Tegal and Guci, Central Java

Well, now that I've got my sleepytime rant out of the way, let's talk again about gallivanting around the jungle. (And by jungle, I mean a sort of forested area that is totally jungley if you're a clueless bule like me.) 

first stop: tegal.

Our first stop on our wild and crazy adventure was to Tegal, a smallish, rather unremarkable city on the North coast of Java. 

Our main motivation for visiting here, besides my inclination to visit a city whose merits are discussed in exactly zero travel guides, was to see Stella's nanny's family. And thus, the first thing we did after a night in a windowless room was to hop on a minibus (60 cents for the three of us!) and drive to the outskirts of the city. From there, we went by pony-cart, past farmers tending rice, until we arrived at the road leading to the village. We walked the last few hundred meters. Which was kind of a thing, apparently, as indicated by the number of shocked stares and comments by disapproving neighbours.


indonesian pony cart

Let me tell you, my kid loved it in the village. She's been asking to return ever since. There was nothing super extraordinary, it was just village life, pure and true. Barefoot kids running around; people wandering into the shop next door; chickens scratching in the dirt; neighbours passing by with a wave or a piece of news.

indonesian village

We hung out, chatted, sat in the open doorway, waved at the neighbour kids also sitting in their doorway, and watched the world go by. Presently, a straw mat was unfurled on the living room floor, and we sat around eating noodles and fried rice, which pretty much blew my kid's mind because OMG noodles are the best thing ever. And rice is the second best thing.

mei goring


next stop: guci hot springs. 

guci hot springs

We all piled into a van and off we went, up to the hills, past terraced fields. Newly planted rice gave way to cabbage and strawberries as our ears began to pop with altitude. 

drive to guci hot springs

 We then found ourselves amidst the chaos of a hot spring free-for-all / market / public bath.  (Protip: When swimming in Indonesia, it's quite normal to go in fully clothed, something I was not prepared for. I packed up my modest one-piece suit, a concession to more conservative values, but didn't dare don my outlandish swimming getup, as I totally felt too naked. And if you're under 10, you swim in underwear and undershirts. So the moral of this story is: bring a change of clothes. Now you know.)

Here's what Guci looked like:

Guci hot springs 

Guci hot springs

guci hot springs indonesia

At Guci there's two options for taking the waters (let's just pretend we're Victorian fancypants people, shall we?). You can jump in with the masses and bathe in the natural springs for free, or you can soak in a barely occupied spring-fed pool of questionable cleanliness (both adult and baby sized) for about 50 cents. 

Also, while the buoyant water was lovely and relaxing, and apparently imbued with special restorative powers, my kid, the little penguin that she is, was not impressed with a pool that was hot like a bath. "Me no need baff," she decreed. Alright then!

A little further up the hill past the bedlam of the market, was an amazing jungle waterfall. We hiked up to the top and discovered rubber trees. Like, holy moley, real, live rubber trees. Wut? I thought those only existed in vaguely foggy stories of exploitative colonial days gone by. 


waterfall indonesia

rubber tree


rubber tree with sap

Tegal is full of bright, colourful buildings, bustling markets, aggressive taxi drivers and void of tourists the hustle that is common in Jakarta. While charming, I wouldn't recommend it as a destination in and of itself, but as a stopover between Jakarta and Surabaya, it's lovely. Particularly if you intend to head up to the mountains and visit the hot springs at Guci. The drive up to Guci is breathtaking, the air so clear and refreshing. I declareit a wonderful little hidden gem. 

If you head up Guci way, bring shorts and a tee-shirt to swim in, a change of clothing, and perhaps a sweater. It can get a little chilly up there. And most importantly, make sure you go up to the mountain waterfall. There are two: one that feeds the hot spring bath, but the one that's further up the hill, that's the one you want. You'll have to pay a small entry fee (like a dollar or something.) If you're lucky, no one will be there, and you'll have the most amazing views all to yourself. See? Like this:

jungle view indonesia


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