01.25.2012 - 01.30.2012
Indonesia is huge - it is made up of about 17,000 islands – and we are only going to see two! There is undoubtedly a lot to see, but given our time constraints, we decided to focus on Java, the most populated island in the world, and Bali. We flew from Manila to the capital of Indonesia, Jakarta, located in western Java. Jakarta as a city is fairly uninspiring - basically a concrete jungle choked with pollution. But, there are some sights to see, and we checked them out like dutiful tourists. We stopped by a still functioning school were President Obama studied for four years as a child (his stepfather was Indonesian). Then, we stopped by the National Monument and Museum to learn the underlying story of Indonesia and caught a glimpse of the Presidential Palace (also known as the “white house”). Finally, we made our way to the old Dutch section of town and stopped at Batavia for an early dinner, an atmospheric restaurant which looks down on the old town square. Nowadays the town square hosts a hodge-podge market and is a hangout place for locals.
The National Monument in Jakarta
The Presidential Palace "the white house" mainly because it's white
The Dutch section of Jakarta
After one full day in Jakarta, we took an overnight train to Yogyakarta (pronounced “Jojakarta”) in central Java. The town is a common base for exploring two nearby temples, but it also has a few sights as well. The Taman Sari, also known as the Water Palace, is an old complex of palaces and pools where the sultan had his “secret pleasure rooms”. Interestingly, it now sits in ruin and locals have built homes and shops in and around the site. We also hit up the main market area and bought my 6th, yes 6th, pair of sunglasses on the trip. I seem to have a hard time not sitting on them or bending them somehow (thankfully, they are generally cheap to buy).
Getting a ride on a tricycle to our hotel
Inside of the Water Palace
Outside one of the buildings at the water palace
Inside their shopping complex in Yogya
The main reason we were in Yogya was to see the temples of Prambanan and Borobudur. We headed out early the next morning on a day tour with Borobudur as our first stop. It’s an amazing Buddhist temple constructed around the 9th century AD. The six levels you climb up are supposed to represent the process of getting to enlightenment with Nirvana being the highest level. Its top levels were only recently re-opened to tourists as the nearby volcano erupted last year covering the site in 2 inches of ash. Indonesia is made up of a lot of volcanoes hence where it earns the nickname "the ring of fire". There are over 3 million visitors a year to the temple, but only 100,000 are foreign, which made us a bit of a novelty. As such, we were constantly approached by families and giggling teenagers to pose for photos. Our tour guide managed to keep it at a reasonable rate, but once he left us it was like a free-for-all. After having our pictures taken by about 20 different groups, we were feeling a little overwhelmed, so we headed back down to hide inside a museum until it was time to move on to Prambanan. I did manage to get a video of a huge group of girls getting their photo with Jeff – it’s pretty funny.
Jeff and the School Kids
One of the families we posed with for photos- they don't smile much for photos
Really intricate carvings when you get up close- amazing!
In Nirvana, the highest level
These particular images are everywhere here
Prambanan is a large and beautiful complex of 50 Hindu temples (not Buddhist). It was built around the same time as Borobudur, so both temples stand as a sign of the religious co-existence which existed in central Java in and around the 9th century AD. Unfortunately, a lot of the complex was extensively damaged in a 2006 earthquake (Indonesia has a lot of natural disasters) and many temples are yet to be reconstructed. The main site is made up of six of the largest temples and our tour guide had a lot of fun telling us the Hindu stories of Brahma which are depicted in carvings around the temples. Both Prambanan and Borobudur are well worth a visit and are among the most impressive religious structures we’ve seen since leaving the Middle East.
One temple with what are a lot of the remanants of old temples that have fallen down
The main temple at Prambanan
Outside the temple grounds
For our next big stop we headed east through Java to Mt. Bromo. Known for its beautiful vistas and interesting scenery, we were excited to peek down inside an active volcano. We went to bed early as we had a 3:30am wake-up call (everyone seems to think all mountains are best seen at sunrise) and were bummed the next morning to wake up to rain. Nevertheless, we made our way via jeep and hiking to a viewpoint on the crater rim for a surprisingly decent view despite the weather (but no sunrise). We then headed out by jeep across the crater valley and hiked up 270 steps to peer inside the volcano. By this time, we were absolutely soaked through and our umbrella broke in the wind. It was slightly nerve racking standing on the edge of a volcano that frequently erupts, but thankfully did not while we were there Afterwards, all I can say is thank God for hot showers!
A view of the caldera (collapsed volcano) just after sunrise
At the viewpoint-already pretty wet
Looking down into the volcano- and thorougly soaked through!
View of the surrounding town on our drive back down
Once we got down off of Mt. Bromo, we hopped on a bus headed to Bali. We’ll write more soon!