Karanganyar: Cetho Temple, Kethek Temple and Sukuh Temple

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Sunrise view from Candi Cetho, Merapi, Merbabu and Sindoro Mountains range, Central Java, Indonesia

I’ve been missing Java a little bit since moving to Bali for a while, and I remembered this trip that I impulsively did before I went to Kathmandu again last year. I went with the boys, my ‘brothers’ and my son, Bhumy, to Candi Cetho and Candi Sukuh in Karanganyar, Central Java.

These two magnificent old temple have a special meaning to me since the very beginning of my first visit way back in 2005. Its located near Solo where my father lineage come from, its been an inspiration for my favourite theatre, Teater Garasi, in Jogjakarta for their masterpiece work of Watubatu. It has also been always a personal pilgrimage for my Javanese ancestors.

Their unique architecture style are one of my favourite in Java. It is somewhere reminding people with the style in Latin America. I am so glad that I could take Bhumy in this trip and also visiting a newly found temple behind Candi Cetho, Candi Kethek (The Monkey Temple).

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Krisna praying in Kethek Temple, Central Java, Indonesia

IMG_0329The boys on top of Kethek Temple

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Bhumy in the path to Kethek Temple, Karanganyar, Central Java

Its nice to see my son back on his barefoot and exploring the wilderness with his uncles. We rent a car for two days and head off to the temple. The small hotels are still nice like I remember. The feeling of the place stayed sacred after seven years even.

I took the bath in the Saraswati statue, where they have one of the best water spring in the area. It brings the memories of a personal silent time I had with the place years ago and somehow I awash all those memories that I need to let go. I felt home and quiet at peace.

IMG_0649  IMG_0638Cetho Temple, Karanganyar, Centra Java

While entering Sukuh temple, one of the local old guide explained to us a lot and even showing Bhumy a lot of things while we were there. The architecture of both temples are still a mystery for modern archeology. The way they made the statues and the way it constructed like a certain pyramid has somehow become a missing link in the typical Hindu-Buddhist period of Java. I had a long talk before with one of my professor and we agree that the theory of its age is more likely that its dated on the site latest renovation that happened in 17th century. This place feels ancient to me. Much much more ancient.

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IMG_0678Candi Sukuh, Karanganyar, Central Java, Indonesia

The Hindu in Indonesia do regular ceremony and pilgrimage to both places. Also the Javanese that also still practicing Kejawen rituals. Both of these sites are still active, so please show your respect while you are exploring these areas especially when people are praying and practice certain rituals. Its as sacred as any places of worship.

Gunung Kidul: The Sacred Beach of Ngobaran

P1050968Bowing towards the sea from Ngobaran beach

She decided to free herself, dance into the wind, create a new language. And birds fluttered around her, writing “yes” into the sky. ~ Monique Duval

Entering the last month of 2012, somehow made me reflect a lot. The above quote is a summary of about how I feel this year. Those quote somehow remind me of the feeling when I arrived in Ngobaran beach. I had my first trip to Ngobaran beach with Patrick and Pak Moko. We passed the hilly roads of Gunungkidul which had that certain melancholic view, crossing the teak forest and all. Ngobaran, the word come from both Javanese and Indonesian “Kobar”. “Kobar” means flame, “ngobaran” means in flame.

The place itself believed by the local as the place where the last Hindu king from Majapahit kingdom, Brawijaya V, immolated himself to death. Some believe he is “moksa” (vanish into enlightenment). The official story which I read in the morning of the government tourism sign, was a little odd myth. It is said that the last king had two wives, they were being chased by new ruler from Demak, which are no other than one of his son, Raden Patah. Before he immolate himself he asked the two wives a question “How much is your love to me?” His second wife, Dewi Lowati, said her love is as big as the mountain. While his first wife, Bondang Surati answer that her love is like a dirty nail, where when she cut it, it will always grow. Realizing that his second wife love is lesser than the first one, he pulled Dewi Lowati to burn with him into the fire.

Although there are many tales around about the death of Brawijaya V, I found this quite intriguing. Not to mention, the surrounding temple complex. A sacred pura (temple) with Balinese style undergoing a renovation. A new looking candi recently build by the Kraton. A sacred petilasan of Brawijaya V, with wooden huts on top of the highest cliff point towards the sea. A temple build exclusively to the South Sea Queen. Caves. A mosque facing the south and next to a lingga. The diversity of beliefs in this place make it one of the favorite sacred spot for many people coming here.

IMG00660-20120917-1718A new recently build candi

P1050955Temple complex and above the hill is the petilasan

P1050980The mosque and the lingga

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Sea urchin stir fry, high protein!

