Wednesday, July 3, 2013


A thousand years ago, about the time William the Conqueror arrived in England, long before Marco Polo went to China, maybe about the time Vikings reached North America, the kings of central Java were building these massive stone temples. This elaborately-carved, hundred twenty foot tall tower, the centerpiece of a group of five (four are smaller but still impressive), has survived the fall of dynasties, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and hordes of tourists. As recently as 2005, an earthquake knocked some of the stones loose. Today, if you go inside the main temple, you must wear a hard hat. A half mile away, another temple complex is still mostly piles of rubble, and it should be years before they can piece it back together again. The lower photo of me and Deb was taken in front of the partially-reconstructed north temple, which was hard hit by the same catastrophic earthquake. Given that this site is on the edge of the Ring of Fire, and that the island of Java has about one hundred active volcanoes, its condition should be no surprise. The effort it takes to sort out the thousands of stones, most about 19" square and perhaps carved on one or two sides, is hard to calculate.
The calm temples are perhaps twenty miles east of the frenetic city of Yogyakarta, and inhabit a park-like area with acres of lawns and trees and - of course, as this is Indonesia -  karaoke near the children's playground. Indonesians seem to love noise, particularly music played at levels that will deafen in no time flat. Apparently, being totally tone deaf is no deterrent, and listening to someone who couldn't carry a song in a suitcase is no big deal.
In the States, having a food concession at a major tourist attraction would lead to twelve dollar hamburgers and six dollar French fries, but here at Prambanan the open-air restaurant served the usual Indonesian lunch of rice, stir-fried water spinach with prawns, and a tall glass of iced tea...for less than two bucks. No tipping expected, the waiter delighted to do anything he could to make us happy, and lots of wais when we left.
I guess I'll put up with the karaoke.

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