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Yogyakarta (famously called Jogja)

A trip to Yogyakarta which people lovingly call as Jogja.  We were stationed at Bandung for a day. We stayed at Hotel Marceilla in Bandung. Bandung is famous for factory outlets for jeans. They have Jeans street where you get decent pair of jeans with good fit at cheap rate.

The next day we decided to explore the city a bit as our flight to Yogyakarta was at noon. We went to Paris Van Java Mall to have some breakfast and shopping.  The place was huge but not much of a crowd puller. I spotted a pond with few crocodiles sunbathing with their mouth open.  They were so still that for a moment I thought they were dead or rather mannequins, till one of them decided to move around and go back to the pool for a swim.

After some time we headed towards the airport for our flight to Yogyakarta. We were stranded in the airport for around 4.5 hours due to some delay in flights by Lion Air.  Not a good start to the trip.  We had shows booked for Ramayana ballet in Prambanan at night and this delay was not a good sign. I was worried that we would miss the event. We called our hotel “All Seasons” in Yogyakarta and they suggested that we go directly to Prambanan instead of checking in first at the hotel and tickets will be delivered to us directly at the event. That was a great help from the hotel staff.  After a long wait, lion air decided to announce their boarding and we boarded the flight to Jogja. The flight from Bandung to Jogja was approximately an hour.  On reaching Jogja we grabbed our bags as soon as possible and rushed to Prambanan for Ramayana Ballet.

RAMAYANA BALLET IN PRAMBANAN : Yogyakarta also called Jog Jakarta is renowned as center of classical Javanese art and culture such as batik, dance, ballet, music, puppet shows and so on.  The city is named after an Indian City Ayodhya from the Ramayana epic.  Yogya means suitable in Sanskrit and Karta means Flourishing or Prosperous (A city that is fit to prosper or flourish).  Ramayana is regarded as one of the two great works of Indian literature after Mahabharata.  It is written by Sage Valmiki.  The story revolves around an ideal character Rama who is believed to be the seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu. His wife Sita gets abducted by the demon god Ravana, the king of Lanka. The tale revolves around how with the help of Monkey God Hanuman, Rama and his brother Lakshmana saves his wife from the clutches of Ravana.   The elements and characters of this epic is fundamental to the cultural consciousness of India, Nepal,Thailand and Indonesia.  Names are different in different countries but the essence and base of the characters and story remains the same like in Jogja they refer to Sita as Shinta.

Ramayana ballet is performed with Javanese dance accompanied by gamelan music.  The show is performed at night and is divided into four episodes, each night one episode.  Episodes are: Abduction of Sita, Hanuman on fire, Death of Kumbakarna, Rama meets Sita. The day we saw the ballet, they played Hanuman on fire.  To me it was the best episode which you get to see out of the four as it has all the elements of dance, drama, acrobats and visual appeal. The setting of the stage was a brilliant choice as the performance happens right in front of Prambanan temple.  When you sit to view the ballet, you can see Prambanan temple glowing behind.  The finale act was brilliant when Hanuman’s tail is set on fire by Ravana and in rage Hanuman decides to have fun. He starts leaping from building to building and in no time the entire city of Lanka is set ablaze.  The picturization was brilliantly done.

Panaroma

Rama and Lakshmana Performance

Ravana

It was interesting to see that different countries though speaking different languages follow same culture, traditions and epics.  I loved the whole performance. I watched the blazing stage sipping my hot coffee and capturing each and every wonderful moments of the performance in my heart. I should thank Lion Air for making the decision at right time to board the flight else would have missed this visual treat!

MOUNT MERAPI : Mount Merapi, Gunung Merapi also called Fire Mountain is the most active volcano in Indonesia.  It is located on the border between Central Java and Yogyakarta.  The last eruption took place in 2010 claiming more than 300 lives and 320,000 residents were displaced. The next day morning we decided to check this place first as part of our itinerary.  They have Merapi Jeep tours which take you to the base of the eruption.  Based on the hours and the extend you want to travel they have short , medium and long trips.  We took the short trip which was about 1.5 hours of ride with the route covering: Base campOpak river-Alien rockGendol river-Kaliadem villageOverlay Materials eruption at KaliademPetung duneBulk tomb Victims Merapi eruption.  We were given masks to cover our nose and mouth to avoid dust and ashes.  It was one hell of a bumpy ride.  The jeeps went right through the areas through which the red molten lava had flown during eruption.  Today it was covered with dark ashes with bare minimum vegetation across the sides.  We were shown the villages which got destroyed and also skulls of animals that got killed by the eruption. As we moved deeper and deeper inside the base camp, there was an eerie feeling of unpredictability given the chance that we were actually traversing through the eruptions of the most active volcano.

