I had the chance to accompany my husband to Indonesia during his official visit in January 2008 and got a rare chance to see an active volcano. We boarded the flight from Delhi and changed at Singapore and reached Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia in the
island of Java. Then we took a domestic flight to Yogyakarta on the same island. Java is one of around 17,000 islands in the country.
Indonesia is a lot like south India. In Yogyakarta, or Jogja as it is called, we stayed in a hotel of traditional architecture. With sloping tiled roof, the buildings look similar to traditional houses of Kerala. The next day we went to see Mount
Merapi, one of the largest active volcanoes in the world.
Located 25 km north of the town, this volcano last erupted in May-June 2006 and caused much damage to the villages around it. We could still see the mountain smoke after several months. The local people say that we can see a little amount of flowing lava during early mornings if we go closer. We heard stories of horror about two volunteers were seared to death because they were unable to escape in time. These volunteers, who were helping evacuation of people from villages, had taken shelter in a bunker built about three kilometres away. The path of the lava is very humbling to look at even though it is neither hot nor smoking now. The locals seem to use the volcano as a picnic spot.
The crowd was amused to see me… a foreigner… an Indian woman in a Salwar Kameez. Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country but the women seem to enjoy a great amount of freedom.When my husband was on official duties, I was able to go around the city of Jogja along with a friend . We were able to see most of the places of interest. One of them was the Sultan’s palace. It houses all the artifacts and items used by the various Sultans over the decades. We had an English guide who was 80years old. Shweta and I were fascinated by the old lady. Jogja is the second most popular tourist destination in the country, after Bali. It is a very old city and has had Hindu connections in the past. We visited two UNESCO heritage sites in one day that are described here. One of the greatest Buddhist relics in South East Asia is located at Borobudur, about 40 km NW of Jogja. (Two other great relics are Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Bagan in Myanmar.)
Borobudur was buried under volcanic ash for centuries until it was found in 1815 when Raffles governed Java. Visiting
Borobudur just before sunrise was an unforgettable experience. The huge monument set against the sunrise was a beautiful sight. We were able to see the smoking volcano Merapi from there too. The place was crowded with Japanese tourists.
We also visited the Perambanan temple, built by the Hindu Kings when they ruled Java during the 8th century. The temple complex has three separate temples with South Indian Architecture for Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and one each for their vahanas, Hans, Garuda, and Nandi. In addition there are over 200 small temples around. The temples are made of volcanic rocks, dressed and placed one over the other. Carvings of scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata can be seen on the temples. These structures were badly damaged by many earthquakes and were rebuilt many times, block by block almost like a jigsaw puzzle. Presently, reconstruction of the structures is ongoing with UNESCO funding.
On our way back to Delhi we spent the week end at Bali Island which was a different experience altogether. So that was my sweet and little account of Indonesia.