Jumat, 07 Juni 2013

From Yogyakarta, with Love - part 1

The time has come
It is that time of the year again. School holiday is here for the whole month of June. The annual headache for parents in Singapore has come again. What to do during the school holiday? What kind of activities that we, parents, wish our kids to do to fill in their time? What new skills we want our kids to learn during this time? Is it learning to roller skate, to swim, to create computer programme, to learn pottery, to learn a new language, to learn a new dance move? Endless choices for parents to choose! Thus, the headache :P

Well not for me, not anymore. I tend to take school holiday as the time for us, parents and the kid, to bond. Spend time together, be it at home doing some art and craft works, at the nearby park to have a picnic or just to take a bus ride exploring this tiny island together.

I used to be a kiasu parent. On every school holiday I would sign my son up for holiday classes, but then...I pitied him as he did not have enough time to just be him nor to play with his favourite toys at home or do silly stuff with me. So, no more courses or any form of holiday programmes for him now.

Having said that, my husband and I do have a mission during this school holiday. We would like our kid to start learning, knowing and loving his parents’ native country which to date, is his country too.

Do not get us wrong, we do love Singapore, the place where we live now. It is a wonderful country, with everything is very much in order, with its wonderful people and its modern living.  It is a place where our son was born and where he is growing up now. There is no doubt that my son loves this country, which is fine for us, really.

However we also think that it is important for our kid to know his origin. To know where his parents come from. We would like to introduce him to how majority of people in Indonesia live, what kind of environment they live in, the nature, the language, the food, the culture and custom. So, on this school holiday, we decided to go to Yogyakarta in Central Java.

Why Yogya? Because it is not far from Singapore and it is also my father-in-law’s ; my son’s grandpa; homeland or kampong. Yogyakarta is an old city with long history and rich culture. It was the capitol city of Indonesia once (around ‘50s), it is also a sultanate province where the current Sultan of Yogyakarta ; Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X resides in his palace, and lastly, it is surrounded by many beautiful temples (Borobudur, Prambanan, SewuMendut and many more) and magnificent lush green paddyfields. And since our son is half Javanese I think it made sense to start the introduction to Indonesia from Yogyakarta, don't you think so?

Anyway…this posting and the next two or three postings are about our trip to that charming old town. Be ready to get mesmerized by the images accompanying the posts. And don't be surprised if you have the urge to book (a) ticket(s) to Yogya after you finish reading these posts :P

The flights
Be happy people! Soon you will have two airlines to choose from to fly you to Yogya. They are the existing Airasia and the newcomer Tiger Airways, which will start its new route Sin-Yogya in July 2013.

Always book tickets in advance to get cheap rate. We procrastinated a lot  and ended up paying a hefty sum for tickets for three, it was i think no longer budget trip for us. Oh by the way, before you make the booking, check when the school holiday starts in Indonesia. The holiday affects the ticket price (peak season) as well as the number of crowd in popular tourist attraction sites. We chose to fly at the beginning of school holiday in Singapore as students in Indonesia were still having their exams or school during that period.

Since my son has multiple food allergies, travelling is always not easy for us. First and foremost, we need to make sure he has something to eat during the trip. Staying in a hotel would be comfortable however ordering special foods for each meal will be a hassle. The risk of cross-contamination is high in food from hotels and restaurant, and since my son is a high-risk allergy sufferer, we really need to put this into serious consideration during our planning stage.

In the end, we opted for a homestay that came with a kitchen instead. That way, I could prepare meals for my son. After checking here and there, we chose Omahlawas as our base camp in Yogya because they were the most eager and sincere in responding to my long list of queries.

Image was taken from here

Omahlawas (it's Javanese language which means Old House) was a huge house located in Jl. Prawirotaman III, still considerably near the town centre. It rented out its five big bedrooms in different rate. The rooms were spacious, clean, air-conditioned and came with their own bathroom. The owner, Ms Rani was very friendly and helpful, and so was Mas Umam, the all-round employee who doubled (or tripled) as the chef and the housekeeper. 

