Jepara and Karimunjawa Information

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This information from my recent trip may be useful if you are planning to travel to Jepara or Karimunjawa.

Solo to Jepara Journey

Bus to Semarang (Rp. 20,000 for air con, Rp. 15,000 normal), takes about 2 ½ to 3 hours, though longer if there are traffic jams. Bus Semarang to Jepara (Rp. 11,000) is a smaller, more cramped, non-air conditioned bus, takes about 2 to 2 ½ hours.

Jepara: Hotel Segoro

Motel-style, nice atmosphere. We stayed in a VIP Bawah room with TV, air-con, and hot water, for Rp. 200,000 per night including a buffet breakfast. Clean rooms, bathroom in need of some refurbishment but perfectly serviceable. Helpful staff, prompt room service. Good restaurant and cafe. TV has extra channels such as HBO. There’s a city map in reception. Tel: 0291 591982.

This website has good up-to-date information about hotels in Jepara, including Segoro, and helpful info by phone too: http://hotelrestojepara.blogspot.com/2008/12/hotel-segoro.html

Jepara: Around Town

Museum R A Kartini, on the north side of the alun-alun, Rp. 3,000 entry. Turning left out of the museum and then left again walk up to Benteng VOC, free entry.

Pantai Kartini (Kartini Beach) with a huge turtle, foodstalls etc. Great sunset views. Everything here shuts down at dusk.

Get evening meals from the food stalls under the white awnings near SCJ (Shopping Centre Jepara).

Get around by becak (cycle rickshaw) for Rp. 10,000 to Rp. 15,000 per journey, depending on the distance and your haggling skills.

Jepara to Karimun journey

The large ferry KMP Muria leaves every other day at around 8am or 9am. Get there in plenty of time to get a seat. You can buy tickets at the dock before you board. Economy Rp. 28,500. VIP tickets limited availability. An economy ticket does not guarantee you a seat. The journey takes around 6 hours. Take food and water with you. It gets very hot on board. Take a hat, sarong or something to provide shade in case you end up on the upper outside deck. Take anti-motion sickness medicine such as Antimo (available widely at Indonesian chemists or apotek). KMP Muria leaves from Karimun to Jepara on opposite days, so it does a one-way journey each day.

Karimunjawa

You do not need to buy a package tour to go to Karimun. Although many websites give often inadequate information about packages (paket), it is entirely possible to go there without a pre-booked package and you will be able to arrange your activities once you are there with no problems. Many packages are very snorkelling-focused, but in fact there is much more to see, such as traditional Bugis homes (from Sulawesi), trekking inland etc. By avoiding the middleman of a package or tour you will be putting more money into the island’s local economy. We booked and paid for a package which turned out to be a complete waste of money (read about our bad experience here). Don’t buy a package, and you’ll have a better trip than we did!

Accommodation on Karimun: Dewa Daru

A large reception area with lobby and restaurant area, open to face the sea. Air conditioned rooms as bungalows with bathroom inside, and one larger two-storey structure with a separate bathroom block. All rooms made of wood. Good relaxing atmosphere, about 10 – 20 metres from the sea. Sandy beach. The sea is too shallow for actual swimming here. A lot of mosquitoes in the rooms, and also obvious woodworm problems. Cold water only and bathrooms in shared block could be cleaner. Prices Rp. 300,000 to Rp. 500,000.

See this website: http://www.karimunjawaparadiseisland.com/2010/12/dewadaru-resort.html

Contact: Shaiful 081 325 273727. He was kind and helpful throughout our stay. In addition to accommodation he can also arrange boat and motorcycle hire and other activities.

Karimun to Jepara journey

We took the fast boat, Kartini. It takes about 2 ½ hours from Karimun to Jepara, stops for half an hour, then continues on to Semarang (1 ½ hours). We had executive tickets (Rp. 84,000), but business tickets are also available. Air conditioned and indoors; you cannot go outside on deck. Seriously take anti-motion sickness medicine because the boat really moves with the waves.

Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions. I’ll do my best to answer them based on my recent trip.

Jepara

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Jepara by night is a quiet city with, as a friend had warned me, “nothing to do”. We went for a stroll to get our bearings. Despite our best efforts we had been unable to find a map of the city online and the hotel had only one copy. Asking for directions along the way, we found our way to the alun-alun, an open grassy area that provides a central focus in many Javanese towns. We were expecting to see foodstalls lining the streets but there were only small groups of people hanging out. Disappointed, we continued walking, taking a circular route back towards the hotel.

Suddenly we saw a row of pointed white tent tops. Ah-ha at last, some night life! We approached and realised that it was a permanent shelter for many small foodstalls. Many foods were available, including bakso (meatball soup), sop kaki kambing (goat’s foot soup), seafood, fried rice and satay. We ate siomay, a mixed platter of potato, tofu, cabbage, a sort of fish dumpling and egg with a slightly spicy sauce, and krupuk kulit (cow’s skin cooked until it is light and crunchy). We drank es gempol and es rumput laut, both consisting of a milky liquid with ice and then either rice balls (gempol) or seaweed (rumput laut).

