I only scheduled the one stop on Java and wished I had spent more time visiting some of the other sites on the island. But the good news, it gives me an excuse to come back! My purpose for visiting Jukja was to visit two very old temple complexes – one Buddhist for a sunrise visit and the other Hindu for a sunset visit and dinner/cultural show. I filled my time in between with a visit to another regional king’s ancient palace, another street market, and what turned into a bazaar float trip down a river thru a huge cave with every kid in Asia.
I arrived at the airport in the mid-afternoon so my guide and new friend Fitri Suryo (Fitz for short) had a car waiting to take me directly to the Prambanon Temple Complex for a tour of the complex followed by a buffet dinner and cultural show (same Dudely Do Right Theme as the two shows in Bali but at sunset and night with the Prambanon Temple Complex as the backdrop.
I had the good fortune to be accosted by two lovely and very sweet young ladies as I entered the Prambanon Temple Complex. The two girls, Witri (16-yr old Muslim girl) and her friend Gusti (16-yr old Hindu girl), were in the city for a two-month English Emersion Class. Their assignment for the day was to approach an English-speaking tourist and offer to be their tour guide for the day to practice their English.
How could I refuse – two cute charming young ladies giving me a free tour. Their English was excellent and they were very knowledgeable about the Temples and the Hindu Religion. I spent two delightful hours with the girls and had a ton of fun as well as receiving a first-class tour.
Sadly, the girls island had been hit by a major earthquake late in 2018. And both their homes and Witri’s Mosque was completely destroyed. They had been living in tents at a refugee center before coming to Java to study English. But their loss and suffering has done nothing to dampen their spirit and good humor.
The girls kept giggling and talking in their native tongue every time I said something. Finally, I had to ask what was so funny. That is when I learned that I sound funny. It seems they agreed I sound like a cartoon figure. It turns out that I sound like Grandpapa Smurf to them. First time anyone has ever told me that!
The other amusing and very sweet moment was when they were showing me the temple devoted to Ganesh. Ganesh is the deity in the form of a sitting elephant. According to Gusti, Ganesh is a deity devoted to wisdom. She explained this as she patted Ganesh’s huge elephant belly. She then turned to me with all the innocence that only a 16 year old -girl could have rubbed my belly and very seriously declared that I must possess much wisdom because of the size of my great belly.
So, there you have it – I’m a wise big bellied grand papa Smurf. The perfect ambassador for America. I was having so much fun with the girls I didn’t want the tour to end. But I had tickets to the dance performance and we went our separate ways.
I will spare you the repeating of the theme and acts of the dance since it is exactly the same story as the two shows in Bali. I will say that the caliber of the dancers and set design was much better with this show. As I mentioned before, this show came with a Javanese Buffet dinner that was excellent. One funny moment was when we were shown to our table and my guide, Fitz, through a fit.
The table was in the back under a canopy and off to the side. After several minutes of heated conversation several members of the staff picked up the table and chairs and moved them to the very front to the prime location. I asked her what had just happened and she said, “you just witnessed the power of Fitz!”
Next morning Fitz and the driver picked me up at my hotel at 3am for the 45 minute drive to the Borobudur Buddhist Temple Complex. The early start was to catch the sunrise from the top tier of the Temple and to beat the crowds. And the early start was worth the short night. The Temple was beautiful and the sunrise was spectacular.
The temple was built in the shape of a traditional Buddhist mandala. A mandala is a square with four entry points, and a circular center point. Working from the exterior to the interior, three zones of consciousness are represented, with the central sphere representing unconsciousness of Nirvana. The Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world and should be on anyone’s bucket list visiting southeast Asia.
The breakfast that followed not so beautiful or spectacular. There was very little western food so I had a chicken curry surprise and rice for breakfast. And with the chicken curry came more chicken intestines (not my favorite).
After breakfast, we visited two smaller Buddhist Temples before returning to Yogyakarta to visit the Pagelaran Karaton Palace Complex. This Complex is the main seat of the current Sultan. The Palace was nice but a little underwhelming after visiting the Borobudur Temple. From the Palace, we visited Tamansari (one of the historical buildings of the Sultan’s Palace). Tamansari meaning “a beautiful garden” was built by Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono I in 1758 and was designed as a royal bathing place and became known as the Water Castle.
The complex is quite large and would take too long to describe the entire set up so I will just mention the small area and story I enjoyed the most as a dirty old man lol.
It seems the Sultan would allow the local commoners daughters to come use one of the bathing pools and observe them from above scouting for new talent for his harem. Long story short, many fresh new concubines were first spotted bathing in this pool. The Royal Bathing Pool – just another version of the infamous casting couch.
From the Water Castle, we walked over to the street market where I dined on an assortment of grilled meats sate (sate means grilled on a stick). I enjoyed chicken organ sate, lamb sate, and shrimp sate. All washed down by iced tea served in a plastic baggy. The market also provided me an opportunity to purchase a traditional Indonesian shirt – a Batik. This purchase was a little harder than you might think. I wear a 2X in America. But people here are quite small so I wear a 7X in Indonesian sizing. Not a very common size here at all. Lol
My final excursion on Java was to tube thru Pindul Cave. Fitz had been promising me this would be a nice cool way to spend an afternoon floating thru this cave in quiet solitude. Not a chance, It seems I scheduled my visit during a school holiday so my solitary float trip turned into a tube to tube traffic jam with over 4,000 Indonesian kids and teens whooping, laughing, giggling and splashing their way thru the mass of tubes inching along the river at a snail’s pace.
And while this may sound like a complete disaster it was actually fun. The kids loved the fact that there was an old fat Bule amongst them and treated me like a local dignitary. Reaching out to touch me and asking for photos with me. I even had a couple of teenage sisters comparing my nose to theirs and telling me we are the same.
I probably shouldn’t have told them I had been here 16 years ago and met their mother and that I was proud to have such pretty daughters but they enjoyed the lie and were telling all that would listen that I was their “Bule” father. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I was old enough to be their grandpapa Smurf.
While returning to the city from Pindul Cave Fitz suddenly demanded we stop the car at a roadside stand. The sign for the stand read Walang by the kilo. She assured me Walang was a great snack and I had to try it. I expected the snack to be some kind of boiled peanuts like in North Florida or Georgia but boy was I wrong! Walang is actually the Java word for grasshopper. So I tried my first deep fried grasshopper. And guess what? They are quite tasty. You basically grab the crispy critters by the two back legs, insert the head and body into your mouth and crunch down. The legs snap off and are discarded and the head and body with just a hint of chili and smoke are pretty good. And like the old commercial – you can’t just eat one! Before we reached the city I had finished the entire bag of Walangs.
And before I move on I would like to say a word about my guide Ms Fitri Suryo (Fitz). She is a very good guide who speaks English well because she has lived and worked in both Canada and Australia. She holds an undergraduate degree in Social Anthropology and a Masters degree in Marketing. She knows both Bali and Java like the back of her hand and I know she saved me far more than she cost with her relationships and bargaining skills. She is an excellent photographer. And most important Fitz protected me from the many panhandlers and aggressive street sellers that accost tourists.
Should you be planning a trip to Bali, Java, or even Singapore or Malaysia I suggest you contact her on Whats App for rates. +6281311085776
Well that is all for Java so on to Malaysia.