and cheapest way of crossing the river – through the wire. The called it the monkey bridge. Travel time: Depende sa nerbyos at tuhod mo. Fare: 0php (free). Since we were still on our full battled gears, we chose the raft.

option 1: raft: 5php

option two: monkey bridge: free 

We wasted no time after we listed our names in the log book. Tatay Carling,  (0919.574.6470) our contact person in Mt Manalmon reserved us a guide. Guide fee is 300 for a day trip. It gets double for overnight (600php), maximum of 10. We were 11, so they just allow us to get one guide, with the same price, of course. Registration is 5php each.

True to what they say, Mt Manalmon is best for novice climbers – or even just for someone who wants to take a break from the monotonous cycle of a city life. It only took us 45minutes from the jump off to get to the camping area. That includes stops for photo ops and quick rests. It was a piece of cake for most of us, except for the first part of the trek where we had to pass the rather less exciting Madlum/Manalmon cave and was surprised with the massive rock formations after it. I think other than that, everything was a walk in the park. 

 didn't i tell you it's a walk in the park!

There are two camping areas in Mt Manalmon. One is near the river, and the other one is a stone away from the summit. We chose the former because bonfire is not allowed in the summit area. Besides, it’s hard to resist the serene waters of the river.

We set up our tents and settle our things. At that time, we were the only ones in the area, as most of the campers preferred to stay near the summit. The guys wasted no time and took the chance to refresh themselves. While we chose to do the thing we’re most good at – cam whoring! Haha.


We get back to our tent area for a quick rest and a brief introduction for the new joiners. J and his friends have this ‘special thing’ on how to make every outing more memorable and extra fun, in the most ‘lu-od’-way… It’s just hard to explain. You need to join one of their trips to fully understand this entertaining part of the adventure.

Just before the sun down, we started to hit the road again for the summit. If you’ve been to Mt Maculot or Mt. Gulugod Baboy, this part of Mt. Manalmon will be nothing but an effortless 20-minute-hike. 

 the second camping area

We made it to the summit earlier than we expected. The sun was still up, that made us a hard time capturing the beautiful view, salamat sa mga shadow at mga against-the-light moments. Not to mention the strong winds the summit has to offer.

Mt Manalmon has one of the best summits I’ve ever seen. The view of Madlum River lying in the midst of the forested region added much beauty to the totality of the landscape. The sights of Mount Gola and Mount Arayat  are also hard to miss.

view of our campsite from the peak (8x zoom)

J and I wanted to stay a little longer and wait for the sunset – we’re addict to sunsets. For me, there’s just something about sunsets that brings out the deep seated and the most romantic emotions a person can ever feel. In short, nakaka-emo ang sunset. Haha.

But since not everyone in the group share the same emo-sentiments and not everyone has passion for heights, we started our descent while daylight was still on our side.

We then prepared our dinner. We had adobo, and adobo… canned goods and canned goods… Haha. Normally, J takes care of the bonfire. But since, we had a guide, Kuya Al took over and borrowed J’s bolo to gather woods and dried bamboo to make the fire. We finished our fun-filled delectable dinner, and proceeded to the next part of our night – game time and socials.

what's camping without bonfire?

what's bonfire without mallows?

 our guide, Kuya AL: tao ba to, bagay? hayop? nakikita dito?

We had Pinoy henyo where categories must be Mt. Manalmon trip-related and movie charades. Even our guide, Kuya Al joined the fun.We also had random question-and-answer-portion-ala-miss-universe prepared by yours truly, to break the ice and to get to know more each of the participants. And to always wrap things up - they have this thing called, ‘luod-luod’ moment, which can be very funny and corny at the same time. If you wanna what this part is, you need to join us in one of our trips to find out. Haha.

Budgeting Mt. Manalmon
Bus fare:
Tricycle to Sitio Madlum:
860 (4 trike/11pax)
ripped off
Guide (overnight):
(300 for daytrip)
Cave fee:
3 caves
discounted price daw
Tricycle to Bus stop:
800 (4 trike/11pax)
Food, drinks, tip for guide