It was hard to tear ourselves away from the beauty and serenity of the eighth century Buddhist temple at Borobudur.
The honeyed stone glowed in the setting sun and although a warning bell at been rung, we were among the many stragglers who wanted to take in one last look of this ancient monument, so long hidden in the clutches of thick jungle.
We all piled in the car again for the drive to Jogjakarta where we were to stay the night. There was a lot of weekend traffic so we arrived weary and hungry well after 7.30 pm.
The rooms were actually very clean with crisp white sheets and lovely showers with lashings of hot water- luxury after having to be so parsimonious with water on the boat!
We were all starving by 8.15 pm and looking forward to a good meal in the hotel dining room. We should have had our suspicions when we walked into the completely empty dining room but as all our meals were included in the trip tariff we didn’t even think of going elsewhere.
Three out of the five of us ordered a prawn dish which came out like a 1970’s style prawn cocktail – a piece of limp lettuce, three prawns and some gluggy red mayonnaise. Jonathan selected Bruschetta and this came out….well actually it didn’t come out at all!
After asking several times where it was we were told “sorry, trouble in the kitchen”! Meanwhile the prawn wotsits had been cleared away and the four of us were then served our next course – steak, chips and vegetables. The steak was hot but the chips and veg were not.
By this time it was nearly nine o’clock and after our early start and long day plus nothing to eat, Jonathan was decidedly cranky.
Eventually the Bruschetta arrived however, correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t there meant to be tomatoes or maybe mushrooms at a pinch involved in this dish?
We couldn’t tell what it was on top of the minuscule pieces of toasted bread but it looked and tasted like mushed up cheese! Eventually Jonathan’s main course arrived too and yes, it was cold!
We think the chef must have left for the night and the night porter called upon to cook in his stead. It was rather like an Indonesian version of Fawlty Towers – I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in the kitchen as whoever was in there tried to discover what Bruschetta was composed of only to find there were no tomatoes to be found !
The next morning we were off early again to visit the Kings Palace and another stunning UNESCO Heritage site – Prambanan Hindu Temple.
On our way to the King’s Palace we were stopped by a road block. Apparently it was the one-year anniversary of a hardline Muslim political group.
It was the first time I had felt in any way uncomfortable in Indonesia, not because of the religious devotees there (it was really quite a small group) but because the streets were full of young testosterone laden young men on motor bikes led by what looked like hard line bikie gang members who looked anything but pious or religious in any sense.
Having said that, we walked through the hordes of (mostly) masked young men all revving their engines and all was fine. I even managed to get a smile and a wave from some of them.
The residents of Yogyakarta who we met. That day seemed less than impressed and rather embarrassed by this noisy band of rev heads.
It seems to me that the dangerous thing about a group of young men like this is that their simmering energy, and maybe a sense of resentment can potentially be so easily harnessed by a charismatic leader of dubious character and objectives.
Hopefully it is just a big city thing We have certainly found that in the various islands we have visited, people of all faiths and ethnicity generally live reasonably well together and that they are tolerant and friendly towards each other.
After a quick look through the public areas of Royal Palace we were ushered to awaiting cyclos (bicycle taxis) to be taken for a tour of the city. In reality this was an excuse to take us to various shops but it was also good to see the city streets.
The smell of melting wax pervaded the atmosphere and we were able to watch as the woman painstakingly pricked a complex pattern using a needle with a bulb at the end which contained the hot wax.
Later, when the fabric was dyed the wax would resist the dye, allowing the design to show. Different colours are produced by selectively removing the wax with boiling water, and repeating the process.
Another UNESCO World heritage site, it is the largest Hindu Temple in Indonesia and consists of a 40 plus metre high central building in a large complex of individual temples.
It once had more than one hundred temples in the complex but a major earthquake in the sixteenth century caused severe damage and total collapse of many of the temples.
The ruins became the stuff of local legends and stories until their “rediscovery” in the 19th century and subsequent restoration in the twentieth century. Scores of temple ruins still remain and restoration continues where at least 75 per cent of the materials still exist.
After a long wander around we got back in the car for the trip back to our hotel in Semarang, ready for another early morning ferry ride back to our boats in Karimun Jawa.