Wednesday, July 3, 2013

AirAsia Trip to Yogyakarta: Prambanan Temple UNESCO World Heritage Site

Candi Prambanan is the largest temple complex in Java, just 15km north-east of Yogyakarta. It's one of the two UNESCO World Heritage sites there, the other being Borobudur. We flew AirAsia (just slightly over two hours direct from Singapore) to Yogyakarta. And Prambanan was the first place we went to, straight from the airport, as this majestic wonder is barely 15 minutes away.

There is a scale model (photo above) of the original Prambanan temple complex with some 244 temples, big and small. You can see it the nicely air-conditioned ticketing building they built specially for tourists (entrance fees 171,000 rupiah or US$17 per adult).

The model shows the original construct of the whole temple complex. At the centre of three concentric squares, it has three massive temples dedicated to the triumvirate of Hindu gods - Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu.

Oh how majestic the main tower looms
And then you see the real thing. Oh my. The central and largest tower (Shiva temple) looms 47m tall, and is even higher (5m) than Borobudur with its 10 floors.

The various temples at Prambanan Complex
The three main temples (for Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva) are accompanied by temples dedicated to their animal vehicles - the Angsa (Swan for Vishnu), Garuda (Eagle for Brahma) and Nandi (Bull for Shiva).

Don't you think aliens came and built these? Haha
There's something just otherworldly about these structures. This is amazing stone building technology back in the 9th century. The Prambanan Hindu temples were built almost at the same time as the Buddhist Borobudur not far away, showing that both religions or philosophies co-existed peacefully at the time.

The temples have been ravaged by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and political power struggles
In the 11th century, Prambanan was ravaged by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and political power struggles. Abandoned for many centuries, they were re-discovered by the Dutch in the 17th century. The six main temples are still intact but many of the smaller ones lie crumbled and in disarray. Restoration works have been going on since 1918.

Life among the ruins
But look: there'll always be new life sprouting from old ruins. No matter how bleak and grey it looks, there's always hope.

There's something Cheshire about this...
There's something rather Cheshire about this carving...

This must be somebody's pet
I think it once rested on the corner of the roof somewhere, with a smile that only it knew what was for.

Prambanan Temple at sunset
The temples look glorious at sunset.

Locals and tourists alike swarming the Prambanan Temples
Locals and tourists alike throng the temples. Most of the structures are safe, although some warning signs are about. You'd need to wear a helmet at the big Shiva temple.

Peek-a-boo kids at Pramanan Shiva temple
Children playing peek-a-boo at the grand Shiva temple. I guess they're ignoring the helmet rule.

The top part of Shiva temple at Prambanan
This is the top part of the Shiva temple, which hold four cellas each containing a statue - Shiva, Durga (Shiva's wife), Agastya (Shiva's teacher), and Ganesha (Shiva's son).

There are statues inside the temples, but in total darkness
This one is probably Agastya.

The Durga statue is also said to be the statue of Roro Jonggrang (Slender Maiden or Virgin), daughter of King Ratu Boko who was turned into stone by a spurned prince. Locally Candi Prambanan is known as the Roro Jonggrang temple, after this legend. You can read more about it here.

Great examples of Shiva art at Prambanan
There are great examples of Shiva art to be seen.

The stone relief carvings tell amazing stories from the Ramayana epic
When you walk around, you will see panels upon panels of masterpiece stone relief carvings. They tell amazing stories from the Indonesian version of the Ramayana epic.

I like this faded relief of man and consort
I like this faded relief of possibly a prince and his consort.

I swear that lion looks like the Okinawa Shisa (lion-dog)
Even the carvings of the birds are so accurate that scientists have been able to identify the species.
I do swear that lion looks like the Okinawa Shisa (lion-dog).

Such beautiful angular structures
Such beautiful angular structures. The interlocking precision is stunning.

Mystical and cinematic
One can only imagine how awe-inspiring the temples must have been in their heydays.

You can even ride horses with the temples in the background
These days you can even ride a pony across the verdant lawn in the Prambanan Archaelogical Gardens.

It's a long walk out
It's a long walk out of the gardens - not by the same way you came in. But it's nice and peaceful, a pleasant meditative break before you get hit by the touristy souvenir stalls outside the complex.

Hotel Puri Asri at Magelang
We headed back to Hotel Puri Asri at Magelang. It's more than an hour's drive in the evening peak traffic conditions. And then we realise the hotel is actually a sprawling resort - you need a buggy to transport you to your room.

Executive twin room at Hotel Puri Asri
The comfy beds were a welcome treat at the end of a long day (we had been up since 4am to catch the 7am flight).

The dresser with a couple of electrical sockets. The hotel kindly lent me all two of their travel adaptors because I forgot mine.

This Western-style bathroom is probably luxurious by local standards. Hot water was a little hard to come by, though.

Our row of guest rooms at Hotel Puri Asri
This is our row of Executive twin guest rooms - nice for a group of friends to stay close by. I thought I was hearing things when I heard peacock squawks in the night, but true enough, there were a few peacocks in enclosures just in the valley below.

There are some lovely views here, of the mountain (is that Merapi?)
There are some lovely views at the resort though, especially with the mountain in the background. The resort is only 20 minutes away by car from Borobudur, and about an hour to the city of Yogyakarta (they can arrange transport for a small fee).

Next up: two more posts - Borobudur and Yogyakarta city. We really had fun exploring the city on our own, making up the itinerary as we went.

FYI: all photos were taken with the Canon EOS 6D which Canon Singapore kindly loaned me - it's such a light and easy-to-use full-frame DSLR, that I enjoyed bringing it along on my travels.


  1. Wow, beautiful temple and great photos. Thanks for sharing

    1. Thanks, Elaine! The temple complex is truly amazing. This and Borobudur alone make Yogyakarta worth visiting.

  2. this is one of the places i would like to visit one day! great shots!


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