Don’t forget to try some place for you in the suburbs. There are seven places that might make you curious, anything? Let’s check the caption in the article accommodation below.
Temples in the Victiny of Prambanan
Besides the famous temple complexes like Borobudur and Prambanan, there are many other lesser known but equally spectacular temple sites within easy reach of Yogyakarta. These include the monuments of the Dieng Plateau, the Gedung Sanga group (covered in a previous section on Java’s North Coast), and a bandful of sites around Prambanan: Sewu, Plaosan, Ratu Boko, Kalasan Sari and Sambisari.
The Yogya area has more to offer than just temples, however. The expansive black – sand beaches on the southern coast at Parangtritis are only about an hour from the city. Along the way, you can stop at the scenic hiitop cemetery of Java’s rajas at Imogiri, and the old silver making town of Kota Gede on Yogya’s outskirts.
To escape the heat, simply zip up Mt. Merapi to the nearby hill resort of Kaliurang. It is possible in fact, to climb all the way up to the peak of this active colvano, for an incredible view over all of Central Java, but this is best done in the early morning from Solo, on the Boyolali – Blabak road.
The day long excursion up to the Dieng Plateau (from di-hyang meaning “spirit place”), about 100 km (60 miles) and 3 hours to the north west of Borobudur, is a journey to a 2,000 metre (6,500 foot) mountain fastness shrouded in mist and mysteries. The final climb from Wonosobo to the plateau follows a narrow, twisting course.
The existence of demons, spirits and wratfhful giants seems not only plausible but probable here as gray skeins of mist envelop the surrounding ridges. The temples themselves are enigmatic – thought to have been constructed in the 18th century, though the earliest inscription found here is dated A.D. 809. It is known at least that they were built not by the Buddhist Sailendras, but by worshippers of Siva perhaps by the descendants of Sanjaya, who ruled parts of Central Java as vassals of the Sailendras and then explled them. Eight small stone temples have been partially restored. The foundations of others are nearby, and the remains of several wooden pendopos or pavilions may indicate that there was once a palace or a monastery here.
The main group of temples is now named after the heroes and heroines of the Mahabhrata, though these names are certainly later attributions. Arjuna, Puntadewa, Srikandi and Sembadra stand in a row in the centre of a flat field, accompanied by their squat, ungainly servant, Semar. The ground around them looks firm enough, but it mostly marshland. A millennium ago this marsh was drained by an elaborate series of tunnels cut through the hills, the entrance to which are on the north – west corner of the field.
Perhaps the real reason this area was designated a holy site, despite its remoteness, was the presense of contemplative surroundings and violent volcanic activity. A walk along the wooded pathways encircling Telaga Warna (“Multi – coloured Lake”) and Telaga Pengilon (“Mirror lake”) is enchantingly peaceful and beautiful. Nearby knolls and dells, which look like scenes straight from a Chinese brush painting, hide small grottoes. These are still popular as meditation retreats. Beyond the lakes, a never ending bellow of hot steam and sulphurous gas marks a dramatic tissue in the earth.
A taxi or mini bus seating any number from one to eight persons may be chartered to Dieng for only US$45 (for a one day return trip – (See Yogya: “Getting Around”). Public inter city buses and mini buses operate from Yogya to Wonosobo (from the terminal on Jl. Veteran in Yogyakarta and the “colt” offices on Jl. Diponegoro). From here you can get a local “colt” up to Dieng. Intan Pelangi (See, Yogya: “Tours / Travel Agents”) offers a day long guided bus tour to Dieng and Borobudur for only US$12 per person. Check with your hotel or directly with the travel agencies for schedules. Check also with the Tourist Information Office, Jl. Malioboro 14, for other tours.
Assuming you are travelling to Dieng on your own, there are several small losmen and a restaurant facing right onto the central plain and temples, where you can spend the night for only a few dollars. Be sure to bring some warm clothing. Better accommodation is available in the town of Wonosobo, though there is no first class hotel.
Bhima, Jl. Ahmad Yani 45, Tel: 745.
Jawa Tengah, Jl. Ahmad Yani 45, Tel: 202.
Merdeka, Jl. Sindoro 2, Tel: 53.
Nirwana, Jl. Tanggung 18, Tel: 66.
In The Vicinity of Prambanan
Sewu and Plaosan are two Buddhist candi complexes located nearby. Sewu (the “thousand temples”), about 1 km (1/2 miles) to the north of Prambanan, consists of a tall central monument surrounded by 240 minor shrines. It was probably completed just before Prambanan or around A.D. 850 and almost equals the latter in its intricacy. The central temple, now undergoing reconstruction, has an unusual gallery that is reached by passing through enclosed gateways lined with Moorish looking niches. The walls of the smaller shrines have crumble, revealing a tantalising array of Buddhist statues.
