Indonesia - Yogyakarta (World Trip Day 76)
After Bali, our next destination is Yogyakarta on Java in Indonesia. Yogyakarta, in short Jogya is the cradle of civilization on the Java island. It used to be the centre of ancient Mataram Kingdom, nowadays, a hub of art and education. We came here mainly to see Borobudur, the biggest Buddhist temple in the world. From Bali to Jogya is quite a shift in terms of culture and religion. In Bali, Balinese Hinduism is the main religion. Whereas in Jogya, Islamic garbs worn by women remind us that Indonesia is considered the largest Muslim country in the world. Today, June 18th, marks the first day of Ramadan which lasts for a month. Muslims start fasting and everyday, in almost every corner in the city you can hear prayers blasted through speakers from a nearby mosque. It is so different from the quiet practice of Buddhism that I’m used to in many parts of Asia. In a city where the main religion is Muslim, we couldn’t find any alcohols at any shops or supermarkets. We are not heavy drinkers, but once a week having a beer in the hot summer days is such a bliss.
Having seen Angkor in Cambodia, Prambanan and Borobudur seem to be less impressive. But Borobudur has its own charm. Its architecture is an excellent representation of Buddhist philosophy. Climbing up Borobudur is like a pilgrimage from the everyday world to Nirvana. More than 400 Buddha images stare out from open chambers above the galleries, and 72 more Buddha statues sit serenely in latticed stupas on the top three terraces. Under the morning sunlight, Borobudur seems to be the centre of the cosmos, surrounded by lush green mountains from all directions.
But what’s strange to me, was that Borobudur used to be the spiritual centre for the people on this land, but not anymore, since the religion on this land has shifted to Muslim in 15th century. Coming out from the temple, you’ll see street venders in their Islamic garbs trying to sell you Buddha figures for a living. Borobudur is merely a record of a magnificent past. What I enjoyed the most was sunrise at Punthuk Setumbu. It’s a mountain we hiked up at 4:30am to catch the sunrise. The sunrise here is like nothing I’ve seen anywhere else. The chemistry of the morning dew and the sunlight is magical. The mist lingers around the forests, making the scenery a constant color-changing Chinese painting. Some people were disappointed by the thick fog and start to go down the hill before the sun showed its first appearance of the day behind the mountains. Those who waited saw the touching moment when the sun shines its first rays through the mist onto the forest. The beauty of the nature is unrivaled.