Candi Prambanan at dusk
Candi Prambanan at dusk

I felt a tap on my right shoulder. It was the bus driver signaling me we’re near the last stop. I didn’t know I already dozed off in front of this mini-bus on my way back to Yogyakarta. I had an early start that day visiting Candi Borobudur before sunrise and now I head back that afternoon to Yogyakarta this time for Candi Prambanan. One of the UNESCO Heritage Sites in Central Java, often times shadowed by the nearby Candi Borobudur.

The tallest structure in Prambanan, Candi Siva
The tallest structure in Prambanan, Candi Siva

The Efficient Trans Jogja Bus System

First order of business was to find my accommodation in Yogyakarta. I was set to a pre-booked room at JL Prawirotaman, but I wasn’t happy with that place and ended up at Hotel Winotosastro (read my review here). What I was impressed with this city is their Trans Jogja Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Implemented in 2008, there are several bus route lines and designated stations for each. Much like an integrated railway transit system where people can go down the station and switch routes. I studied the routes and found my route for Jokteng Wetan Station near Jl Parangtritis. It was easy to figure out and with a single trip ticket of IDR 3000 (30 cents) I can tour around Yogyakarta and change buses without paying until I leave the station. I found my stop without a problem.

Some of the bas reliefs at the temples
Some of the bas reliefs at the temples

Impressed by Candi Prambanan

Taking the Trans Jogja Bus again, I took the 1A Bus line which led me directly to Candi Prambanan. I had to hire a becak since I was in a hurry to enter the park. The park may close at 6pm but the ticket booth closes at 5pm. Besides, I wanted a bit more time there. The ticket gate and park entrance had a lot of hawkers and stalls selling souvenirs but the vendors there, thankfully were not that aggressive in selling. I paid the IDR 169,000 (US$18) for the park ticket.

The whole park is huge, there is a map to guide visitors to the many clusters of temples in Candi Prambanan. This is actually the largest Hindu site in Central Java and earned its place at UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list along with the neighboring Candi Borobudur. The inner zone holds the most interesting set of temples in its landscaped park. With only a few hours for me to spare, I decided to visit the main Candi Siva with its set of temples easily found left side of the path after entering the park

A chamber in one of the temples
A chamber in one of the temples

Legend of the Slender Virgin

Candi Prambanan goes by another name, Lara Jonggrang which means the “Slender Virgin”, referring to the legend of Princess Durga whose statue is found at the north chamber of the tallest Hindu temple, the Candi Siva. Legend has it, the beautiful princess was reluctant to marry the conquering princes Bandung and asked him to build 1000 statues first. He was successful in building 999 statues with the help of summoned spirits but the Princess burned the east of the temple scaring off the spirits thinking it was dawn. The angered Princes Bandung then turned Durga into stone.

I never caught sight of this statue since the Candi Siva was closed at that time due to its unstable condition. The complex when it was built around 850CE numbered to about 240 temples but years of wear and tear and earthquakes reduced their numbers. In the complex, there are many debris surrounding the temple. Like a giant jigsaw puzzle, people are slowly restoring them.

Doorway framing
Doorway framing

A Taste of Indonesian Hospitality

I kinda enjoyed exploring Candi Prambanan more than Candi Borobudur, maybe because of its vastness. It was nice to look into some of the chambers and see some old statues remain ans marvel at the many bas reliefs found at the temple. While going around to shoot, I noticed a tall, Indonesian who I always seem to know the good angles to shoot the structures. He was already there when I arrive to a possible good spot to shoot.

Initiating a conversation, I learned he’s a local Indonesian and an enthusiast photographer who has been at the site several times already to shoot. Even with the gates closed he kept on shooting. I met him again at when I exited the park and asked where I can get a ride back at that late time. After our introductions, I learned his name was Nugi and then he offered me a ride back.

After having a motorcycle accident a few days back, I was hesitant to ride a motorbike without a helmet but he says “Trust me! I drive safely”. I hopped on and we rode back to Yogyakarta. When we got to the city, he also treated me for a street-side Nasi Goreng where locals, some coming off from work go to for dinner. It was great, tasty and authentic. It’s also very interesting to meet a local photographer as we get to compare photos, notes and see some different angles he saw that I didn’t see. I also got recommendations of good places to shoot if ever I go back.

After which he dropped me at my hotel. I was really grateful for the ride back and dinner as it was already a long day and I was getting tired. Indonesians have been very helpful and accommodating throughout my trip, it reminds me a lot of Filipinos who would get out of their way just to be able to help. Maybe that’s why I’m liking Indonesia too, people are naturally friendly. Makes visiting all the sites more rewarding.

Temple ruins waiting to be restored
Temple ruins waiting to be restored
Landscaped complex and entrance to the temples
Landscaped complex and entrance to the temples
Candi Prambanan in silhouette
Candi Prambanan in silhouette
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Ferdz
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.

6 Responses to “Candi Prambanan and the Indonesian Hospitality in Yogyakarta”

  1. jasetiojanco

    Fantastic photos sir! How I wish I was able to go on a Yogyakarta side trip when I went to Jakarta for business two years ago.

    I have the same sentiments about Indonesians. Among the ASEAN countries I have visited, I felt most ‘at home’ in Indonesia. They are pretty much like Filipinos — warm and hospitable.

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