Yogyakarta and Borobodur

Yogyakarta and Borobodur
Sunday, March 31st:

We have a rare sleep-in morning today. But given that we got up at 3 am yesterday, sleeping in means we wake up at 6:30. After a very nice breakfast at the Phoenix hotel, we spend the morning doing some sightseeing in Yogyakarta.

Yogyakarta (usually just called Yogya or Jogya) is a city of about 400,000, located right in the center of the Island of Java. It lies in one of the most geologically active areas in Indonesia. An earthquake in 2006 killed more than 6000 people here, and in 2010 nearby Merapi volcano erupted killing over 300 and covering the area around Yogya in a thick layer of ash. 

We see the Sultan's palace (or Kraton), which isn't very impressive, a few rooms with old photographs and furniture. There still is a Sultan, who lives in the palace with his family, so only some outside rooms are accessible to tourists. There are also several dance and music performances going on in the outside courtyards. It's a long weekend in Indonesia, so there are many local tourists and a lot of school trips here today, and for some reason all the school kids want to have their pictures taken with us. 
The Sultan’s Palace:

 Afterwards we see the Water Castle (or Taman Sari), which is a 18th century pleasure palace surrounded by beautiful gardens and several ornate bathing pools. There are also some interesting ruins and tunnels nearby. On the way back we take one of the many trishaws here. These are little three wheeled bicycle rickshaws which are fairly comfortable (although not quite built for someone my size). We have him take us back to the sultan's palace from where we take a taxi back to the hotel. 

Taman Sari - The Water Palace:

The Phoenix Hotel, Yogyakarta
We spend a couple of hours by the very nice hotel pool in the early afternoon. At 3pm we take a hotel car to the main reason why we came here, namely to see Indonesia's most visited tourist site and one of the great monuments of the world – Borobodur:

We are told it's a one hour drive, but with the traffic it turns out to be an hour and a half, so we get there quite late, but still have almost an hour to walk around and take pictures before it gets too dark.
Borobudur is absolutely magnificent. The Lonely Planet guide describes it as one of the three major historic sites in South-East Asia together with Angkor Wat and Bagan. While it doesn't quite reach the magnificence of those two, it is still an amazing site. Borobudur is a Buddhist temple and was constructed in the 8th and 9th century (which makes it quite a bit older than both Angkor or Bagan). It is a perfectly symmetric pyramid made up of seven platforms, the bottom four are square and the top three are circular. The entire structure is covered in incredibly detailed reliefs and Buddha sculptures. On top there are 72 stupas with holes in them, and inside each of those is a Buddha statue. The whole complex was probably abandoned in the 14th century. It laid covered in volcanic ash and jungle for hundreds of years, and was only rediscovered in the early 19th century. It as since been extensively restored. We start on top and spend the whole hour before the sun went down taking pictures and slowly making our way down the seven levels. This place is now very high up on my list of the most amazing things I have seen.



Afterwards, we had dinner booked at the very posh Amanjiwo Resort next to the temple. Well, at least we thought it was right next to it. When we ask a security guard at the gate which way we have to walk to get there, he told us that it is 4 km away and then immediately recognizes a revenue opportunity. He very quickly organizes two motorbikes and orders two of his friends to drive us there. They charge us about 3 Dollars for the ride, and we get to race on the back of the motorbikes through the narrow streets to the Aman resort. It's quite scary, particularly for me, since my long legs stick out to the side so much that it seems I only narrowly avoid being knee-capped a couple of times by ongoing trucks and cars. The Amanjiwo resort is a beautiful and very luxurious hotel. We have some cocktails on the terrace overlooking Borobodur while it was getting dark, and then enjoy a very relaxing evening with probably the best dinner on this trip. The hotel organizes a car to take us back into Yogya.

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