I had always wanted to come to Yogyakarta that I’d already booked myself for next year. However, I came there earlier as planned, thanks to Trip of Wonders, which was organized by the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism. We conquered it from sunrise to sundown, and I fell in love with it immensely that I can’t wait to be back next year.
SUNRISE AT BOROBODUR TEMPLE
Estimated to have been built between the 8th and 9th century AD, well within the reign of the Saliendra Dynasty that ruled Java, Borobodur Temple is an excellent illustration of Indonesia’s architectural and cultural heritage. It is one of the eight sites in Indonesia inscribed in the World Heritge List, considered as one of the greatest Buddhist monuments that withstood time. As described by UNESCO:
This famous Buddhist temple, dating from the 8th and 9th centuries, is located in central Java. It was built in three tiers: a pyramidal base with five concentric square terraces, the trunk of a cone with three circular platforms and, at the top, a monumental stupa. The walls and balustrades are decorated with fine low reliefs, covering a total surface area of 2,500 m2. Around the circular platforms are 72 openwork stupas, each containing a statue of the Buddha. The monument was restored with UNESCO’s help in the 1970s.
Our day started as early as 2:00 AM. Getting from the hotel in Yogyakarta proper to Manohara Hotel, where the sunrise tour was set to commence, took about 45 minutes. We were shortly given flashlights, and we started walking as a group.
Darkness engulfed the entire temple, so there was barely anything to see. A step at a time, we ascended to the sunset spot—thankfully, the ascent was easier than I expected. We were among the first ones there, so it was easy for us to find prime spots.
It didn’t take too long for more groups to reach the top, and before we knew it, the place was teeming with people. All of us were eagerly awaiting the sunset, setting up our cameras ready for the moment.
Little-by-little, the rays of the sun filled up the sky. It was cloudy that morning, so the view somewhat seemed hazy, but I wasn’t complaining. It was nothing short of magical.
As the sun shone in its full glory, the majestic temple was revealed right before our eyes. It was grander and more breathtaking than I thought it would be. We then took time exploring the temple, appreciating its intricate bas-reliefs and taking photos of its stupas.
CYCLING AROUND BOROBODUR
A few minutes away from Manohara Hotel was Stupa Restaurant by Plataran. The restaurant was as lovely as the expanse that surrounded it. We were treated to a lavish breakfast spread of mostly Indonesian food, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Much to my surprise, we were called in for calisthenics. Apparently, it was to warm us up for that morning’s activity. We afterwards mounted our bikes and made our way across the villages surrounding Borobodur Temple.
Amid the heat and humidity, we cycled across rice fields and clusters of houses in the kampung (village), where we were greeted with waves and smiles. It was Eid-al-Adha then or the Feast of Sacrifice, so we interestingly chanced upon villagers slaughtering a cow.
Our rest stop was at Warung Kopi Borobodur, where as part of the tour, we savored traditional snacks and tried our skill in pottery and batik making.
Lastly, our tour ended at Wanurejo Village. Aside from a hearty Indonesian lunch, we were treated to an elaborate presentation of the Le’ak dance.
ROYAL HIGH TEA CEREMONY
Patehan refers to the royal high tea ceremony held in a kraton or palace. Used to be reserved for sultans, the time-honored tradition was commemorated for us commoners at the Royal Ambarrukmo Hotel.
The ceremony was a display of pomp and splendor. We were greeted by an “inner servant” and led to the hotel’s Pendopo Agung (grand pavilion), where later a parade of men and women in traditional Javanese dress marched in to present us with tea and local sweets.
SUNSET AT RATU BOKO
Kraton Ratu Boko or Ratu Boko’s Palace is an archaeological site that holds a mysterious past—until today, its precise function during its glory days remains unclear. What is clear though is that it was named after the legendary king mentioned in Loro Jonggrang folklore. Divided into hamlets (Dawung and Sambireja), the 16-hectare site consists of temples of different sizes, paseban (square stone structures), a pendopo (audience hall), and a bathing place.
Granted that view of Ratu Boko wasn’t as imposing as Borobodur Temple, we nonetheless witnessed how the sunset illuminating on the ruins created a dramatic panorama. We once again took time to appreciate the place before heading for some snacks.
How to get there and around: From Manila, flight connections may be made in Jakarta, Denpasar (Bali), Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore on the way to Yogyakarta. It is also possible to travel from Jakarta, where there are direct flights to and from Manila, by rail and by bus.
Getting to places of interest, most of which are far from the city center, is more convenient when arranged with local travel agents, but public transportation is also available. For short distances within the city, taxis and buses are the main means of going around.
Where to stay: The Royal Ambarrukmo Hotel, one of the city’s finest, is a heritage landmark featuring impressive artworks and sculptures. Situated midway between the airport and the shopping district at Jalan Malioboro, it offers excellently appointed rooms that blend modern comforts with classic design. For more details, check out www.royalambarrukmo.com. (Full review coming soon on the blog.)