Avoid the line (well sorta), get tickets online
Entry to the Prambanan complex is now easier for foreign visitors who can buy the tickets online (kiostix.com) as long as you supply your passport information. Print out the tickets and show them at the door. Foreigners also have a separate entrance that allows you to avoid the long lines at the main gate for general admission. The higher price (six times the regular ticket: 18 USD vs 30.000 IRP for local Indonesians) also allows you tea, coffee or bottled water at the visitor office prior to entering the compound.
There is a line though to enter the main candi Shiva. That structure is fenced off due to structural problems from the recent seismic activities. However entry is allowed if you care to stand in line for a hardhat. The fencing also limit how many people enter the candi at any one time, keeping the number more manageable for safety.
The rest of the compound is yours to wander at will.
Do try to walk to the Sewu temple complex at the northern end of the park.
- Historical Travel
The Ramayana episodic ballet
We realized a long-coveted plan and attended all four episodes of the Ramayana ballet in May 2010. The dry season was late in coming, but fortunately it did not rain all nights although the full moon stayed mostly behind clouds.
Only in the weekends (Friday through Monday) closest to full moon in the months May through October. Consult the Borobudur Park website.
There are four categories of seats:
(1) VIP, four rows of individual chairs right in front of the stage, the front row is labeled D. You get a complimentary cup of coffee or tea with traditional snacks and a souvenir. Price: Rp 250,000.
(2) Khusus, two blocks of benches behind the VIP seats. With a cushion to soften the bench and a complementary bottle of fresh drink. Price 175,000.
(3) Class I, line of view 30 degrees off the stage center line. Price Rp 150,000.
(4) Class II, hard benches viewing the stage more from the side. Price Rp 75,000.
Booking is easy. Just a phone call to 0274.496408, and they will reserve your seat(s) without any guarantee. We found that the theater was far from full except for the second episode - the one with the fire. We called a month ahead and the second night was already booked full. However, the day before they still found two Khusus seats for us. The view - slightly higher up from VIP - actually was quite good.
Coming on time
The performance starts strictly on time, and the website exhorts guests to come on time. 'Otherwise you will have to wait for a suitable pause in the performance to be seated'. However, there are no pauses and the rule is not adhered too. A local group who had chartered all the VIP seats on the second night came half an hour late and crossed our view to be seated.
Again contrary what the website says, taking pictures is allowed. At the entrance is a booth selling camera permits, but when we asked 'Do we have to pay this?' the answer was 'Already included'. At least this was so for the VIP and Khusus seats.
We made the pictures of our travelogues with the high sensitivity (3200 ISO) setting of a digital camera with 10x zoom. Quite satisfactory except when the dancers are moving fast.
At the end of each performance the audience is invited to take pics with the main dancers. If you want to take part in this, run onto the stage as soon as the announcement in English begins. People hesitate a few moments but after these there is a rush forward and the dancers get hemmed in by the crowd.
For our own synopsis with pics, see our travelogues.
- Arts and Culture
Historic site Kraton Ratu Boko
Kraton Ratu Boko, located on a chalk hill overlooking Prambanan village, is not a temple, but believed to have been a court of the Mataram Empire. According to the leaflet handed out to visitors:
“On a stone inscription by order of Rakai Panangkaran (746-784 AD) the Ratu Boko site is referred to as Abhayagiri Wihara. (...) This can be interpreted as 'the peaceful abode on a hill of Buddhist priests'. But later the name was proclamed to be Kraton Walaing by the vassal king Rakai Walaing Pu Kumbayoni.”
“The remains of the kraton on the Ratu Boko hill were discovered in 1790 by the Dutch scholar Van Boeckholtz. (...) Boko means bangau, a species of heron, and it is not clear whether the present name refers to the bird or was the name of a king.”
The complex is large, expect to spend an hour strolling around the site. Unfortunately you need some imagination to visualize what the royal court may have looked like. Most remains are piles of stone or roughly renovated constructions: no statues or carvings. The Main Gate has been reinforced with concrete slabs. Next is a large square pedestal, formerly the Crematory. Crossing the courtyard (alun-alun) you reach the reception hall (pendopo). This too is a large elevated stone field, our guess is that the superstructure and roof may have been of wood. Behind it lie a number of large pools, referred to as the keputren, which must have been a bathing place. The stagnant greenish water was not inviting, we surmise that running water was available in bygone ages. Also intriguing are the Caves, evidently artificial and probably once used for meditation.
