The train to Yogyakarta was great with airline style seats and a tv. We travelled past miles and miles of rice paddies and lots of greenery which was very picturesque.
We hadn't booked a room so took a chance on a hotel that had a swimming pool, yep we're... splashing out at £8 a night! The only problem was that their rooms only had Asian style squat toilets with a manual flush (i.e. put water in a bucket and pour it down the toilet until the path is clear whilst trying not to slosh water everywhere)! It got a bit tedious and we will never underestimate the benefits of an automated flush again!
Anyway...the next day we went to visit the sights which included a trip to the Kraton which is a palace of the sultans of Yogyakarta. Sounds as interesting as it was! It didn't feel that big but apparently 25,000 people live inside the walled palace grounds. We were there on Saturday which meant the performance was Wayang Kulit - a leather shadow puppet show. It was obviously all in Indonesian and the puppets didn't move that much. We got chatting to someone and they said they add personal jokes which is why most of the laughs came from the performers. We then went to Taman Sari which is the ruins of a water palace. The bathing pools had been restored but in between that and the ruins were a maze of houses. With our sight seeing done we went to tourist information to book a couple of trips. We then had a swim in our pool which was very nice!
An early start as we got picked up at 5am for our morning 'morning sunshine trip' to Borobudur temple (not quite sunrise but soon after). The Buddhist temple was built about 8/9th century using 2 million blocks - we counted! On our way we caught our first glimpse of some volcanoes which was so cool. They were the classic cone shape rising out of no-where style ones. The driver told us about them and that the last eruption was in 2010. He said there was thick ash for miles around, and he was in the car taking a tourist to another volcano when they saw it erupt! He also told us about the mysterious event that happened in the 10th century believed to be an eruption or earthquake so bad that the Buddhist left Java Island for Bali deserting the temples we were going to see. Years later Muslims came to Java and settled, and that is why the oldest Buddist temples are in Java not Bali, and why the main religion today in Java is now Muslim and 80% of the population in Bali is now Buddhist.
We were the first people through he entrance at 6am and were immediately asked to wear a sarong, yes both of us had to wear one! We had no idea why, we've been to lots of Buddist temples before and never seen anyone wearing one. But apparently it is tradition at Borobudur. Kris looked very David Beckham in his skirt, although the likeness ended at the sarong!
The temple was nice and well preserved. This is due to the fact it was discovered under layers of volcanic ash in 1815 when Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles governed Java. Surrounding the temple were 3 huge volcanoes. It was quite surreal. The photos came out a bit light at it was misty and a lot of white cloud, but it really did all look pretty incredible.
For the local tourists however, we were the attraction! They all wanted photos with us. It doesn't bother us because they are really friendly. But one day we are sure we will be somewhere and see a random picture of us.
We headed to 2 other smaller temples and then to Prambanan temples. The 2 main temples were impressive, although there was a lot of damage and reconstruction needed, mainly due to the 2006 earthquake - if it's not a volcano it's an earthquake!!! But again at these temples we were the main attraction for the Indonesians, as quite frankly we were mobbed. A group of Sunday school students who were learning English came up to us and asked if they could practice their English so we chatted to them for a bit had our photo taken and then turned around walked 10 paces and the same again. There were loads of them, from quite a few different schools. Some even asked for our autograph! After trying to explain to them that we weren't famous we realised that they had been asked to get signatures from the foreigners they spoke to. We asked how often they go to see the temples, but it turns out they're not there for the sight, they're there for the westerners so they can practice English! It seems funny but its a good idea as they would never speak to a westerner otherwise. Anyway, we shook the kids off because we were running late for our guide and driver, bought some souvenirs and left. We had done a full days sightseeing and it was only 1pm! We talked to the guide about how the temples are similar in Anchor Watt in Cambodia. He said that as the temples in Cambodia were in the jungle it was easy for them to recover them, but the temples in Java have been covered over by 100s of years of volcanic eruptions. Remains are often found when digging, but with so many towns and houses in Java it is impossible to look for more. There are probably many temples buried under the ash, and that's where they'll have to stay.
We booked ourself onto a 2 night trip which would see us visit some volcanoes....