Thursday, September 19, 2013

Jogjakarta Indonesia 2013 : Day 2 - A Day Of Temples

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Jogjakarta 2013 : Day 2 - A Day Of Temples
 12th May 2013
"~~~ Good Morning... Good Morning ~~~" my phone sang out a melodious but loud alarm. It's 4:30 am, "Wake up! Wake up!" Groggily but not reluctantly, I pulled myself up and by 5:00 were down into the vans that were waiting for us.
Today we are going to visit two and a half temples. Yes, two glorious temples and half a visit to another. Intrigued? Read on...

But first a sunrise to catch! Sunrise comes early here, that's why the rush. The hotel had not laid out their breakfast buffet yet, but they were kind enough to provide us with these breakfast-in-a-box. It is not much but will suffice. At this early hour of the morning, who's to complain.
Off we went while breaking fast at the same time. To the swaying of the van we ate - with a swing to the left, a bite on a sandwich; and a swing to the right, a sip of fruit juice. Fun, isn't it?


My brother Anslem, who frequently comes to Jogjakarta for business, was our volunteer tour guide. He had planned to take us to the foothills of Gunung Merapi to view the sun rising from behind the volcano. But the van drivers suggested another place, not so frequented by tourists, that will offer an even better view.
Being adventurous tourists, so some of the beaten track thrill would be a change. Off we went to a place called "Pos Mati". The name itself means "Dead Post", are undelivered mail sent here?

Going up to the summit of a hill for the sunrise view was not easy. We had to walked along narrow village roads and track up steep foot paths. Towards the end Lynn was breathing heavily, trying hard to catch her breath - and probably cursing the drivers in between breaths. Let's hope this mini-struggle is worth it.

The view from here was ...
Gunung Merapi was quite a distant away, all that we could see was a small shadow of it amongst many. My expectations of tourist van drivers fell several notches down. No wonder this place is where all the dead letters end up.

A consolation for our disappointment, a full zoom view of Gunung Merapi  Gunung Merapi translated into English means Fire Mountain - it's a volcano that is not extinct. The last time it erupted was in June 15, 2006.


Borobudur lifted our spirits again, making Jogjakarta worthwhile again. It is set in a vast park, with the monument itself situated more than a kilometre away from the entrance. The walk to the there is quite pleasant though, it is along a fairly wide, well landscaped boulevard with Borobudur at the far end urging us onwards.

Borobudur although not as tall as many world heritage monuments occupies a fairly large footprint. It has many tiers; each is of different architectural design. Perhaps each represents the levels a man goes through in life, from desolation upwards until he achieve pureness.

The stupas at Borobudur are impressive, these are the larger ones at the topmost tier. What is even more impressive is that the whole structure was built without any mortar to join the volcanic rock pieces together. Each and every piece is precisely hand cut and finely laid together. The joints are so narrow that even a piece of paper cannot be inserted in between.

Right at the top is the Stupa Induk, the main stupa. The inside of it is hollow - signifying the achievement of Nirwana, the state of nothingness. Interesting though, a huge physical monument dedicated to nothingness.
(... see more at Borobudur blog)


En route to our next destination, we stopped for a bite. The breakfast-in-a-box long is long gone, zapped by the sunrise hike at Pos Mati, and the climbing at Borobudur. Coincidentally, just adjacent is Candi Mendut - this was our half temple. We did not go in and viewed it from the outside. So it was only a half visit. 

Candi Mendut is a temple at odds, although a Buddhist temple, it looks more like a Hindu one. Except for the stupas at the top, its design was more akin to Prambanan (a Hindu temple we will visit later). This is understandable as Indonesia, with it's long history of being at the confluence of the spread of religion, has a fair bit of cross-culture mixed architecture.

We did not visit Candi Mendut itself, but went in for a quick peek of the adjacent spanking new Buddhist temple.

It had a nice stupa-lined boulevard that led to ...

... a lily pond with a flower-bearing angel. A angel in Buddhism? I guess cross culturism also cuts across religious line.

Back at the entrance, on top of a tall totem, an all seeing eye reminds us that we are always in the eyes of God. Best to be at our best behavior at all times.

The reason for us to be there - a Mee Bakso stall. The beef ball noodles here is quite good but very spicy, it will be good to tell the vendor to tone down on the chilli.

Still with a bit of time to spare, we stopped by at the Borobudur Silver Shop. It has on display and for sale many pieces of finely hand-crafted silver & gold pieces. There is even a small section that show how these are made. For those with not so deep pockets, there are affordable art pieces and knick-knacks (... see more at Borobuder Silver blog).

On the way to lunch, we stopped at the foothill park of Gunung Merapi to at get a closer look of the volcano. Unfortunately, it was shrouded in mist and not visible (see mountain in background of above photo), the volcano will just continue to mystify us.
Here, there is an interesting jeep tour that takes tourists on a jeep ride to the base of the volcano. Mind you just the base; the more adventurous who wants to get to the mouth of the Gunung Merapi will have to find alternative means.

To make their jeep ride more authentic, tourist are provided this paratroopers helmet to wear while riding in the jeep. Looks cool don't they, but I think it will be kind of heavy for the ladies. I am trying to imagine a beautiful lass with a slender neck looking up at the mountain and then toppling over backward due to the weight of the helmet. Aaargh!

Lunch was at the Satria Restaurant, which served excellent Javanese Food. My apologies, my phone went cuckoo on me and all the lovely, appetizing food photos I took was lost. So try to imagine what we ate by the photos in the signboard above. *feeling embarassed*


It is no surprise to find Prambanan, a Hindu temple in cultural Jogjakarta, after all Hinduism was practiced during the ancient days of the Majapahit Empire and even earlier. What is surprising is the tolerance that the locals have shown in preserving a different past, in accepting something that is different from the present.

Doesn't Prambanan look familiiar? Yes, it does. The citadels of the temples look like those of Angkor Wat, both being of Hindu architecture. But there is a marked difference, while Angkor is built from sandstone, Prambanan is built from volcanic rock.
Therein lies the beauty of both places, the beauty of man's efforts to embrace their religion by putting up monuments with whatever material is at hand; taking pains to construct architectural masterpieces no matter how long it takes.

Strangely, there are mini-stupas at the fringe of the base of the citadels. Seems like stupas are not exclusive to Buddhism. But then this should not be so odd, as both HinduismBuddhism predating Christianity by millenia, originated from the Indian Subcontinent.

We returned to the hotel to freshen up, went out for dinner, walked around the neighborhood a bit and then went to bed. Tomorrow will be a long, long day with even more walking. How I wish that whenever I am tired, I could snooze in a rickshaw just like the fellow above.


This is page 2 of a 4 page blog, click below to go to other pages :
 - Jogjakarta Day 1 : A Day Of Reckoning?
- Jogjakarta Day 3 : A Day Of Palaces
- Jogjakarta Day 4 : A Day Of Nothing

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A surprisingly educational visit to the National Museum of Cambodia.

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