Indonesia Update #5

Traveling to Prambanan and Borobadur, the two temples, was made much easier by the fact that we hired a pair of vans to get us around.  That way, we didn’t have to accommodate our schedules to the public buses and could come and go as we wished.  The countryside was gorgeous.  The land was incredibly fertile, and we journeyed through rice paddies, banana plantations, and farms growing many different fruits and other crops.  Colorfully dressed farmers were often seen in the fields and we saw lovely little towns.

Colors, Everywhere

Prambanan is a Hindu temple, or really a complex of temples — the largest Hindu edifice in Indonesia. Our guide was very helpful in interpreting the symbols and stories reflected in the relief carvings.  It is spectacular, both the structure and the grounds.  Gamelan music piped in through loudspeakers gave it an odd, theme-park-like quality. We did some drawing there, and tried to dodge the baking sun by hastening from one cool shady stone coridor to another.

Borobadur is a nearby Buddhist temple, and like Prambanan was built in the ninth century and has likewise been denoted a World Heritage Site.  We had hoped to have as much time to explore it as Prambanan, but the afternoon downpour hit and our time was limited.  Moreover, it was very crowded, inundated with students who’d come in an armada of tour buses from East Java.  Setting out to explore the temple, we found our progress stymied by wave after wave of Javan students wanting their picture taken with the white students.  “One photo please?” became a constant refrain, and most of us were photographed more than 50 times.  Despite our interest in Borobadur, we found ourselves to be the greatest tourist attraction!

Can You Feel the Heat?

Nonetheless, it was an amazing place. The temple is designed to itself act as a spiritual journey of stairs spiraling up the many levels of the structure.  We saw a lovely orange sunset from atop the massive thing, and glimpsed the smoking visage of Mt. Merapi, a very pointy nearby volcano, when the clouds parted.

It was a long day and we were glad to get back to the comfort of our hotel and reunite with a few group members who didn’t feel well enough to join us.  Now we gear up for our trip to Semarang, from which we will depart for the wilds of Borneo!  This is quite the amazing adventure, and we are amazingly fortunate to be able to be here.

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Images in Stone

One thing that really impressed me was the temple Borobudur. It’s a massive temple built over a thousand years ago.  It has seven layers, each representing a Buddhist concept. The first four layers presented many stone carvings of people that together created one massive story.  To pay respect to the temple, you have to circle around each lower layer three times before reaching the top three. The steps between the layers were thin and tall, so we had to be very careful going up and down. Plus, it had rained massively that day so with everything wet we really had to watch our step. On the top three layers the structure was circular whereas the lower levels were squareish. We didn’t see as much artwork on these layers but there were many bell-shaped stones, each presenting a human sized statue. All of these statues were positioned around a massive bulbish piece right in the center of the temple. I was very impressed with the architecture; it will be very hard to beat this wonderful experience. — Pat

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I especially enjoyed our bike tour around Solo. We rode through rice fields that seemed surprisingly dry even though they had a river to keep them moist. We got to see how Indonesian crackers were made.  I can’t remember the name of the root, but the shape was squeezed through a machine, and then set on trays in the sun. They had to be fried twice, so they went into one fryer and then got switched over.  They were like popcorn the moment they hit the oil.  When they were done and you put them in your mouth, they just melted. They were really good! We covered a lot of ground that day, but just getting to ride a bicycle through a town I wasn’t familiar with and seeing all of the sites was the best part. — Marina

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The high point of the trip for me so far was easily visiting the palace and listening to the gamelan music.  They had a setup of 36 individual gamelan pieces, plus a couple of drums and violin-esque instruments. They played for over a half an hour on the same jam, but it was beautiful and not in the least repetitive.  It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t heard large scale live gamelan music just how the sounds echo throughout the environment, but there is something truly unique and ethereal about their resonance.  — Theo

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Good Energy at the Orphanage

What stands out in my mind, truthfully, was our whole orphanage stay.  I loved getting to know the children and everyone involved with them.  It was an eye-opening experience that I’ll never forget.  Living in a room with all the girls — plus a few ants and other bugs — bothered me at the time.  But now as I look back at it, it wasn’t that big of a deal.  As we are now about halfway through our expedition, I have to say that that part was my favorite. I especially recall the day it had started to rain and we ended up having a huge water fight with the kids. It was wonderful.  — Claire

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One Comment on “Indonesia Update #5”

  1. I am really impressed with the opportunities and education the students are experiencing.

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