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Published: February 28th 2015
We arrived in Yogyakarta late at night and luckily the van driver knew our hotel so we got dropped off at the right spot. We met a couple Australians on the Bromo tour and we agreed to share a taxi to see the sights the following day so we exchanged details and hunkered down for the night. Jay lounged in the room while I went in search of food. I find it fascinating to walk around a city you don't know late at night in a culture that you don't fully understand. There's something about it that sets your senses on overdrive. I find that while I have a heightened sense of awareness, I also have a heightened sense of bravery when I'm alone. It's hard to describe but it is an enlightening experience nonetheless. At the end of the day all I could find was instant noodles from a 24hr convenience store but we were happy to get hot food in our bellies.
Early the next day we met up with the Australian couple and met the taxi we'd hired for the day. The first stop was Borobudur, an 8th century Buddhist temple which happens to be the largest Buddhist temple in the world. This is the cultural highlight of Java that you see in all the travel books. The construction detail and scale of the temple is absolutely remarkable and is on par with any other iconic historical sight we've seen in Asia. The main temple is the most impressive although the site is vast and loaded with different historical landmarks. It was very interesting and we even sneakily picked up on some historical details while listening to english tour groups. While I find that the onslaught of random details of a landmark interesting on a guided tour, I get as much from just pondering, imagining and appreciating a site without all the details that I will likely soon forget.
Next stop was a Hindu temple nearby. The significance of this temple was the proximity to the nearby Borobudur Buddhist hotbed. This was a rare occurrence of coincidental religious strongholds at the same time in the same vicinity. It seemed to work for a long time and perhaps we could learn from this today. From here we asked our driver to take us to a good place for lunch. He picked a fantastic road house style place with buffet cuisine. This place felt very authentic as it was packed with commuters and locals and was devoid of tourists. The food was cheap but above "fast food" quality and we were happy to dive in.
Next up is the 9th century Hindu complex of Prambanen. Again it is remarkable that these cultures basically co-existed in relative proximity. Prambanen was very cool with it's level of detail and it's scale. These temples are almost on par with the most impressive engineering marvels in the world. We checked out another site nearby that was just fields of endless relics and former temples waiting for restoration. This is such a rich archeological area that is slowly being preserved and protected. It's heartening to see such care given to these sights everywhere we go. History is important and it seems most everybody is on board with the fact that it must be protected for future generations.
After a long but eventful day with our new friends we said our goodbyes and parted ways. Traveling is funny that way in that you can latch onto complete strangers and share a whole day with them and then when you part ways it feels like saying goodbye to a long term friend in a way. Relationships on the road are intense but short lived. We spent the evening relaxing as this pace of travel is not what we are used to. Too much touring and not enough lounging!
The following day we checked out the sights of the city. We walked to the Kraton which is the preserved Javanese royal headquarters. The artifacts on display were mildly interesting but overall it was pretty dull. We walked on to the shopping district Jalan Malioboro which is an awesome and chaotic array of bazaar shopping stalls and malls. We dove right into the main bazaar and shopped for souvenirs for folks back home. This is the only type of shopping that I love because it feels like you are jumping into the everyday lives of local residents even though we stand out like ATM machines. Through expert level travel hardened haggling we acquired some Batik style shirts and sarongs, spices, sweets and a cheesy red t-shirt with poorly translated english text as Jay wanted a red shirt for the national day the following day (the national colour is red).
We booked our express train from Yogya to Jakarta leaving the following day.
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