Monday, April 16, 2012

The Trip To Karimun Jawa Islands

In 2009, cousine Dina and I planned to go to Karimun Jawa islands, she had bought the Jepara-bound bus tickets for two and I was almost filing my leave form for the designated dates. But we had to postpone the plan because my office sent me for an invitation-based assignment to Beijing, China.

"So you pick Beijing over Karimun Jawa?" she asked, teasingly.
"Well, yes. I think you would do that too," I said.
"Yeah, you're right," she sighed.

Luckily, we could refund the tickets (there's always something to feel grateful about, eh?). In 2011, she was sent to Beijing for a business trip. She had more fun there as she had the chance to ride the bullet train to Tianjin ("Only 30 minutes from Beijing!" she told me).

Earlier this year, I jokingly asked her if she still wanted to go to Karimun Jawa. After all, both of us had been to Beijing, so there is no way we will favor Beijing over Karimun Jawa. She said yes, so we quickly picked time and itinerary.

In case you don't know, Karimun Jawa is located just off shore of Central Java. Legend has it that Karimun Jawa got the name after the son of Sunan Muria was sent to the islands to spread Islam. When seen from afar, Karimun Jawa island look fuzzy (kerimun).
 Map of Karimun Jawa. From here.

First of all, we decided to take a trip organized by a local tour agent for two reasons: (1) we can't order the ferry boat tickets Jepara-Karimun Jawa via Internet or phone while we need to buy a round-trip ticket. The tour agent can arrange that. (2) we just want to get relax and do not want to think about other stuffs like boat arrangement for the island hopping and the homestay.

While we were in the process of ordering seats in the tour, she said that five of her girl friends were interested to join the trip. So there will be six Power Rangers: me, Mbak Dina, Mbak Polina, Mbak Waty, Mbak Mira and Mbak Fauzia. I paid the first installment of the tour package, she handled the bus tickets (we're the dynamic duo!). And the journey began...

April 6
We left Jakarta from Rawamangun bus terminal on P.O New Shantika bus at 6.30 p.m. It was the most comfortable intercity bus I've ever ridden in Indonesia! The air-conditioned bus has a TV set, with each passenger getting a pillow and a blanket!! It also has a toilet!!! Be still my heart.

Wow, a really cool bus for anime fans

 See the bus on the right. The driver area is separated by a cabin partition. Just like an airplane. Cool.

Mbak Dina said that according to a website on Indonesian buses (is it I forgot), Jepara people would not ride on a dirty, ugly bus and they also liked to ride in a speeding-but-safe bus. Hmm, I think the president should pick a Jepara person as the Transportation Minister.

The bus ride was started with Celine Dion's My Love Will Go On playing on the TV set. And that was all I remembered because I drank Antimo (a pill for motion sickness) and fell asleep all the way, despite waking up for dinner and prayers in the middle of the 12-hour long bus ride. Yep, you read me right. T-w-e-l-v-e hours bus ride. Ouch, my butt!

April 7
We arrived in Jepara at 6.30 a.m., had breakfast and headed to the Kartini port to ride a ferry boat to Karimun Jawa island. 

There are three boats going to Karimun Jawa islands: (1) KM Kartini from Semarang to Karimun Jawa, which takes between 3-4 hours, (2) KMP Muria from Jepara to Karimun Jawa, which takes around 6 hours (argh!), and that leaves the best for the last (3) KM Bahari Express that only takes 2 hours between Jepara and Karimun Jawa. Yay! As a person with motion sickness problem, I'd go for the quickest boat ride no matter how expensive it is. By the way, the fast boat was only priced at Rp 69,000 for one way. Quite affordable, methinks.

 KM Bahari Express

Police boat

The girls are waiting to board the boat

Our tour guide said that he could not get the seats in the executive class so we should run for our lives, get on the boat quickly and sit on the roof-covered deck area. It sounded fine for us so off we ran and did get the seats, hohoho.

Yay! We got the seats

We departed Jepara at 1.30 p.m. and touched down Karimun Jawa at 3.30 p.m. Since it was already too late to do the tour, the tour guide asked if we would like to change today's schedule to April 9. We said that we'd follow what the other tour participants wanted.

Oh, by the way, there were 15 people in the group, including us. But most of them were honeymooners and people in unclear relationship status (HTS in Indonesian. --Ed.). Well, maybe they have a solid relationship status, but I wasn't in the mood of interrogating people during vacation.

