We woke the girls at 3.30 am. Needless to say there was much groaning and flopping back onto the beds. They moved very slowly in the early darkness and breakfast could hardly be contemplated, so we packed the weetbix to have later, in addition to a couple of hotel pillows for the car. Riza was waiting in the driveway and was amused by the grumpy slumpy demeanour of our three. By 4.20 they had each assumed a prone position across one of the bench seats in Riza’s 8 seater car and we were driving.
The morning streets of Yogyakarta were anything but quiet. Markets appeared every few kilometres, alive with merchants selling their fresh produce, meat laid out on wooden tables and toddlers watching videos. No wonder sleeping at any time of the day – in any location – is part of the culture here if so many people are up half the night.
Yogyakarta is the city from which most people visit Borobodur, the largest and oldest Buddhist temple in Indonesia. That was our destination this morning, but first we were being taken to a hill about 4kms away from the monument to watch the spectacle of the sun rising behind it. A spiritual moment for our little unit – just the 5 of us watching a stunning sunrise in the hills of Java.
Matt looked at me with that funny look that says so many things but in this instance said “oh my god there’s a car park here. And it’s full!” I was more interested in the fact that it was already quite light. Anyway, we coaxed the girls up the 200 metres of stairs, furtively looking up at the cloud cover – the first we’ve seen in almost three months. There was the sign – Musholla that way, sunrise this way. Up the last 10 steps and there before us was the top of the hill, like Platform 10 at Flinders Street Station on a Friday night. I laughed out loud before I could catch myself. Obviously this was not going to be an intimate family peak moment. And the sky was lighter.
“I think the sun’s already up!”
Thankfully there was tea, so Matt got us a cuppa.
Suddenly there was a cry from one of the Indonesian men that cleaved through the quiet, “Look, look. You want to see sunrise, there it is.”
Another involuntary chortle escaped my throat, and then I laughed unabashedly as I looked to see the sun poke it’s face out from behind a cloud about 50cm above the line of the horizon. The cheeky thing had been up for hours, or certainly long before we were standing in the crowd. Obviously you can’t pick your sunrise. It was just lucky for us that on this morning it wasn’t so spectacular because our trusty guide wouldn’t have got us there in time to see it!
The car park at Borobodur is strategically located on the opposite side of the craft market and food stalls to the entry. By 6.30 we were eating Indonesian pancakes and omelettes and drinking tea. An ibu (grandma) approached us selling some very ancient-looking peanuts in their shells. We didn’t want the peanuts but she had the happiest, sparkliest eyes and not a single tooth and we wanted a photo. I asked her if it was ok and she laughed and said of course, that would be fine. She then proceeded to put her photo face on. She shrugged back her shoulders, tipped her head a bit, closed her mouth and positioned it just so, like she’d been a supermodel in her past life and she was working it for the camera. Priceless! We bought the peanuts and bu went on her way, laughing at some private joke we wouldn’t understand.
Borobodur is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is awesome in it’s size and an imposing structure to behold. The scale and intricacy of it’s many walls of carvings is quite mind-blowing, especially when you walk around imagining that the man who carved this or that particular Buddha believed that the world was flat. By 7.00 it was hot and we were walking our first circuit of the temple. Clockwise. If one walks clockwise around each ascending terrace, one achieves enlightenment. Unfortunately one half of one of the terraces was blocked off by construction, so we all still remain unenlightened. Unenlightened but much photographed by the scores of Muslim students and teachers and members of the general public who wanted a memento of their visit to the Buddhist temple with the cute Australian family! We lost count of the number of times we heard “photo photo” and we’re pushed into a group of giggling kids to pose. The girls were very patient, Matt and I becoming less tolerant as the temperature rose. Trying to remain zen, of course.
The heat took it’s toll on the walk back to our waiting car, forced by annoyingly planned pedestrian pathways through a seemingly endless market of Indonesian same same tourist crap. There was a resounding chorus of ‘enough’ from the troops, but Prambanan was last on our agenda and the argument “we won’t be here again” dominated. It was 9.00.
Prambanan is the largest Hindu temple complex in Indonesia, about an hour and a half from Borobodur. The entrance fee of both temples reflects the cost of renovation and maintenance of the sites but no one told us when we paid our $80A that only 1/4 of the temples would be open for viewing at Prambanan. By the time we discovered this it was not such a huge disappointment for anyone really. Zoe had a blood nose from the heat, everyone was hungry, thirsty, hot, bothered and over it. Without wanting to take away from the temple though, which was still a breathtaking wonder.
Ah, the air conditioning in the car! Riza took us straight to Indische Coffee at the Dutch fort where they do THE BEST vanilla milk shakes! Matt and I decided, over exceptional coffee art, that we would go and get the batik artwork we had admired the day before. We’d do the splurge before tonight’s budget meeting! The girls – refreshed after milk shakes and mac’n’cheese – relented to not going straight home because they were promised a horse and cart ride and the show of Daddy haggling with the art dealer!
Matt was happy – he got to hear the sweet sound of the art dealer calling him back from half way down the street, offering a better price. I was happy because we got the piece. The dealer seemed happy, but I’m sure he could have been happier!
An hour or 2 back at the hotel and everyone was hungry and tired. An early dinner from a little street car (A$2 total for Matt and I) and the girls collapsed into bed after their huge day of culture, religious education and heat. Matt and I indulged in Season 2 Episode 1 of Game of Thrones and looked forward to our day on the train to Jakarta, from where I now write about a day on our road.