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January 20, 2011

A Temporary Citizen of Indonesia - A Temporary Home Called, Bali (Part II) : A 10 Part Series Exploring The Meaning of This Title

Central Tower Complex - Prambanan, Java (Photo: Schwary)
“Every single meter of its construction was meticulously etched with ideas and concepts that prevailed most important to an ancient civilization that abruptly disappeared over 1,400 years ago.” -

Our train ride from Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia, to our next destination, the second largest city on the island of Java, Yogyakarta, was a perfect prelude to what the rest of our time in Java would prove to offer.  In short, unbeknownst to ourselves, we had a one way ticket to a ancient playground filled with thousands of years of history and shrouded in mystical mystery. 

Glued to the Window (Photo: Schwary)
Our actual train ride consumed an entire day’s sunlit hours, a fact that was planned by design because that was exactly what we wanted. We figured of all the bus rides, ferry boats, taxis, airplanes and every other means of transportation we had utilized up until this most recent trip, we wanted, no in fact we needed, to be alert and alive to witness what would see us past half the island of Java and introduce ourselves to our very first rice fields ever laid eyes on, rice pickers tending to their precious fields wearing those iconic triangular straw hats, small shack houses nestled inexplicably in the hillsides of lush jungle and many a other scenes once thought solely to exist on the surface of the silver screen in a Hollywood type movie, unfolded itself in the plain view of reality right before our wide staring and astonished eyes.  All in all, it was a train ride with particular moments that will last in my memory until the day I die and should prove fertile ground for countless dinner party conversation in the years to come. It was so cool.
But as I said at the start, all of this was just a prelude, sort of like an appetizer before a wonderful meal, not too filling but just enough to entice the appetite and serve as a suitable subordinate to the main entrée to come.
Their Flag (Photo: Schwary)
Yogyakarta, or as the local refer to their beloved city, Jogja, is a bit rough around the edges but super soft in the middle. This city of 650,000 people has a few points of touristic interest but for the most part it’s typically encountered as a launching pad for some of the oldest, most well preserved Hindu/Buddhist temples in the world, in addition, some fantastic shopping for some of the more interesting cultural content to be found in all of Indonesia. Speaking of which, one that impressed me most was a millennium old art form called, Batik.  Batik is a form of stain ‘n dye, using a special type of wax that stains the cloth which is dipped into a dye of any number of colors, after which the wax is peeled and the process is repeated to continue the creation of an image only limited by the imagination of the artist himself. It’s amazing, one of these Batiks can dominate an entire week of one worker’s time, yielding a meager profit of about 50,000 Indonesian Rupiah, which figures out to be a paltry six bucks. That, in and of itself, is a fact that could quite possibly dominate an entire week of blogging for the, full of endless blogging material, but only if there weren’t such colossal experiences like the material of this entry to distract me.

