Jogja: Volcanoes & Heritage Sites

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.

Smoking Mount Merapi
Smoking Mount Merapi

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.

Smoking Mount Merapi As Seen From Borobudur
Smoking Mount Merapi As Seen From Borobudur

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.)

A View Of Borobudur Buddhist Relic
A View Of Borobudur Buddhist Relic

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.

Buried under volcanic ash
Buried under volcanic ash

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.

Perambanan Temple Complex
Perambanan Temple Complex

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.

12 Comments

  • smitadhall says:

    Welcome to Ghumakkar and thanks for introducing another new place on the forum. I had never heard of this place, also since I’ve never been to the far-east. But sounds really interesting. Please do write about Bali as well, separately.

  • Nandan says:

    Welcome aboard.

    Very neat post. Stick around.

  • Celine says:

    I say welcome too. :)

    Thank you for the interesting description of Borobudur and Perambanan Temple.

    Is it not daring of the village folks to continue to live in the danger zone below the active Mt. Merapi?

  • Patrick Jones says:

    Great place, nice pics

    Keep ’em coming.

    Pat

  • bikerdude says:

    Hmm… Violence (the volcano) and serenity (the buddhist monastery/relic)… all seen inc of the sunrise pi one go. Interesting mixture… Wonder how did the budhist temple and the volcano come out like in the sunrise? Please share that photo (if possible) with all of us.

  • bikerdude says:

    Ignore the previous comment… read this one instead… my daughter has played havoc with my keyboard and mouse pad… gotta watch where I am typing all the time….

    Hmm Violence (the volcano) and serenity (the buddhist monastery/relic) all seen in one go. Interesting mixture Wonder how did the budhist temple and the volcano come out like in the sunrise? Please share that photo (if possible) with all of us.

  • Ram Dhall says:

    I have always been fascinated by the South East Asia, mainly owing to the historical and cultural bondage with the region (as you are aware, some of the areas were by ruled by the Indian Kings for a fairly long time). Also, Somerset Maugham’s unforgettable short stories like “The letter”, “Footprints in the Jungle”, “Vessel of wrath”, “The rain”, etc were based on Malaya, Java, Sumatra and south pacific.

    Your beautiful description of Borobudur, Perambanan temples and the active volcano, has ignited my desire to visit these places.

    Thanks for sharing and welcome aboard.

    Would look forward to your post on the Bali Island, which I believe has some very ancient temples and exotic beaches.

    • Raani says:

      I agree..this inspired me as well.

      You are correct all of Indonesia and Malaysia were ruled by Hindu kings at one time. Many people do not know this, so glad you know your history!

  • manish khamesra says:

    Bhoomaji, So finally I am able to go through this beautiful post.

    Yesterday I read about Thailand (Ashima’s post) and today about Indonesia. Well after reading about Thailand, I got little discouraged, but after reading about Indonesia, again I felt like visiting south east Asia. Can you please share some of the practicalities, like availability of vegeterian food, safety and things to remember / know.

    Pictures of Mt. Merapi and Borubudur complex are very nice. Your account also gave hints that the ordinary indonesian is proud of its rich heritage. In second photograph is somebody praying ?

    Ram Uncle as ever your comment has given the literary angle to the travel. I think to read literature on the places one is about to visit, definitely gives him good insight, thanks for sharing it.

    Thanks again for sharing the beautiful account of your travel.

  • manish khamesra says:

    Your guide being an English lady of around 80 yrs of age also draw my attention. I saw in Europe people of this age being very active and able to manage and carry themselves very well. I wonder is it because of less polluted weather?

    Do they have some sort of warning system to inform about volcano about to erupt, or are you left to your bad luck?

  • bhooma says:

    Hello folks,
    Thankyou very much for the encouraging coments on my first attempt . After hearing from you all I wish I had included all the details.
    Yes, it gives a nice feeling when you find that the indian civilisation has influenced so many places around the world since ancient times. In fact the indonasian language ‘bhasa’ had a liberal use of hindi.All people are fascinated by our films.In fact I saw Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gam dubbed in their language being telecast on tv.
    Manish,The 80yearold guide was a local and new several languages.she went on and on about her story and family and was proud that she was working for the sultan.
    The shadow at Borobudur is of the buddha statue .I should have included more photos.The govt has several measures to warn people before the eruption.Disaster management is being given good priority.
    It was Geetha , my daughter who encouraged me to start writing for ghumakkar. I hesitated a lot becuase after the reading all the classy entries i felt i will not be able to do it. Thankyou all for giving me an incentive to write more.

  • manish khamesra says:

    Bhoomaji,

    Thanks for detailed reply and we are also thankful to Geetha as because of her we got to read this beautiful write-up as well as enjoyed beautiful photos too. I really liked the composition of these photos.

    When I saw the photograph again, now I could make out silhouette of Buddha statue. In case you have some more good photos to share, you can edit and can post them even now. For me ghuamakkar is the place where we archive how we viewed a particular place and with write-up and photos give our image of that place. Its like describing our friends the GREAT travel we had :)

    Wishing you more travels and looking forward to more write-ups :) and yes once you edit the post, please drop a comment and we all will know that there are some more pictures to be seen

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