A candi [tʃandi] is a Hindu or Buddhist temple in Indonesia. Ok, now that we got this out of the way, the silly pun in the title still doesn’t get any better.
Suggested song: Raiders March by John Williams
So, let’s get straight to what’s been going on today: Temples, palace ruins, scooter rides in (moderately tame) Indonesian traffic, and late lunch of Nasi Padang.
Having recovered reasonably well from yesterday’s jet lag, and reinforced by an Indonesian breakfast of rice, stuffed fried tofu and coffee, the mission of the day was to take a scooter and have a look at Candi Prambanan. Built in the tenth century CE and dedicated to Shiva, this UNESCO world heritage site is Indonesia’s largest Hindu temple complex, located 18 kilometers east of Yogyakarta. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, first we got to get there.
75,000 Rupies got me a scooter and a slightly filthy bike helmet at the hotel reception, another 20,000 filled her up. After escaping the maze of Yogya’s street grid, the way to get to Prambanan is a straightforward exercise in driving out to and past the airport.
To get into the mood and whet the appetite for archaeological digs (a term I normally reserve for expeditions to find stuff underneath all the clutter on my desk), a left turn off the main road took me to a smaller candi, Candi Sambisari. Well, actually, the way was not really all that straight, because we missed the right turnoff… and then the next one … and then another. But not to fret, travel is a quest and inconsequential detours are part of the fun. The little detour led through rice fields, past a decommissioned Boeing 737, and the odd village or two.
After parking the scooter, we paid the more or less nominal admission fee, while the little temple just sat there, in its little hollow, waiting to be explored. 3 minutes later, and the exploration was completed. Yeah, not THAT spectacular, but still fun.
So, next step: grab the scooter, pay the parking attendant and head to the next temple, Candi Kalasan. 15 minutes on the scooter and there it was… under renovation. A quick pic from the seat of the scooter, and off again.
Preliminaries done, the piece de resistance for the day arrived a short while later: Candi Prambanan. Sitting directly on the main road it is impossible to miss. Which, this time, we actually didn’t. 325,000 Rp bought a combination ticket for Prambanan and Ratu Boko, a hill fortress/palace complex a couple of kilometers down a side street.
Ambling into the sprawling temple complex, it was a pleasant surprise that it was not packed with tourists. While it is obviously not on the same scale as, say, Angkor Wat (not even close), its stupas are neat to look at and impressive enough to spend some time around. Several smaller temples cluttered the ground and made for a quiet, pleasant stroll through the grounds. For the spoilt traveler there are definitely grander sights and more magnificent sites elsewhere, for a first day of a vacation, however, the jaunt among the ruins was positively pleasant. I, at least, was happy… a vacation to a faraway, tropical land, ruins, sights, what more could a man ask for?
To answer that question: How about some more ruins, coffee and a late lunch? Well, sounds good to me! So, back onto the scooter and off to Ratu Boko. The complex, sitting on top of a hill, is an expansive area, cluttered with structures dating back to the 9th century. The visit made for another nice enough stroll, a bit more sweat-drenched this time around, and afforded a nice panoramic view of Yogyakarta.
The ruins themselves, attributed by folk lore to the lengendary Stork King, might have been part of a fortified palace. Strolling through them, today it felt more like a garden, with here and there the foundations and walls of buildings poking out of the ground. In the midday heat, the large open areas were threatening sunstroke and promised my transformation from freshly showered gentleman into smelly hobo. Nothing a quick jump into the hotel pool in the evening won’t cure, though.
Coffee and Padang
With the taste for exploration satisfied for the moment, it was time for a coffee. Google Maps advertised an ‘iconic café’ in downtown Yogyakarta, which, as it turns out, was a Starbucks — I kid you not. Well, fine enough, time to check how a Non-Fat Sugar-Free Vanilla Latte tastes in Indonesia. To my massive surprise… actually no, so, let me start that sentence again: As expected, it tasted exactly the same as anyplace else. That’s consistency right there for you!
Alright, coffee felt good. Now for some food. Close to the hotel, lunch was had at Duta Minang’s Padang restaurant. Nasi Padang, hailing from the Indonesian city of, you guessed it, Padang (just for the odd one who didn’t guess it: no, not Nasi, you idiot!), is a scoop of steamed rice to which you can add various sorts of dishes, ranging from vegetables, to meats, fish and stews. Since this is not an encyclopedia, just look it up on Wikipedia. It’s tasty and left me full at 20,000 Rp, including a drink.
Up tomorrow: More temples and tales of daring adventure! Stay tuned.