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