Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Indonesian Heritage Sites in Yogyakarta: Prambanan, Borobudur and Ratu Boko

***originally posted on 09 July 2015***

Borobudur Yogyakarta Indonesia

As templed out as I was during our Bali trip, I agreed on visiting two major temples near Yogyakarta to fulfill Julius’ dreams of visiting all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And as we explored the temple grounds of Borobudur, I was speechless for a few minutes while staring at this amazing marvel of Javanese architecture. This isn’t my dream fulfilled, but it surely felt like it - me talking to myself.

I turned the pages of my student’s Asian History book and stopped for a while. I gazed upon the great temples of Indonesia, I didn’t realize that I will be standing in front of those after just a few months. We knew beforehand why we were having a layover at Yogyakarta, again, to fulfill one of my buddies' dream. And so we planned (for the first time in ages) to visit one temple per day so as to appreciate its splendor without the rush.

Prambanan Temple

Prambanan Temple Yogyakarta Indonesia

Prambanan Temple or Candi Rara Jonggrang was first in order. Situated around 17 kilometers northeast of Yogyakarta (Central Java, Indonesia), this 9th century Hindu temple complex was built by the Mataram Kingdom which was dedicated to the Hindu gods; Brahma (the Creator), Vishnu (the Preserver) and Shiva (the Destroyer).

Being the largest Hindu temple site in Indonesia (and one of the biggest in Southeast Asia), it boasts the typical design of Hindu temples with its high and pointed spires. The temple complex consists of different massive temples with one main central one towering at 47 meters.

Prambanan Temple Yogyakarta Indonesia
Prambanan Temple
We asked some locals on how to get to Prambanan via TransJogja which has a direct route from Yogyakarta city center. From Malioboro Street, we took the 1A bus for Rp3,600 (US$0.27) each that brought us to the endpoint in 45 minutes. We crossed the busy street to where the gates were and started the long walk to the main entrance.

Prambanan Temple Complex is open for locals and tourists from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., everyday. The entrance fee for locals is Rp30,000 (US$2.25) while for foreigners; students’ fee is Rp100,000 (US$8) while adults’ fee is Rp225,000 (US$18).

Prambanan Temple Yogyakarta Indonesia

Prambanan Temple Yogyakarta Indonesia

Coffee, tea and drinking water are available at the foreigner’s entrance gate, free of charge. The group rested for a while and then battled the intense heat as we stroll around the landscaped park going to the huge temple complex. 

The long walk ended at the sight of the great temple structures from the main entrance. From that standpoint, I could imagine the grandeur of the 240 temples and shrines during its glorious days. Now, only 8 main temples and 8 shrines are erected. Scattered around it were remnants of the old structures that were badly damaged during the May 2006 Yogyakarta Earthquake.

Prambanan Temple Yogyakarta Indonesia

Prambanan Temple Yogyakarta Indonesia

The group scattered while I searched for a refuge from the unbearable heat. I spotted some trees near the sentry and sat there, in awe. This temple is really something, I kept on telling myself. I moved forward, forgetting about the 40ish degree temperature at high noon and walked around the huge temples. As I came closer, I noticed the fine details on the bas-reliefs. It looked like it was a story of some sort like the carvings at Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Prambanan Temple Yogyakarta Indonesia
Impeccable
Hindu famed epics of Ramayana and Bhagavata Purana are depicted on the bas-reliefs, I learned later on. The artistry of the raised art work is impeccable.

Prambanan Temple Yogyakarta Indonesia

Prambanan Temple Yogyakarta Indonesia

We went further and explored the main temples and got lost in all its grandness. It felt like we’re on a maze and a wonderful surprise was waiting for us on each stop. I love this temple. It never dawned on me that I will be looking forward to our next temple run. 

Prambanan Temple Yogyakarta Indonesia

Prambanan Temple Yogyakarta Indonesia

Borobudur Temple

It was drizzling the next day and we couldn’t postpone our trip to Borobudur Temple for it was our last full day in Yogyakarta. We braved the rain and hopped on to a TransJogja bus (2A) going to Jombor (Rp3,600 | US$0.27 each), then from Jombor, we transferred to a regular bus going to Borobudur (Rp20,000 | US$1.50 each).

Trans Jogja Yogyakarta
DIY Borobudur
We got off at the bus terminal and needed to walk a kilometer more to reach the temple’s gate. It was nearing sundown so we hired a becak (Rp10,000 | US$0.75 for the whole cart) that would take us to the temple grounds the fastest.

We arrived at the entrance gates at four in the afternoon. We paid the necessary fees to get in (locals - Rp30,000 | US$2.25, foreigners - Rp225,000 | US$16.85) and scrambled our way to the sentry.

Borobudur is an 8th century Buddhist temple complex in Central Java, Indonesia built during the Sailandra dynasty. Considered as the single largest Buddhist structure in the world, this truly is one of Indonesia’s greatest icons.

