JAKARTA, Indonesia — Bed and breakfast on the island of Java? Of course. And the ideal way to explore the island is to travel from guest house to guest house in a chauffeur-driven automobile.
In the late '70s and early '80s a sudden nostalgic surge arose among the Dutch from the Netherlands, who had once lived and worked in their former colony. They had longings to visit the places where they were born, went to school and raised their families.
The hospitable Indonesians quickly picked up on this rise of Dutch tourists traveling to their country. They refurbished their spare bedrooms and opened their homes as guest houses. There are 65 of them and 10 inns on Java and Bali that advertise in Dutch publications.
A Personal Contact
In these homes away from home you are treated more like welcome guests than paying customers. They offer a personal contact, a real advantage in these unfamiliar Southeast Asia environments. They make you feel at home.
You eat with the owners at the same table, enjoying deliciously prepared Indonesian dishes with their piquant aromas and tastes.
My wife and I have taken home numerous exciting recipes that we have shared with friends. The owners also help you in sidestepping the tourist traps and direct you to that special restaurant or gift shop.
Guest houses on Java and Bali offer the same arrangements as American and European bed-and-breakfast homes. But many offer an additional service: either a chauffeur-driven car or a mini-bus that you can hire for trips around the islands.
This is quite an advantage. If you drive yourself you have to learn new traffic rules (in Indonesia they drive on the left).
Benefits of Chauffeur
With a chauffeur there are no frustrations and anxieties trying to maneuver through cars, trucks, buses, pedicabs, horse- and oxen-driven carts, mopeds, bicycles, motorcycles, vendor pushcarts and pedestrians, all traveling in different directions on one narrow two-lane highway.
Furthermore, you don't have to bargain a price with taxi drivers whose language you don't understand and who often hardly comprehend what you want.
The driver at the guest house, who is usually a well-trusted factotum, alleviates all these worries and problems for you. He drives, and you lean back, relax and experience the sights and smells and sounds of bustling Java, camera ready to take pictures through the windshield or side windows.
Stop anywhere you wish, to share with all your senses the exciting vistas, old temples, smoldering volcanoes, immense jungles and the undulating terraced rice fields. Halt at a village; visit a simple dwelling and, with your driver as interpreter, talk to its inhabitants.
You'll be served hot tea with fried bananas, and they will be all excited about this "strange white person" honoring their hospitality. Children will surround you, laughing and giggling, "Picture, mister!"
We visited small isolated craft centers off the main road, and bought batik, jewelry, daggers and other hand-crafted souvenirs inexpensively.
Guest House Advantages
These are some of the advantages when traveling Java the guest house way. It's the most interesting and personal way you can experience Java and Bali. And the least expensive.
The cost of this luxury of being driven all over the island varies from U.S.$50 to $70 a day, which includes gas, mileage, and food and lodging for the driver. Even when traveling as only one couple, this is economical compared to American and European standards.
When there are four to six persons in a party, the daily shared expense of having a chauffeur-driven automobile at your disposal becomes almost ridiculously cheap.
The cost of lodging varies. The 1985 price for a double room is from U.S.$20 to $35 a day, depending on the size and style of the guest house. Breakfast and small laundry are almost always included in the room price. Lunch and dinner can be ordered at an additional cost of from U.S.$3 to $6 per person.
We have traveled Java in this manner many times. And we'll do it again and again, each time making new friends and experiencing new adventures. For seasoned travelers, and especially for those considering a first visit to Java and Bali, this is a highly recommended way to get acquainted with its people and attractions.
(A publication, "Guesthouses of Java & Bali," is available for $6.10 postpaid from Vans Press, P.O. Box 622, Pahoa, Hawaii 96778.)