Although it is Indonesia’s most urbanized island, the great majority of Java’s people still earn their living from farming. The contrasts in Java defy any attempt generalization. In terms of scenery. Cuisine, music, manners and a hundred other measures, the island is one of the world’s most varied. West java province, which occupies the western third of the island, is surely one of the county’s most rewarding areas for visitor.
Its people are known as sundanese, which is also the name given to their local language. Such famous kingdoms as Tarumanegara, Pajajaran, Banten ad irebon left their marks on the culture and have bee the subject of intense study by anthropologists, a mountain range dominates the province’s centre , with a row of hills many if them still-smoking volcanoes) ruing from east to west. The road south from Jakarta first passes Bogor, famous for its botanical garden and the presidential palace built by the Dutch in 1745. Then the traverses a lovely rolling area called Puncak where excellent tea is grown. Bandung is Pleasent four hour drive from Jakarta. A luxury train taking three hours is a relaxing alternative. Along the way, travellers can see how daily life is lived i the many small towns and market centres en route, the pace is, refreshingly, far slower than jakarta’s.
Pelabuhan Ratu on the south coast od West Java was one a sleepy fishing village. Now they are numerous hotels and bungalows available for weekenders from Bandungan Jakarta, as well as for those keen on several days a total relaxation. The local fish market remains a prime attraction, particularly in the late afternoon whe the day’s catch is a hauled shore and auctioned. A natural hot spring nearby offers the chance to boil an egg-or yourself-in an our door pool, the top off your day with a visit to the nearby bat cave, home to perharps a million small cheeping winged creatures who emerge in single file around dusk to fly off on their nightly rounds. It is a an awesome sight that fills the sky. You will often hear central java referred to as “the most Indonesian part of Indonesia”.
Hundreds of thousands of visitors fly into the province each year and then leave after hitting just a few of the most visited tourist high spots. But as with so many others parts of the country, it is preferable to plan a stay of at least a few days to slow down and truly experience the beauty and feeling of the place. Travelling by land through Central Java can be a real treat. There are two popular routes : a northern one passing litle fisihing villages, teakwood forest and numerous historical sites; and a southern one through the hills between Bandung and Yogyakarta. Semarang along the north coast, is the province’s capital land s thriving sea port that contains many reminders of Ducth East India Company activity centuries ago. Further south are the mysterious temples on the chilly and forbidding Dieng plateau. Jepara is a centre for craftsmen who hand-make beautiful hardwood furniture, there are several huge factories in Kudus which thousands of young women working in huge room hand roll kretek clove cigarettes at the rate of about five perminute. Tours can arranged. Yogyakarta is, of course Central Java’s best knowsn and most visited tourist destiation. It is close to the Borobudur and Prambanan temple complexes.
Then there is Solo (also known as “Sala” and Surakarta),a city larger and at least as important historically as Yogya but one that lures fewer visitor. Solo is yet another cradle of the traditional Javanese atrs; gamelan, clasiccal dance, batik-making, wayang kulit shadow pu-petry ad so on. Solo has ot just one royal kraton (as Yogya does) but two, the mammoth local textile market, Pasar Klewer, offers a huge selection od both new and old batiks. Small batik workshops are found in the Solo vicinity, and three of Indonesia’s largest commercial batik procedures have plants ad showrppms in the vicinity. Factory tours are possible. Far to many visitors with limited time lead directly from Yogyakarta to Bali by air. That is a shame because they are missing the scenic and cultural delights of East Java. Indonesia’s most rapidly developing province and one of its most varied in terms of both terrain and history. The magnificent mountain scenery includes the crater and sea of sand at Mount Bromo, surely among the most unusual sights on the planet. There are cool green hill resort in Trees, Batu and Selecta and the bright green crater lake near Mount Ijen. The tengger highlands north of Semeru is home to about 40,000 residents who still observe many of the Hindu traditions of pre-Islamic Java. The most accessible of East Java’s nature reserves is the one at Meru Betiri on the south coast, where giant green turtles lay their eggs along the beach at night, like every other region of Indonesia.
East Java has its own favourite home cooked dishes, like rawon and rujak cingur. Th eprovince is also well known for an elaborate dance spectacle called Reog Ponorogo, in which participants under a trance wear grotesque masks and perform wild acrobatics. The troupe leader sport a huge tiger visage that may weigh as much as 50 kilograms (110 pounds). Given the clangorous musical accompaniment ad the seemingly random antics of the dancers, Reog Ponorogo looks to first-time observes like orchestrated madness.
The islands of Madura, off East Java’s north coast about a 30 minute ferry ride from Surabaya. About one third of all Surabayans trace their family roots to madura, which has its own dialect, traditions, batik pattern and even a famous soup (Soto Madura) ejoyed across Indonesia. The island is most famous for its wild exciting bull races, held annually in august and September. Visitor are of course, welcome.
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