13th, 14th and 15th October

We get up at 5h30, and have a very good western breakfast at the homestay with Rani. Then we leave for Malang, to take our train at 8h. Here too, it’s better to arrive early, in case we may have some complications with the bikes. And we do have! it appears that the train does not have the cargo wagon, and the bikes can only travel tomorrow for Yogyakarta. After much discussion again, they finally let us pass to the platform, but we have to make the bikes as small as possible. We remove all the paniers and the front and back wheels. But it is not enough, according to the rules of the company, only foldable bikes are allowed in the train. After some other discussion with the customer service, the headmaster of the train, of the station, and the security, we are rushed inside the train with all our stuffs. The train leaves just as we pack all our stuffs through the doors. We were very close to miss it, but finally, like always in Indonesia, a pragmatic solution is found at the last moment and we can continue our travel. We will arrive in Jogja in many hours, so now we are in the train, we can breathe.

Once again, we are really amazed by our host. Initially, we had planned to arrive in Jogja a few days later and Ning accepted our couchsurfing request. But then we changed our dates, and she is not in Jogja the days we will be. No problem, we are still welcome at her place, and her friend Visnu will guide us to the house. In addition, she bought us the bus tickets we’ll need to leave Jogja for Jakarta. And she leaves us her scooter so that we can move around easily. Do you know anyone around you who would do the same for total stranger?

We arrive in Yogyakarta at 15h30. Visnu, has come to pick up us at the station. We directly go to a Pelni agency (the Indonesias ferry company) to buy the ferry ticket from Tanjung Priok (the port of Jakarta) to Pulau Batam (the last Indonesian island before Singapore). Unfortunately, we cannot buy the tickets here for the bikes, so we’ll have to go to an agency again once we are in Jakarta. Then Visnu leads us to the house of Ning.

We go out in the evening, to meet an old friend of Mickael, Ulysse, and friends of his passing by Jogja. They met 8 years ago, in the summer 2005, on a volunteer campaign for taking care of the National Parks in USA (through the program ACE). We are in a little street near the station, where a lot of young people have dinner or simply drink the local specialty: a coffee with hot coal inside! It surprisingly tastes very good!

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We get up at 6 am with a long day ahead. Today, we will visit the two UNESCO sites near Yogyakarta: Borobudur and Prambanan. After breakfast, we take the scooter our couchsurfer had prepared for us, and leave for Borobudur. It is some 40km away from Jogja, so we need one hour to reach it. The site is surprisingly empty this morning.

Borobudur is a Buddhist temple. It was built in the 9th century by the then ruling Sailendra Dynasty. It is now the biggest Buddhist monument in the world.The site received numerous pilgrimages at the beginning of its existence, then became abandoned, due to many reasons: the change of the dynasty capital (from Jogja to East Java), the change of the dynasty religion: Indonesia is converted to Islamism round the centuries 13th to 16th, and the eruption of the nearby Merapi volcano. It was rediscovered at the beginning of the 19th century, when the English briefly took control of the Dutch Indies, and then been partially restored.

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The construction is made in a grey volcanic stone: the andesite. Its architecture, consisting in a sequence of 9 concentric levels, represents the three steps of the evolution of the mind towards the enlightment. The first 6 levels are square while the 3 last are circular. The first level represents the World of Desires. The 5 remaining levels are for the World of Shapes. Finally, the 3 circular levels are for the Shapeless World.In the centre of the last level, a giant stupa (a shrine to Buddha, in shape of a bell here) has been erected.

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All the levels are richly decorated with reliefs and statues. There are more than 2700 reliefs, illustrating events of the Buddhist mythology, but also everyday life scenes (like the merchant ship of that time). On the last 3 levels, 72 perforated stupas stand, each stupa having a statue of the Buddha turning the wheel of dharma inside. On the lower levels, 5 other positions of the Buddha are represented: Calling the Earth to witness, Benevolent and alms giving, Concentration and meditation, Courage and fearlessness, Reasoning and virtue, Turning the wheel of dharma. In total, there are 504 Buddha statues. Most of the reliefs and statues show signs of abandonment and harsh climatic conditions.

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Calling the Earth to witness

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Turning the wheel of Dharma

As we are in a low season, most of the tourists we see are Indonesian, who came to the region for the current bridge of the Aïd, culminating tomorrow with the sacrifice of the goats/sheep/cows, and share of the between with all the community.

Like many tourists, after the morning in Borobudur, we go in the afternoon to Prambanan. Prambanan is a hinduist temple. It was built in the 9th century by the current Hindu dynasty, as a response to the Buddhist site of Borobudur. Just like Borobudur, the site was progressively abandoned and forgotten, to be rediscovered during the English rule of Indonesia, between 1811 and 1816. However, Prambanan was left untouched until the end of the 19th century, when the restoration started. The site still needs much works, since only 18 temples of the original 224 temples are still erected. The rest of the temples are in a form of a bunch of stones, that mainly served as public quarry in the years of abandonment.

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If Borobudur was constructed as a tower elevating towards the sky, Prambanan architecture is more in 2D. The central area is the most sacred place, with the main temples (and the best conserved/restored). Around this area, 4 concentric layers of smaller temple used to be present for the different classes of the people to pray (priests, nobles, knights, common people), but now all but two are now in ruins.

The main temples in the central area are for the trinity of God in Hinduism: Brahma, the Creator God. Vishnu, the Keeper God. And Shiva, the Destructor God. In fact, Shiva is not only responsible of destroying what is bad, but also reconstruct it better later, that’s why so many temples are erected for him. The Brahma and Vishnu temples are 35m high, while the Shiva temple is 47m high and the most adorned. Then each of these 3 Gods has a smaller temple for his vehicle: a bull for Shiva, a swan for Brahma, and a kite for Vishnu (the kite name is Garuda, and has become a symbol of Indonesia, and now its image is used for the national Indonesian air company). Around these 6 temples, 10 smaller temples have been erected in the central zone.

We assist to a beautiful sunset in this magical scenery.

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Then we have a quiet evening, with the best nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice) of our trip, in a small street restaurant near the house.

Here is a small video presentation of these two extraordinary sites:

On the next day, we get up at 7 to meet our couchsurfer, Ning, who is back from Thailand. We spend the morning with her, and packing our bikes for the next travel, to Jakarta. Visnu and his girlfriend join us to go for lunch. We will eat a typical dish of Jogja, nasi gudek. It’s rice with a preparation of jackfruit. It’s very good and not spicy.

After lunch they all accompany us to the bus station. Visnu had already negotiated with them so that we can bring the bikes on board, so we don’t have much trouble to take our bikes today.

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The bus leaves at 15h. We stop for dinner, but only 20 minutes, so the lunch has to be eaten very quickly. Although the bus is very comfortable, the road we take is not: it’s with many curves, and holes. So the night is pretty short.