About an hour away from the capital by plane, Yogyakarta is known as the cultural and artistic hub of Java. I didn’t get to spend too much time exploring the city, as I decided to do a full day touring around the Buddhist temple of Borobodur and the Hindu temple Prambanan.
The dormitory room in Venezia homestay is very comfy, with just 8 beds, aircon and an ensuite bathroom. Breakfast is included (eggs, pancakes, noodles) and coffee and tea are available all day long. The next morning, I set my alarm for 3.30am as it was a 4am pickup to bring us to Borobodur for sunrise. The sounds of the local mosque’s call to prayer rings out nearby, and that night was no exception.
The small minivan filled up with people and we arrived at the temple site at about 5am and were showed where we would be meeting for breakfast at 8.30am. Upon entry we were given sarongs to tie around our waists (on top of our clothes) and there was complimentary coffee! Much needed after such an early start.
Making our way down the main thoroughfare, the temple towered above us in the distance. The 9th century Buddhist temple is an impressive sight to behold, consisting of six square platforms topped by three circular platforms decorated with thousands of panels and hundreds of Buddha statues. The site has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is used still for Buddhist pilgrimage. Once a year Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak here (a holy day sometimes known as ‘Buddha’s Birthday’ to commemorate the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha).
After a few hours spent enjoying the sunrise and exploring the monument as well as taking lots of photographs, I was glad to make my way back for some breakfast. The monument gets busy very quickly (it is Indonesia’s most visited tourist attraction) and so the earlier you can get there, the better.
Once breakfast was finished we were back in the minibus and the driver also stopped at a Buddhist monastery just beside Borobodur. I absolutely loved it here. It was so peaceful and serene, with many beautiful Buddha statues dotted around the pristine and immaculately kept grounds. I could have stayed there for a day!
The bus dropped us back to the homestay at about 11am, and my next pickup for Prambanan was at 2.30pm, so I had some time to relax and have some lunch (luckily the free breakfast here extends later in the day which was very handy!). I decided during this time to make plans about my journey to Bali and booked for the overland to Bali route via Gunung Bromo. It sounded like it would be an arduous journey but I just bit the bullet and booked it. I remembered an aspect of solo travel that always irks me – when you’re tired and have to make decisions without any help or influence from others, it can be really tough sometimes!
I looked forward to the visit to Prambanan, the Hindu temple, as I had heard it was even more impressive than Borobodur. I have to say, that wasn’t my experience, as I actually felt I preferred the latter but each to their own. Prambanan itself is also spectacular, and spread out over a much larger space with different temple complexes. It is the largest temple compound dedicated to Shiva in Indonesia and the surrounding villages and rice paddies were converted into an archaeological park.
Right across from the main temple complex, lies the Trimurti open-air and indoor stages which were built to stage the Ramayana ballet. I decided to check out the ballet, and went there once the temple closed at about 6pm for the 7.30pm show. The cost was 150,000 IDR for a mid-range price ticket, which gave pretty good views of the stage. The backdrop is stunning as the Prambanan temple complex is lit up at night and glows behind the stage throughout the performance. The Ramayana ballet is a traditional Javanese dance of the old court, and the story is one of the great Hindu epics. It explores human values and depicts the duties of relationships, portraying the ideals of characters such as fathers, servants, brothers, wives and kings. It was a wonderful cultural event, and I enjoyed the music, costumes and dancing in equal measure – it is truly a show and well worth going to see if you’re in the neighbourhood.