Monday, September 17, 2018

a week in Central Java – gado-gado, Buddhism and masks

Guess what, we spent a week in Central Java! I had asked for a week off, and our original intention was to go to the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region for a few days visiting rice terraces, karst scenery and national parks. Alas, I didn't realize the dates I had asked for coincided with the end of summer holidays here and train tickets were next to impossible to get! So I got online, and engaged in one of my favourite travel-planning activities: looking for non-expensive flights to anywhere that is not too far! The winner? A flight to Yogyakarta (Indonesia) via Singapore! 

And so, that's how we ended up visiting Central Java, home of two of the most impressive temples in the whole region – Prambanan and Borobudur. Wow. Love it when chance offers you these opportunities, right?

The flight approaching Java was, of course, amazing, it being a seriously volcanic island of the Indonesian archipelago:



Our first day was a bit short, of course. And exhausting. Despite it not being that far, it still took us two hours to fly to Singapore, and then another four to reach Yogyakarta airport. And then another hour to reach our hotel in the town of Magelang, where the famous Borobudur temple lies. Fortunately, our hotel was built like a villa, it was cozy, and it also happened to be lunch time, which gave me an opportunity to jump right in into the local cuisine with a plate of gado-gado!



After that, and after booking a sunrise entrance to Borobudur the next day, we decided to take it easy and just explore a bit around our area, eventually reaching Candi Pawon – a 9th century Buddhist temple.

Square, solid, small, in its own small square. Wonderful introduction to the island's religious architecture. And we had it all to ourselves, not a soul in sight except a couple of kids playing around.





And you know what else was great? There were some shops selling crafts nearby! Tons of them! And clearly handmade and not mass-produced! Wow! You can imagine the habibi went crazy with all the masks, and we had a pretty hard time choosing which one to buy. So colourful and intense!




Next day we had to be ready to leave at 4:15am. So after our small cultural introduction to Central Java, we had dinner, and went to bed at 8pm! But it was a necessary thing – seeing Borobudur at sunrise did look totally worth it, and though the weather didn't seem that great, we really wanted to avoid visiting the temple during the weekend, which would guarantee an even bigger crowd than we already expected. That meant we had one and only one shot (because those sunrise tickets were damn expensive!). And as you'll see in my next post, it absolutely worked out.