So far, our itinerary has only allowed us to enjoy Java’s natural wonders but we’re eager to learn more about the culture of the biggest Indonesian island. We arrived in Yogyakarta at 4am, and, after a quick nap, we were off to wander around the city and discover the cultural heart of Java.
Taman Sari – the water castle
Taman Sari is a former royal garden built in the 18th century for the sultanate of Yogyakarta. Initially divided into four areas, only the central bathing complex remains today. We can imagine how beautiful and quiet this site was back then… Taman Sari meaning “beautiful garden adorned with flowers“.
As we walk through the beautiful gates, decorated with bird and flower ornaments, and enter the main area, we try to imagine the Sultan family and court bathing and resting during summer afternoons… Only women and the sultan were allowed in the central bathing complex.
Pavilions all around were used as changing rooms and resting areas while the central tower was used by the Sultan himself to look at his concubines and daughters bathing.
Little streets around Taman Sari are charming. Pretty narrow and full of life, it is easy to get lost in their maze but they’re so colorful with their batik painters, musicians, little tea stalls and restaurants that you don’t mind loosing orientation.
The bird market
On Sundays, there is a place you may want to visit in Yogyakarta, its bird market. Often described as a bird park where you can see songbirds, owls, pigeons and ravens, you expect a little paradise but the reality is way different…
Poor creatures are piled into small cages where little feathered corpses are overstocked at the bottom, with open wounds and not much to eat or drink. Sad chicks can be found in every colors of the rainbow (if you want to know how, look at this disturbing video) and walls of tiny cages confine hundreds of unlucky birds.
All sorts, all kinds but probably all maltreated.
Unfortunately, birds are not the only ones and along the way, we find monkeys, lizards, bunnies, raccoons, cats and fighting roosters in cages. We would like to free them all…
This is only the tip of the iceberg, what tourists are allowed to see, but we are convinced that other animals are traded behind closed doors, probably more expensive endangered species…
We leave this place heart-sore and hit Malioboro street, the major shopping street of Yogyakarta. Sidewalks are crowded with little stalls selling everything, from food to kid toys, pieces of art and clothes. It’s super busy with Indonesian tourists but we manage to sit in a lesehan – open air street side restaurant – to look at the crowds while enjoying local Nasi Goreng.
The next day is dedicated to the visit of Borobudur temple. We start early to enjoy a beautifully pinkish sunrise from the hill in front of the temple. A couple hours of quietness and contemplation of the sky changing colors on the 9th century mahayana buddhist temple…
Composed of nine platforms and topped with a central dome, the temple is decorated with 504 Buddha statues and remain the world largest buddhist temple, as well as one of the greatest buddhist monument in the world.
Abandoned for centuries, covered by volcanic ashes and lush jungle, Borobudur was rediscovered in 1814 by a British officer who took interest into the javanese history. Two large scale restauration projects later, Borobudur found its greatness back again and is now listed as a world heritage site.
One by one, we explore the platforms, admiring the precise and well preserved carvings, travelling back in time and enjoying the unspoiled green valley around.
On the top, perforated stupas, looking like huge stone bells, cover 72 Buddha statues, each of them having a different hand position. Buddhas seem to look at the horizon, facing the majestic mountains in front of them, we spend some time doing the same…
We had a good time in Yogyakarta, exploring its streets, talking with its inhabitants and tasting its food. Borobudur was an interesting visit that threw us back in Thailand where we discovered Buddhism in the first place, but we really enjoyed getting a sense of the Indonesian version of it.