Flirting With the Camera (Photo: Schwary)
Before leaving behind the city of Yogyakarta and heading off to the outskirts like most tourist do to encounter the world famous temples that are responsible for putting this place on the map, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a couple personal experience of this town that made it the charming place that it was.  But, before doing so it’s critical that I properly set the stage by telling you how important I think any experience derived from encountering a place of touristic value is directly linked to the method of transportation employed in the creation of that experience.  For example, imagine for a second the difference between taking a nighttime helicopter ride over the city of Paris as opposed to seeing it from a 2nd floor hotel window. The resulting experience...quite obvious.
Richshaw Ride Through Jogja (Photo: Schwary)
On that note, the way Marie and I encountered the city of Yogyakarta, from a petite bike pushed carriage (or rickshaw)while interacting, laughing and joking with the local Yogyakartane managing the bike behind us, added a layer of intimacy that made sense out of the city around us while creating a closer bond with the shops, restaurants, buildings, statues, mosques and most important, the citizens of Yogyakarta. A special thanks to the many citizens of Yogyakarta, like the one that personally escorted us through the main market and saw to it that I safely ate my first Bakso soup with minimal collateral damage and to the all the beautiful ladies inside the market that day that made it so special for us. Thanks for laughing at my jokes and sharing smile after smile.
Now, off to the outskirts! And wow, what outskirts they were. The city of Yogyakarta is flanked by two of arguably the most impressive sites dedicated to religious interests, in the history of mankind. The one-two punch of Prambanan and Borobodur was possibly the most intriguing 24 hours of my life.  They were awe inspiring, spiritually mesmerizing, and left me feeling beyond perplexed that I had never heard of these place ever before!
Indiana Jones and the Temples of Prambanan (Photo: Schwary)
As we walked through the entrance of Prambanan we were greeted with a cluster of temples that knocked me off my feet, literally. I fell on my ass and the medics came and carried me off to the on site hospital adjacent to the public restrooms. Ha Ha, funny, just kidding. But really, we walked through the main entrance and within 100 meters we found ourselves engulfed in over a half dozen temples that produced a feeling as though I was super stoned while watching Indiana Jones with an oversized bowl of large buttery popcorn. The sheer size of the temples and the detail in which they were constructed was the first punch that struck me hardest.  The main temple, standing at over thirty five meters tall was my favorite.  Every single meter of its construction was meticulously etched with concepts and ideas that prevailed most important to an ancient civilization that abruptly disappeared over 1,400 years ago.  The entire main temple complex spanned the size of a football field. We spent hours walking in and around the temples, attempting to grasp the meaning, purpose and mystery that shrouded this magical place.
My Audience, Their Audience (Photo: Schwary)
Once having completed the tour of the main temple complex, we had several more to go. Less significant in terms of size and effect, but nevertheless, powerful.  My experience however, with the remaining temples of Prambanan had little to do with the actual temples themselves, rather, everything to do with the Indonesian grade schoolers that had come that day to visit their own national treasure.  It’s pretty tough for me to articulate all the details of our interaction that day, but for about thirty minutes, we walked around, laughed, shared stories and most memorably ended our short time together with a VicariousAdventure induced, long and joyful chant of, “I-n-d-o-n-e-s-i-a...I-n-d-o-n-e-s-i-a...I-n-d-o-n-e-s-i-a!!!”.  God, how I wish I could remember the details of what lead us up to that point, but I suppose the idea of living in the moment can be so intense that memory and reflection give way, and all that remains is a warm hazy fog of smiles and incoherent laughter. If had to chose memory over experience...I suppose I would consistently go with the later.
Night Time at Prambanan (Photo: Schwary)
Needless to say, we were officially the last visitors to leave the park that night. It was a bit scary in that we lost our way, and for a short while couldn’t figure out where the exit was. With sincere apprehension we scoured around until we were spotted by personnel from the park, luckily we were politely escorted to the exit. We walked about a kilometer to reach the shuttle bus that would take us back to our cute little hotel to grab a few hours of sleep until we were off once again to the next biggest Hindu/Buddhist temple, even more famous than the one we saw today, know world wide as, Borobodur!
Entrance to Borobodur (Photo: Schwary)
Ascending onto Borobodur was an adrenaline rush. The excitement and fascination that ran through my veins was daunting, an immediate head rush that left me feeling overwhelmed. I knew that this was going to be something I was going to spend the rest of the day marveling at. The history, and most interesting the mystery that surrounded this holy site was something of Hollywood material.  I couldn’t get over the granger of its size and beauty of its construction, and the way it was completely encompassed in a lush, palm tree laden jungle.  
Marvelous - Stupas and Palm Trees (Photo: Schwary)
The design of Borobodur is similar to a pyramid, but instead of being constructed with sides that are uninterestingly flat, they’re tiered-like which left room to be adorned with hundreds of Buddhas and stupas that contained bas-relief stories that relayed the long history of its religion and stories on how to live a better life through arguably the most peaceful and pacifistic religion ever known to man.  In fact, there was so much intrigue and mystery that filled this place to the brim that Marie and I decided to do something quite uncharacteristic in our exploration of most things touristic, we hired a tour guide.  However, like most experiences with tour guides, they sort of start off great in the beginning but invariably grow burdensome towards the end.  I suppose the time they spend filling in the gaps that should remain quite leaves me lacking the ability to harness the quietude and spirituality of what it is I’m trying to connect with.  Consequently, we tromped back to the site and spent the last three hours of our day, in poring monsoonal rain no less, attempting to appreciate the feeling that the people of this holy site must of felt way back in the 9th century.
After spending six days in Yogyakarta, and more importantly, two full months of hardcore traveling throughout Southeast Asia, TheVicariousAdventure Team was headed to Bali.  Unknown to us at the time, a perfect combination of traveler’s exhaustion and indescribably beauty and exoticism had concocted itself that would captivate our love for traveling, and settle us into a place where we would invest the lionshare of our Southeast Asian Adventure.
To be continued... 

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