A short stint in Java
04.06.2008 - 07.06.2008 32 °C
After Pulau Batam, we then flew to Jakarta, and then immediately went to the train station and caught a night train to Yogyakarta, a city in central Java with a population of around 450.00. The city is supposed to be one of the most traditional in Java, and is still headed by a sultan who lives in a palace in the centre of town. Its main attraction for us, however, was the nearby sights, rather than the city itself.
In Yogya, as the locals kept calling it, we went to see two amazing temples – one Hindu and one Buddhist. The Hindu temples of Prambanan are the best remaining example of Java’s period of Hinduism. The temples were contructed between the 8th and 10th centuries AD, when Java was ruled by a Buddhist dynasty in the north and a Hindu ruler in the south. Supposedly, these two dynasties were united by the marriage of a Hindu prince and a Buddhist princess – which explains the Buddhist elements in the architecture here. Unfortunately, these temples were damaged badly in an earthquake in 2006. As a result, they were cordoned off with a fence, and several of the main stupas were covered in scaffolding. This did take a lot away from the experience, as you could not really get a feel for the temples – but they were still very impressive.
The Buddhist temple is called Borobodur, and is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Indonesia (although to be honest, I had never heard of it before – but maybe I am just uncultured). The temples were built between AD 750 and AD 850, so around the same time as Prambanan nearby. The site was abandoned not long after its completion, and lay forgotten for centuries, buried under volcanic ash. It was first cleared in 1815, and in the early 20th century, the Dutch began a restoration project. However, the hill on which the temple was constructed had become waterlogged, and the massive stone temple started to slide downwards. Between 1973 and 1983, a US$25 million restoration project, led by UNESCO, was undertaken, to bring the temples back to former glory.
Despite the impressive site, and lots of details to take photos of, a lot of Indonesian visitors seemed more interested in having their picture taken with me than in front of the temple - strange, but funny.
Borobodur is built from two million blocks of stone in the form of a massive symmetrical stupa, wrapped around a small hill. Six square terraces, bordered by relief carvings, are topped by three circular ones, featuring numerous stupas, surrounding the main central stupa. These smaller stupas are latticed, and inside each sits a Buddha statue.
The combination of the impressive scale of the whole site, and the intricate detail of the reliefs, made this place a really worthwhile experience. After paying for a guided tour with a very enthusiastic little guy, we spent a couple of hours just wandering the site on our own, climbing up and down several times, to get a good overview of the place.
All in all, we spent two nights in Yogya, and then headed back to Jakarta. We did not see much of the capital city, as we were anxious to get out of the cities now. So we simply stayed over one night, and then headed further east, on a flight to Timor in eastern Nusa Tenggara.