I arrived yesterday afternoon and took a $6 cab ride to my guest house, Andelis Homestay, located just on the outskirts of Yogyakarta. It’s rated the #1 Homestay in the city and I can see why: the owners, Bram and his wife Sita speak fluent English (which is rare on Java) and are the most hospitable and helpful hosts! I’m still recovering from jetlag so Bram gave me a map of the area and recommended a local restaurant (more of a take-away spot with a few tables that is open to the dusty road) and wrote down what I should order (the entire menu is in Javanese and would be impossible for me to guess what to order!). A delicious meal of fried veggies and I walked home to tuck myself in early for a busy day ahead.

I woke up at 4:30am this morning (ugh, jetlag!) and Sita walked me to a nearby street vendor for my take-away breakfast of yellow rice (with turmeric), fried egg sliced up and some snacks of fritters and donuts for later. All in all it cost about $1.50. And it was delicious!

I caught the 7am local bus nearby that took me (well, with one bus transfer – what an adventure riding a local bus is!) to Prambanan, one of the temples Yogyakarta is famous for. The bus stop is about a 2km walk from the entrance to the temple (called a Candi in Indonesian) so I started my way. A couple of blocks in a man of about 50 years of age on a motorbike was talking to a friend near the sidewalk and as I walked by asked me if I wanted a ride for $1. I clearly stand out as a tourist with my white skin and blond hair, not to mention that I don’t wear a headscarf like most of the women do in this Muslim country. I said yes. He seemed nice enough, after all.

I jumped on the back of his motorcycle, sans helmet (yes, I realize as I’m writing this that it wasn’t the safest thing I’ve even done, but hey, when traveling alone I have to trust my gut – not logic – and my gut was telling me this was the right thing to do). En route to the temple the man, whose name it turns out is Uni, asked me if I wanted to see all five temples in the area. He would take me to all five for $10. Again, I said yes. And so my first day of adventures in Yogyakarta began.

First stop: Ploasan Temple

Near the entrance of this complex was a security guard who fancied himself as a guide, and he spoke pretty good English, so when he offered to take me around I said yes. (this seems to be a day of ‘yeses’ so far). The young man, Agra is his name, told me that these two temples signify the marriage of Buddhism and Hinduism, as they incorporate aspects of them both (this was not corroborated by Wikipedia, which states it is a Buddhist temple, but I’m inclined to take Agra for his word). He also told me that folklore says that if you are single or unmarried you should walk around the temple three times to call in your beloved and you will shortly get married. So that’s what I did. Agra (who is married a year himself) accompanied me (I’m sure that doesn’t break the spell) as I completed my tour.

Many of the stupa around the two temples were rubble from an earthquake– Agra told me that UNESCO/ the authorities will only allow them to be rebuilt if 60% or more of the original stones can be found and used. So where they are standing they have been rebuilt.

Next: Pemugaran Temple

This was a quick stop – a quick walk around the one temple and inside.

Next: Boko Ratu

This was my favourite site thus far because it was a sprawling site. It took a while to get to (30min or so) up a winding country road that was just freshly paved (I use the term ‘paved’ very loosely – it was mostly shoveled on asphalt). I wouldn’t recommend this on a motorcycle, but glad to have lived to tell the taleJ

A bit about Boko Ratu from Wikipedia: The site covers 16 hectares in two hamlets (Dawung and Sambireja) of the village of Bokoharjo and Prambanan, Sleman Regency. In striking contrast to other Classic-period sites in Central Java and Yogyakarta, which are remains of temples, Ratu Boko displays attributes of an occupation or settlement site, although its precise function is unknown. Probably the site was a palace complex which belonged to the kings of Sailendra or Mataram Kingdom that also built temples scattered across the Prambanan Plain. The argument was based on the fact that this complex was not a temple nor building with religious nature, but a fortified palace instead which evidence of a remnant of fortified walls and the dry moat of defensive structures.

