THE HISTORICAL YOGYAKARTA

Yogyakarta, lovingly known as Yogya or Jogja, is often called the main gateway to Central Java as where it is geographically located - st...




Yogyakarta, lovingly known as Yogya or Jogja, is often called the main gateway to Central Java as where it is geographically located - stretching from  Mount Merapi to the Indian Ocean. From the natural wonders, local art traditions to delicious culinary delights, Yogya is a city of numerous attractions and the second most visited destination in Indonesia after Bali. 

DAY 1: Relax, wandering & eat

Since we've just arrived, we decided to take it easy on the first day as there will be a lot of climbing and walking when we visit the magnificent temples the next day. It was just to hang around in town, take some pictures, relax and bask in the friendliness of the local people. After checking in, we headed out to Malioboro Street, which was about 4 minutes from our hotel. For traditional textile and leather goods lovers, this street is definitely a shopper's delight. The local craftsmen here excel in arts such as batiks, silver and leather work, so lots of tempting things to buy whole way down the road. This is the best place to put your bargaining skill to use, so remember to haggle. If you don't, it is highly likely that you will get ripped off. You can also snack on some crepes and grilled corns from stalls on the roadside while shopping.

We traveled around mostly by walking, taxis or the becak - a traditional three wheeled and pedal powered cart, which can be found in most part of Yogya. The taxis are metered, but if you are taking the becak, remember to negotiate the price before you start your journey.


The becak
Hotel 'limo' :P


Food here taste relatively mild and sweet. A must try is Gudeq, the specialty of Yogya. This is a jackfruit stew, simmered in coconut milk and palm sugar, served with chicken, egg or tofu. Another must try is fried chicken (ayam goreng), and Ayam Goreng Suharti is the champion. Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside and full of flavor - Just perfect!


Gugeq
Fried chicken @ Ayam goreng Suharti
Gado gado - an Indonesian salad of slightly blanched, boiled or steamed vegetables, tofu and tempeh, served with peanut butter sauce. Worth a try.

DAY 2: THE TEMPLES


Borobudur 


Sitting majestically on a hilltop overlooking lush green fields and distant hills, the magnificent Borobudur temple is the world's largest Buddhist monument and an ancient site widely considered to be one of the world's seven wonders. It was built by the ancient Mataram Kingdom, 300 years before Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Built without using any kind of cement or mortar, the structure is like a set of massive interlocking Lego blocks held together without any glue.


The temple is decorated with stone carvings in bas-relief representing images from the life of Buddha. Commentators claim that this is the largest and most complete ensemble of Buddhist reliefs in the world. The monument is both a shrine to the Lord Buddha and a place for Buddhist pilgrimage.

Some of the stone carvings

Some of the stone carvings

Some of the stone carvings

View of Mount Merapi from Borobudur

The monument was built in 3 tiers: 6 square platforms, 3 circular platforms, topped by a central dome. Around the circular platforms are 72 perforated stupas, each containing a Buddha statue. The great stupa at the top sits 40 meters above the ground.

The stupas

The stupas

The temple has remained strong even through centuries of abandonment and was rediscovered on 1815, partially buried under volcanic ash. In the 1970s, the Indonesian Government and UNESCO worked together to restore Borobudur to its former majesty.The restoration took 8 years, following which the monument was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Mendut


Mendut temple - A throne for the giant Buddha statue

This temple is located about 3km east of Borobudur. Mendut, Borobodur and Pawon, all of which are Buddhist temples are located in one straight line, with Mendut being the oldest of the three. Originally, the temple has two chambers, a small chamber in front and the large main chamber in the centre. The roof and some parts of the front chamber walls are now missing. The main chamber houses three beautifully carved large stone statues. At the center of the chamber is a grand 3 meter tall stone statue of Dhyani Buddha Vairocana, meant to liberate the devotees from bodily karma, at the left is statue of Boddhisatva Avalokitesvara to liberate from the karma of speech and at the right is Boddhisatva Vajrapani to liberate karma of thought.


The statue of Dhyani Buddha Vairocana, Avalokitesvara and Vajrapani inside the Mendut temple.

