By: Kristine, Co-Director Jakarta
Indonesia is such a large country that no two places seem the same. I recently visited Jogja and found it to be very different from any other place I’ve been to in Indonesia over the past 6 months. Over the course of two days, I was able to see quite a bit of Jogja’s cultural offerings.
My first sightseeing day in Jogja began at 3am because I was heading to Borobudur, a 9th century Buddhist temple, to watch the sun rise. I arrived at about 4:30am, where I paid the fee and was given a flashlight and a map. Off I went, following well-placed signs and other bobbing flashlights, climbing up the stupas of Borobudur in the dark. I climbed up to the 8th stupa (there are 9) and since I was ahead of most of the huffing and puffing tourists climbing behind me, I found a great spot facing the east. I settled down to wait. After about an hour, the sun started to make an appearance. And I unexpectedly experienced the highlight of my time in Jogja. I watched the sun rise behind Mount Merapi, an active volcano which was smoldering and smoking as I looked on. Slowly, the day crept up on us and I saw the mist in the valley below slowly disappear. It was breathtakingly beautiful and all I could do was soak it in with gratitude.
Once the sun was properly up, I wandered around the temple for a while, then I checked out the museum, had a cup of coffee and some refreshment, and was off again. For the rest of that morning, I visited Pawon Temple then Mendut Temple. Then I headed off to Rancang Kencono cave. This cave has a tree growing out of its entrance and it was pretty cool because I felt like I was in an action movie as I roamed around inside, going as deep into the cave as I could. To get into the last chamber, I had to practically crawl through a hole and that’s when I held my breath waiting for Indiana Jones to appear (unfortunately, he didn’t). I wrapped up the day with a 2-hour visit to Sri Gethuk waterfalls, where I blissfully soaked in the sight, sound and spray of the falling water.
My second sightseeing day in Jogja didn’t start until 9 am, when I headed for Taman Sari. Wow, what a rundown, poorly maintained, nothing-to-see-here disappointment. On top of that, I had a really bad guide who spoke terrible English then actually told me to tip him after the really bad tour was over.
I hotfooted it away from Taman Sari and headed out of the city to Ullen Sentalu Museum. This is a museum in the woods, on the way up to Mount Merapi, that houses the recent history of Yogyakarta and Solo’s royal families. I wasn’t impressed by the royal people but I really liked the museum itself. It was cool (temperature-wise) and quiet and tucked away in the woods. I could easily have spent all day there sipping hot chocolate and reading a book while lounging in a deck chair. In my opinion, it is also a well-curated museum.
Prambanan was my next stop. Like Borobudur, this is also a 9th century temple but this one is Hindu. I was impressed by the architecture – building these huge temples back in the 800s could not have been easy. After a quick rain-spattered visit to Candi Ijo, where I got to see the Jogja province spread out below me, it was finally time for me to see the Ramayana Ballet with Prambanan as a backdrop. Unfortunately, it was still raining and although the organisers tried to wait out the rain, they eventually decided to move the performance indoors. This meant that I wouldn’t see it with a stunningly lit up Prambanan as a backdrop. This was a little disappointing but didn’t really dull my excitement.
I’m so glad I got to see so much of that Jogja. The people were friendly, the countryside was beautiful and the cultural offerings were extremely satisfying. Don’t hesitate to go, if you get a chance.