Monday, April 17, 2017

A Day in Candi Prambanan

Sometimes before the 5th Century AD, the influence of Hinduism and Buddhism spread southward from the mainland of southeast ASia to the islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and a few others in the archipelago currently called Indonesia. There are no archaeological remains of temples in the Indianized states of Java prior to the end of the 7th century as the early Hindu structures were built of wood and have long since decayed in the moist tropic climate. The first stone temples, Shiva shrines constructed during the 8th century are found high on the Dieng plateau, the name Dieng meaning "the place of the gods'. The greatest concentration of Javanese sacred architecture, however, lies on the plain of Kedu, some 42 kilometers north-west of the present city of Yogyakarta. Here stands the beautiful Hindu temple complex of Prambanan and the world famous Hindu/Buddhist temple of Borobudur.

With the limited time I have in this City, there are only few things I have listed to visit. One of them is Candi Prambanan. This is the most famous and most magnificent of Central Java's temples or more precisely complex temples.

Candi Prambanan at a Glance

Intricate Carvings
Located about 15 kms from Yogyakarta, the top of the main shrine is visible from a distance and rises high above the scattered ruins of the former temples.  I took a trans Jogja Bus from Malioboro Street (Line 1A). The last stop of that bus is closest to the Prambanan entrance. Just walk a few meters away.

This one is Massive
Prambanan is the masterpiece of Hindu culture of the tenth century. The slim building soaring up to 47 meters makes it incomparable and truly beautiful.


It is also locally know as the Roro Jonggrang Temple, or the Temple of the "Slender Virgin", it is the biggest and most beautiful Hindu temple in Indonesia.  The temple complex of Prambanan lies among the green fields and villages. It has eight shrines, of which the three main ones are dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma, The main temple of Shiva rises to a height of 130 feet and houses the magnificent statue of Shiva's escort, Durga. There are 224 temples in the complex; three of them, the main temples of Brahma - Temple in the north, Vishnu - Temple is the south, and the biggest among the three lies between Brahma and Vishnu temples is Shiva. Tp the east there are three Vahana temples, which house the mounts of each god. Candi Nandi houses the a bull for Shiva, Candi Angsa holds a goose for Brahma, and Candi Garuda holds an eagle for Vishnu.


The temple complex itself is divided into three main zones which form concentric squares radiating outwards: the common zone, the half-holy zone, and the holy zone.

Surrounding the foundation of the temple are 24 lokapala statues, or guardians of directions.

A few things to note:
  • When walking around Prambanan, there are often school children who have been brought there to practice their English with foreign tourists. Please be kind to them – if you don’t wish to speak with them, decline politely. I prefer to talk to them, though, and have never had an unpleasant experience.
  • People will try to sell you things well over the local price. You will also be charged well over the local admission price. Please just pay the money. Admission for foreigners is around $10 USD, and things like drinks are roughly $1 USD. Those working in this area have a far lower income than you, and they rely on sales of that nature in order to feed their families. The site also relies on admission fees to maintain it. If you can’t afford the tourist prices, then you probably can’t afford to be traveling to Indonesia in the first place. :)
  • Hire a guide if you can! The guides at Candi Prambanan are very good at what they do, and they speak a number of languages. I have given a general overview here, but local guides will be able to provide far more information and you’ll have a better time. Be sure to hire the guides through the organization running admissions.
  • Candi Prambanan is in the open sun, and Indonesia is very hot. Bring water and sunscreen.
  • Candi Prambanan is also regarded as a special site. Please dress appropriately – in Indonesia, this means no bare shoulders, no low necklines, no bare midriffs, and covered at least to the knees. It’s so sunny there, it’ll save you from the sun anyway.
During full moon evenings in the month from May to October, the Ramayana ballet is performed right here. Perhaps one of the most majestic temples in the South-East Asia, Prambanan attracts many admirers each year from abroad.

