Written by Foring Huang, and published by Mathilda Wu
What would you think of when speaking of Indonesia? Is it the world's biggest lizard, Komodo dragon, some relaxing moments in the elegant resorts of Bali, or the fiery volcano that may erupt at any moment? With over 17000 islands sprawling out over the equator, Indonesia is home to a large population and varieties of landscapes. In September, my colleague Wanda and I made our second exploration of this beguiling nation. With no leisurely sunbath on the sparkling beaches this time, we were to discover deeper into this land's jaw-dropping natural scenery and got a wider perspective of this island country's vastness and diversity.
Skipping the political and financial capital of Jakarta, we headed for a historical visit to Yogyakarta in Central Java, which houses the most universities in Indonesia and it is the heart of Java's arts and cultures. As one of the highlights of our journey, Borobudur is one of the most remarkable Buddhist relics on earth, and also one of the most exquisitely built Buddhist temple complexes in Southeast Asia, apart from the Angkor in Cambodia and Bagan in Myanmar.
Distant mountains are seen on the Borobudur
We decided to try catching the first sunlight on the Borobudur's stupas, which we learned about its allure before departing for Indonesia. So we got up early at 4 am, and because the hotel we stayed was close to the complex, we were able to get to Borobudur in half an hour, which made it possible for us to catch the golden moment. When we got there, some people who were as eager to witness the sunrise as we had already gathered around in the place, waiting for the stunning moment.
As the sky gradually turned from complete dark to cerulean, and eventually a golden light streamed through the clouds and shone on the ancient Buddhist relics. People found the complex hides itself among the palm trees and is surrounded by fertile paddy field, and we started to get amazed at the marvelous panoramic view of the mountains and rice terraces.
Golden sunlight shining on the Buddha
After enjoying the sunrise, we took an amble on the platform's walkway, our guide told us about the Buddhist legends behind those incredible stone carvings, and how residents in Java lived their lives 1000 years ago while we were walking by the vivid and story-telling reliefs.
It's the best time to admire Borobudur in the early morning, with fewer tourists and much cooler temperature, as well as the marvelous stone art, which makes the relics a wonderful choice for photographing.
The Borobudur is a great place for photographing
It took us nearly a whole day to transfer to the Bromo district. We took our breakfast away and caught the morning train to Mojokerto at 6:55. The carriages are a little bit old but clean and neat, and we were able to catch up on some sleep for the seats are quite big and comfortable. And after we got to Mojokerto, we spent another 3 hours on a bus to the volcano district, and then we decided to go to bed as early as we could, saving enough energy for the early rise to get a fine place to visit the Bromo, which is an active volcano that worth a visit for volcano lovers.
Seats on the train to Mojokerto are quite comfortable for catching up some sleep
The Bromo district is always cold in the morning, no matter during what season. So we grabbed our thick coats and set out for the fiery volcano at 3 am, under a starry night. The four-wheel-drive vehicle carried us along the way, heading for King Kong Hill nearby, to see the spectacular view of the sun coming up behind the mountains, illuminating the whole area.
You can see the distant Bromo from the King Kong Hill
Finally, after all the efforts on the way, we were then taken to the foot of Bromo, and I would say it is higher and more colossal than we expected. Sitting between the Kursi and Batok, Bromo is one of the three giant volcanoes in the area, and surely made up an amazing experience of our trip. If weather permitted, you can even see the highest mountain of Java in the south, Semeru, which is also one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia.
A path is built for visitors to climb to the crater. There was an approximately 40-minute walk to the top, with some steps on the way, which we thought it quite convenient and not very strenuous. As soon as we got to the crater, we were astonished by the billowing fog mixing with the smell of sulfur kept coming up from the bottom. Standing up on the top, we looked around and found that the surroundings are covered with thick ash from the volcano. The desolation of the environment made us feel like being on the moon.
The steps to the top of Bromo are quite convenient
Fog mixing with the smell of sulfur keeps coming up from the bottom of the volcano
The view from the top of Bromo worth the climb
West Bali National Park
To find out more than just the charming beaches and rice terraces, we did not choose the hustle and bustle of the south of Bali, but went the opposite direction and jumped into the only national park in Bali, the West Bali National Park, which turned out to be a heaven for wildlife lovers. Located in the northwest corner of the island, the park takes up 10 percent of Bali's area and has a very diverse landscape, including volcanoes, tropical forests, prairie, coastal wetland, and islands.
Beautiful color of the coastal wetland in the West Bali National Park
Accompanied by an authorized guide, we took an easy hike in the park in the cooler morning. We learned from our guide that we were coming at the right time because months from May to October are the best time to do a wildlife exploration. Taking in the refreshing air, we went through the mangrove forest, witnessing bunches of macaques and the rare Celebes crested macaque swinging among trees above us. Wanda was so excited to see a little deer that she might have made some noises and scared the little lovely animal. It quickly ran away. We kept wandering around, and suddenly, our guide gave us a gesture of keeping the voice down. He said, "Hear, it's the sound of Banded Pitta." As we looked to the direction that he pointed to, we were so surprised to see a little bird with a colorful body, the yellow feather on its head makes it look like it's wearing a small hat. And we were at the same time impressed by our guide's professionalism.
Lovely monkey witnessed during the exploration in the park
Our professional and funny guide
We could definitely spend a whole day in the park if time permitted. Enjoying the harmony between human and nature, the vibrant green scenery and the wide variety of birds we witnessed left us with a pleasant morning.
The pure natural atmosphere in the park is refreshing
From Sumatra in the west to Papua in the east, Indonesia stretches itself from Asia to Oceania. Even though we had gone deeper into the diverse landscapes this time, there's still so much more to explore. And we would definitely come back sometime to discover more of the wide spectrum of the magnificent scenery, history, and cultures.
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