By ZheWei (IHF, Jakarta Work-Study)
After working at IHF for more than a month, I was able to take a few days off to explore the country. I wanted to visit somewhere that was relatively close to Jakarta, yet far enough for me to get a different taste of Indonesia. So, on a quiet Thursday morning, I hopped on a flight bound for the historic city of Yogyakarta, also known as, Jogja.
On the first day, I visited Gunung Merapi. The towering volcano was set in a lush green landscape. Its peak was flanked by clouds most of the time. We were told that on some days, one can even see plumes of smoke rising from the caldera. I visited some of the surrounding landscapes, and a house that was destroyed by the pyroclastic flow from one of the recent eruptions. The dire state of the house was a reminder of how powerful the force of nature could be.
The following morning, I went on a tour of some of the historic sites in Jogja. I visited the Borobudur temple, which is the largest Buddhist temple in the world. Walking around each of the nine layers of the temple in the early morning gave me a sense of tranquility – a breath of fresh air after the hustle and bustle of Jakarta. I watched as the sun rose behind curtains of mist. And as the mist slowly fell away, I looked in awe as the magnificent Borobudur was bathed in sunlight. It was a mystical experience.
After that, I visited the Prambanan temples, which was also built in the 9th century. The site of the Prambanan temples hosts a number of individual monuments, nestled in the midst of some of the temple ruins. The relief panels on the main temple depict scenes from the Ramayana, an ancient Hindu epic poem. Having studied this text in school before, I was delighted to be able to recognize some of the scenes from the story as I wandered around the temple complex. It was wonderful to see the scenes from such a culturally significant text brought to life on the walls of this beautiful Hindu temple.
My final stop for the trip was Goa Jomblang. To get into the cave, visitors have to be strapped to a harness and manually lowered down a 60m drop. The journey was exhilarating. Around midday, sunlight filtered down into the cave and illuminated the inside with streaks of bright light. There was an underground river flowing below us and the dappled surfaces of the limestone rocks reminded me of coral reefs. The feeling was out of this world.
The best thing about Jogja was it’s lovely mix of history and nature. On one hand there are the beautiful Borobudur and Prambanan temples from the 9th century, on the other, there is the towering volcano, Gunung Merapi and the beautiful caves, Goa Jomblang and Goa Pindul.
Visiting Jogja has opened my eyes to some of the wonders that Indonesia has to offer. I am glad that I decided to work with the IHF this summer. Otherwise, I would not have come to know the beauty that is Indonesia.