It was an exhausting day due to the summer heat. I called it a day and went back to Marlioboro, get some rest and room the street markets at night. I had dinner at the nearby restaurant and strut my way to Marlioboro Street to find some souvenir items.


Indonesia is known for making colorful and unique batik designs. You can also get one here in Yogyakarta. I'm not fond of Batik stuff though but they're head turners. I can let it pass though (evil grin)
Of course the night stroll in Jalan Malioboro will not be complete without this!

Good night, Jogja!

Taman Sari: A Water Castle Full of Beauty and Secret

Tamansari was originally built for multiple purposes yet now only several buildings remain.  Some of its functions were a place to rest, to meditate, to work, to hide and to defend the Sultan's family. At present, some of its buildings have now become homes for local residents and only the mosque, resting and bathing space, and underground tunnels are accessible by tourists.

Tamansari Water Castle is located near Kraton, and was also known as the garden for the Sultan of Yogyakarta.  It's also known as the bathing and resting place of the Sultan and his Princesses. I find this place very interesting as there is a unique story behind its origins.


"The Sultan loves to go hunting during his free time and The Umbul Pasiraman was designed to appease the Sultan of that desire. Different from the Panggung Krapyak which was designed to hunt deer, the Umbul Pasiraman (which means a place to take a bath) was designed for the Princesses to take a bath and for the Sultan to relax and ‘hunt’ for a wife.

To catch his ‘two-legged prey’, it is said that the Sultan would throw a rose from the high tower on the south of the pool and the Princess who caught that rose will be his ‘wife’. Usually, the ones who would catch the rose would either be the Queen or his concubines. There are three different pools at Umbul Pasiraman namely Umbul Binangun, Umbul Muncar and Blumbang Kuras each a different area for the daughters of Sultan and his potential wives to bathe."


Other than the Umbul Pasiraman, visitors can also explore an underground tunnel and  mosque. The tunnel was once a hideout but now is not functional as it is partially used for local residences. Unlike most mosques, the mosque on this premise is a unique circle shaped building, with Sumur Gumilang beneath which was a place for the Sultan to pray.

Challenged with talking to the locals, I found these bunch of Indonesian who are also on vacation. The perks of traveling solo, you get to meet new friends along the way.
After, visiting the Water Castle, I had a quick stop at the Royal Palace. I didn’t get the chance to enter and see what’s inside as I need to catch my flight back to Kuala Lumpur.
It’s a short but very memorable stay in this beautiful city.  It may be small and off the radar to some travelers, but this is one place you shouldn’t miss when you want to see and experience indigenous arts, traditional craft displays, and jaw dropping temples and heritage buildings.  After all, it won’t be called the culture and soul of Java for nothing.

