Monday, February 2, 2015

A Jaunt Amongst Ancient Behemoths

I promise that complaining about waking up early won't be a regular occurrence around here, but today the alarms started at 2:30am. Yes, it takes at least two to actually get me out of bed. It would take about an hour to trek out to Setumbu Hill to be there in time for the sunrise and you have to get there early to get a good seat. On the drive there I did learn that "night market" in some places actually goes all night, and there were way too many people awake and shopping at that ungodly hour. I also learned that Indonesians like to poke fun at their Hindu citizens, as proven by one establishment we passed called "Holy Cow Steakhouse". Given my lack of sleep, that was downright hilarious.

At the end of the drive was a slippery and muddy climb up the mountain (okay fine, hill) which featured pitch darkness and helpful guys with flashlights that hid in corners and scared the crap out of tourists under the guise of showing them the path to keep themselves entertained. Oh yeah, there's an entrance fee to the hill. There's an entrance fee to pretty much everything here, but this was worth it. There were only a handful of people at the summit and the orchestra was still tuning her instruments. My favorite was Act 1. The sky slowly lit up with a tiny line of fire that illuminated the dramatic clouds and revealed the mist filled basin below, while still concealing all but the very top of one of the world's largest temples. Everyone watched quietly and you could almost hear the string section, but then the late risers arrived.

Yeah, we're going to keep this one small...but look, proof I'm not making all this up from my parent's basement :)

Out came the school girls and the selfie sticks and someone actually started singing some local pop song, so I cut Act 2 short and headed back down. And on the way down I met a girl named Anni from Champaign, IL! A girl who studied to be an accountant, but wanted something more social instead. A girl who could talk to a wall and never run out of topics. Crazy how small the world is and how similar people are.

Borobudur Temple, one of the biggest Buddhist temples in the world, was the next stop on the list. The massive temple rises out and sprawls across the field, making it impossible to capture it in it's entirety. It consists of three sections:
- "Kamadhatu" - the base level which represents human life
- "Rupadhatu" - an elevated life which has curbed desire, but still has form
- "Arupadhatu" - three circles of nature or nirvana with the final achievement in the center.  

You can barely make out the three circles of nirvana from the ground but once you get to the top you discover that nirvana consists of a game called "Find the Buddha". The game is easy, there's one in every tagine-looking bell, and it's only due to the earthquakes that have ravaged the area that some lids have been lost to rubble leaving their contents exposed.

I ran into Anni again here and it was nice to have someone to chat with while climbing the stones. We had a bit of a "what are you going to do with your life when you get home" counseling session, and talked about the incredible number of countries she'd leapfrogged through in the last month in her last-ditch effort to travel before figuring out what her future will look like. It was actually kind of nice to hear someone else go through this. We'll bypass the fact that she was probably a full decade younger then me, thanks. I got some recommendations for my future stops and we parted ways at the end with the usual Facebook-friend status. She actually got a pretty decent shot with me in it before the sweat and my odd methods of avoiding sun turned me from a normal-ish person to a hobo with a nice camera. 

After a quick "breakfast" of pineapple jam toast, part of which was sacrificed to the bees, and a small bowl of fruit I was ready to move on. Prambanan Temple complex was about an hour away and pretty much everyone but the driver fell asleep on the way. By this time the sun was high in the sky and blazing heat over the tallest Hindu temple in the world, along with little old me. I slathered on more sunscreen, bundled up my head with a scarf and ventured out into the inferno. 

The complex consisted of about 240 temples in the beginning, but by far the most impressive are 16 temples in the first yard dedicated to various deities. The three main ones were for Shiva, Brahma, and Vishnu, then three more Wahana temples that served as a mode of transportation for the Gods, four Kelir temples to ward of calamities, two Apit temples and four Patok temples of various vague levels of purpose. Shiva's temple is by far the biggest and tallest, and one of the other temples depicts "an eternal love" story in it's many reliefs (though the way they told the story, what with the guy turning the girl into a statue in the end for tricking him to get out of the marriage...I think their definition of love needs a bit of work).

This one looks a bit like a guy with an angel and the devil by his shoulders

I really liked the colors and the patterns of the cobblestones, this is probably how designers find inspiration for wallpaper and fabric...but mostly I wanted to say "Polina! Look at all the moss!"

Because a vast and intricate temple complex isn't enough for discerning tourists, there were also a kids playground and deer. Adorable deer. I'm sure there's some symbolism there to make sense of this, but quite frankly I like not knowing this bit. 

"These leaves are freakin' delicious! Why haven't I thought about eating them myself before? Thank you kind stranger for stuffing this into my face. I owe you one." ~ Bambi

Quite separate from the main complex, but still part of the whole is the Sewu Temple, which stands guarded by these two gentlemen with questionable looking weapons. There's significant restoration process going on right now to try and restore a lot of the bits and pieces of this temple, along with two others that lie between it and Prambanan, but it still looked very impressive. The best part was that few people ventured out this far and I had the entire complex to myself. Places like this have different voices when not being drowned out by paparazzi.

Guess who sort of learned how to use Lightroom?


  1. Thanks for the moss, Anna! I seriously cannot believe you are right there, walking among the stone giants!

  2. Thats insane how many temples there are! Anni sounds like a DOLL - i'm happy you made a new friend :) Your photos are gorgeous and so are you!!! Hope that SPF starts kicking in!! LOVE YOU!