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First of all, a quick hurrah - after many technical problems I am finally back in Ciao, so apologies to those to whose comments I have not responded - that's why.
Right, the Dieng Plateau. This is essentially a high altitude plane created by the caldera of an ancient volcano in central Java. It's star attractions are a coloured sulpher lake, some very ancient hindu temples, sulpher mines, mud geysers and some truly stunning scenery. It does, however, have its drawbacks, of which more later.
So let's deal with these one by one. First of all, the plain itself. It's pretty big, several kilometers across, and hard to get to. From the nearest big city it's a three-bus trip of some seven hours, so doesn't make sense as a day trip. But it's worth it when you get there, the clean cold air a welcome change ffrom the polluted humidity of most of Java and the steep slopes of the caldera framing a green plain where locals grow the best potatoes in Indonesia. The surrounding hills are terraced to within an inch of their lives and very beautiful and peaceful. The temples aren't anything special, hindu ones aren't that spectacular and if you've visited the stunning ones outside Yogya like Prambanan you'll be distinctly underwhelmed. But they add a nice touch to the scenery and it's nice to wander from one to another. THe coloured lake is also not as spectacular as others elsewhere, like the ijen plateu or those on Flores, but is quietly pretty in its setting and a satisfuyingly sulphurous shade of bright green turning blue in the sunlight.
The sulpher mining bits and the geysers are a good deal more impressive. The biggest belch rivers of boiling mud from deep underground, making so much noise you need to shout to make yourself heard and capable of doing serious damage if youi get too close. When really active, clouds of steam billow out creating a dry-ice effect that looks very dramatic in pictures. But be careful: people have fallen in and if you do too you'll be dead in seconds.
So take the dieng plateu apart, and really its individual parts don't add up to much. Add in to this the fact that the only two losmen up here are both dreadful and it really doesn't sound that promising. And yet, and yet, it is still an enchanting place. The whole is somehow so much more, a truly peaceful place filled with understated charm. Just wondering around, which is all there is really to do, is a calming experience after the frenetic pace of central Yogya and its age and clear air make it an oddly spiritual place. The absence of tourists, deterred by the difficult journey and lack of accommodation, is also a bonus.
So head there if you have time, you won't be disappointed. Just one more word of advice: don't if you can possibly help it stay the night there, base yourself further down the mountain. Not only are the losmen dreadful, it also gets colder than you would believe at night and the rooms come with no heading and a thin, thin blanket. I think my night there is the only time I have been so cold I had to sleep with my shoes on. Consider yourself warned.
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