Friday, October 8, 2010

Candi Sewu (Sewu Temple)

There is something really appealing about these mostly ruins of Sewu Temple. Candi Sewu, built in the 8th century, is the second biggest Buddhist temple complex (after Borobudur) in Java. Sewu Temple is located in Yogyakarta -- a short walk from Pramadanan -- the Hindu temple complex.

Unlike Borobudor and Pramadanan -- only a small part of Sewu has been restored. There are heaps and heaps of stones within the complex -- collapsed temples -- and many of the reliefs look like Cubist pieces by Picasso -- since some of the stones have been haphazardly stacked on top of each other. At the same time, there is a beautiful rawness about Sewu. It feels almost like it is waiting to be re-discovered -- much as the more famous Borobudur and Pramadanan were -- in the 19th century -- both had been mostly mounds of rubble until restored early in the 20th century.

 Sewu Temple is not very well known -- so I had the place virtually to myself -- except for a Muslim family. One of the young daughters, wearing a hijab, posed with one of the Buddha.

Horse Power

I snapped this photo on Malioboro Street in Yogyakarta near the train station. I was sitting in a becak -- which was moving -- as was the horse -- making for the photo that you see above.  Horse-pulled carriages are a popular way to get around Yogyakarta -- competing with becaks -- bicycle-powered carriages.

I loved the hypnotic click-clack of the horse's shoes on the asphalt -- and when I closed my eyes on that particularly hot and humid day -- and listened to the tiny bells on the horse's harness -- I imagined being in a horse-drawn sleigh -- somewhere in Russia -- on a cold, snowy day.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Means of Transport

I was, at first, reluctant to climb into a becak (be-chak) on the streets of Yogyakarta. I was concerned about the cars and motorbikes whizzing by and the risk of getting hit. Then, I noticed that just about all the locals, old and young, ride in becaks. Next, I noticed that becaks get a lot of respect -- among drivers of motorized vehicles. Ok, maybe not a lot of respect, but enough respect to count -- and convince me to climb in and take a ride. On some streets of Yogya -- they have their own lane -- along the backstreets -- they pretty much have the street to themselves. By sheer numbers, they outnumber taxis by about 10 to 1.

It's a quiet ride along those back streets -- with the occasional motorbike darting past -- otherwise it's the sound of the becak drivers' feet going up and down on the bicycle pedals -- and the ding-ding of his bell -- when we are approaching a pedestrian from behind.

The becaks are a bit more expensive than a taxi, but I enjoyed riding in them -- they're pollution free and it helps the guy stay in business.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Market in Yogyakarta

Even before you walk into the Pasar Beringharjo in Yogyakarta you are overwhelmed by the smell of dried fish. Next, you see the source of that strong smell -- mounds of tiny fish -- the size of sardines.  Further along -- a friendly-looking young man is selling fresh ginger.
 Lunch is served -- noodles and soup and rice!
 Below are more photos snapped in the market on a typical Wednesday morning.

 This is a giant tub of spicy sauce -- try it -- if you dare!

 Rock sugar

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Means of Communication

I bought a new phone the other day -- a smart phone they call -- it does all sorts of neat stuff -- some of which I will probably never use. Today -- at a museum in Jogjakarta, Indonesia I noticed in a glass display case a small bronze cylinder -- below it -- were the words: 'a means of communication.' Just like my new mobile phone, someone could carry this device around in a pocket. It works by tapping on the cylinder and a high-pitched metallic sound is heard. This particular device was used in a small community -- it was used around the 5th or 6th century. It was strictly used for local calls.

Just yesterday, I saw another communication device -- at the Sultan's Palace -- it was definitely fit for a king. It must have been six or seven feet long -- made of wood -- and a diameter of nearly 36 inches.  Pound on this -- and you get a deep, deep bass sound -- early Morse Code. You can definitely place a longer distance call with this wooden log.

These devices worked on a much quieter planet. Today, here in Jogjakarta, like many places around the world, you are assaulted with man-made sounds -- motorbikes, cars and stereo and TV sets turned up to full volume -- with people shouting over them to be heard. Noise has made these devices obsolete.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Return to Borobudur

The first time I visited Borobudor Monument just outside Jogjakarta, Indonesia, was in 1996.  I returned yesterday and it was as impressive as I had remembered it. There were many things that drew me back -- the peacefulness of the place, the thousands of reliefs that tell a story and the exercise. It's lots and lots of climbing -- in hot and humid conditions, but I was so into the visit -- I forgot about the heat and humidity. Besides, once you are on top -- there's a really nice breeze!

Borobudur was constructed sometime in the 7-8th century -- on a hillside -- the name means: Monastery on the Hillside.

 Inside the stupas above -- are Buddhas -- when UNESCO restored Borobudor in the late 20th century -- it left two Buddhas exposed -- one facing east and one facing west -- as seen above.  Peer into the holes of the stupa and you see Buddha.
 Some Muslim girls posing on a stupa near the top of Borobudor.
 The reliefs are amazing to look at -- the sculptors have chiseled a virtual textbook of Buddhist stories into the stone.

 It's been suggested that the monument was conceived as a Buddhist vision of the cosmos in stone, starting in the everyday world and spiraling up to nirvana.*

*from Lonely Planet 9th Edition - Indonesia