We stayed at a local's house that is turned into a homestay. She would prepare for our breakfasts and lunches while we're staying in the island. Dinners were not included in the tour package, so dining out it is!

Now that the tour was postponed until tomorrow, we had the rest of the day for ourselves. And what other activities six women would do during vacation? Souvenir shopping! But there was only one souvenir shop that opened, the rest were closed. What happened?

"The shops will be open after 6 p.m. here, just the right time when tourists coming from island hopping," a shopkeeper said.

For your information, the souvenirs you can buy from Karimun Jawa are, among others, T-shirts, teri (anchovies), salted fishes, kerupuk ikan kerapu (crackers made from grouper fishes), keychains made from shells and wooden walking sticks. Not much variation, eh? *sigh*

The lonely tree

The only bank in Karimun Jawa

So what can we do until 6 p.m.? We tried to find a white-sand beach, but most beach area in Karimun Jawa is rocky. Then we decided to wait for the sunset at the port. The port was clean enough and we could see fishes swimming around. Some looks like pipe fishes, but I'm not sure of their names.

 Sunset in Karimun Jawa (I just found out that my DSLR has the sunset scene setting! *slap face*)

The clouds were crisscrossing just a few inches above the horizon, while the sun turned from yellow to orange. Boats filled with tourists came in and it felt so relaxing to just sit there while watching the sun went down.

After the sun set, we went to find a place to eat. While we're on an island, grilled fish is the most sought out dish. We picked kerapu (grouper) and baronang (rabbit fish) to share, and ended up only spending Rp 12,000. I love cheap delicious fresh seafood!

I suggested that we had a drink at Cafe Amore, which was located by the beach. We passed it when we're going to see the sunset and the cafe looked nice from outside. The girls agreed, so off we went.

 Cafe Amore during the day. Looks promising.

The menu at Cafe Amore turned out to be quite pricey even for Jakartans like us. I mean a mango smoothie for Rp 10,000? Man, I can buy that for Rp 6,000 at my office's cafeteria. But since smoothies were the cheapest in the menu, we ordered them.
Me, my trip buddies and my avocado smoothies

April 8
It's time for island hopping! We had breakfast, packed our stuffs and headed to the port quickly...only to find that we're the first to arrive. Argh. This is the downside of going with tours. We have to wait for the other tour participants.

After making a few phonecalls, the whole group gathered and we left at around 8 a.m. The first spot we visited was Spot Gosong (only 5 meter x 8 meter!), which lies in the middle of the sea. We took photos and dipped ourselves in the warm turquoise water before going to the next destination: Kecil Island.

In Kecil Island, we walked around the beach and then snorkeled near the dock. From there we headed to Tengah Island to have lunch.

Then we went to Menjangan Besar island and tested our adrenaline by swimming with the baby black tip reef sharks. There are two pools, one pool has chest-high water level, while the other pool has water level that reaches my forehead. The others were a bit reluctant to jump into the second pool, so when I decided to jump in they all warned me.

"Come on, they're tame enough," I said, encouragingly.
"Yeah right, you're wearing a 3-milimeter wetsuit, so you're quite safe. But we only have the ordinary thin swimming suit. No thanks," Mbak Mira said.

They joined me anyway, after a few minutes. The sharks were kind of escaping from us, not the other way around. Besides the sharks, the pool also has a puffer fish, clown fishes and several other fishes I could not identify.

Below are the photos of day-1 tour.


A view along the way

  Rocking green

At Kecil Island. We walked around the beach and then snorkeled near the dock

Lounging at the beach with my new wetsuit (ahem)

Love the view!

Baby blacktip reef shark

April 9
The first place we went to this morning is a snorkeling spot near Cemara Besar island.We brought biscuits and breadcrumbs for the fishes and they happily approached us. Yay! It was fun to be surrounded by the fishes.

Then we had lunch at an island that I forgot the name. And then we went back to Karimun Jawa and prepared to go home. It's time to slave ourselves away in our cubicles and save money for the next trip!
It's Monday, the other tourists already leave the area. So we have the island for ourselves. Hahaha.

The calming effect of green and blue

Almost look like Belitung, but no Belitung is even more beautiful

Have a magnificent Monday!

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