Temples, temples, temples: Borobudur & Prambanan

In Pangandaran the only option to buy train tickets is at the supermarket. The Indomarket (sort of 7Eleven) sells train tickets, but the intended PC does not allows to enter letters in the passport number. Fifteen minutes later, we managed to explain the issue and the ticket system at the checkout counter seems to accept letters. Getting a train ticket at the railway station is not as straight forward as it might seem. First you fill out a form with directions, dates, which class and personal data. At the counter you exchange the form for a voucher with code and pay your ticket. Finally you have to print the actual ticket yourself at a designated Terminal, quite cumbersome to say the least.

In the early evening we arrive in Yogyakarta, the cultural capital of Java. We spend an hour trying to find a nice place to sleep and make plans to visit the amazing temples of Borobudur and Prambanan. The city itself is really worth a visit as well. We visit the water palace, the kraton and the Vredeburg, but mainly look forward to Borobudur. To get a chance to see a magnificent sunrise, we arrange transport to the temple and are picked up at half past four, but do not get to see the sun: there is fog all over the place! But we are well on time at the temple to beat the crowds.

The Buddhist monument is giant and decorated from the bottom to the top with countless detailed reliefs and statues. In order to let the dimensions of the temple sink in, circumnavigate the structure before admiring it level after level, slowly heading for the top. The pre-dreaded crowds are really not that bad and even a few nice pictures can be made without any visitors spoiling the background. The 1200-year-old temple was rediscovered in 1815 by the men of – there he is again – Sir Stamford Raffles, swallowed by jungle and ash from the surrounding volcanoes. The building has been restored several times over the years and is now one of the most important attractions on Java.

The next day we ride a local bus to the temple complex of Prambanan. When we approach the largest Candi’s (Hindu temple) through the surrounding park, we are impressed by the sheer size and atmosphere. Apparently we prefer the less perfect state of the temples and ruins over the perfectly restored Borobudur. The eight largest and most important temples are dedicated to the most important gods and their animals. Around the great temples are 244 small temples, most of which have not withstood the test of time and there is just a large pile of stones left. A few small temples have been restored in their original state so  to create e a good impression of how the complex must have looked like.

The northernmost temples have an Indiana Jones-like appearance and are apparently skipped by visitors who have booked a tour. We wander around for a while to find here the most beautiful details and large dark rooms inside the temples. All in all Borobudur remains the real ‘must see’, but in the end we spent almost three times longer discovering Prambanan and its surrounding remains.

After traveling around Java for more than three weeks, it is time to pick up our luggage in Semarang. Because the ride to Semarang takes only three hours, we opt for the cheap bus instead of a comfortable train journey, but eventually arrive in Semarang after almost seven hours. Fortunately, the backpack is still in the same spot where we left it and we can continue our journey towards Solo.

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