Two Days in Jogja, Indonesia

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 Borobudur4:30am, 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 Prambanangot 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.

Ramayana

The ballet was absolutely beautiful.  It’s not a ballet in the traditional sense but it’s just as good, in my opinion.  It is done in traditional Javanese dance with opulent costumes.  If you ever go to Indonesia, be sure to go to Jogja and see the Ramayana at Prambanan.  Five minutes after this one and a half hour epic drama was finished, I wanted to see it again.  After Borobudur, this was my second favourite experience in Jogja.

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.

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