PART 2 – Northern Yogyakarta: The Famous Borobudur Temple and Mount Merapi
In the north of the Yogyakarta city, lies Mount Merapi, the most active volcano. While slightly across the northwest border of Yogyakarta province, in the Magelang area, lies the main attraction for tourist visiting Yogyakarta, the famous Borobudur Temple.
Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world, built from the 8th century, and finished in the 9th century. The structure is built on a square foundation of 118 meters on each side. It has 9 platforms in the form of a step pyramid. There are 504 Buddha statues placed on the platforms, each is caged in a perforated stupa.
The temple was abandoned following the fade of Buddhist kingdom in Java, and rediscovered in the 19th century, earthed and covered in the grown jungle. A massive restoration was undertaken from 1975 to 1982, and the temple is acknowledged as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Borobudur is the single most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia, counted more than 4.7 million visitors annually.
Mount Merapi is the most active volcano in Indonesia. It has erupted regularly for hundreds of years, and the latest eruption was in 2010. The name of the mountain itself is translated as ‘the amount of fire’, representing the active volcanic activity of the mountain.
After the 2010 eruption, the mountain attracts tourists. This is caused by the story of ‘Mbah Maridjan’ which is widely published by media.
Mbah (old man) Maridjan is a man who was assigned by the previous Sultan (King) to be the key-keeper/guardian of the mountain. During the Merapi eruption in 2006, he refused the ruling Sultan’s order to evacuate. His reason was that the previous Sultan never ordered him to evacuate when the volcano erupted. Miraculously, he had always survived. Media publication of this story attracted many people’s attention, and people praised him as a brave and loyal servant of the kingdom.
When volcanic activity increased in September 2010, the government alerted the villagers to evacuate. Mbah Maridjan, again, refused to obey the Sultan’s order to evacuate. On October 25th, 2010, Merapi erupted its lava and fumes. Hundreds of death tolls were reported, including Mbah Maridjan, who was found dead in the heat, in the pose of praying.
The story attracts tourist to see the site of Mbah Maridjan’s house and other remains. A mini museum was set in another damaged house, exhibiting a broken clock which indicated the time of the eruption, bones of ox, etc. Local people also provide an off-road tour around the mountain for tourist attraction.
How To Get There
Borobudur is 1.5 hours drive from the city. The entrance ticket is about US$ 12.
Mount Merapi is about 1-hour drive from the city. There is no entrance ticket, but you have to rent an off-road vehicle at the entrance station, priced about US$ 35 for a 4 passengers car.
PART 3 – Eastern Yogyakarta: Umbul Ponggok, Klaten
Tourists attractions eastward of the Yogyakarta is beyond the provincial border, they are in the Klaten Regency of the Central Java Province.
Massive use of social media has encouraged the emergence of new tourist destinations which focus on taking unique and iconic pictures. Among which getting most popular is taking underwater portraits.
Umbul is translated from Javanese as water spring in a basin so that the water forms a pond before it flows into a river. There are many umbul in Java, and one which becomes the most popular for tourist is the umbul in the Ponggok village.
The pond of Umbul Ponggok is about 70 – meter long and 40-meter wide, with the depth of ranging between 2 to 3 meter. For a first timer like I was, it looked just like a swimming pool. You can just swim in the pond. However, that was not my reason to come there. The beauty of the place will be seen when you get into the water, swimming with fishes and taking pictures with unique properties.
The umbul has not been used by the locals, but as water source for long. A government program, sending university students to have compulsory stay at underdeveloped villages for few months, has generated collaboration between the students and villagers to undergo creative program aiming to develop the village’s economy. Following the massive use of social media, like instagram and facebook, they have created an “instagramable” tourism site.
Before coming to the place, I made some arrangements. First, I hired a local underwater specialist photographer, found on the internet. Then my wife and I discussed the theme of our pictures, and we decided high school uniform to be our dress.
Arriving at the Yogyakarta International Airport, we were picked by friends and went directly to Umbul Ponggok. The photographer offered 2 photo sessions only per day, at 7 am, and 9 am. Since our flight landed at 7 am, we took the 2nd session. However, the trip will take 1.5 hours, so the time was tight, and in fact, we arrived at Umbul Ponggok 15 minutes late.
Soon, we were asked to choose the properties to rent. There were motorbikes, scooters, swing, laptop, television, etc. We asked to rent a tent, but unfortunately, it was broken and being repaired. Thus we chose a bicycle and a bench with heart-shaped backrest. While waiting for the crew setting the bike and the bench in the water, we changed our dress.
Ready with all the preparations, we got into water excitedly. Seeing the underwater scene with bare eyes, my first impression was, nothing special. The photographer then gave us instruction to pose and to make good expressions. He also spread some fish food to attract the fishes into the spot. He kept taking pictures as long as we can hold our breath. And when he showed the pictures taken, then I was amazed at the results. The blue color of the water under the morning sunshine, the flock of fishes surrounding us, and the vivid color of the properties, really made the pictures perfect.
Sounds easy? Well, not really. We have to dive and hold our breath 2-3 meter deep. Posting and making good expression there was not easy. We spent 2 hours in the water to take just 8 poses, and it took 5 to 10 attempts for each pose to get a good picture of the pose.
The costs of the entrance ticket were US$ 1.5, the rent price of the properties ranges from US$ 3 to US$ 15, and the photographer fee was US$ 10 per person. We spent less than US$ 30 for having amazing iconic portraits, that’s VERY CHEAP!
This article is Part 2, Part 3 of 5 and is created for BCIO Travel Lookouts blog. BCIO (Bridge Club International Organization) is the organization for former participants of The Asian-Pacific Children’s Convention in Fukuoka, Japan (APCC). The network spans in 40 countries around Asia Pacific region. APCC and BCIO mission is to nurture global citizen with ‘omoiyari’ (respect and understanding) spirit. Please read further about BCIO at http://www.bcio.org