Then we continued our walk, past stalls selling clothes and shoes. Turning left, passing the market building with many outdoor stalls open into the night, I enjoyed the sensation of the blend of music blaring from VCD stalls on both sides of the street, the mix gradually changing as I moved further along the road.

The next day we had our hotel breakfast and headed out by becak (cycle rickshaw) to the Kartini Museum (entry Rp.3000), on the northern edge of the alun-alun. Raden Ajeng Kartini (1879-1905) is remembered as a major figure in the Indonesian women’s emancipation movement. She was the daughter of the Bupati (Regent) of Jepara and therefore lived here. She married in 1904 and tragically died during childbirth a year later. Her son, however, survived and she has living descendants until the present day. The museum features interesting collections of furniture from her house, letters written by her, and many photographs and pictures of Kartini and her family along with information in Indonesian. Also displayed are artefacts from the Jepara area, including items from Hindu temples and the enormous skeleton of an Ikan Joko Tuwa (old joko fish) caught in 1989 in Karimunjawa and said to be a kind of whale.

Kartini Museum

Bust of R A Kartini at the museum

Leaving the museum, we turned left, then left again, walking up a hill to the old Benteng VOC or Fort. This was used by the Dutch East India Company during the colonial period. Nowadays only a stone wall and a couple of turrets remain, but the area has been done up as a small park. From this vantage point we could see out to sea and across the city. Having climbed the hill in the midday sun the sea breeze was a welcome relief and we relaxed for a while. There was also a young-looking fruit garden and a Taman Makam Pahlawan or hero’s graveyard on the hilltop. Off to the side of this central area was a graveyard where it is said there are some Dutch graves. We didn’t feel like searching for them, so we wandered back down the hill and went to find some lunch.

View from Benteng VOC

View from the Fort

Later in the afternoon we walked to Pantai Kartini (Kartini Beach). It was further from the hotel than we expected but eventually we arrived and saw the enormous turtle which we’d seen in photos. The area has been done up as a place for visitors, though many people we saw were obviously locals. There were many small foodstalls and over-priced ice cream vendors. The giant turtle was closed when we arrived, so we couldn’t go inside.

Giant Turtle

The giant turtle at Pantai Kartini

There is no actual beach with sand; the shoreline has been built up with steps or rocks that lead down to the sea. Unfortunately there was lots of rubbish in the water and it looked dirty. However, this didn’t put off all the local kids from swimming and splashing around. The water was very calm, with barely a visible wave, and we could see fishermen standing up quite far out to sea so it must have been shallow. We walked out on a kind of walkway with small pavilions and sat down to watch the sun set over the sea, beautiful and red.

Sunset over the Java Sea

Sunset over the Java Sea

Solo to Jepara

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We left Solo at around 10.30am, after waiting for the bus to fill up. The air conditioned journey (Rp.20,000 per person) was faster than expected and we were shown where to disembark and hop straight on to a Jepara-bound bus (Rp.11,000), on the outskirts of Semarang. This was an old decrepit non air conditioned vehicle, already “full” when about ten more people got on. I squeezed myself and my bags into a tiny seat that needed more than new upholstery, and hoped the journey would pass quickly. After being fairly hilly the countryside opened up into a flat vista; we could see for miles in all directions.

We saw a sign “Welcome to Jepara City” and assumed we were very nearly there. In fact the actual city was still around 15km away, and we would pass at least three more of these signs on our approach. This being densely populated Java, houses and other buildings lined the sides of the road, many of them furniture and wood-carving workshops. Jepara is known as a centre for this craft, catering to both the domestic and export markets. After a journey taking about two hours in total, including the compulsory long stop to wait for more passengers, we arrived.

We had booked a room at Hotel Segoro and we walked there from the bus terminal, only a 5-10 minute stroll. It was a relief to be able to stretch my legs after being squashed in the bus. The hotel looked appealing with its bright green and blue paint job. Having decided to splash out a bit for this first part of our holiday, we had booked a VIP B (bawah) room with tv, air conditioning, hot water and a bath for Rp.200,000 a night including breakfast. The room was spacious enough with a wardrobe, dressing table, coffee table and four chairs; the tv and air conditioning worked well. The only let-down was the bathroom which was in desperate need of refurbishment. The bath didn’t look nice enough to have an actual bath, with mysterious brown marks and a stained plughole area. And at any rate the “hot” water was just lukewarm. There was a sink outside the bathroom but the tap didn’t work. Since there was no sink inside the bathroom, we’d have to brush our teeth over the bath, not a huge issue, but not ideal. The shower was an aging sprayer over the bath with no shower curtain. Anyway, I suppose you get what you pay for, and Hotel Segoro is a one-star hotel after all.

The hotel restaurant has an extensive menu and served us a tasty meal of chicken pecel (vegetables in a spicy peanut sauce) and rice (Rp.12,500 each). And then it was time for a well-earned rest before exploring Jepara.

Hotel Segoro

Hotel Segoro