Things we did in Yogyakarta, Indonesia | To sum it up: there was not much to do besides visiting that one famous Borobudur Temple. The Buddhist Temple of Borobudur is one of Asia’s big three greatest archeological sites beside Bagan in Myanmar and Angkor Wat in Cambodia. A tourist’s most common activity is: Arriving at Yogjakarta Airport, heading directly to the Borobudur temple (1.5 hour drive) and heading back out. In some cases tourists stay in a hotel nearby for maybe one night max, so did we.
So what did we actually do? First of all, we visited the mindblowing
Why do 2.5 million tourists visit Borobudur each year? Simply because the site is stunning. It captures people’s imagination. The Borbodur temple was built in the 9th century. It consists of nine stacked levels. The three top levels are circular, the lower six are square-ish. All this is topped by a central dome, decorated with 2,700 relief panels and 500 Buddha statues. The dome itself is surrounded by 72 such Buddhas, each seated inside a perforated stupa. The design follows Javanese Buddhist architecture, which blends the Indonesian indigenous cult of ancestor worship and the Buddhist concept of attaining Nirvana. It demonstrates the influences of Indian Gupta, yet there are enough indigenous scenes and elements incorporated to make Borobudur uniquely Indonesian.
If you want to take a taxi to Borobudur, get your concierge to arrange transportation. Also, ask them to negotiate a good price. A taxi ride for the journey should cost no more than 300,000 Rupiah (approx. US$32). That includes the ride back to your hotel.
You can also take the local bus, a taxi is probably the better way to go if there are only a couple of guests in your party.
In our case we rented a car via rhinocarhire.com It was a Toyota Avanza, pretty much the best offer they had in store. Don’t expect anything when it comes to cars on Java. And keep a cool face when approaching a gas station somewhere in the outskirts of nowhere. Sometimes they only serve petrol in glass bottles. Welcome to Indonesia.
Having plenty of time left before flying back home the next day, we decided to explore
Jalan Malioboro in Yogyakarta was the best we could get in terms of local shopping. This old street from the Dutch era was truly bustling with shops, musicians, artists and many cheap open-air restaurants on the side of the road. Not the cleanest but probably the most authentic. Our hotel was located nearby – the Malioboro Place.
Then there was Taman Sari, a legendary historic bathing complex. Architecturally ornate, 18th-century former royal garden with a storied bathing complex. After ticking this off our list we thought we were done … SNAP! A site we unfortunately missed due to a lack of proper research:
Only after returning back home, we found out that another interesting historical site was actually very very near: the Prambanan Temple – partly in ruins, 17 km (11 mi) north east of Yogyakarta. It once was the major Hindu temple in the region, also built in the 9th century. It collapsed during an earthquake in the 16th century.
The temple ruins were “rediscovered” in the early 19th century. In 1811 during a short-lived British occupation of the Dutch East Indies, a surveyor came upon the temples by chance. The site was back on the map. Then Dutch residents carried off sculptures as garden ornaments and native villagers used the foundation stones for construction material.
Half-hearted excavations by archaeologists in the 1880s facilitated further looting. In 1918, the Dutch began reconstructing parts of the compound. Proper restoration began in 1930. The reconstruction of the main Shiva temple was completed around 1953. Efforts at restoration continue to this day.
Where to stay in Yogyakarta
For that one night in Yogyakarta we did go with the Malioboro Place. It was the only hotel located (A) near Maliboro and (B) given a 9+ rating at Booking.com. Since both these criteria were a must for us, we had no other choice. The Maliboro Inn did not disappoint. It was very modern, stylish, clean, and cheap: US$25 for one night.
Things we did in Borobudur. By Chili & Chirp | Read more about tourist hot spots in Asia here: Travel Destinations in Asia