Directions: At the traffic lights in front of the Prambanan Archaeological Park, take the road south. After 2 km a parking is indicated on your left (fee Rp 5000). From this parking you have to climb several flights of stairs. If you want to avoid the climb, you have to make a wide detour approaching the hill from the other side (5 km from the main road you find the first signboard). In either case you arrive by a ticket booth at the modern tourism facilities, that cater for scouts, student groups and wedding parties – and in need of some maintenance. From here a walkway leads to the historic site proper.
Admission fees: As a foreign visitor you have to pay USD 13 for admission to the park, students half price. For Indonesian residents (including expats) the fee is Rp 25,000; children and students Rp 12,500 (July 2012). A combined Prambanan/Ratu Boko ticket for foreigners costs USD 25, and a combined Borobudur/Ratu Boko ticket USD 27, students half price.
From August 17th, 2012, one is also obliged to wear a batik sarung. The sarungs are provided for free - of course you have to return them at the end of your visit.
- Historical Travel
Shiva and Nandi temples
When coming from the east along the tourist itinirary of the Archaeological Park you run up against Nandi temple. When we visited it was still covered in scaffolding because of he damages of the 2006 earthquake. Right behind is the highest temple, dedicated to Shiva Mahadewa. But we had to walk around to reach it and could only look at it from the outside. Much of the grounds was still fenced off due to damage by the 2006 earthquake. They said recently a piece of stone came tumbling down from an as yet unrepaired part.
The Shiva and Nandi temples belong together, the bull Nandi being the mount of Shiva. Shiva's temple counts four rooms, the central one featuring a 3 m high statue of a meditating Shiva standing on a lotus flower. In the other three rooms there are a statue of Shiva as teacher (Mahaguru), a statue of Ganesha the god with an elephant head, and one of Shiva's wife Durga. The latter statue is also known as Roro Jonggrang after a legend which seems to have little to do with the original intent of the temple complex, but rather with a daughter of king Prabu Boko (see "Kraton Ratu Boko" tip below).
The reliefs in the gallery depict part of the Ramayana epos in 41 panels, the conclusion of which can be found in the Brahma temple.
Shiva traditionally rides on a bull called Nandi. So the smaller temple facing the main one is dedicated to Nandi, and indeed inside one can find - once the temple is accessible again - a 2 m statue of a resting bull. Moreover there are statues of the moon god Chandra and the sun god Surya. Chandra stands on a chariot drawn by ten horses, Surya on one drawn by seven horses.
More commonly referred to as Candi Prambanan because of the village where it is located, this is the largest Hindu temple complex in Java and dates from the 9th century AD. The fact that this Hindu temple sits surrounded by many Buddhist temples that were created around the same period suggests that the two religions were practiced simultaneously at that time in central Java.
Candi Lorojonggrang has three main temple structures dedicated to the Trimurti, the higher gods of Hinduism, those being Vishnu, Brahma, and Shiva. Each of these structures contains a beautifully carved stone statue of its dedicated god. Facing the entrance of the main temples are three smaller temple structures, with the center one that faces the Shiva temple containing his vehicle, the bull Nandi.
The complex has been painstakingly restored over the past century and is now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Along with Borobudur, this is one of the most impressive sites in the region and a definite do not miss!
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
Candi Sewu is the second largest Buddhist temple in central Java after Borobudur and dates from 8th to 9th centuries AD. The temple is dedicated to the Buddha Vairocana, whose statue would have been contained in the main chamber, however it is no longer there. The complex is based on a Mandala design, a trait of Vajrayana school complexes. Vajrayana learning came to Java in the 8th centruy through contacts with the Pala empire.
The main temple structure has been well restored and can be explored inside. There are dozens of smaller structures surrounding it, some restored but many simply piles of stones. Although just adjacent to the main Prambanan temples, few visitors to that site make it to Candi Sewu, making it a more peaceful place to explore. Upon entry to the site, you will be asked to sign a guestbook and make a small donation.
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
Performance of Ramayana Ballet at Prambanan
Stars glitter in black velvet overhead... bats swoop above the open stage as Indonesian gamelan and percussion music provides a backdrop for the ancient Hindu story of Ramayana, with the three spires of a 9th century Hindu temple standing majestically in the background. My favorite thing is the music - it's lilting, moving, inspiring, and completely spellbinding.
Tickets to the event are easily bought in Yogyakarta through any tourist or travel guide company. They will also arrange transport to the temples for the evening of the show.
Gondang Winangoen Sugar Factory
Klaten regency has been a centre of sugar production at least since 1860, when the sugar factory Gondang Winangoen was established and operated by the "N.V. Klatensche Cultuur Maatschappij". Until today sugar is produced here, now by the plantation company "PT Perkebunan Nusantara IX". However, to see the factory in operation one has to come during sugar harvest time, roughly the months May through August, or June-July to make sure.
