I already could tell that a one month visa in Indonesia was not going to be enough. We spent only one full day in Jakarta before taking the train to Yogyakarta to check out some temples. At this point we didn’t have much of a plan, but spent the first day wandering around the Sultan’s palace and neighboring water palace. And this is a current sultan. Yogyakarta still has a sultan, though he acts much like a governor. Yogyakarta was the capitol when the Dutch re-invaded Jakarta after the Japanese were expelled in 1945. So it has an interesting history, but is not nearly as crowded or busy as Jakarta.
There were tons of cool little streets to get lost in, and we were very turned around by the time we were ready to leave the palace area. Two people had told us there was a parade, so we high-tailed it north to Malioboro to check it out. But when we arrived at the Visitor’s Center, they had no idea what we were talking about. Looks like we were being scammed. Luckily, we didn’t pay for a ride or any information, so we were no worse for the wear.
Those two people, however, also told us about a studio with Batik painting. Hesitantly, we walked to the studio to see if that too was a scam. It was not. There is a school/studio that is only open 2 days a week and has an incredible selection of Batik paintings. Batik is done with wax on cloth. The negative section is painted with wax and the rest is dyed. This can be done many times, with many colors, for a variety of effects. The paintings were a range of styles, colors and prices, from $1 to “you don’t want to know.” Of course, I had my eye on a giant one right by the door, by a Batik master (not student), but it was just too big (and expensive). The salespeople were more than happy to sell us a smaller version by the same artist for around $50. It took us about an hour to decide on the perfect one, and I think we made the right choice.
We walked back to our hostel in time for an afternoon rain shower, which was to become a staple of our next few days.
Our second day, we got up at 6 am. To visit a temple. Yes, I know. We do this too much. But Riki is very keen on beating the crowds. It took about two hours by public transport to get to Prambanan, a massive Hindu temple just outside of town, because we had to switch buses a few times and the morning ones seem to be a bit slow. But it cost about $1 for both of us, roundtrip.
The temple was really impressive, and we were immediately offered a free guided tour by some trainees needing to practice. Prambanan is a UNESCO site and was built around the 9th century. It’s pretty impressive with its 150′ main tower. It was in rubble when re-discovered in the 1800’s and wasn’t properly reconstructed until the Dutch took over the project in 1930. It originally had over 200 temples within its complex, though most were relatively small. Only about 20 have been reconstructed. The rest lay in rubble around the perimeter.
We took a free “train” 5 minutes away, complete with billowing smoke from its stack. There is another temple nearby, Candi Sewu, not in nearly as good of shape though. It is a Buddhist temple, from about 70 years before Prambanan. It is the second largest Buddhist temple in Indonesia (the largest we visited next). While we waited for the next “train” to return, we explored a museum about the restoration efforts, though all the captions were in Indonesian, so it was a quick visit.
We returned to town and walked to the bird market, amid the pouring rain. There, among numerous birds of many bright colors, I was surprised to see a cat in a cage and commented to Riki how sad it was that there was a cat in a cage. His response was priceless, “Of course its in a cage, you don’t want to let a cat free at a BIRD market.” Of course not.
Unfortunately, we found many more cats, and dogs, rabbits, lizards and other equally unamused animals for sale. It was a dreary place (partly because of the rain) and a bit of a depressing way to end the day.
The sun came out the next day though, and we once again hopped on the public bus to visit Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple in Indonesia AND the world. It was built in the 9th century and has over 2,000 reliefs and 500 Buddhas.
It was an impressive structure, but for some unexplained reason, everyone had to wear skirts, even the women already wearing skirts, and men. Made for some great photos.
We were told there were 5 kms of relief sculptures. Not sure if this is accurate, but there were lots. And we looked at most of them, which took about 2 hours. There were some incredible renditions of complex boats and very detailed animals.
A British guy decided to recreate one of the boats depicted in the reliefs. He was successful and within the last few years, sailed it to Madagascar, a route they believed was done by the people at the time of Borobudur’s construction. The boat is on display just outside the temple complex and looks pretty sea-worthy – with typical “crutches” sticking out from the side of the boat, as they still use here to help with stability.
We made it back to the bus stop in time for the afternoon downpour and continued back to Yogyakarta to book our plane ticket for the following evening.
Before we had to check out the next day, we went on a walk through some of the little streets that are everywhere in Yogyakarta. They may be my favorite part of this city. None are straight and you never know what will be around the next corner. One time, we ended up on the edge of a small rice field, surrounded completely by houses. We also stumbled across the shoe-making district and peered inside small buildings to watch people cut leather.
We took the public bus yet again, to the airport this time, to catch our flight to the island of Lombok, just on the other side of Bali. Yes, we are skipping Bali. Too much else to see.