By Mario Andree
We are now on Day Three of our trip to Yogyakarta. You will read about the exhilarating cultural experience we had in this short four-day stay, ably funded by Singapore Airlines and the Indonesian Embassy in Colombo in the following episode:
After a delicious dinner and a good night's sleep, off it was to visit the Royal Palace of Yogyakarta, also known as 'The Keraton.' Greeted by street salesmen as usual, we made our way to the grand entrance to explore this great historical complex, dating back to the early 1750's.
Facing Mount Merapi from the north and the Indian Ocean from the south, this magnificently planned grand complex is more than home to the Sultan. Displaying the rich Javanese culture, this masterpiece stands today as a symbol of peace and harmony for the country's citizens.
Built as the focal point of the entire kingdom, this elegant complex was constructed entirely on ancient Javanese beliefs and each aspect within the complex, from the courtyards to the trees, has a special symbolic meaning related to the sophisticated Javanese world view.
Visiting this magnificent palace in Yogyakarta is no doubt a valuable and memorable experience. After entering through a grand wooden door, visitors are welcomed by the Sri Manganti complex and the main hall used as the centre for every cultural event in the region. Even today tourists can enjoy Javanese music and cultural performances and if you are lucky enough to visit it on aTuesday, you can enjoy an archery competition in Mataraman style.
There are many things to enjoy in this architectural masterpiece, though most were poorly displayed. The palace houses more than 2,500 workers; all dressed alike, irrespective of title or caste.
Most of the valuables - ranging from ceramics and glassware, weapons, photographs, miniatures and replicas are kept in glass boxes in different rooms. The most astonishing sight was the giant rolling pin seated at the entrance to the centre of the complex.
Time being a major constraint to enjoying our visit to this grand masterpiece; it was time to head off for lunch. On our way to the restaurant we visited a Batik shop, where they designed their own collection. The owners invited us to have a firsthand experience of Batik printing.
After biding 'adieu,' we were back on the road heading to Abhayagiri - not the Abhayagiri Vihāra in Anuradhapura but a restaurant in close proximity to the Royal Palace. Greeted by hearty smiles, we made our way to the dining area which provide an astonishing view of the wilderness and the city far ahead. This unique restaurant also offered a range of selections from authentic Indonesian to Chinese and even Western cuisine.
After a pleasant meal, off it was to another historical monument, this time the Hindu religious site Prambanan. Different to the welcome we experienced at Borobodur, we walked to the monument under well-grown trees which provided shade from the scorching sun.
A trip to this UNESCO site is also a must for anyone visiting Yogyakarta. According to UNESCO, Prambanan was built in the 10th century and is the largest temple compound dedicated to Shiva in Indonesia. Rising above the centre of the last of these concentric squares are three temples decorated with reliefs illustrating the epic of the Ramayana, dedicated to the three great Hindu divinities (Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma) and three temples dedicated to the animals who served them.
The compound according to UNESCO, holds the Prambanan Temple, Sewu Temple, Bubrah Temple and the Lumbung Temple. Prambanan Temple itself is a complex consisting of 240 temples. All the temples mentioned form the Prambanan Archaeological Park and were built during the heyday of Sailendra's powerful dynasty in Java in the 8th century A.D. These compounds are located on the border between the two provinces of Yogyakarta and Central Java on Java Island.
Though this magnificent masterpiece had much to offer, it is sad but true, the site rarely sees foreigners but inbound Indonesian travellers flood the ancient site. It has gone through many difficult times but still stands tall and impressive.
This monument too has stood the test of time through volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and rebel attacks. It still remains to be venerated and seen by many like us who have witnessed this spectacular monument. The heritage and hardship it has gone through together with the spectacular scenery from atop the temple no doubt is an unforgettable memory!
With the sun surrendering to darkness, it was time for us to head back home. On our way the team stopped at a bigger shopping mall than earlier for some shopping and dinner. The 'Horton Mall' housed some of the biggest brands and restaurants.
The night was short; I guess that was because we were eager to experience what more Yogyakarta had to offer.
After an early breakfast and an hour's drive we finally got to the slopes of Mount Merapi. This massive mountain is one of the most active volcanos on earth. The mountain from afar displays a constant flow of smoke and was an inviting site.
After getting out of the van, we were welcomed by our new guides, one can call these guys off-road dare-devils as they had no fear and were ruthless with their vehicles. These friendly souls invited us into their jeeps to ascend the mountain.
Enjoying the lush greenery and the small villages, we made our way to the main point of our ascent. The drive was mainly off-road and had much to offer. It was sad to see a burial ground and several small villages crushed to the ground as a result of the 2010 volcanic eruption.
Our first pit stop was at a smaller museum built on the ruins of an old village, which today houses the skeletons of animals and equipment used by villages prior to the eruption. While the team was enjoying a hot cup of tea at the location it started to rain delaying our journey. The people who had set up shops at the pit stop were friendly and offered us raincoats to help our ascent.
The rain cost us nearly half an hour, but our spirits were high and we continued our ascent to the first bunker - Kaliadem Bunker. An attractive tourist site it was, though it rarely sees foreigners, native travellers were abundant.The landscape the lava flow had created and the waterfalls as well as the lush greenery made this site an unforgettable experience. Sadly, with rain clouds once again heading in our direction, the team had to descend.
After saying farewell to our newly-made friends 'The Dare-Devils,' we headed for lunch to an authentic Indonesian restaurant and after a fulfilling meal and a few hours left till night fall, the team continued its shopping spree.
It was time to head back home. The team said their goodbyes to the friendly people and our hosts with grateful hearts before leaving for the Airport to board the SilkAir flight carrying us to Singapore. With a few hours in transit for our Singapore Airlines flight back home, we decided to enjoy the free city tour given to travellers by the Singaporean Tourism Authority.
Overall, our journey to the magnificent Yogyakarta was one of the best experiences one could have, though the stay was short, our experience cannot be priced.
For those who are looking to enjoying a holiday at Yogyakarta, Singapore Airlines is ready to offer their services. There are daily flights from Colombo to Singapore and Silk Air operates daily flights from Singapore to Yogyakarta.
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