Borobudur Temple Yogyakarta Indonesia
There are 72 stupas around the circular terraces
We were in haste to get inside the temple complex for there will be an additional charge if we'd stay longer for the sunset. We hurriedly climbed up the steps as we squeezed ourselves in to the descending crowd. It was a steep climb and no trace of the great temple was in sight, not yet.

Borobudur Temple Yogyakarta Indonesia

I stood in awe with the vastness of this Buddhist temple as we reached the topmost step. We were climbing up, again, the steep stairways going to the central stupa when I noticed the intricately carved bas-reliefs on its walls. After doing some research, I learned that the bas-reliefs were depictions of Buddha’s life story up until he progressed towards Nirvana, I wish we had more time to explore the square terraces, but no, we needed to go up higher to where the focal point is.

Borobudur Temple Yogyakarta Indonesia
Buddha's life on bas-reliefs
We reached the top where it revealed the circular terraces with bare and unadorned 72 lattice work stupas where Buddha statues rested quietly. I carefully peeked into one of those and noticed that some were headless.

Borobudur Temple Yogyakarta Indonesia
Headless Buddha statue inside
I moved along the round path and saw the splendid view of the verdant Kedu Plain and Mount Merapi, and then I settled into one of the stone paths. I needed some time to absorb what was happening. Amidst the chaos from the selfie sticks and shutters from cameras, I found peace; it was dramatic, romantic and peaceful altogether.

It took me some minutes to go back to reality. My buddies were getting that perfect shot while I just sat there in pure admiration; even the occasional showers didn't hinder us at all. And yes, we did it, in spite and despite of the troubles it caused us, we unlocked one of Yogyakarta’s greatest secrets. At that moment, I wanna hug Julius for insisting us to include the temples on our Summer Backpacking trip, but no, a high five worked just fine.

Borobudur Temple Yogyakarta Indonesia

Hinduism and Buddhism: Yogyakarta’s two great temples are not just symbols of great artistry of the Javanese people but a testament of religious freedom during the 8th and 9th century. Up until now, Yogyakarta has been dubbed (2013) as the city of tolerance in terms of religious freedom. 

Borobudur Temple Yogyakarta Indonesia


Borobodur Park | Borobudur, Prambanan and Ratu Boko
Head Office: Jalan Rayan Jogya – Solo Km 16 Prambanan Sleman,
Yogyakarta 55571, Indonesia
Contact Number: (+62) 274.496.402 | (+62) 274.496.406
Email Address: info@borobudurpark.co.id
Open Hours: 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.




***updated 12 October 2016***


I was standing at the same spot a year and a half ago waiting for the sky to clear up for the magnificent sunset (which didn’t happen). This time, I was standing at the exact same spot, contemplating about life while waiting for sunrise, when somebody blocked my view with her selfie stick, it ruined the moment. I’m not good with crowded places so I circled around the great Borobudur Temple and found a nice spot to witness an unobstructed sunrise view. And it was beautiful, the morning glow kissing the foggy mountains and the tranquility during my solitude, it was really amazing!

It was almost sundown when we arrived at Yogyakarta’s Adisucipto International Airport. The familiar sight brought back some memories from the previous trip. A year and a half ago, me and my buddies were discovering Yogyakarta’s street scene and did some temple hopping during our ASEAN Summer Loop 2015 summer backpacking trip. We had fun getting lost with our DIY Borobudur and Prambanan misadventures.

Yogyakarta Indonesia Airport
Well hello there again, Yogyakarta
This time around, Yogyakarta was our third stop on Trip of Wonders 2016, a twelve-day exploration on different key destinations in Indonesia by the Ministry of Tourism with 40+ souls from different Southeast Asian countries. We just came from Jakarta (for a quick overnight stop) and Bandung before heading to our next adventure.

Borobudur Yogyakarta Indonesia

Housed at the very posh Royal Ambarrukmo Hotel, we were already up at two in the morning and sped off at three to catch the famous Sunrise at Borobudur. After one hour of smooth ride, we arrived at our destination which was filled with half-asleep people with mini flashlights in hand. 

Borobudur Temple: Sunrise Tour

Borobudur sunrise tours are available on travel agencies around Yogyakarta (shared) but you may opt to have a private car with driver, otherwise, a DIY trip wouldn't be possible. Entrance fee for locals is Rp270,000 (US$20.90) and for foreigners is Rp400,000 (US$30.96).

Borobudur Sunrise Yogyakarta Indonesia

Looking like zombies, we climbed our way up to the world’s biggest Buddhist monument. I was stunned on how many people were there before us. I’m not good in dealing with crowded places so I deviated from the group, waded my way through the stupas, and looked for my perfect spot.

Borobudur Sunrise Yogyakarta Indonesia
Selfie/groupie
As people raved about the glorious sunrise on the East, I was witnessing a foggy mountain view with radiant early morning glow on the West. At that perfect moment, nothing else matters but just the sheer joy of being alive and life itself; the feeling was strong, pure and authentic. 