Plaosan, about 1 km (1/2 miles) to the east of Sewu, originally consisted of two large, rectangular temples surrounded by a number of little shrines and solid stupas. Both major temples were two storey, three room buildings with windows (an unusual feature), containg a number of beautiful small Buddhas and Bodhisattvas abd relief – one of whom wears a large headdress and looks almost Egyptian. This temple complex may date also from the mid 9th Century.
The remains of Candi Ratu Boko are up ridge 1.6 km (1 mile) south of Prambanan village (double back in Prambanan follow the one way traffic and turn left, instead of right which heads back to Yogya), overlooking the entire valley. A steep, stairway leads up to the plateau to the left of the road opposite a “2 Yogya 18 km” stone marker and a new road also comes all the way up to the temple from behind. Come here at dawn or dusk, when the valley and its temples are bathed in golden light.
Ratu Boko was probably a fortified palace built by the last of the Buddhist Sailendras and later taken over by Hindu bilders of Prambanan.
There are three more temples along the main road back to Yogyakarta. Candi Sari, prettily set amongst banana and coconut groves (just north of the raod, 3 km / 2 mile from Prambanan), is similiar to the Plaosan temples – a Buddhist temple with two storeys, windows, and several internal chambers. Thought to have been a monastery, Sari is distictive because of its 36 panels of heavenly beings dancing nymphs, musicians, dragon kings and becauseof the heavily ornamented roof. Buiit by the Sailendras, perhaps in the late 18th century.
Candi Kalasan: is visible from the road, just to the west of Sari – another Buddhist shrine that may have been begun as early as A.D. 778. The outstanding feature is a huge, ornate kala – makara head above the southern doorway.
Finally, turn north just beyind the 10,2 km marker (from Yogya) to see Sambisari – a small candi that was discovered only in 1966 in the middle of a rice field and has now been excavated from beneath 5 metres (16 feet) of earth. Many of the temple’s reliefs remain curiously unfinished, which has given rise to speculation that it was buried by a volcanic eruption before completion – perhaps the same eruption that buried Borobudur and laso drove the Mataram kings out of Central Java.
All of the temples can be visited in a day, together of course with the Loro Jonggrang complex at Prambanan. Get a few people together and rent a mini bus for about US$20 for a 10 hour excursion. Available htrough any hotel. Be sure to specify: all the places you intend to visit, the price, and the number of hours before leaving. Stop on the way back at Nyonya Suharti’s for her famous fried chicken dinner (See Yogya: “Dining”).
A short distance to the south east of Yogya, the town of Kota Gede is famous for its silver workshops (See Yogya: “Shopping”). Kota Gede was founded around 1579 by Senopati, the illustrious founder of the New or Second Mataram dynasty to which all the present – day Central Javanese rulers belong (though Solo’s Susuhunan claims, with good reason, to be the only true claimant to the Mataram throne). Kota Gede is thus much older than Yogya itself, and Senopati now lies buried in a small moss covered graveyard only 500 metres from the towns’s central market. A broad pathway and two enormous banyan trees herald a secluded courtyard through which a narrow pathway leads on to an ancient mosque and a maze of lesser courtyards and decorated doorways.
In the midst of this serene labyrinth lies the tiny, high walled cemetery. Offerings of flowers, petals, incense and cigars strewn the worn stone steps in front of the large, weather – grained wooden door leading to Senopati’s tomb, which is opened to visitors only on Mondays. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and on Fridays, 1.30 p.m. to 4.30. p.m.
In the clearing outside the cemerety is a small white – washed building housing a large, polished black rock the size of a double bed. It is variously described as an executioner’s stone or as Senopati’s throne, but it has a Dutch inscription. In any case, it is considered to be magically powerful pusaka or heirloom of the place. Next to it are three large balls of yellow stone, sizes ranging from a shot – put to a volley ball, and reputedly used for juggling, but more likely, these are ancient pre – Islamic “ancestor stones”.
Ryal Tomb of Imogiri
Another and more splendid link with Yogya’s past is at Imogiri, 20 km (13 miles) to the south along a narrow road. Imogiri has an ancient, sturdy air about it. a little beyond the village the road ends in a tiny square containing a single warung and an old pendopo. ahead, a broad pathway leads off through an avenue of trees, the starting point for the climb to the royal tombs.
The famous Sultan Agung was the first of his line to be buried there, interned in 1645 on the top of a small rocky outcrop. since then almost every prince of the house of Mataram, and of the succeding royal families of Yogyakarta and Surakarta, has been laid to rest at Imogiri.
