Saturday, September 4, 2010

The temples of Yogyakarta have it

When in Yogyakarta, you don’t want to miss Java’s twin gems of Hindu and Buddhist treasures — Prambanan and Borobudur.

Prambanan, 18km east of Jogja, is the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia and one of the largest in South-East Asia. When we finally arrived at our destination, the rain had eased to a slight drizzle but the sky was still overcast. Entrance prices for Pramba nan and the two other historical monuments that come under the same administrative authority — namely Borobudur and Ratu Boko — are substantially different for locals and foreigners.

For Prambanan and Borobudur, you have to pay US$15.

Tip: If you go after 5pm, the ticket you obtain can be used for the next day as well. So you can enjoy sunset and night views for the day, and return the next morning to see the sunrise.

A lot of restoration work has gone into Borobudur and especially Prambanan which suffered extensive damage after the May 2006 earthquake in Java. In fact, many of the inner temples are still out of bounds to visitors because they are not structurally safe.

One highlight is the Ramayana show at night which is staged against the backdrop of a spectacularly lit temple (tickets are priced between Rp75,000 and Rp250,000).

Ah, Borobudur.

I was apprehensive about visiting the place because I had been to Angkor Wat, and everyone says it makes Borobudur seem somewhat ordinary.

I needn’t have worried, though. Borobudur still impressed. Sure, it is nowhere as extensive as Angkor Wat but it has a certain charm of its own.

This 9th century Mahayana Buddhist monument has six square platforms topped by three circular platforms, and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. The main dome located at the centre of the top platform is surrounded by 72 Buddhas.

Borobudur was restored between 1975 and 1982. The temple is 40km northwest of Jogja, and the view you get from the top is incredible. The whole valley sprawls below it as you take in the fantastic 360° view. There were many visitors when we were there but not too many. We still got that sense of calm and peace at the top.

What is sad, though, was that the repeated warnings coming through the loudspeakers — telling visitors not to climb over the statues and stupas — went unheeded.

The sunrise here is said to be spectacular, so much so that many people actually put up at the expensive, park-run Manohara Resort on the grounds of Borobudur just to catch a glimpse of it.

Our next stop was Kaliurang, and the ride there is said to be quite scenic. Unfortunately, I was drowsy, so I missed much of it. When we arrived at the foothills of Plawangan Hill, we were told that there was a small park within, so we ventured forth and found ourselves greeted by a troop of macaques and a rather pathetic trickle of water down the slopes of the hill in the foreground — their “waterfall”.

In order to get a good view of nearby Mt Merapi, we had to take a path up the summit of the hill. It was a trek of about a 1.5km or so. So up we went, huffing and puffing, until we reached a dilapidated watchtower that had three levels of platforms.

Full article by SS Yoga

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