Peter Nelson’s travels – Central Java

by Peter Nelson

One of the highlights for foreigners travelling in central Java was undoubtedly Superman’s Café in Jogja. Hard to say why. But somehow it had acquired a reputation as a cool hangout for visitors, and so it was a good place to get pertinent travel information for those of us wandering around on a limited budget. The place was always full of Europeans, plus a few locals wanting to score a deal of some kind or other.

A small field of paddies, showing how their borders are made.
A small field of paddies, showing how their borders are made.

Superman’s had a pretty ordinary menu, but they made some very tasty fresh fruit drinks — just some local fruit tossed into a blender with some crushed ice. Very refreshing in this hot and very humid climate. But we swore off those drinks forever when we saw the ice being delivered one afternoon. A huge 2-foot cube of ice was dragged down the sidewalk in front of the café, and then hauled across the floor into the kitchen.

Thanks, but no thanks!

Nice carving in a Hindu temple.
Nice carving in a Hindu temple.
See the horse at the top of the stairs?
See the horse at the top of the stairs?

From Jogja, we travelled slowly across central Java to the ferry to Bali, the only island which managed to resist the Islam invasion in the 15th century. Whether because it is still predominently Hindu, or for some other reason, the style of life on Bali is infinitely more relaxed than on Java. Green as Java is, Bali seems even greener, cooler. Every square inch of reasonably level land in Java is either occupied or cultivated. But in Bali, there are many open fields and many huge forests. Towns too are smaller and not nearly as noisy.

We met a small tribe of wild monkeys in a banyan forest. They had learned to beg for food from travellers.
We met a small tribe of wild monkeys in a banyan forest. They had learned to beg for food from travellers.

Most of the time in Bali, we stayed at Kuta, a small town on the beach south of Denpasar, where the constant sea breeze moderated the high daytime temperatures, and at night kept the palm trees swaying beneath a silent moon.