Exploring the Special Region

6 Feb

Last weekend I finally found myself in Jogja so it was a perfect opportunity to really explore Daerah Isitimewa Yogyakarta (Jogja Special Region). Coincidentally one of the girls from my tour in Cambodia and her boyfriend happened to be in town so it was a chance to see some of the tourist attractions that I haven’t been to in several years as well as a few new ones.

Friday night was fairly quiet thanks to a sudden torrential downpour where I forgot both my umbrella and raincoat and proceeded to get drenched. We retreated to the old faithful, Via Via Cafe for dinner and a bintang to make plans for the day ahead. Deciding that we would get an early start and head out to the temples at 7am we had an early night and I came home to play some cards and hang out at the house.

The next morning was an early start. After brownies for breakfast (delicious but not very nutritious) I got the car we had rented for the day and went to pick up Sarah and James. First stop was Borobudur a UNESCO world heritage site and the largest Buddhist temple in the world. The temple itself was built in the 8th century and features hundreds of stupas and Buddha statues.IMG_5859 Interestingly it disappeared for hundreds of years only to be rediscovered and restored by Stamford Raffles in the 1800s. This was my second visit to Borobudur and despite heading out there early it was still ridiculously hot as you are smack bang in the middle of a plain with the sun bearing down on you. Also you are constantly bombarded with requests for photos and people wanting to practice their English with you which is amusing to start with but eventually becomes rather annoying. Generally the conversation goes a bit like this;

Indonesian student- Where are you from?
Me- Umm Australia
Indonesian student- What do you think about this temple becoming a 7 Wonder of the World?
Me- I’m not sure about that really.. It’s alright
Indonesian student- Can I take a photo with you? IMG_5873

Don’t get me wrong, Borobudur is an incredible, spectacular temple but after visiting Angkor Wat it’s hard to compete with that. Plus I prefer Prambanan (which I’ll get to later).IMG_5878 So after hours of questions and photos (what do all these people do with the photos of us?) we explored the grounds and found potentially the strangest, most out of place museum I had ever seen. The Unique Art Museum was mostly just a collection of pictures of world record feats and a bunch of miniature versions of Indonesian culture items. Let’s just say I’m glad they let us in for free.

Afterwards we had lunch before deciding to head up to Merapi, the volcano which looms over Yogyakarta and erupted in 2010 killing over 350 people. Exhausted we all fell asleep in the car on our way up there and as we went further up the mountain the destruction became more evident. We eventually reached a village called Kinahrejo only 4km from the peak of Merapi.IMG_5881 From here we went up the hill a bit further on motorbikes to see the home of Mbah Maridjan the gatekeeper of Merapi. The Kraton (Sultan’s Palace) in Jogja traditionally appoints a gatekeeper for Merapi whose job it is to communicate with the volcano. He refused to leave during the eruption so not to abandon his post despite being seriously injured in the 2006 eruption and sadly was killed during the 2010 eruptions. This is a symbol of how important tradition is in Jogja. The whole city is built in a straight line from Merapi to the Kraton to Parangtritis Beach on the south coast. Being around Merapi however made me feel somewhat uneasy as the village we visited despite being completely destroyed and having several villagers killed has been turned into a tourist attraction. The completely inappropriate tshirt award goes to a t-shirt you could buy with Merapi Volcano Tour written on it to look like blood. Walking through the lava flows it was fascinating to see the destructive effects of the eruption with us all agreeing that it was like something out of another world and a grim reminder of the dangers people in this area face. Riding back down the mountain it started to rain resulting in a freezing cold trip which was a bit of a welcome relief after Borobudur.


Next it was off to Prambanan which is undoubtedly my favourite temple in Jogja. Once the screaming kids of a school group had left the complex was quiet which creates a really relaxing atmosphere. The Hindu complex built in the 9th century features temples to Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva and is a bit similar to Angkor Wat in style. It also has heaps of big shady trees and if you explore a bit there are a bunch of other temples in the complex. IMG_5894 The other temples were a bit disappointing. Following the 2006 earthquake they suffered a lot of damage and have been rebuilt in a fairly shoddy manner with new pieces of stone being placed on them which don’t really fit in with the rest of the temple. After exploring for a bit and having a funny debate with some little kids about whether I was a londo or bule (both words for white person). We headed back to Jogja exhausted after 11 hours of exploring.

The following day I’d arranged to meet up with my friend Rayi who studied at UNY in Jogjakarta and I met in Canberra last year. The plan for the day was to go down to her house in Bantul. After getting picked up around lunchtime we headed south towards the beaches and I was rather impressed by the Gamelan (traditional Indonesian instrument) in her lounge room, more impressive was the spontaneous performance by her father which was brilliant. It was a beautiful day with the sky bright blue and no rain and the landscape down near the beach a stunning green. IMG_5942 We walked around, ate some gado gado and sat around drinking tea and chatting before deciding to go down to the beach. We drove a few km before we reached a less well known beach called Goa Cemara. When seeing the sign saying No Swimming Danger I didn’t know what to expect thinking it was just the government being overcautious (a lot of people can’t swim very well) but seeing the beach I understood straight away. Heavy shore break probably 6 foot high and a lot of very visible rips as well as waves slamming sporadically into sand bars- no place for a dip in the sea. It was a little bit sad to see how polluted the beach was with rubbish everywhere tainting the black sand shorelines but was still a fun afternoon and very interesting to see. After that we headed back into town for another game of cards at home and a bit of Top Gear. IMG_5948

So that was it for my weekend. This time in 2 weeks I will be back home in Canberra so there are still some adventures to be had I’m sure while I’m over here. My hand is still numb and on a completely unrelated to anything, note I just finished reading Life of Pi which was a fantastic book, one of the best I’ve read for a while.

Courts xx


3 Responses to “Exploring the Special Region”

  1. timothywp April 24, 2012 at 8:01 pm #

    Just like you, I prefer Prambanan than Borobodur 🙂
    It’s more beautiful … 🙂

    • courts April 24, 2012 at 9:47 pm #

      Plus it’s much more peaceful which I love. It never seems too crowded at Prambanan 🙂

      • timothywp April 25, 2012 at 2:10 am #

        Yeah, ure right!! Especially if you sit at the back of the site, and just sit there waiting for the sunse ~~ which I didn’t do that because didn’t have the time 😥

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