Yogyakarta

The city of Yogyakarta was my main cultural stop in Indonesia so I jam packed a lot of sightseeing during my three nights in town. Yogyakarta is a medium-sized city in central Java, a short flight away from Jakarta.  Given that this was the only trip between the cities I wanted to check out where I didn’t have to island hop, I tried to do a bus or train but was told that the 500 km drive takes 10 hours under ideal conditions, and much much longer under normal traffic conditions.  I was also travelling during a national holiday so the ride would have taken me no less than 15 hours.  In the end I was glad to have done the quicker flight because I ended up having a relatively productive day given my late arrival.

I made it into my hotel at 4:30 pm from the airport and I managed to book a ticket at the Ramayana “ballet” (more like an opera really) that same night.  I stopped off for a quick dinner in a super cheap restaurant called Bedhot that was in an alley a block from my hotel.  Below is a picture of the alley and the Indonesian dish, nasi goreng which is their version of fried rice:

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I planned to stay in Indonesia as long as their tourist visa allowance would permit, and I did indeed plan out my trip to milk every single day of the visa. And, apart from India, Indonesia was the country I was most looking forward to visiting.  The reason will sound somewhat absurd to most people, but it comes down to Indonesian gamelan music.  I am absolutely obsessed with it and I love how central & east Java, and Bali have completely different versions of the musical form.  I don’t even remember how I got into gamelan, but I do know that I’ve been crazy about it since undergrad and that I bought my first gamelan CDs prior to obscure music being easily available on the internet. And, the key reason why I wanted to go to the performance was that they would have a massive gamelan orchestra on stage.  I won’t lie to you, the show itself was a bit on the boring side, but  I never tired of the gamelan orchestra and the lovely backdrop of the Prambanan temple.

I got to the temple an hour before the show, and one of the loveliest memories of my year of travels is sitting outside at a restaurant watching the sunset over Prambanan temple, drinking a beer and listening to the gamelan orchestra playing from the theatre next door.  A shot from the restaurant right after sunset and a shot of the stage at the show:

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If you’re asking yourself what gamelan music from central Java sounds like, you’re in luck:

 

I rented a scooter for my next two days of sightseeing around the city and I put the motorbike to solid use.  I started off the next morning by heading to the top tourist site in Indonesia, Borobudur temple:

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Inside each of those conical structures is a small statue that is very difficult to see until you get right up to it:

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These are the instruments that a gamelan ensemble would play:

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I explored the area a bit before the rain struck:

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I was on my way up a mountain to check out a nearby waterfall when it started raining heavily.  I took shelter in a nearby restaurant overlooking some lovely rice paddies and was able to spot some duck herders:

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Some shots from Yogyakarta at night:

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I had an intense day the following morning so I took off from the hotel by 7:30 am in order to be at Prambanan when they opened.  Beware, the tickets are relatively pricey, the best deal is to pay $41 CAD for a combo ticket for Prambanan and Borobudur that can be used on different days.

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My big excursion for the day was a 2.5 hour ride each way to Candi (temple) Sukuh that is on the Lawu volcano.  It was during this ride that I came to really appreciate the power of Google maps.  I looked up the directions, put in a single earphone and the app would periodically direct my way seamlessly on the ride over.  In the end, I enjoyed the areas on the volcano near the temple far more than the temple itself because it was undergoing restoration and there was heavy fog that obscured the ordinarily awesome view. 

Shots of the lush areas on the volcano:

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Candi Sukuh proper:

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I’ll leave you with a few shots of my ride back down the volcano:

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