Magnificent sunset from above the petilasan. Sleep under the stars by the candi. Hearing the waves all night long. Eating stir fry sea urchin of local specialty with rice and hot sambal. Entering a cave that rain from the inside. Those were the things you could do while in Ngobaran. Do things with respect because you could felt the sacred sense of this place no matter you believe the myth or not.

IMG00663-20120917-1726The magical sunset of Ngobaran

I really could stay up in Ngobaran once again, just to make it another sanctuary when I need to write my own language. Where the nature, spirit and self talked as one.

rembang delicacies #1: ways to eat and die happily

P1060258rembang staple food: the most tasty sate srepeh

exploring local delicacies in rembang means in the future you would have to come for more. it took me another eight months after my first bite on their nasi tahu campur (rice tofu mix in sweet spicy peanut sauce) and my longing on savoring sate srepeh (thinly slice chicken satay in spicy sauce of garlic + red onions + chilies + coconut milk). ah, the pain of longing.

i arrived at night time in rembang, due to some technical issues my travel car was two hours late. and added to all spices, hunger is the best kind. with pop and yoesam, we went to a night time warung in the market place, called rumah makan behek. they just open, so anything they have is in their warmest delight. they have the warm rice, some lodeh (soupy vegs), the best fried tempe (originally wrap with teak leaves), black ink squid satay and oh dear, one pot of boiling sate srepeh sauce! i might just die in happiness before i even took my first bite.

P1060251life saver in rembang night time: rumah makan behek

and i died that night in a happy stomach.

then woke up at 7.30 AM the next morning, pop was waking me up. “you want to catch the famous srepeh warung for breakfast?”. in a mere addiction which i recalled of my eating habit while i was in rembang last time, of course i said yes and rise.

P1060254the famous bu slamet warung, go before 8 AM before all run out

we were not late this time. the satay is still available. i had my biggest grin and touch heaven back and forth, when eating the sate srepeh with the nasi tahu campur. i know i can eat this food for life kinda thing.

P1060256nasi tahu campur on teak leaves

P1060260the perfect combination

i think it’s time i try to make my own recipes, because blogging this already making me having a bad craving. there are some food i haven’t manage to take picture of. some of them are lontong tuyuhan and the kelo mrico, you could check my friend’s labodalih post on them here.

a lot of rembang delicacies are based on how they process intestines, which really means you really have to master the spices. it’s a nostalgic feeling when you are having the bite of the local food. the sense of a busy ancient port lost in time. here are some of their variants:

IMG01995-20120403-1411local rujak style, with fish intestines sauce

P1060386the liver of a stingray cooked in sweet soya sauce

P1060611vintage sign of pak brengos

P1060609rawon pak brengos, the rembang style: light in color and use the cow intestines

530097_10150719435744637_1240525196_nthe sate laler: goat satay (and fats) for a late night dining

obviously after this culinary trip i need some detox on my system. but parts of me, or well my stomach happiness was left in rembang somehow. so how is your ways to die happily by food?

rembang: why the world need to guard their springs

P1060304lustful water of semen

don’t you just want to jump into the water?

i’m back to yogyakarta after another visit to my favorite part of the northern coast of java: rembang and lasem. i found myself complaining for the unbearable heat and the level of humidity of yogyakarta. it is the second consecutive time this year (or the past month), i’m complaining about the weather in the city i’m living. it is hotter then the coast and jakarta! (i can’t even believe i’m saying this).

while the world just seen a huge storm passes new york, us living in the archipelago have been seeing the change in climate where things become unpredictable. even for us living only with two season: the wet season and the dry season, the weather is so confusing. i remember just in september i’m still snuggling in my tibetan blanket at cold summery nights and finding myself clenching my teeth while taking my late motorcycle ride against the cold wind. nowadays i’m surviving daily at my house in the thinnest balinese sarong. the weather is wrong, people. climate change is here and it is no bullshit.

the last navicula borneo tour give me the glimpse of how bad our last rainforest remains. it’s around 25% forest left in borneo. human greed is such a major destruction to this planet. please check paul daley blog for more information on the attempt in maintaining our borneo rainforest.

P1060292the teak forest preservation, sale, rembang

while now, in the remembrance of the hot afternoon in rembang, i reflected to the many spring water that i’ve seen surviving and should maintain that way. i went up to sale, rembang in the forest preservation area where they have a spring called semen. it was to my surprise that the coastal area of rembang hide this beauty from the last time i was there.

