Trip Start Dec 28, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Indonesia  , Java,
Friday, March 27, 2009

After a glorious 12 hour mini bus ride I have arrived in a city called Yogyakarta or "jogja" for short.  It is your basic midsized city with a pretty decent backpacker ghetto sandwiched in its depths.  The mini bus arrived at 4:30am but thankfully the driver was nice enough to drop us off at our individual hotels and guesthouses which saved us the shitty alternative of walking around an unfamiliar place in the predawn hours, looking for your guesthouse which may no longer exist between the last printing of the lonely planet and your actual visit to the establishment.
Jogja's claim to fame is a huge Buddhist temple named Bromodur which is supposed to be one of the more amazing displays of Buddhist architecture, right up there with Angkor wat but on a slightly smaller scale.  I would save that for later but instead wandered off to a HINDU temple area named pramadan.  This was a really beautiful temple created about 1100 years ago and of course lost in the jungle pretty much the day after completion.  Unfortunately due to a 6.0 earthquake that rattled the area a few years ago, many of the structures are unstable and are still being renovated.  It's a bit of a pain in the ass when you get to these places that you will probably never come back to and much of it is roped off or there is a scaffolding covering half of the site.  I had the same problem when I went to the forbidden city in Beijing.  Many of the structures were undergoing renovation for the 2008 Olympics which is great for the people going to the Olympics but sucks donkey balls for the guy who comes 3 years before.
All complaining aside though, I always find it almost surreal to walk amongst these temples, running my hands across stones that were hewn over a 1000 years before by such dedicated workman.  I am sometimes amazed by the artistry and creativity of mankind.  Sure we are destructive and will probably end up killing each other in the end but before that final curtain comes down, we sure can do some amazing things when we find time to put the guns down and pick up a chisel or a paint brush.  I know I am about the 1 billionth person to lament man's violent disposition but if we could just harness all of the hateful energy that we expend on killing each other and put it to a better use....say, building temples in a jungle....this world would be such an amazing place.  But alas we are all just well educated monkeys with heavy artillery at our disposal so I suppose that the cause was lost right around the invention of gunpowder.
The next few days I spent exploring jogja and realized that there wasn't all that much to explore lol.  It was nice to just kinda wander about and take a look here and there.  The main source of transportation was my old friend the bike rickshaw (for those of you who don't remember please read the Nepal entry and enjoy my tale of the 50km rickshaw ride).  Again, I never feel comfortable having some poor guy pedal my ass around but this really was the most common mode of transport around town and only cost about $1-2 for a trip across town.  Using the rickshaw afforded me an unobstructed view of my surroundings but unfortunately the town was staggeringly unphotogenic.  Even with camera at the ready, I took only a few pictures here and there because there was just no opportunities....maybe I have just grown too artsy over the years who knows.
It was during my time in jogja that my sister had flown to Arizona to be with my mom.  I talked to her on the phone nightly and was told that she had improved a bit and may be able to breathe on her own shortly.  It was all very surreal to be on this sort of adventure vacation during the day and then get updates on my dying mothers condition around midnight every day.  I was checking my email one morning and came across a large amount of condolences emails.....that's how I learned of her death, when the rest of the family said "we are so sorry for your loss" en masse.  Kinda shitty eh?
The morning after I learned of her death I was booked to go to bromodur so once again I was awake at 4am for the obligatory early morning bullshit.  In a weird coincidence, the mini bus was driving around picking people up from their various hotels and who should pop into the vehicle but the two guys from Luxembourg who I had gone to ijen with.  Last time I saw them I was waving them adieu and wishing them luck 200 kilometers ago, but here they were once again, weird.
How do I explain bromodur?  To fully explain I suppose I would need pictures and an aerial blue print of sorts.  The Buddhists have these things called Mandela's which are paintings or sand paintings or whatever of geometric patterns which are used in meditation.  I can't fully explain it without showing you but you look at these paintings etc and follow the intricate patterns with your eyes and you stop thinking...your mind stops racing with the thoughts of everyday worries and stresses and this is all that meditation really is, letting all the daily bullshit fall away until you are left with the core.  Well bromodur was a walk through Mandela really.  It's almost a pyramid and you walk through the narrow outer rings, working your way up.  The art chiseled into the stone tells a story as you work your way up.  At the bottom you are presented with images of everyday life and sin and worries and as you work your way up to the top you see different scenes of the Buddha and his life and enlightenment and when you reach the top, it represents nirvana or the Buddhist heaven of enlightenment.  It's very complicated and hard to describe so please forgive me for doing a shitty job but a long story short, it was very beautiful and very peaceful and gave a lot of time for reflection about my loss and what it all meant.  I am and probably always will be a militant atheist but the peaceful nature of the Buddha's looking down on me was soothing and was exactly what I needed at that moment in time.
I'm sure that I am treading across a well worn path here but it seems that man both creates art and kills no more joyously then when he is doing it in god's name.  It's strange though, pramadan and bromodur, Hindu and Buddhist respectively are both amazing examples of architecture and art in a religious context and yet they exist in a Muslim country where there are no such pieces of art.  I have found in my travels that the idea of art in the Muslim context is completely missing.  Yes I know there is a rule not to depict Mohamed or Allah but there is absolutely no Muslim art.  Look at the Sistine chapel, or at Angkor wat.  Look at the Tibetan Buddhist paintings or at all of the medieval art depicting scenes from the bible or the virgin birth and it is striking that there is nothing in the Muslim world on par.  There are a few examples of architectural art...I mean the taj mahal is stunning but these examples are far and few between.  I was in Kuala lumpur a few years ago and went to the museum of Muslim art and heritage and do you know what they had on display?  All there was were different copies of the Koran with very beautiful calligraphy.   In 700 years this is all there is?  Please don't take this as a statement against Muslims because that's not what I'm trying to say, I just find it strange that every other religion uses the gifts that god has given them to pay homage to him/her/it and yet the Muslims suppress these gifts to the extreme.  Things I think about while traveling amongst the son's of Ishmael.
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starlagurl on

Backpacker coincidences...
Happen all too frequently... it makes you wonder what exactly 'independent travel' actually means.


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