It took us 2 hours by flight to get from Malaysia to the heart of Java Yogyakarta, known to the locals as Jogja. Our hotel ‘Phoenix’ was beautiful, we had discovered that we had a bit more money left than expected and decided to splash out on a more luxurious hotel with a much needed swimming pool. Yogyakarta is most famous as it is the gateway to two of the oldest and most important hindu/buddhist temples on earth Prambanan and Borobudur. Although the temples were the main purpose of our visit we were intrigued to learn more about this city that appeared different and not as well known as the other places we have visited so we set out to explore.
Jogja is a unique city that’s hard to describe, but here goes. The people here are extremely friendly and as their are not very many tourist we were made to feel like celebrities! Walking down through the main town it wasn’t uncommon to be asked for an interview and witness photo from local students practising their English, even the adults were keen to get to know us. The city is bustling with creativity and is renowned for their ‘Batik’ artwork, a Process of creating artworks and fabrics using dyes and wax. By night, especially on the weekend the city comes alive with artist, musicians, people dancing in the street, art exhibitions, people just sat around eating and talking and society’s of all kinds; photography, cycling, there was even a Group for people dressed as zombies! The streets are decorated with cool street art and jammed with shops selling Batik arts and crafts, model mopeds and bikes. We only spent 3 days in this vibrant and very social city but were lucky enough to be there to witness a carnival bringing together all the people who live here, filmed by a local tv channel, the carnival included performances by local bands, a fairground and stalls selling various foods.
The Sacred Bike
The streets in Jogja were once ruled by bikes but have recently been overtaken by mopeds. The pedal bike is something of an icon in the city and you will still see many people riding on vintage bikes and fixes. Whilst in Yogyakarta we manage to meet a few local riding groups including a group of teenagers who had constructed their own ‘tall bikes’ consisting of a two frames welded on top of each other!
Borobudur is a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist temple. Although the temple is buddhist its design depicts the Indian architectural style Gupta, it also takes influence from both the Hindu and Buddhist religion. The monument is a shrine to the Lord Buddha who’s ancestors were Hindu, the temple is a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. We were lucky enough to arrive at this pristine temple in time for sunrise so were able to witness the spectacular views before the crowds. As leaving the temple bus loads of schools were arriving for their annual school trip, many of them wanted photos and interviews to prove they were Practising their English language skills with a tourist.
Just outside the cities walls is the ancient 9th-century Hindu temple compound Prambanan. The temple is dedicated to the Trimurti, the expression of God as the Creator (Brahma), the Preserver (Vishnu) and the Destroyer (Shiva). We arrived at the temple just after sunrise and were early enough to avoid the large groups of school children we seen when leaving Borobudur. The temple was one of the most exotic we have seen and comparable in style to the Angkor Wat in Cambodia.