Thursday, June 21, 2012

Even though we were right next to the airport, we were told we needed to leave at 4:30 for a 7:50 flight. To be fair, the airport was in fact a zoo - the busiest we've ever seen an airport before 5am. But we were through security and just sitting around by about 5:30 in the morning. We would have rather have been sleeping. So we hung out in the Starbucks area, with Crystal surfing the net and Justin updating the travel log.

Once on the plane to Yogyakarta (also called Jogjakarta), the flight had some great scenery, as we passed a number of volcanoes, 5 that we could see out the left side. The weather looked a little dodgy (we had to circle, but perhaps not because of the weather), but the sun came out just as we were landing. Compared to Jakarta, this was a much smaller airport, with no jetways and a short runway. We met our guide Ignatius and went on our way. One of the first things Ignatius asked us about was Saturday, and the fact we had an impending 12 hour drive to the Bromo area - this caught us off guard, as we thought the drive would be much shorter. Ignatius said we could set up a flight to Surabaya and a drive from there to Bromo, which would save 8 hours in the car - this was a no-brainer for us, and immediately made us a big fan of Ignatius.

Went straight to one of the highlights of the area, the 9th century Hindu temple of Prambanan. The compound is dedicated to the Trimurti , the expression of God as the Creator (Brahma), the Sustainer (Vishnu) and the Destroyer (Shiva). It is the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia, and is one of the largest Hindu temples in Southeast Asia. Construction of the temple was probably started by Rakai Pikatan as the Hindu Sanjaya Dynasty's answer to the Buddhist Sailendra Dynasty's Borobudur and Sewu temples nearby (the ones we'd be visiting the next day). Historians believe that the construction of Prambanan probably was meant to mark the return of the Hindu Sanjaya Dynasty to power in Central Java after almost a century of Buddhist Sailendra Dynasty domination.

Over time, perhaps because of volcanic erpuptions and/or earthquakes, people abandoned the area. It was "rediscovered" in the early 19th century. In 1811 Colin Mackenzie, a surveyor in the service of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, came upon the temples by chance. Although Sir Thomas subsequently commissioned a full survey of the ruins, they remained neglected for decades, with Dutch residents carting off sculptures as garden ornaments and native villagers using the foundation stones for construction material. Half-hearted excavations by archaeologists in the 1880s merely facilitated looting. Reconstruction of the compound began in 1918, and proper restoration only in 1930. Restoration is still ongoing currently.

It was interesting to see how close the city was to the site - a main road went right by the temple. It was also interesting to see such a large Hindu temple in the middle of a predominantly Muslim country - there were large mosques right near the temple, actually. At Prambanan, there were a couple hundred people, most of them school-aged children. They kept wanting to have their picture taken with us, or just take pictures of us. Ignatius told us we had to keep saying no, or everyone would come up. We could go in many of the temples, but not Shiva - a recent earthquake had made it unstable, and they were still fixing it. The towers themselves were impressive for their size, but beyond that there were intricate carvings and engravings (called bas reliefs) that were spectacular in their own right. We were there about two hours, going up and down several of the temples, walking around, checking out the carvings, fending off hoardes of little kids, and mopping our brows constantly (it was about 100 degrees and humid). Crystal, despite her best efforts, did get swarmed on a couple of occasions (she's the one in the hat).

We both got swarmed as we were leaving and Ignatius was trying to take a picture of just us. Ignatius confirmed he was able to get us on a flight to Surabaya, rather than the 12 hour drive. After Prambanan, we drove through the city to take a look at the main street bazaar. Along the the way we saw, among other things, a guy with a goat on the back of his motorcycle and a hysterically funny poster for an "all-star" game for ex-NBA "stars." Included were Jason Williams, perhaps the most erratic passer in Sacramento Kings history, and Duane Causwell, most certainly the most erratic catcher in Sacramento Kings history. Turnovers are a certainty for this game. We eventually stopped for lunch, then we drove out to our hotel (Amanjiwo), which was about an hour north of the city, very close to the Buddhist temple Borobudur. For some unknown reason, we were upgraded to a Borobudur Pool Suite, but we weren't complaining. Our room had its own outdoor tub (in addition to the pool), a cabana-type area by the pool, and, of course, a view of Borobudur.

We lounged around for a bit, then walked up Menoreh Hills hoping to find a place where we could see our hotel and Borobudur in the same shot. Crystal accompanied Justin since he said he wasn't feeling quite right, and Crystal didn't want him dropping on the path all by himself. We never did find what we were looking for, but we got some good exercise (it was still scorching hot). Back at the hotel, we got cleaned up, then went to dinner. As we had read before making our reservations, the prices were outrageous. We should have gotten room service, which ironically cost far less. Justin still wasn't feeling well, so went to sleep immediately after we got back to the room. Crystal read for awhile, then went to sleep herself.