Borobudur, Prambanan and Jogja

I welcomed 2018 in Yogyakarta, a laid-back Javanese city known for its cafe culture, romantic little alleys and majestic Kraton (royal quarter).

Jogja itself is a perfect spot for a weekend getaway, with prices that are significantly lower than Bali or Jakarta, and well-preserved old quarter.

But most visitors come here for Borobudur and Prambanan – two spectacular religious sites that symbolise Java’s long history as the centre of the Buddhist and Hindu faiths.

These two sites are located about two hours away from Jogja, and the best way to get there is by arranging a driver (supir) to pick you up. You can get a supir to visit both sites for about RM200/day per car.

Built in the 9th century, Borobudur is located on a large, gently sloping hill overlooking Mount Merapi – a spectacular sight, especially early in the morning as the morning fog shrouds the horizon.

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To avoid crowd, come early. Borobudur doesn’t receive as many visitors as Angkor Wat, so it’s possible to find a spot where you can reflect and meditate on your own here.

Borobudur also has one of the largest collections of Buddhist reliefs in the world, and each of the reliefs represents a historical event.

Apart from warung and some hawkers peddling their trade outside the temple compound, there’s nothing much to eat at Borobudur, so bring your own food if you’re picky.

From Borobudur, we went to Prambanan, which is located on the other edge of Jogja.

Prambanan is a Hindu temple, dedicated to the Trimurti, the expression of God as the Creator (Brahma) the Preserver (Vishnu), and the Transformer (Shiva).

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The Prambanan structures are tall and pointed, characteristic of typical Hindu architecture – like the ones that we see in Brickfields.

The reliefs and sculptures at Prambanan are less weathered than in Borobudur, and the temple complex is surrounded by a vast expanse of paddy fields, instead of the more rugged surroundings that give Borobudur a more majestic look.

After exploring Borobudur and Prambanan, we headed to the hilltop Abhayagiri resort for lunch. It was a buffet lunch (RM90), and while the food is alright, the view from the terrace is stunning. You can see the sprawling Javanese villages with the imposing peak of Prambanan at its centre.

Also visible are the many minarets that dot the region; emblematic of Indonesia’s current Muslim-majority fabric.

The view from Abhayagiri

This, from a hilltop in Central Java. Well worth the trip.

FH

Bring me back.

This short story is a work of fiction:

***

The gravel path meanders around a hill, green meadows fill the horizon, alpine trees sway gently to the rhythm of the evening breeze, and I, settled on a stump, deep in introspective thoughts, blanketed by the silent wind, enveloped by the shell of solitude, body and soul at peace. The kind of conflicted peace, for it’s been a while, that the body has known nothing but peace, albeit a lonely kind of peace.

Should I stay here and enjoy the silence, or should I drive further down and see the world and find value in the people that exist in this small universe we call home? Should I remain here, continuing to be lulled by the complete solitude here to mistake loneliness for peace, or should I go out, find people to talk to, and connect with the reality of our world, even if that means, making myself vulnerable to the brashness of men?

Then I made up my mind. I needed some adventure in my life. “This place is dull. I need to go away, to a place where I get to savour the taste of adventure, to a place where I get to soak my feet in a sea of new possibilities. Endless possibilities, good or bad, who cares, I just want to see what’s out there, just to fill that void in my soul.”

So I gathered my strength and affirmed my volition, to leave this place of peace and solitude, the place that took me forever to find, and the place that wore me out, not for its imperfection, but for its predictability.

***

Then, in my favourite pair of yellow boots, and a light spring jacket, I took two stalks of lush emerald grass, a momento of the piece of serenity that I was going to leave behind, squeezed those stalks into a glass bottle that I closed tight. I filled the bottle with the scent of the place for I knew I was never going to come back, to a place this boring, this predictable.

I am a man of adventure.

I left. As I walked away, I saw my favourite stump on the meadow disappear gradually into the horizon. My favourite stump, my temporary home, where I sat and gathered my inspiration, where I placed a makeshift samovar of English tea that sustained me during those breezy evenings when I spent the entire time, staring at the infinite skies, counting stars, billions of stars, a reminder of the minuteness of us, those tiny specks of dust.

My favourite stump, now gone, replaced by the unfamiliar sights, first the alpine trees, then farmsteads, then cottages, then people.

So many people, that I no longer felt alone, and the moment my heart felt so, I knew I must stop my journey there. For I felt warm inside. The fuzzy feeling in my tummy. My emotions felt the kind of heat that I never felt before.

Could this be love? I don’t know. It felt good to feel that you were not alone after being ensconced in solitude for so long. This felt like an adventure. I was elated.

I thought it was about time that I opened up to people, I thought it was time that I sought validation from people. I thought it was time that I gathered my emotional strength from people.

After all, by then, I had already made peace with my inner self, in that lonely spot by the meadows, where solitude was bountiful, in a place where it was me, my samovar of English tea, and the stars at night, mingled to form a galaxy that validated my existence.

I had my peace in solitude. It’s time to start a new journey, with people, their feelings, their emotions, their desires, and their dreams.

I felt validated when I made my first encounter with people. I thought the people would welcome me with open arms. I thought they would complete me. I thought what I had, would be valued.

So at that time, during my first step into the world of people, I said to myself: “Let’s take this step out of the me-zone, into a zone that I get to share my wonderful existence with people. This is a new adventure. An exciting new journey. Let’s begin this adventure.”

Then I got weary.

.

.

.

Bring me back to that little stump. I want to see the stars at night. I want to go back into my old, lonely soul. I felt lonely, but I felt fulfilled. I felt validated. I want that back. Bring me back to that place. Bring me back to my favourite stump by the meadows, overlooking the gently rolling emerald hills.

Because I miss the simplicity when life is about what your soul yearns for yourself, not about what another person thinks how much you are worth.

Bring me back to that little stump, by the meadows, overlooking the gently rolling hills.

Bring me back.