When you travel a third of the way across the globe in less than 42 days using mostly trains, you can only make few stops and detours. We decided to do a stopover at the ancient city of Yogyakarta also known as Jogja, most especially to see the famous Borobudur Buddhist temple. Our visit was most enjoyable and we got a good feeling of this curious city that is both modern and old at the same time.
We found a pleasant inexpensive hotel amongst the intricate small lanes of the Sosrowijayan district (south of the station) had a restful first day planning our trip to Borobudur (which is best experienced at sunrise) and made our way to Milas, a charming vegetarian restaurant south of the city. To conclude the day we took a night ride back to our hotel on a “Jogja-style” motor rickshaw.
The next morning we set off at five to see Borobudur – the world’s largest Buddhist temple.
As expected the place was packed with people but thankfully many of the morning visitors were monks and nuns from around the world with shaven heads and robes of different hues.
What is peculiar is that the site is not ran by Buddhist monks but by the government as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – so it felt a bit like visiting the great pyramids of Egypt or Stonehenge. There is a hefty entrance charge and as you exit you are made to walk through a maze of souvenir stalls.
Despite the inevitable flux of people and the incessant sound of smart-phone snap shots, we explored the nine level structure with its hundreds of statues of Buddha and sat quietly by one of the large perforated stupa watching the sun rise.
Between the early risers and the second wave of day visitors, around 7:30 there was a quiet moment and as Yoel remarked, it may be the ideal time to visit the temple. One thing to keep in mind though is that the temple complex is forty kilometres from the centre of Yogyakarta and it can take up to an hour to reach the site when there is traffic.
Once back in town and after a little rest, we walked along the main Malioboro Avenue lined with stores and street vendors selling anything from cheap souvenirs to more fancy crafted gifts and artefacts. We generally avoid buying stuff, we did however succumb to the city’s mercantile atmosphere and each bought a watch as both or our time pieces stopped working in Bali. Finally, after a whole year of avoiding it due its distinct pungent smell, I decided to taste the infamous southeast asian delicatessen: the durian. It definitely has a very particular flavour that is both sweet and reminiscent of garlic and I would probably rank it as my least favourite fruit. Like Marmite, it is an acquired taste and you either love it or hate it.