A Place of Peace and Power : Candi Borobudur

My second day in this artistic city aims to see the Magnificent structure of Candi Borobudur. Borobudur was derived from an expression which means 'Mountain of accumulation of merits of the ten states of Bodhisattva' and commonly thought of as a Buddhist structure yet its initial construction was planned and conducted by Hindu builders sometimes around 775 AD.
Welcome to Candi Borobudur
From Malioboro, I catch a bus going to Jombor Terminal (Trans Jogja) and then transferred to another bus going to Borobudur. The travel will take at least one hour. Once you reached Borobudur Terminal, the temple is a few minutes walk. Since I already got a combo Ticket, I proceed to the entrance. By the way, entrance gate for locals is different from foreigners.  The rates paid by foreigners were obviously high, but along with that price, you’ll get a bottled water and a little introduction before you start your way up to the temple. Guides are also available for a fee. I even got the chance to talk to one guide and she’s a fan of “Pangako Sayo” with of course Jericho Rosales as the leading man.
The Borobudur stupa is massive, symmetrical monument, 200 square meters in size, sitting upon a low sculptured hill.  The monument represents a Buddhist cosmological model of the universe organized around the axis of mythical Mt. Meru.  It’s steep and it’s massive, it’s just magnificent.
It's Steep, It's Hot
Starting at the eastern gateway, pilgrims circumambulate the stupa, always in a clockwise direction. Walking through nearly five kilometers of open air corridors while ascending through six square terraces and three circular ones, the pilgrim symbolically spirals upward from the everyday world to the nirvanic state of absolute nothingness.
The first six terraces are filled with richly decorated relief panels in which the sculptors have carved a textbook of Buddhist doctrines and a fascinating panorama of 9th century Javanese life. Upon the upper three terraces are 72 small stupas, each containing a statue of the Buddha (these statues are usually headless; relic hunters stole many of the heads, others are in museums). Crowning the entire structure is a great central stupa. Representing Nirvana, it is empty.
Stupas in circular form
Tourist all Over, it's a Holiday 
Each of level of the carved bas-relief panels and sculptures depicting the life story of the Buddha, his teaching and path towards enlightenment.  All together, there are 2,760 reliefs recounting the fours key stories: The Law of Karma, The Birth of Buddha, The Stories of Buddha’s previous life and the journeys of Sudhana search for the Ultimate Truth.
Carvings on the wall panels
Spotted a Buddha in Lotus Position
The cross legged Buddha statues seated in the lotus position appear on the square platforms and the top level. They are almost identical, except for the position of their hands, which represent the 5 cardinal compass points according to Mahayana Buddhism.
One Happy Soul
Visiting this beautiful structure is definitely a tick out of my bucket list. I have always been fond of cultures and heritage plus architecture. Candi Borobudur is one of the most beautiful and intricately designed temple I’ve been to. It was worth the long walk and hot summer heat. It’s definitely a ‘must-see’ when you are in Yogyakarta.
Becak - Local Mode of Transportation
Exiting the temple grounds,  I had to fill in my empty stomach so I dropped by the nearest local restaurant.  Across the eatery, there’s a becak waiting for tourists who wanted to explore some more spots within Borobudur.  I got one to take me to Mendut and Pawon temples.
Just some few meters away from the main entrance of Borobudur is Candi Pawon.  It’s also a Buddhist temple that served as the purifying temple before people ascent to Borobudur.  Pawon literally means “kitchen” in Javanese language, which came from the root word awu or dust.  The connection to the word “dust” also suggests that this temple was probably built as a tomb or mortuary temple for a king.
Approaching Candi Pawon
Next stop is Mendut Temple which located few kms away from Borobudur. It is rectangular in shape with multistoried roofs decorated by small stupas. Unlike Borobudur Temple that’s facing the sun, Mendut temple faces westward.  From a distant, the temple looks graceful and sturdy but when you walk around the foot, you will see relief panels.
Some of the block near Mendut Temple waiting to be restructured
The Mendut Temple
It’s believed that pilgrims in those days who traveled to see the wonders of Borobudur would follow a straight line in this area called the Kedu plains, arriving first at Candi Mendut; then to the next temple, Candi Pawon; and finally reaching Borobudur.   Had I known this prior to heading to Borobudur, I could have followed the same path.  Needless to say, these temples may not be as massive as they look played a significant part in the Hindu’s beliefs and cultures.

I had enough beauty for the day, time to travel back to the city. I took the same route and rested for a while.  I called it a night with their best selling beer in town.
Ah.. soothing Beer, cheers!
Goodnight, Jogja!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Historically Beautiful Yogyakarta

A city on the island of Java in Indonesia and the center of arts and culture – Yogyakarta.  It is home to rich and preserve cultures such as batik, drama, music, pottery, etc. Yogyakarta is pronounced as "jog-ja-karta." Yogya means suitable, fit, proper, and karta - prosperous, flourishing. In summary, the names means "fit to prosper" The city is huge and careful planning is a must to avoid missing the best this place has to offer and ensure that your trip is worth every penny.