Dewata tree- Pohon Peringin at the compound of Mendut temple

Prambanan

Largest Hindu temple in Southeast Asia, the beautiful and graceful temple of Prambanan is an impressive spectacle and an icon of Indonesia's cultural heritage. Located not far from Borobudur, the proximity of the two tells us that on Java, Buddhism and Hinduism lived peacefully next to one another. Although there is no formal dress code at this temple, but this is a holy site so it is advised to dress modestly.

The grandeur, complexity and integrated architectural concept of Prambanan makes this a truly amazing structure

This temple is known locally as Roro Jonggrang, coming from the legend of the 'Slender Virgin'. The legend goes like this: Once upon a time, there was a young and powerful man named Bandung Bondowoso who was mesmerized by the beauty of Roro Jonggrang, the mourning princess, after he defeated and killed her father in a bloodshed war. He proposed marriage and although she hated him for murdering her father, she was too timid to refuse. After careful consideration, she decided she would agree but on two conditions, which she thought were impossible: he must build a well and 1,000 temples in one night, before the break of dawn. But with the help of genies, Bondoroso, whose magical power was well-known, managed to complete 999 temples. Panicked, the princess told the women of her village to burn hay and start pounding rice, a traditional dawn activity. Fooled into thinking the sun is about to rise, the genies fled leaving the last temple unfinished. When he found out of this deception, Bondoroso was deeply disappointed and enraged. He released his anger by placing a curse on her, turning her into a stone statue. In this way, she herself became a feature in the final temple. The statue of the 'Slender Virgin' graces Shiva temple, the main temple at Prambanan, while the other temples around it are called Sewu (Javanese word for a thousand) Temple. But most smaller temples collapsed during the earthquake.

Such a pity it was under restoration, so we see the statue of the 'Slender Virgin' in the northern cella of Shiva temple

As a unique cultural and architecture marvel, Prambanan was declared a World Heritage site in 1991 by UNESCO. Compared to the temples in Angkor Wat, the temples of Prambanan are much easier to navigate and more tourist- friendly.

DAY 3: Ketep Pass & Taman Sari

Dominating the center of Java Island, Mount Merapi is one of the most active volcanoes on earth. Despite its frequent eruptions, it is very central to the lives of Javanese people for through its eruptions, Merapi spews lava ash and minerals to the surrounding areas which provide nutrients to the soil. For the fearless, the climb to the top is an adventure worth pursuing. But because there were some activities recorded a week before our arrival, we were told to stay away. So we headed to Ketep Pass instead, which is a volcanic observatory where we can see the beauty and greatness of Merapi volcano and other mountains around it, from a distance. Separated only by a valley, Mount Merapi seems but a stone's throw away from Ketep. We could see the peak clearly during the day even without telescope, but viewing Merapi from a distance is not the only attraction here. Among other attractions are a volcano centre, a volcano theatre and Pelataran Panca Arga. Basically, we can find out all about volcanoes, in general, including how they were formed. The mini theatre offers a 20-min clip on Mount Merapi, including its deadly hot clouds, known locally as wedhus gembel, which claimed many lives during major eruptions.

View of Mount Merapi from the pass

There are also many food stalls selling typical Indonesian street food. Grilled corn is popular here.




Kraton was already closed by the time we reached the town. For those who are interested, the palace holds cultural performances like gamelan, wayang and dance every morning. We then visited the Taman Sari, a site of a former royal garden of the Sultanate of Yogyakarta, located about 2km south within the grounds of Kraton. This water castle consists 4 distinct areas: a large artificial lake with islands and pavilions in the west, a bathing complex in the center, a complex of pavilions and pools in the south and a smaller lake in the east. Today, only the bathing complex is well preserved.

One of the two gates leading to the bathing complex. This east entrance, Gedhong Gapura Panggung, is still functioning as a gate and is now the main entrance for tourists.

Umbul Pasiraman is a bathing complex for the royal family.There are two buildings in the bathing complex. The northernmost building was used as the resting place and changing room for the daughters and concubines of the sultan. The next building on the south is a building with a tower in its center. The right wing of the building was used as the sultan's changing room, the east wing was used as his resting place. The central tower was used by the sultan to observe his daughters and concubines bathing in the pool. 


Part of the bathing complex

Part of the bathing complex

Where the sultan observe the bathing ladies

This city definitely offered more than just culture. From climbing the magnificent Borobudur temple, visiting the palace, watching silversmiths produce impressive jewelry, to shopping at Malioboro Street, you'll never get bored in this relatively small yet bustling city :)

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