Borobudur may be the reason we came to Jogjakarta, but it is not the only temple worth seeing in the area. You may recall that before we left on our trip we housed a few couch-surfers. One particular couple who stayed with us mentioned that they had been to Indonesia and suggested that we check out Prambanan. Our only goal in the area was to see Borobudur since it is a Wonder, but since we were going to be in the area anyways we decided to take their advice.
Prambanan is one of the largest Hindu temples in southeast Asia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s also a short trip from Jogjakarta. There is no shortage of ways to get to the temple. You can hire a taxi, take a tour, or, if you are braver than us, rent a motorbike. We opted to take the bus. Route 1A of the Trans Jogja bus line runs back and forth from the city to Prambanan every day from 6:00AM to 10:00PM, and it is crazy cheap. A one way ticket costs 3,600 Rupiah which roughly translates to 25 cents. The bus was easy to navigate. We just walked to the bus stop, told the attendant we wanted to get to Prambanan, and waited for the bus to appear.
The bus actually drops you a short walk from the temple complex, but there are several tuk tuk drivers waiting at the bus stop to give you a ride. We rode from the bus stop because we didn’t know how far it was. After seeing what a short distance it was, we decided to walk on the way back.
The entrance fee is pretty steep, at least compared to everything else in Indonesia. A ticket costs about $18 per person. You get a slight discount if you purchase a joint ticked for Borobudur and Prambanan. It’s not advertised, but just ask at the window. The joint ticket is $30 per person.
Once inside, the temple is impressive, especially considering that it was constructed in the 9th century. The main temple stands 47 meters tall and is covered with intricate carvings. The carvings tell the story of the Hindu epic Ramayana, which we wouldn’t have known if it hadn’t been for our lovely tour guides.
Did we mention that we showed up at this temple knowing nothing about it? Fortunately for us several schools in Indonesia have a program in which students give free tours in order to practice their English skills. The students explained that there were different levels of the temple complex, and that the main level (the most impressive one) is comprised of 16 temples. The three central temples are for the three gods Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma, with Shiva being the highest and most important. The three smaller temples in front of those are for the animal messengers to each god. The only remaining messenger statue is the bull, Shiva’s messenger. Presumably there was once a swan and eagle statue for Vishnu and Brahma. Our guides showed us each of the statues, and told us the secrets of how to get knowledge and beauty by rubbing the statues then touching your head. Next time you see us, you can expect us to be smarter and more beautiful.
There are several other smaller temples at the complex as well. The other major one is Sewu Temple, which is a Buddhist temple. Prambanan is billed as an example of Hindus and Buddhists living in harmony. Sewu, the Buddhist temple, was built first while a Buddhist king was in power. Prambanan was built as a response when the Hindus regained power. They did, however, for the most part live in harmony with one another. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any helpful guides at Sewu Temple.
Much of the temple sites are in ruins due to earthquakes and neglect. The temple was abandoned in the 10th century, destroyed by an earthquake in the 11th century, and sat in ruin until reconstruction began in 1918. Another earthquake in 2006 damaged the temple again. Today the temples that are still standing are incredible, but they are surrounded by piles of rubble. Maybe someday the complex will again stand in its full glory. Until then, it is still worth a visit.