Sunday, December 28, 2008

A trip to the hill temples around Solo

My local friends were busy this morning whilst I had been doing my tricycle tour of Solo, but one of them had agreed to accompany me to Candi Ceto and Candi Sukuh – two temples up in the hills, about an hour's drive to the east of Solo. However whilst I was having lunch at Rocketz, they called me to say that maybe it wasn't such a good idea to go up into the hills because it had started to rain, and even if the rain cleared by the time we got there, the temples would all be shrouded in cloud. But sometimes taking photographs in places like that when it is misty and drizzling, can produce some nice images, so I convinced them that we should go.

At a little after two o'clock, the taxi driver that had driven us from the train station yesterday picked me up from Rocketz. We had decided to take a taxi because my friend's brother – who had driven us around Jogjakarta yesterday – was still busy running errands. Taxis are not expensive in this part of the world, so if you find a good driver with a reliable car, it's a better option than hiring a car yourself.

We picked my friend up from one of the shopping centres in the city, and headed out towards Karanganyar. The rain was really pouring down at this stage, and it didn't look good for us, but after we turned off the main highway at Karangpandan, the rain eased off and it looked like we were going to be lucky with the weather.

As we headed up into the hills we stopped for a few photographs of the tea plantations:


We decided to go up to Candi Ceto first, because that was the higher of the two temples at about 4,500 ft, in case it got too dark to see them both. When we reached Candi Ceto the rain had stopped completely and there were already about a dozen visitors at the temple:


Looking back down from the top of the temple complex, which is spread over a terraced hillside, we could just make out two volcanoes in the far distance:


Candi Ceto and Candi Sukah were built in the 15th century, and they were the last two Hindu temples to be built in Indonesia outside of Bali. The architecture is very reminiscent of the temples that you see all over Bali:


Whilst wandering around the temple complex, a man asked me to take his photograph. I don't know who he is, or where he comes from, but if he sees this blog, here's your photo:


Next to the temple complex, there was a vegetable farm with beautiful volcanic soil:


As we made out way back down to the taxi from the temple complex, the weather looked like it was clearing up nicely:


We headed back down the hill to Candi Sukuh, passing many tea plantations and villages on the way:


We reached Candi Sukuh as the light was fading, but we managed to get off a few shots before it got dark. Candi Sukuh is quite a bit smaller than Candi Ceto, and the main structure in the temple complex reminded me of the architecture of the Mayan temples in Mexico:


There are more carvings of figures here than at Candi Ceto, but they are not as erotic as some guidebooks make out:


With one exception maybe! I asked our taxi driver to pose for a shot by this little man. He didn't realise what he was leaning on until I told him to have a look at the front of the statue (after I had taken the picture!). He recoiled in shock – although I am not sure whether he was genuinely shocked or whether he was just putting an act on for me:

Candi Sukuh is at a height of about 3,000 ft, and as we headed back down the road from the temple, it wasn't long before the sky over the hills below us started to turn a bright orange. We stopped on top of a ridge overlooking a valley and watched the sun set, with its rays reflecting against the remnants of the afternoon's storm clouds. It turned out to be one of the most beautiful sunsets that I have seen in a long while:


My friend's brother had invited us to have dinner at his house which was on the north side of Solo, so we cut across country and got there about an hour after dark. He has a lovely house of which the front half has been constructed out of recycled timber with open walls, shielded only by bamboo blinds – such a practical design for this climate:


I took another shot of the house from the front. You can see the TV in the back – that's the enclosed part of the house. Note the shoes on the front steps. Like in Malaysia, it is customary to remove your footwear before entering a home in Indonesia:


We had a lovely meal and then we said goodbye to the taxi driver (who had been invited to join us for dinner). The taxi fare for the whole afternoon, including all the waiting time, showed 340,000 rupiahs on the meter (about US$30) but I gave him 400,000 and he was very happy with that.

I wonder if there are many other places in the world where you can hire a clean, late model air-conditioned taxi, with a uniformed driver, from about 2 pm to 9 pm and drive 3,000 ft up into the mountains on a three-hour plus round trip for US$30? Central Java is definitely good value for money for travelers who like to get off the beaten track.

No comments: