I scrolled my phone nervously, trying to find the next right song to be blasted in the rented car we got from Yogyakarta. We had been driving for three hours in high-speed, two-way roads, overtaking one truck after another with the edge of a cliff on one side and a possible car coming from the other direction on the other side. It was 9 PM when we started going through an unlit village with several potholes on its roads. It was pitch black except for our cars headlights, we were still climbing up a hill with a lot of trees and several houses on either side of the road. It didn’t help that my brain was reminding me of the many Criminal Minds episodes I had seen. A couple of minutes later, our car finally made it to a gate with “Umbul Sidomukti” written on it and parked in front of its lobby. I looked up and saw – right in front of us – a million streetlights flickering in the distance. And I knew that scary drive was worth the risks.
I stumbled upon Umbul Sidomukti while doing my pre-trip research for my most recent trip to Semarang. A friend had told me to look that up and after reading countless travel blogs and watching several vlogs for good measure, I thought it was worth it to check the place out and spend the night there since all reviews had a positive air to them. Located in the town of Bandungan (about 4 hours from Yogyakarta and 2 hours from Semarang), the mountain resort seemed like the perfect place to stop since we got into Semarang from Yogyakarta. Its features which include the longest zipline in Indonesia and an infinity pool overlooking a cliff also made the resort seem promising.
When we arrived, it was way past check-in time, but the staff members still helped us checked in and guided us to our villa – which required driving upwards again since it was at the absolute top of the hill. My family and I got the Alamanda Villa for IDR900.00 a night. The villa had two bedrooms separated by curtains, an outdoor bathroom, its own little garden with a viewpoint overlooking the cliff, and an outdoor seating area for some morning tea. What made it special was its location, which was very near to Pondok Kopi – Bandungan’s it hangout spot and a lot of mountains which made for a spectacular view in the morning. The villa was okay – not the cleanest villa I have stayed in, but not the worst either. The blankets were really warm and they had hot water running. But the villa was too dark and there was a bit of dust next to my pillow which gave me a sneezing fit in the morning. And of course, with all the nature surrounding us, there were a lot of creepy crawlies showing up at night, but as long as you close the door, it’s not that big of a deal.
The resort complex itself was quite huge, located at 1200 meters above sea level and spanning several hectares and unfortunately, they had no shuttle to get from one place to another which meant quite some walking and climbing uphill. The zipline, infinity pool, and other fun stuff were all located far below us and we had to get on our rented car again to get there.
After the flight to Yogyakarta and a really long drive to Bandungan, my family and I spent the rest of the night chilling and snacking at Pondok Kopi. They had a picnic theme going on in the place with wooden table sets made for gardens spread throughout the coffee shop. What was really awesome about the place was its view. Just by sitting there for two and a half hours, we watched the streetlights from Semarang glow and eventually start to fade as more businesses closed near midnight.
Sadly, it was cloudy or we could have seen stars too.
It was a really cold that night and I got a cup of hot chocolate for IDR17.000 (what is this crazy, cheap price?!) which was a bit too sweet for me. I had on the thickest jacket and trousers I brought and just sat there with my dad, talking while sipping hot chocolate and holding its mug, trying to stay warm. It was cold and the wind started to pick up as the night went on but we stayed because Pondok Kopi had the best playlist in the whole world. From Yellow, to Stairway to Heaven, to Love Hurts, to November Rain – they kept on playing the songs my dad and I both loved and we just stayed there to see if they could keep playing good songs. They actually did and the night ended with some AC/DC.
We got up early the next day to watch the sun rise and if you’ve never done it, do it because there’s a sort of beauty in watching the sky gradually light up with all the city lights still lit in the city below unlike anything else.
It was quite a picturesque morning I thought I would only read in storybooks, to be honest. There were birds chirping, the grass crunched with every step I made, and drops of morning dew hung on the blades of grass. At Pondok Kopi, the staff was getting ready for the day with the score of Pirates of the Carribean played on speaker – as if the morning couldn’t get any cooler.
There was a lot of fog earlier in the morning but most of it cleared up and the sun showed up in all its glory, revealing that we were surrounded by mountains and very near to the clouds that it felt as if we could reach out and touch them.
We walked downhill to the lobby where we could have breakfast. Perhaps since it was so high up and quite a length from the nearest city, they had a limited selection of fried rice, omelette and toast. But even the place where we had breakfast had quite a view.
And since there was a downhill bike race going on at the time, we had a great view of the athletes trying to top time sheets while balancing themselves so as not to fall and a look at their garage as well. It’s not F1, but it was something.
After breakfast, we got on our rented car again and headed downhill to where the zipline and pool were located. Even after we parked, we still had to descend quite a lot of stairs to finally get to the location. There were several things that visitors of Umbul Sidomukti could do there – resort guests and the public alike: zipline (one for IDR18.000, two for IDR30.000), ride an ATV (IDR25.000 for weekdays and IDR30.000 for weekends), go across a bridge made of nets suspended over a cliff (IDR15.000), and tackle an obstacle course called the Highest Triangle (IDR40.000). Access to the infinity pool was free for villa guests only.
Since my right leg was weakened by surgery and I haven’t rebuilt its strength, I couldn’t ride an ATV, go across the bridge, and tackle the obstacle course even if I wanted to. I thought of dipping my legs in the infinity pool at first, but then saw the amount of people inside the pool and thought, “no thanks, I’ll pass.” I decided to zipline twice across a 120-meter deep cliff instead even though I’m freakishly scared of heights when I can’t control my own safety.
The safety guys harnessed me and put a helmet on me. They told me which rope I could hold and how I would not fall to my doom under their watch. They counted to three, gave me a little push and off I went.
There were other people ziplining after me but I was the only one that screamed like a banshee.
The zipline gave me a 360-degree view of the mountains around me. I noticed a school perched on top of a cliff in the distance and several plantations. By the time I got to the end of the second zipline, I was shaking, but I wasn’t screaming anymore. I was shaking so hard that I essentially held the ground trying to climb up the stairs to get to the starting point again.
What I really hated about Umbul Sidomukti was the amount of stairs they made you climb just to get to the starting point of the zipline. My knees hated stairs. The heat hated me for hating stairs. I was hating the stairs so much, I started to cuss and huff my way through them. But the view was okay and every so often, I stopped just to breathe and take it all in.
I went back up and down the stairs a couple more times to take photos of my family tackling the obstacle course and all I can say was that I was more than happy when I finally got cold water, some pain killers, and a lot of muscle spray on my knee as we descended Umbul Sidomukti and headed into the city.
The thing about Umbul Sidomukti is that it’s okay, but it’s not all that. The ziplines made me shake but it was more about my fears than the zipline itself. The infinity pool filled with natural spring water looked awesome, but it was too crowded and filled with too many children to actually swim in without second-guessing how clean the water was. The villa was good, but not that good that it was worth driving three hours in the dark for. Even the staff members weren’t that friendly. The things that made the resort worthy of its popularity – for me – was the view from it and its comfortable coffee shop.
I honestly feel like it’s just another tourist’s resort and I didn’t feel any soul in it apart from the evening I spent at the coffee shop. It’s not worth spending a night in for me as well. It’s kind of funny how staying here after my knee surgery made me realized that I’ve changed as a traveler and have grown to dislike places like this. However, if you’re looking for a destination that locals flock to on weekends and has a bit of an adventure in it, you might like this place. If you’re looking for some photography experience, this might be the place. If you love mountain resorts, then this might be it for you. And if you love quiet mornings spent watching the sunrise and watching city lights, you will absolutely love this place, because I loved the moments where I got to be still and do just that here.
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