A visit to this venerated site takes on the air of a pilgrimage (which indeed it is for many Javanese), for the 345 shallow tread steps of the wide, formal stairway will exact considerable penance.
The tombs lie within three major courtyards at the top of the stairway: in front are those of Mataram; to the left, those of the Susuhunans of Solo; to the right, those of the Sultans of Yogya. each great courtyard encloses smaller court containing the memorials and tombs of the princes. entry into the smaller courts, and viewing of the tombs, is permitted briefly only on Mondays and Fridays after noontime prayers, and you must wear formal Javanese court costume to visit them. this is less demanding than it may sound, and the necessary garments can be hired on the spot for a low fee.
Although the forecourts and inner courts are closed at other times, the long, high walled walks along the front of each complex are always open. at each end of the front gallery an archway leads through the walls to a pathway which reaches the real summit of the hill. open Monday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. : Friday, 1.30 p.m. to 4.30 p.m.
The shore at Parangtritis is linked with an ancient tradition which may have flourished in pre – Hindu times as a fertility cult, and which was later observed symbolically by Sultan Agung and his successors. Legends claim that Senopati, or perhaps Sultan Agung, was married in Fact (not fantasy) to Raden Loro Kidul, the ‘Queen of the Southern Ocean’ whose domain, also known as the region of deathd, is beneath the waters of the Indian Ocean. Ritual observances of the marriages are still performed in the Central Javanese courts: a special dance, the Bedoyo ketawang, takes place in Solo on the anniversary of the susuhunan’s accession, and until recently could be witnessed only by the susuhunan, and the closest of his nobles, for the dance symbolises his marriage to Raden Loro Kidul. In Yogya, on the occasion of the sultan birthday, a special Labuhan ceremony involve the distribution of sacred nail and hair clippings, together with melati flowers which have been offered during the yar to the royal pusakas, at rituals held on the slopes of Gunung Merapi and Gunung Lawu, and on the shore at Parangtritis.
Raden Loro Kidul, “Queen of the Southern Ocean’ may be the consort of kings, but she has a malevolent disposition. Swimming on her rough southern coast is tantamount to entering her territory without a permit, and offenders frequently drown. She has a special predilection for young men dressed in green (her colour).
Legend or no, the rips and violent currents, and a heavy surf, make swimming dangerous on most of Java’s southern coast. At Parangtritis this sea scape is backed by a forbidding shoreline of jagged cliffs and dunes of shifting, iron grey sand.
To go directly to Parangtritis from Yogya, catch a mini bus at Jl. parangtritis just south of the intersection with Jl. Jend. Sutoyo. Fare as far as the river at Kretek is Rp 200. Walk or cross over and hire a pony cart or ride on a motorbike to the beach Rp 500. otherwise, rent a car or “colt” for the day for US$20 and go on the back road via Imogiri. There are Cheap losmen and restaurants in Parangtritis, for budget travellers.
Only 23 km (14 miles) due north of Yogya, this town offers plenty of guesthouses, two swimming pools, a tiny herd of deer from Bogor and a beautiful 2.5 km (1.5 mile) lung exercising walk to Overseer Point. The weather can be unpredictable: even if merapi is crystal clear from the lowlands it may be shrouded in cloud by the time you reach the lookout at Plawangan.
Near the top of Plawangan the path traverses a narrow ridge where tree clad slopes fall away steeply on both sides, splashed with fiery red and yellow lantana blossom.
On a clear day Gunung Merapi can be seen in all its glory. Watching it is a full time job at the Plawangan seismoligical station where the volcanologists, armed with binoculars and seismographs, work in month – long shifts before moving on to Gunung Kelud or Ijen or wherever else Java’s crust is growing restless. Merapi is the most volatile of the island’s volcanic tribe, and tops the dangerous list: the closing months of 1973 were marked by a series of minor lava flows and the ensuing (and more damaging) lahar streams of water, mud and ash: the last serious eruption occured in 1954.
Another observation point is to the west of the mountain. A small side road, well sign posted in English, branches off the main route to Muntilan, 23 km (14 miles) from Togya and creeps slowly through tunnels of bamboo and tall stands of pine before revealing the ravaged westerb slope of the volcano, scarred and twisted by a continuing series of lava flows. At night, dull red globs of molten rock can be seen through the darkness.
To stand on the rim of merapi, gazing down on the world from a height of 2,900 metres, and into the Dantean crater, is probably the most exciting mountain experience in Java. Bromo, in East Java, is usually given more attention for it is easier to get to. At bromo, you walk. At Merapi, you climb.
–> Read Also : Accommodation and Dining of Yogyakarta