Route to Base Camp

Volcanic Ash

Panaroma

We then saw an Alien Rock which was actually a part of Mount Merapi and during eruption it got tossed off few kilometers to this location.  The reason of it being called an alien rock is at a certain angle, the rock looked like a giant alien’s head.  Behind the alien rock, we could see the entire lava channel path through which it traversed during the eruption.  The guide then asked us to touch under a rock as shown in the picture below.  The ground was still hot.  I was amused that even after so many years of eruption, how can the ground be still blazing hot? Mount Merapi is one bumpy ride which should not be missed when you are in Jogja. It was interesting, adventurous, scary, intimidating and yet thrilling.

Alien Rock

Hot Rock

Skulls of Cattle

Destroyed Village

BOROBUDUR : Few years ago I saw a wall paper which I liked and downloaded to my desktop. The very visual looked surreal with so many magnanimous stupas and Buddha sitting at the center of it. However I was unable to find the name of the city.  Years later when I walked towards my next destination, Borobudur, I was in for a surprise when I saw the same image unfolding in front of my eyes.

View from outside

Borobudur

Borobudur is the world’s largest Buddhist temple.  It is a 9th century Mahayana Buddhist Temple consisting of nine platforms topped by a central dome.  The temple has 504 Buddha statues. The central dome is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues each seated in a perforated stupa.  During 14th century, the temple was abandoned due to the Javanese conversion to Islam. Later on its existence was founded in 1812 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the then British ruler of Java.  Today the monument is listed as UNESCO world heritage site.

Borobudur Panaroma

An interesting fact is this temple is located between two twin volcanoes Sundo-Sumbing and Merbabu-Merapi. When we entered the site, there was a huge board on how to read the relief of Borobudur.  It was written that one should enter the temple from the east entrance and continue to circle it clockwise for three times.  The tradition of circumambulating is called Pradakshina (in Sanskrit). It is done as a sign to show respect to the temple.  Again similarities in the traditions! Before entering the temple, the tourists are supposed to wear batik sarong which is also available in the temple premise.  Preachings and stories of Buddha were inscribed on each stone.   The journey to the temple begins at the base of the monument and ascends to the top through three levels.  The view from the top is stupendous.  Surrounded by the huge Stupas and Buddha statues at every level, even though the area is overcrowded with tourists, there is still tranquility and peace in the atmosphere. When you climb down, the steps are so steep that you automatically align the body posture and start leaning down sideways.  The design is architecturally designed in such a way that you don’t directly show your back as disrespect to the god while walking down.

Inside the temple

PRAMBANAN : We then headed to Prambanan where we saw Ramayana ballet the other night.  Prambanan is a 9th century Hindu temple dedicated to Trimurti : Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The place is recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site.  Unfortunately the temple was destroyed in 2006 earthquake.  Few of the idols were missing or without head or broken.  Large pieces of debris can be seen outskirts the temple too.  Each temple of the Trimurti had a smaller temple in front of them dedicated to their vehicles: Hamsa (goose) for Brahma, Nandi (bull) for Shiva and Garuda (eagle) for Vishnu.

Prambanan

Outside View Prambanan

KOPI LUWAK : Last few hours before boarding the flight, we could not resist to leave Indonesia without trying the famous coffee, Kopi Luwak.  So we went to Malioboro Mall to treat ourselves to the world’s most expensive coffee! The origin of Kopi Luwak is closely connected with the history of coffee production in Indonesia.  The Dutch prohibited the native farmers and workers from picking coffee fruits for their own use.  But the natives wanted to have the taste of the beverage.  They found that luwak consumed the coffee fruits but left the coffee seeds undigested in their droppings.  The natives collected the seeds, dried , cleaned and roasted them to make their own coffee. The fame of the aromatic civet (luwak) coffee spread to the Dutch owners and it became an instant hit.  We ordered a cup of Kopi Luwak and I took a snap of the instructions on how to make this expensive coffee. The coffee was 8$ a cup in Indonesia.

I enjoyed the coffee to the last drop. The taste was tangy in flavor.  Spending time drinking the delicious coffee was like eating a dessert bringing an end to my eventful day yet enjoyable day in JogJa.  I felt as though I had a complete and satisfied meal.  There was something special about Jogja. You feel an immediate sense of arrival as if the city welcomes you with both arms! Ramayana Ballet and Borobudur gave me a glimpse of the city’s culture whereas trip to Mount Merapi gave me sense of uniqueness and adventure which I never experienced before.

Copyright ©2012, Lakshmi Nair . This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.

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