Prambanan was not part of our original itinerary. After Yogyakarta, we were supposed to go straight to Borobudur. That is before I stumbled upon a blog that mentioned Prambanan as a worth while side trip for those visiting the famous Borobudur temple.
Another thing about Prambanan that really captured my attention, is that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a goal of mine to see at least 20 World Heritage Sites in my lifetime. So far, I’ve been to Angkor, Ayutthaya, Vigan, San Agustin Church, Paoay Church, and those we will visit in Indonesia: Prambanan, Borobudur and Bali.
We left for Prambanan early in the morning. We wanted to avoid the crowd. Forums say they usually arrive around 10 in the morning. True enough, at around that time, the complex was filled with students on an educational trip.
From Malioboro, we took a taxi straight to Prambanan. The driver asked for a fixed rate of IDR 100,000. It took around 30 minutes to get to the temple complex. As it was early, we didn’t encounter any traffic. According to wikitravel, there is a direct bus route from Malioboro to Prambanan and vice versa, the TransJogja Route 1A.
After our visit to Prambanan, we decided to take a commuter bus to get back to Yogyakarta as our hotel service to Borobudur will not be able to pick us up. There aren’t a lot of taxis in Prambanan. I suggest renting a service for IDR 350,000 for 10 hours. This will include a trip to Prambanan, Borobudur and around Yogyakarta.
Yogyakarta has a well organized bus system. I like that designated stops are strictly enforced and that bus fares are paid for at the stations. Just like anyone in a foreign place, no matter how systematic things are, it can still get confusing.
It was quite an adventure. It took 3 different buses to finally get to Malioboro St. If it hadn’t been for the very helpful Miknu we would’ve been completely lost. Thanks Man!
By the time we got to Malioboro St., we were exhausted. We ended up renting a service straight to our hotel in Borobudur for IDR 200,000. Hehe!
Prambanan is the largest Hindu temple compound in Indonesia. It was built during the 10th century and was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. Often overshadowed by Borobudur, most tourists fail to include Prambanan in their itinerary.
Prambanan Temple Complex
Prambanan Temple Complex Schedule:
6 am to 6 pm
Prambanan Temple Complex Admission Rate:
IDR 117,000 / IDR 63,000 for students
These are rates for foreigners. Indonesians pay less, around IDR 10,000.
There is a separate entrance for foreigners. The ticket also entitles you to free drinks. Guides can be hired at the ticketing office for IDR 75,000. Guided tours usually last about an hour and is confined within Prambanan’s main temple compound.
A toy train shuttles around the park. Especially helpful when going from one temple complex to another. Ride is free for foreigners.
The Prambanan temple complex has three zones. The outer, middle and inner zones. The outer zone is a large open space bounded by a wall, this can no longer be seen in the compound. The middle zone consists of 224 identical shrines, most in ruins. Our guide, Bagyo, says that these were used for meditation. The inner zone contains 8 main temples and is the holiest of the three.
The largest shrines in Prambanan, also the three main shires, are found inside the inner zone. Called the Trimurti, or three sacred places, these shrines are dedicated to Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Keeper and Shiva the Destroyer.
Our guide tells us that when the Prambanan temples were discovered it was all toppled and people from the surrounding villages used the stones as construction materials or decorations for their houses. Restoration started in the 1930s and continues until today.
The Prambanan temples are just majestic. They’re also huge, with the tallest rising to over 150 feet! Some of the temples are off limits. They are deemed unsafe due to damage sustained from the eruptions of nearby, ever active Mt. Merapi and are undergoing restorations.
Bagyo explains that the smaller shrines in Prambanan’s inner zone are dedicated to the vehicles of the Trimurti. Of the three only the bull Nandi (for Shiva) remains.
The six main temples at the central court of Prambanan are richly decorated with carved reliefs. According to Bagyo, the ones outside the walls are of the various deities and mythical beings, while those inside tells the story of the Ramayana.
I really didn’t quite grasp the entire story of Ramayana. It is a lengthy epic, filled with names I can’t even pronounce. Hehe! In a nutshell, from what I understood, it tells the story of the major events in the life of Rama (Vishnu’s avatar).
The part of the story that caught my interest is when the demon king kidnapped Rama’s wife, Sita. Of course there was war to reclaim her. More than anything, the Ramayana explores the concept of human values such as duties of relationships and portraying ideal characters.
Candi Sewu is a Buddhist temple one kilometer north of Prambanan. Meaning one thousand temples, this complex tells the story of the Rara Jonggrang Legend. A story with a plot worthy of Hollywood.
Legend says that Prince Bandung wanted to marry Princess Rara but she declined as Bandung killed her father in order to rule the land. The prince insisted and Rara was forced to agree on the union but posed an impossible condition, Bandung must build a thousand temples in one night.
The prince meditated and conjured spirits and succeeded in building 999 temples. When he was about to meet the condition, the princess woke her maids and order the women of the village to start pounding rice and set a fire to the east of the temple to trick the prince and the spirits that the sun was about to rise.
Fooled, the spirits fled back to the ground. The prince was furious and in revenge cursed Rara to stone. I guess, he didn’t really love her that much… :)
Inside the Complex
Like many other attractions, Prambanan has no shortage of souvenir shops in and around the complex. You can buy an assortment of things. From the usual key chains and shirts, to the more curious, such as a mortar and pestle made from volcanic rocks.
There are also performances near the main temple entrance of Prambanan. No, these are not the spell-binding Ramayana ballet, that we regret not seeing. I’m not certain if they are students or a cultural group.
What I reckon is that the performers are portraying themselves as warriors. A little later in the performance they were being whipped, they were whipping them good! After the whipping they have the performers eat flowers from a bowl. We chanced upon Bagyo and he said that the performers are supposed to be in some trance.
If you’re hungry from all the walking and have used a considerable amount of your energy trying to remember all the names that your guide had been throwing at you, you don’t have to go far. There are a lot of warungs or food shops inside Prambanan complex.
I no longer remember the names of everything we ordered. I do remember Ayam Bakar (grilled chicken) and Cendol. Cendol was my favorite. I’m not sure what’s in it, but I think I tasted rose water, milk and jelly. We also had fish cake wrapped in tofu, which was very good.
In most other countries, a monument such as Prambanan would easily be a national symbol. Think of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. However, Prambanan is cast under the shadows of another magnificent monument, Borobudur. Of course, this doesn’t make Prambanan any less significant.
The Indonesian government had taken serious actions to restore this amazing ancient monument. I’m glad they did. It is a humbling experience to stand before such a splendid age-old structure as Prambanan.
We experienced yet another act of kindness during our travels in Indonesia in the form of Miknu, who volunteered to see us through from Prambanan to Malioboro street. Interactions such as this adds a whole lot of value to the experience.
So if you’re planning to see Borobudur, I suggest to add Prambanan in your itinerary. And don’t make it just an optional item that you can cross out, take the time to really see it. I guarantee you, it will be worth it.