Our visit was in March 2010, so we have not seen the factory in operation yet. But we were invited in by mr Jakob, the head of the electricity generating department. Although most of the electric power needs are now supplied by diesel generators, he has a water powered generator and a steam powered generator (made by Stork) both still operative. The water powered generator makes use of a stream just behind the generator buidling.
Address: Jalan Klaten-Yogya km 5, Plawikan village, Jogonalan district, Klaten regency
- Museum Visits
Gondang Winangoen Sugar Museum
It is only 7 km from Prambanan, this sugar factory complex dating back to 1860. The residence of the former Dutch administrator now functions as a hotel, and another former dwelling has been converted into a museum since 1982. But there is also the factory itself, with some of the old machines still operative, and lorry locs still running.
In the yard around the museum one can find machines and carts too big to display inside. Among these a wooden cane press operated with animal power. Inside there is a scale model of a sugar factory, charts on how to cultivate sugar cane, all kinds op hand tools used in the sugar fields, a section on rodents and other pests, a sewing machine for manufacturing jute sacks, a balance for weiging these, and much more. Of interest are also the photographs from colonial times and the portraits of successive administrators. Among these a bust portrait Mangkoenagoro IV, prince of Surakarta, who in the 19th century established two sugar factories (not this one).
Apart from the museum you are also allowed to roam all over the complex and visit the factory (next tip). The best time to do so is in June or July, when the factory runs day and night during sugar cane harvest.
Address: Jalan Klatan-Yogya km 5, Plawikan village, Jogonalan district, Klaten regency.
Admittance: A signature in the guestbook and a voluntary donation.
- Museum Visits
The Shrine of Vishnu is located north of the complex, in front of it there is a small candi on the east side dedicated to the mount of this god, in this case Garuda, the national symbol of Indonesia and the name of the national airline.
Vishnu and Garuda temples
The Vishnu temple is similar to the Brahma temple, both in shape and in ornamentation. In it's only room stands - of course - a statue of four-armed Vishnu holding the attributes Gada (a club), Cakra (Vishnu's special weapon), Tiram (a winged oyster), and a bud of the holy lotus flower. The reliefs of the parapet depict the Kresnayana story.
Vishnu's mount is the eagle-like bird Garuda, so the smaller temple facing Vishnu's temple is the Garuda temple. Again it is similar to the Angsa temple. There ought to be a Garuda statue inside, but nowadays in its place stands another Vishnu statue, which was found underneath the Garuda temple.
Brahma and Angsa temples
When you face Shiva's temple, Brahma's is on its left (south) side. It is somewhat smaller than Shiva's temple. Inside stands a statue of Brahma with four heads looking in the four main directions. The reliefs of the temple tell about the war between Rama and Rahwana, which is the concluding part of the Ramayana epos.
The smaller temple facing that of Brahma is dedicated to Angsa, the swan which is Brahma's mount. However, the statue of a swan that should be inside has been lost.
While you are within Prambanan Archaeological Park, do not skip the museum. Besides the usual artefacts you find here some interesting maps and historic pictures, as well as pictures of statues in the Shiva temple that are as yet inaccessible.
The gold chalice portrayed in one of the pictures is part of the so-called Wonoboyo hoard, discovered in 1990 by a farmer in his field. The chalice is dated beginning 10th century and features detailed scenes from the Ramayana epic.
Not far from the museum is the Audio Visual Hall, where they show an interesting movie comparing the lifestyle of the Javanese around 900 A.D. with life in modern Jakarta.
Walking the Prambanan Archaeological Park from the Shiva temple complex to Candi Sewu, you pass by the remains of Bubrah temple. It is thought to be one of four temples once located around Candi Sewu at the points of the compass. This southern one is the only one still in existance, and only its base remains.
Candi Bubrah is surrounded by a fence and no restauration efforts are under way.
Thousand temples of Candi Sewu
Sewu Temples (thousand temples) is the second largest Buddhist temple complex in Java after Borobudur. It was probably built in the eighth century at the end of the Rakai Panangkaran kingdom to serve as a royal temple.
The first studies on the Sewu Temple complex date from 1807. The Indonesian government organized the total restoration of the main temple between 1981 and 1993. However, the temple was damaged by the 2006 earthquake, and repairs are under way. It would be wonderful if all the 240 candi perwara ('guard' temples), which have given the complex its name, could be restored also.
The main temple comprises one main room with four adjacent doorways. On top of the rooms are nine stupa shaped roofs. At the entrance of the complex the temples are guarded by two Dwarapala (giant) statues.
The Sewu temple complex is part of the World Heritage compound for its outstanding value and as testimony of the harmony between the two religions, Hindu and Buddhist.