The culture Yogyakarta province with its status as a special region lies in the Southern part of Central Java, in the heartland of Javanese culture. As the former capital and the center of several kingdoms in the past, this region and its people are very rich in a variety of cultures. It is widely known from to historical records that the civilization, art and culture had developed well in the center of those kingdoms respectively in the Ancient Mataram Kingdom (8th - 10th Century) era, the second Mataram Kingdom (17th - 18th Century) and Sultanate Ngayogyokarto from the mid of 18th Century up today.
Waiting to Board for Yogyakarta
I took a flight from Kuala Lumpur, spent overnight and then fly out to Yogyakarta the next day. Other routes available, depending on the airline company. I got mine from Air Asia (as always) and I took the afternoon flight from Kuala Lumpur. Touchdown Yogyakarta at around 5 in the afternoon.  Thankfully, Grab services is available all over South East Asia, including Yogyakarta.
Touch Down, Jogja!
Travelling to certain places wouldn’t be a challenge anymore because all you have to do is just press your phone, find the location you want and presto! Plus, it protects the travelers from getting scammed. Most of the taxi drivers, if not all, will give you sky rocket rates only to find out that the place you wanted to go is just few kilometers away. So, hail to the Grab Car/Taxi creator and management.
My Home for the next 3 days in this Vibrant City
There's a 1-hr time difference in Indonesia from the Philippines and from Malaysia (the place where I came from). It was past 5 in the afternoon when when the plane touched down the City of Jogja. I immediately look for my phone and booked a grab car going to Wake up Homestay. My home for the next 3 days in Yogyakarta.
Dinner at Jalan Malioboro - The Traditional Way
Indonesia Rupiah is the official currency of Yogyakarta City. I prepared my next day’s exploration with a dinner at the Malioboro Street Market and of Course a Map of the bus routes to guide me all along while navigating the city center and nearby spots.

It should be noted that the cultural heritage from the past includes the magnificent temples, the ruins of palaces and monasteries, the various kind of traditions, cultural events, traditional folk and performing arts, architecture and other traditional activities.

Indonesian Currency - I am a Millionaire!!!
Handy Dandy Map for Tourists, a Must Have!
Going around the city is pretty easy. There's a Trans Jogja Bus that can take you to places with a fixed transport rate. Just pay once and change to other routes for free as long as you're not going out of the waiting area, isn't that convenient? Also, the bus can take you up to Candi Prambanan (Prambanan Temple)

The most strategic place to stay when you find yourself in Jogja is in Marlioboro Street. It is close to food stalls and restaurants, several bus stops and of course, backpacking accommodations scattered all over. Plus, Jalan Marlioboro (Marlioboro Street) is a major shopping street in Yogyakarta. It also became an iconic place in the city.

Here's my 3D2N Itinerary in the "Arts and Cultural City" of Yogyakarta.

Day 1 - A Day in Candi Prambanan and Night Stroll in Marlioboro
  • Candi Prambanan
  • Jalan Marlioboro Walk and Food Hunting
Day 2 - The Way to Borobudur
  • Candi Borubudur
  • Candi Pawon
  • Mendut Temple
Day 3 A Quick Stop at the Kraton and the Interesting Facts about the Water Castle
  • Keraton Palace
  • Taman Sari Water Castle

Yogyakarta is also the only major city, which still has traditional 'Becak' (rickshaw-style) transport.

Weather and Geographical location of Yogyakarta

Yogyakarta Special Region is geographically located almost equidistant from Indonesia's two most important international gateways, about 600 km from Jakarta and 1000 km from Bali. Because of its location, Yogyakarta is strategically positioned for the economic activity network in Java as well as for the tourist destination area.

This region has a tropic climate the daily atmosphere feels a little bit hot and humid. These are only two seasons along the year, the wet or rainy seasons and dry monsoon. Usually the wet seasons begin at September and lasts about August. Generally there is no rainfalls from may to August and there fore the atmosphere feels hot and humid on the day and cool in the night and early morning.  The monthly rain falling Yogyakarta take place during the month of January up to April. The heaviest rainfall usually occurs in February while the lowest commonly happens between May and October.