Borobudur Sunrise Yogyakarta Indonesia
I ain't movin'
Borobudur Sunrise Yogyakarta Indonesia

Borobudur Sunrise Yogyakarta Indonesia
The view is amazing!
Sunlight was softly kissing my face when I noticed the crowd dispersed and scattered around Borobudur, back to reality. Haha.


The tour came with snacks and drinks on Manohara Hotel located almost at the foot of the temple (I will dedicate a separate post for our great Indonesian food adventure). It was nice as we lounged there with tasty local snacks and coffee with Borobudur temple on our background. After which, we had a filling breakie at Stupa Restaurant by Plataran.

Still feeling groggy from the earliest call time ever (which is so worth it), we were herded into a parking lot with dozens of parked bicycles that signaled our Borobudur Bike Tour (managed by Plataran Borobudur Resort and Spa  for Rp450,000 | US$34.83 - bike rent, drinks and snacks, pottery and batik-making plus lunch). I grabbed the cutest one and tested it right away. I love biking which made me really excited as it will allow us to go around the village to get a grasp of the locals’ way of life in Tanjungan Village, Magelang.

The horse-drawn carriage took the lead as everyone hopped on to their individual bikes. I wanted to enjoy it at my own pace so I chose to be the last out.

Borobudur Bike Tour

What I thought would be a cutesy go-around-the-loop type of biking turned out to be a refreshing countryside exploration. It started out on the main road then we went deeper to the inner paths where we had the chance on peeking into a day into the lives of Javanese people.

Borobudur Bike Tour

After exploring the local village it became a dirt road and then I noticed that I was pedaling across some picturesque paddy fields. I was in the middle of the trail when an old man and a child waved at me. Maintaining my balance, I shouted, Selamat Pagi , then waved back at them. I felt their warmest welcome which actually felt like I’m back in my hometown waving to some familiar faces.
                                                                                                                              
Tanjungan Village Magelang Borobudur
They said, Hi!
I answered, Selamat Pagi!
From then on, everyone I passed by received my sweetest greeting, even those who were riding their motorbikes. An hour seemed fleeting when you’re having a great time. I enjoyed the biking trail and wished I should've stopped more often to really get the vibe of the place.

Tanjungan Village Magelang Borobudur

Tanjungan Village Magelang Borobudur

By the time I reached the endpoint it started to drizzle. There’s this side of me that wanted to get out and grab my bike again for another ride but I compelled myself to just enjoy the next activities.

I arrived at Warung Kopi Borobudur and realized that almost everyone was busy with something. There’s this sweet lady who invited me for some tea and snacks, I refused as I really wanted a cold soda at that time. She then guided me towards a batik-making session in which I happily obliged. After that, I got down and dirty with the pottery session which I enjoyed more.

Batik-making Indonesia
They have steady hands, I don't
Pottery-making Indonesia
Me: Uhm... I don't want it to be perfect, like "perfect" perfect...
Instructor: Huh?
I super love our Borobudur village immersion, especially the biking part. It made me think that maybe on my future trips, I should grab a bike (instead of a motorbike) and just take it slow.

That same afternoon, after getting enough rest, we were back on the road for another adventure; catching sunset at Ratu Boko, one of the greatest sunset places in Yogyakarta (if not, in the whole of Indonesia).

Ratu Boko

Kraton (Palace) Ratu Boko ruins is believed to be an ancient palace complex, remnants from the 8th century golden age of ancient Javanese kingdoms. Located on a hillside plateau, the 16-hectare site has evidences of former great temples, fortified walls, dry moat, audience hall (pendopo), and more which suggest that it might have been a palace in the past. A combination of Hindu and Buddhist architecture, it looked out over the magnificent Prambanan temples and Mount Merapi.

Ratu Boko Yogyakarta Indonesia

People swarmed over the ruins while I wandered off and found my little spot on a stone wall. Great sunsets never failed me during my trip to Indonesia and this particular one was among the best I’ve seen, ever. The horizon was in a blaze of colors as the dazzling sunrays peered through the thick clouds. I took a few snaps and then watched until dusk covered the whole of Yogyakarta. It was a wonderful way to end a great day.

Ratu Boko Yogyakarta Indonesia
Indonesian sunsets never fail to amaze me
I enjoy going back to my favorite places and having different experiences altogether. Given the chance, I’ll visit these great Heritage Sites over and over again.

Check Yogyakarta, Indonesia accommodations here


Special thanks to Indonesia's Ministry of Tourism for making this trip possible. 
As always, opinions and opinions are all mine.


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2 comments:

  1. how to go from manila to yogyakarta, what airline did you take, im also planning to finish my asian tour....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are no direct flight Neng. What you can do is fly to Kuala Lumpur then from you can take an Air Asia flight to Yogyakarta :)

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