After marvelling at the ancient ruins of Cambodia in recent years, I was very interested to continue visiting other Unesco World Heritage sites – and Borobudur called out to me. I set out to connect with my friends to explore Yogyakarta (commonly known as Jogja).
Our young and friendly tour guide named Axel was all-attentive; he made sure we had a smooth and timely journey to the various destinations. As we were capable of conversing in Bahasa Malaysia, communication was not an issue. You can, of course, hire English-speaking tour guides.
Beautiful views of nature
Enjoy beautiful views of the hills at Mangunan, 45 minutes away from the city centre. We’d recommend a visit to the Imogiri Pine Forest where you can see hundreds of towering pine trees at high altitudes. You have to do a bit of trekking or climb up some steps, so come prepared with proper walking shoes. Immerse yourself in the surroundings, the cool fresh air, and the flora and fauna. Being there gave us a sense of wonder.
Royal Water Castle
At Taman Sari Water Castle, we heard stories of the pleasure gardens where the Sultan could pick his favourite from a bevy of beauties stretched out at the bathing pools. We went through the tunnels or underground pathways and were told of how the Sultan and the royal families used them when the castle was under attack. What remains today are the ruins but restoration work is continuously carried out.
Mount Merapi Jeep Tour
If you are game for some “rock and roll” on the roads, try this tour. Each jeep can take four or five people. Three types of routes were offered (short, medium and long). We opted for the short route of one-and-a-half hours to two hours as this was sufficient for us to experience being closer to the volcano. Mount Merapi, the second most active volcano in Indonesia, had a massive eruption in 2010 which damaged the surroundings and the houses. Here you can take photos with the Alien Rock, a volcanic rock resembling an alien’s face.
Borobudur and Prambanan
Borobudur is a 9th century magnificent Buddhist temple about 75 minutes from Jogja city centre. You will be awed by the evidence of human civilisation that was highly artistic and a symbolic representation of Buddhist teachings. The temple was built to represent many layers of Buddhist principles.
From 1968 to 1983, restoration work took place under Unesco, with specialists from all over the world coming to assist in re-engineering the site.
Prambanan, another World Heritage site, is a masterpiece of Hindu culture during the 9th century. The grounds of Prambanan and Borobudur are immense, so if you feel a bit tired, hop on the free trams to see the green landscape and surrounding areas.
As we passed by the Parangtritis Beach on the eve of Muharram, we saw the preparation of the labuhan ceremony. The Javanese belief in local spirits is widespread. We were told about this ritual of sending offerings to the sea. The offerings are made up of fruits, vegetables, rice and other foodstuff piled up like a mountain (gunungan). This is an expression of gratitude to the gods for an abundance of crops and other blessings received.
Must-try fare includes Soto Betawi, a traditional meat dish cooked in savoury milk broth and served hot. It is eaten with biscuits or emping (fried crackers). Sate klathak is served in sets priced at 20,000 rupiah (RM6.70) and this includes complimentary rice. Freshly fried lumpia is delicious; it is quite similar to our Malaysian crispy popiah but is served with raw small green chillies and garlic paste.
Do bring along umbrellas and raincoats so that you can still enjoy the sights if you travel during the rainy season. However, fret not, as in Borobudur, you can easily rent an umbrella or buy a sunhat at low prices. To get the best deal, do purchase the package tickets to both the Borobudur and Prambanan temple sites for a good rate of 400,000 rupiah (RM133).
The Malioboro Street is the most popular shopping street. For souvenirs, you can get batik pieces, local handicrafts and silverware. We bought some bakpia as souvenirs; they are flaky buttery pastries with fillings such as chocolate paste, green tea, cheese, sesame and a variety of other ingredients. My colleagues enjoyed it!
In Jogja, we were reminded to cherish nature and to be better custodians of our planet. It was about creating memories, enjoying some of the best times of our friendships! A catalyst to pack our bags for our next outing together.
The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.
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