Yogyakarta: a Temple and a Volcano!
Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia,
So the lure of Borobudur was too much, Java had been on my must-go list for a while, this huge temple just had to be seen with my own eyes.
Yet Borobudur would have to wait, I would build up to it by visiting the temples nearer to Yogya first.
We’d arrived into Indonesia from Singapore, a Malaysian Airlines flight to Jakarta. It was an easy, inexpensive bus ride from the airport to our lovely accommodation, yet Jakarta and I didn’t get on from there on in.
I was exhausted and, to be brutally honest, feeling very anaemic: months of a travel had taken its toll and my iron levels had dipped to an all-time low (I don’t store iron particularly well, something I inherited from my mum, and being a veggie really doesn’t help matters).
Add to that the utter chaos of Jakarta, the pollution, the broken pavements, the intense population, the traffic: I just wanted to fly straight back to lovely Malaysia!
But Borobudur! I had to see it. We caught the – very pleasant – train across Java to Yogyakarta, the train line sliced through flooded rice paddies and rural landscapes, my soul lifted.
Yogya is a big city, but far less overwhelming than Jakarta. To get about we hired a motorbike through our gorgeous bed and breakfast ‘Sabana Homestay’. The family here were so lovely, they prepared me a special vegetarian breakfast every morning and Daniel did everything he could to help us out with things.
The bike gave us the freedom to explore the area, it didn’t take long for Chris to get into the Indonesian way of buzzing around the city!
It was amazing fun, the traffic is heavy but there are so many bikes you feel safe, you are well in the majority! The roads aren’t quite as smooth as Malaysia though, as a pillion passenger I really felt it!
We rode out to the near temples of Prambanan, Yogya soon drops away and you are riding though rural Indonesia, even on the main highway, it’s only 17km to Prambanan. You can also get there by bus or if you are feeling energetic: by bicycle.
Candi Prambanan is, of course, a UNESCO site, and it is quite superb. Don the obligatory sarong, sip your complimentary cup of tea/coffee/water then go and explore this magnificent 9th century Hindu temple.
Many of the temples crumbled from a destructive earthquake in the 1500’s and much of what you see today was reconstructed in the 1930’s. The ruins were discovered by our old friend Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles: if he wasn’t founding Singapore, London Zoo or saving Portuguese forts in Malacca, he was unearthing things over in Java!
Some of the restoration is still being carried out to this day, men were perched high on the temples dusting, chipping and fitting. The temples suffered again during the 2006 earthquake that hit Yogyakarta.
Candi Prambanan is the main, most prominent temple, and there are smaller ones dotted around it. We explored the site on foot.
Back on the bike, we rode the very short distance to Candi Plaosan; this small group of temples can be visited for a small fee and a sweet old lady opposite looked after our bike for a few Rp in her garden.
The northern two identical temples have been restored, they date from around the same time as the Prambanan cluster and combine both Hindu and Buddhist design.
There were very few people here, we were able to explore in peace. The extent of the restoration of these temples was revealed when we walked around, viewed from beyond the huge pile of fallen masonry, they appear to rise from the wreckage: one giant 3D jigsaw!
These incredible temples wowed me, and more than whet my appetite for Borobudur!
After visiting the temples we took the back roads out to Gunung Merapi, the smoking conical volcano that dominates the Yogya area. The name translates quite simply as Fire Mountain!
At the top of Kaliurang village you can enter the Gunung Merapi national park where there are trails leading out through the forest on the lower mountainside.
We visited twice, the first time by ourselves. We walked a short trail on the afternoon after visiting Prambanan, the volcano rumbled under our feet it was rather unnerving: this mountain is alive!
The second time we rode out there we met up with some friends of Chris’s, he’d met Panji through trying to photograph a rare eagle in Java. We all went on a longer walk through the park where Panji showed us the Japanese caves, a series of carved out tunnels.
Far along the path, at one of the bigger caves a man sets up every day with bottles of water and juice, and a photo album of the lava flows and the caves. He is so sweet, he even took the photo of the four of us!
Panji was from Kaliurang, he explained how terrifying and devastating the volcano is, the village is protected somewhat by an outcrop but when the mountain fiercely blows the villages are evacuated.
It blows every four years, it last sent flames into the sky, and molten lava down the hillside, in 2010: it was a fearsome sight to behold according to Panji, and many people died.
Four year eh? Um, it’s due now then?
Oh Java, I’m definitely warming to you, one hell of a lot! That’s motorbiking for you!
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By Rachel A Davis