I wandered around for over an hour. A few groups of Indonesian tourists (Indonesians travel a lot in their own country vs abroad – mostly due to finances, I think) asked me to take a picture with them (I was warned of this – locals want a photo with ‘white’ people and treat us as a celebrity). I obliged but also used it as an opportunity to get photos of me, either alone or with them – that’s the one downside of traveling alone, all my photos end up looking like postcards without the help of strangers. So any photo you see of me is because I befriended a local, or they befriended me. I was the only white person anywhere I went all day.

My favourite part of this site: befriending two sisters from Jakarta who live in different parts of Java but were holidaying together to spend time together; they were taking jumping photos and offered to take one of meJ The other favourite part was finding a ‘yoni’ cave. Most sites feature ‘linga’, or phallus symbol to honour men. ‘Yoni’ is the female anatomy to honour the feminine. Usually when the yoni is depicted it is along with the linga to represent the two coming together. This was a rare instance where the yoni was alone, above the entrance to a cave. The area is said to be fertile ground and the cave to enter and meditate on the past. So that is exactly what I did: I meditated in the yoni cave on a site for fertility. Ha! So far I’ve walked around a temple three times to call in marriage and meditated in a yoni cave of fertility. Not what I was searching for, but if it brings in good omens for 2017, I’m in!:)

Next: Kalasan Temple

This was a quick stop: this temple is thought to be the oldest Buddhist temples in Central Java. You can’t enter the building so I walked around it and quickly left.

Next: Candi Sari (Sari Temple)

This was another quick stop: this Buddhist temple was discovered in the 1920s and has been partly restored but many parts are still missing. It was built originally for Buddhist monks to sleep; I walked around, took a quick peek inside (the windows show just how thick the walls are!) it and quickly left.

Next: Prambanan Temple

The largest Hindu temple in Indonesia, Prambanan, is one of the two main temples that Yogyakarta is known for. It was originally built in the 9th century to mark the return of the Hindu Sanjaya Dynasty to power in Central Java after almost a century of Buddhist Sailendra Dynasty domination. Several temples each with its own meaning (courtesy of Wikipedia):

3 Trimurti temples: three main temples dedicated to Shiva, Visnu, and Brahma
3 Vahana temples: three temples in front of Trimurti temples dedicated to the vahana of each gods; Nandi, Garuda, and Hamsa
2 Apit temples: two temples located between the rows of Trimurti and Vahana temples on north and south side
4 Kelir temples: four small shrines located on 4 cardinal directions right beyond the 4 main gates of inner zone
4 Patok temples: four small shrines located on 4 corners of inner zone
224 Pervara temples: hundreds of temples arranged in 4 concentric square rows

I wandered around for an hour or so, met a young local couple who wanted a photo and agreed to take photos of me (and then sent the ones they took to me later by email – thank you Bayu!!) and then exited to find my driver to take me back to the original bus stop. On the way out of the temple grounds there was a petting zoo for kids and rows and rows of souvenir stands – this place is built for families to come…smart.

By now it was about 2pm so I took the bus into Yogyakarta to the main street, Malioboro and wandered around. A older man, who told me he was an elementary English school teacher. He wanted to chat in English so we walked and talked and he too me to a school where they teach the traditional art of batik. Batik is the colourful and intricate patterns on clothing, If you’ve ever made a Ukrainian Easter egg, it’s a similar process, only on cloth. The artist applies wax in whatever design they want on both sides of a piece of cloth. The wax seals in the colour. Then the cloth is dipped in a darker colour of dye and the application of wax continues, sealing in this new, darker colour. This continues until the batik design is complete. All by hand! The process for one piece of fabric could take up to 6 months!

After a long day I took the local bus back to my homestay….exhausted. I mustered up enough energy to drag myself to the same restaurant as the night before, only to meet Annette, a Dutch woman who had just arrived at the same homestay as me. We hit it off immediately and already have plans for dinner tomorrow.

Off to the other main temple tomorrow: Borobudur. Bram is going to take me by motorbike…this time I’ll wear a helmet.