We booked two bedrooms on ground floor, just nice as one of the rooms (the biggest in the house) had a queen bed and a super single bed, perfect for my family of three. The other room we booked for my parents-in-law. During our stay, there were other guests occupying the rooms upstairs, however we seldom came across with them so on overall the stay at Omahlawas was pleasant and quiet. 
Image was taken from here
Just around 100 metre away from the house there is a minimart where you can stock up your supplies such as milk, bread, fruits etc. during your stay. If you prefer a more traditional way to do it, there is also a traditional market; Pasar Prawirotaman, for you to shop, slightly further down the Jl. Prawirotaman. It definitely is an awesome experience for those of you who have never been to a traditional Javanese market. :P

There are many car-rental companies in Yogyakarta.The rate is almost the same across the board, so how do we choose the most suitable one among so many of them? Well, in our case we relied on the referral from the homestay. This way, we entrusted some of  the responsibility of finding good and reliable transportation to the homestay, which I think was better than booking the rental car ourselves. If things went wrong, we could always ask the homestay to share some of the responsibility and helped fix the problem. Well…we did not need to do that though.

Our driver in Yogyakarta was Bapak Esfandiartho or Pak Fendy, a very friendly and helpful gentleman who has a vast knowledge about many subjects especially on his beloved city; Yogya. He also had many interesting stories to share with us. If you would like to ask for his service, you can contact him at +62-813-92260333. Don't forget to ask him to tell you the story about EyangSubur :P Oh btw, we booked his car (an avanza /xenia type) and his service (as the chauffer) including the petrol 12 hourly/ day for Rp.350.000 or around SGD45 / 12hourly / day. Pak Fendy fetched us from and later on to the airport, thus he saved us from getting onto a fake taxi at the airport hehe. You can also book the service for 24 hour daily, just buzz him to find out about the rate. Oh...and ask him to drive you to an excellent Warung Tongseng (mutton stew-kind dish) not far from Prambanan Temple :) 

There are taxis in Yogyakarta, of course, but according to Pak Fendy, people usually book taxis from their home or office if they need to use the service. And true enough, that was what the information that i gathered from the internet. No wonder I seldom saw any taxis on the road during our stay there. Well…if you are in Yogya as a tourist, you definitely would not wish to rely on taxi to go touring anyway, would you? In any case, here are the contacts should you still need to call a taxi: Vetri Taxi : 0274 563 551, Jazz Taxi : 0274 373737, Centris Taxi: 0274 512 767

Special planning for allergy sufferer
As my son has multiple allergies, I had to make extra preparation prior to our trip. I prepared some ready-mix food (chicken bumbu goreng, beef dendeng and such) that I could just heat up before meal, several types of cereals, pastas, dried fruits, and some bread, at least for the first day of our stay. If you are not sure about the kitchen cutleries at the homestay you will be staying, don't hesitate to bring your own. I brought along with me a small pan and a pot (with its laddle) for me to cook soup and prepare spaghetti. I was glad I did as it turned out that the homestay had only some basic cutleries where we had to share the use. Talking about cross-contamination! It was a no-no case for me. So…if you also have a family member who suffers from food allergies, this is something that you need to plan carefully.

Don't forget to bring handy small food containers to pack the food and water bottles/ thermos to keep warm drinks while you go on tour. We were out the whole day most of the time and the last thing we needed during that time was a cranky hungry child!

By the time we touched down Yogya, we went shopping for milk, fruits and bread. Indomaret and other minimart are aplenty in Yogyakarta, so don't you worry about not being able to find milk for your kid. There are many traditional markets situated all over the city too. 

Oh don't forget to bring along medication for common illness: painkillers, gastric tablets, super-carbon pills to fight the tummyache. For my son’s case I brought along his inhaler, antihistamine, cool-aid to soothe fever, nose sprays, nose drops, eczema cream and lots of body cream for his eczema. A bottle of ointment oil to ward off mosquitos was shoved into the luggage at the last minute. Thank God we did not have to use it.

Finally…we are set to go on holiday! Yaaaay! Yogya, here we come!

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