P1060293semen spring in sale, rembang

P1060294the other pond of the spring

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other side of the spring

it is just a spontaneous trip inspired out of rembang afternoon heat. although before i do wanted to see sale, where one of my old friend puthut ea come from and hear all about it in his story from time to time. this spring is where he learn first time to swim. we packed fruits from the local market (finding myself being excited with the local varieties which are getting rare in the big cities). passing teak wood forest and suddenly finding the little forest hideout where a beautiful spring shyly welcome us.

P1060310proudly wearing the lasem batik

i changed myself to a borrowed lasem navy blue batik and took my first dip. it was a quiet afternoon. the local herdsman let his goats roamed around the field nearby the spring. pop put on his italian oldies song with portable speaker. the sensation of swimming in a spring hidden by a little forest took to another level. we spend hours in the spring and not wanting to get out from the cool calm water. i spent time staring at the sky among the trees while laying back on the water and remembering what it’s like to feel being hidden and covered by so many big trees. it is such a peaceful feeling. in a moment like this i often just want to thank to life for each beautiful gift. for each beautiful moment.

in the afternoon the local kids come to swim and some families also take some dip. pop said this feels like family picnic in the late 1980s. the rest of the guys quietly munching on juwet (the javanese grape) and pomegranate. i guess somehow time didn’t move there and in this spring we all voluntarily trap ourselves in its enhancement.

P1060325enchanted forest

i believe every single spring is sacred. people were not allow to cut trees around the spring so as not to dry the source of underground water. for some spring i found the water come under the tree itself. i found in many local tales that a spring is “keramat” (could mean sacred but could mean spooky for some) for many local beliefs. i personally think our ancestor mean for every single of us to show our respect towards nature.

in some ways i feel in indonesia we have plenty of water, often in abundance. but taking this for granted is a wrong move. in our big cities nowadays clean water is scarce. the jakarta river – citarum is the number one most polluted river in the world. rembang case itself, along the way to the spring, i found just across the teak preservation area is one of the many karst mining site ruining the natural landscape of rembang. it could even dry their river and water resources. it is a heartbreaking sight.

P1060340reality bites: preservation versus mining in rembang

i suddenly remember the mystery of easter island story, where they were building up their statue to praise their gods and using lots of wood in putting them straight up on the ground. until they came to the last tree, they decided to cut it and their civilization going downhill to the path of annihilating themselves. we should learns from these kind of stories. that whatever development of civilization human wants themselves going, it would not last without the consciousness by going in line and harmony with their natural surrounding. that the real progress is existing in the human heart to really appreciate what they have and take care of it. i really hope that we would not found ourselves in deciding to cut the last tree standing. we should guard our spring water for the importance and existence of living beings in this planet.

P1060320river nearby the spring and hope it never runs dry

solo: rumah turi – green heaven inside the city

P1010818the green hotel of solo, rumah turi

solo is my father’s hometown. it is a place where i always visit with my family every few years in my childhood. although in my adult years, yogyakarta become my own home, i rarely visit solo. not as much as when i was a little, even when it’s just 2 hours away by train.

but when i did, i always find solo changing so much. it feel much more industrial then yogyakarta. where more business is growing, which make the city have a different ambience compare to yogyakarta.

though the last development, created something very interesting like rumah turi. it is one of the green hotel existing, design and made by an indonesian, pak paulus. it used all recycle material, have their own hanging vegetable garden and recycle their own water use. it is one of the many surprise of solo that i found.

located in the middle of housing alleys near the bustling solo paragon, it is a very soothing to see this many greenery and a breath of fresh air. for a time i found a little green heaven in solo.

P1010822vegetable patches above the dining room

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P1010792water recycling management

P1010807path to the hanging garden

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P1010785i love this light installation of the dining room, day and night

P1010781cool atmosphere at night

suroloyo: the place of the gods

IMG00644-20120914-1011the view of suroloyo and menoreh valley

“god and asia alone have been able to create such pleasures as words cannot describe – like the mystical hymn of two hearts locked in their vivid embrace.” – honore de balzac (my journey from paris to java)

in the wayang tales and legend, suroloyo is always mention as the place of the gods. as often mention in the punakawan stories, that semar often goes to suroloyo back and forward as a messenger and also negotiator with the gods.

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yogyakarta: the hungry ghost ritual featuring jimmy ong

P1050695offering to the hungry ghost

the thing about yogyakarta as a such vibrant center for art and culture, is a meeting point for so many brilliant artist from all around the world. one of them is jimmy ong, an artist from singapore and based in new york. the thing about jimmy, which attracts me personally is the fact that we might be a long lost brother and sister. we share a chinese hokkian root and share the same family name: ong. we both spend a long talk on the relationship of the women in both of our family. the roles of gender. the roles of mother. the roles of wife.

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