Sunday, May 25, 2008

Java Jive '08 Part 9: Begawan Solo

Our final destination in Java was the city of Solo, a small city (by Indonesian standards) of about half a million people, famous throughout Asia for the song Begawan Solo.

The city exuded a more glamorous persona than neighbouring Jogja, due to the presence of stately colonial buildings and statues of war heroes right in the middle of city streets.

That, and the fact that the train actually ran alongside the main street during rush hour!

Solo was supposed to be just an overnight stopover as our flight back to KL was from Solo airport early the next morning. Then Airasia called informing us that our flight had been cancelled and we were bumped to the evening flight!

So we found ourselves with an extra day to go sightseeing! We hooked up with a local tour guide named Patrick who offered to take us on a trip to the picturesque countryside outside of Solo.

So that was how we found ourselves on a scenic drive up the mountains that were covered with rice terraces and tea plantations.

Our fascination with the gorgeous views outside our car windows such as this made us rather grateful for Airasia's heavy handed scheduling gaffe.

A few times, Patrick stopped the car to allow us to go out and breathe the fresh and cool mountain air. At one junction, we spotted this waterfall far off in the distance. It was a pity we had to hurry back by 3.00pm, otherwise Patrick would have driven us for a picnic by the waterfall.

Still, the sights we were treated to were charming enough. There we were, happily snapping our pictures away, while the locals were hard at work in the rice fields.

It was a similar scene at the tea plantations, and the whole thing reminded me very much of Malaysia's very own Cameron Highlands.... minus the oftentimes overpowering smell of manure, of course. ;)

As we approached the top of one of the hills, Patrick stopped at a small temple named Candi Cetho. There was a wedding ceremony as well as a prayer ritual being held at the time, so the place was a bit crowded.

Candi Cetho is an ancient Hindu temple complex built in the 15th century during the last days of the Majapahit Empire. As previously mentioned, this temple is still used by the local Hindu worshippers for their rituals and celebrations.

The main temple is a pyramidal structure built atop nine levels of lesser temples symbolising the nine planes a man must journey through to reach the heavens.

The stone gates at the front of each level looked very similar to the ones in Bali. Indeed, the Hindu kings and their servants were driven out of central Java by the invading Islamic army and they fled to the neighbouring island of Bali bringing along their culture and religion.

At each level, there were small wooden huts that served as altars to various gods like the god of prosperity, god of healing, and god of protection.

Erm... methinks this is the altar to the god of fertility?

We had to be careful not to step on these small offerings and incense that were placed on the steps leading up to the main temple.

Then, as were busy listening to Patrick tell his story about the legend of the Hindu Wolf-king, the mist began to encroach into the temple slopes....

Fearing that the visibility on the way down would be too limited, we quickly made our way back to the foothill, but not before taking a pic of us 'leaping into the beyond'...

So down we went.... through a narrow footpath beside a tea plantation... and then Panda got one of his 'ideas' for a photo op...

So one by one, we trudged through the thick tea bushes.... I think Panda has watched too many of those song and dance Bollywood movies...

Our next stop was at another 15th century Hindu temple named Candi Sukuh.

This temple is famous for its distinctive thematic reliefs depicting life before birth and sexual education. Oh dear, were we going to see altars to the fertility gods again?

A lot of the reliefs and statues were defaced or destroyed after the fall of the Majapahit empire, and today the salvaged but disjointed pieces are arranged side by side as if to tell a story that has no beginning, no middle and no end.

Of course weathering has also taken its toll on the carvings and it was only recently that active conservation works have been undertaken to save what was left of this priceless ancient monument.

Its main monument is a simple pyramid structure with reliefs and statues in front of it, including three tortoises with flattened shells and a male figure grasping his penis. I do have the pic of the male figure, but I think we've all had enough of penis statues, right?

Wrong! Here the final pic of a relief with such a persuasion, I promise.

Having had our fill of the rice terraces, tea plantations, candis .. oh and a delicious lunch of goat meat satay, we headed to the airport for our much delayed flight back to KL.

It has been a hectic but extremely enjoyable trip for the three of us and I feel blessed to have been part of this ten-day trek across Java with my two best buddies. And guys, I sincerely apologise for the times when I stepped on toes or behaved badly or just plain irritated the shit out of you two (and I know there were plenty) and I hope you will forgive and forget, eh? ;)


Nickxandar said...

Awww ... it was great travelling with you guys! We all had our moments in the trip but more importantly we had fun regardless.

Look forward for the next trip .. Muah!!

M@x said...

Very nice travelogue! I just got back from Bandung! I enjoyed much more than Jakarta.

Visited Candi Sukoh last year. I like the tortoise table/ platform thingy. Must be some kinda of platform for go-go dancing in ancient time.

Amazonman said...

Nick: next time we go do the spa thing ok? Hehehehe

m@x: Thanks for ur comments. I really enjoyed Bandung. I heard the tortoise platform was for human sacrifice leh..... or was it for devirginisasi.... ;)

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