Route planning becomes a little tedious when you're travelling. You want to enjoy the place you're in rather than reading the guidebook for your next destination. So we didn't spend that much time planning our route through Java, we had a couple of key places we wanted to visit and then we added in a few other city stops based on the direction we were travelling without doing too much research (i.e., none). It turned out that while we loved the countryside in Java, the cities left us a little cold.
Our first city after Yogyakarta was Solo. I'm not sure if it was because we'd had such an exciting week, but we struggled to find much that interested us. In fact, we didn't take a single photo during our 4 days there (a bad sign!).
Semarang was our next stop and there was definitely more to see, although a couple of days would be enough. We visited some temples and a haunted railway station, walked around the old town, browsed a night market in Chinatown and, most importantly, ate an exquisite rainbow cake.
But the real highlight was making a new friend, Ilham. One night we were chatting with one of the staff in the hotel restaurant and he offered to show us around the next day. This is something that I'm pretty sure has never happened in London, but it's a great example of how friendly and generous we found Indonesian people to be. Talking with people, both locals and other travellers, about culture, life, and the differences and similarities between our countries is such an enjoyable part of this adventure.
We left Semarang with a bag full of snacks courtesy of our new friend (thanks Ilham!). I'm pretty sure we were the envy of everyone on the train as we tucked into our salt and pepper fried squid.
And then we found ourselves in a city that looked like somewhere we might really like, Surabaya, but we were only on an overnight stop and didn't have a chance to explore. Lesson learned!