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Friday 10 May 2013
Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Silver and stone

We were back at the hotel by late morning, which gave us enough time to get in a quick swim, lunch and an hour's nap before we were off out again. Luppa took us over to the Kota Gede area of the city which is renowned for its silversmiths. Having seen the silversmiths at Lake Inle, I had an idea of how silver is worked, but I was still amazed at the detail in the filigree flowers we were shown. Working with tiny pieces of silver wire, the silversmiths twist them into tiny curls and spirals before fixing them in place. The whole thing is covered in silver oxide powder and heated, giving it a beautiful white-silver colour. As with their Inle counterparts, the silversmiths here worked on wooden benches with no magnifying glass and no lamps, just the ambient lighting in the room.

The showroom was a dangerous place. Everything from ornate filigree pins and pendants to earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings for men and women. They even had a number of ornaments, statues and picture frames. Jim saw a beautiful silver replica of the Borobudur monument we had visited that morning at a cool US$6,000. I could have bought half the shop and it was easy to get carried away, but even with such beautiful pieces I had to draw the line somewhere. I cheekily suggested a discount for bulk, but as it was a fixed-price shop the salesgirl apologised. She did smile and offer us a free coke each instead though. If you don't ask, you don't get!

Our main destination that afternoon was the semi ruined Prambanan Hindu temple complex. Also UNESCO Heritage listed and one of the biggest Hindu complexes in South East Asia, Prambanan is decidedly reminiscent of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It was originally made up of 224 individual temples. Like Borobudur, these temples were built entirely of interlocking stones without mortar. Unfortunately, this meant they failed to withstand earthquakes and were almost completely destroyed by a couple of very big ones a few centuries ago. The rubble was discovered by one Stamford Raffles, who went on to be Governor of Singapore. Raffles initiated a painstaking process of rebuilding which continues today. Currently there are five main temples open to visitors. Around them, the remaining rubble has been sorted into piles, each contained in a 2' square of blockwork laid out in a regular grid. Unlike Borobudur, where the Dutch were able to number the blocks as they took them apart, there are no blueprints to follow in the Prambanan reconstruction. At the rate of one temple per year, it will be a long time before this complex is restored to its original state.

We had a local guide to show us around the temple. He was a very enthusiastic chap, making lots of jokes and inviting us to guess at explanations for things he pointed out. This got a little bit wearing after a while, but you couldn't fault him for trying. The three central temples are dedicated to Shriva, Brahma and Vishnu, the central figures in the Hindu faith. We climbed up and into these temples and were shown the towering statues inside. Our guide invited - insisted - that all the girls had to touch the hand of one statue before telling us it would grant us fertility... to which three of us promptly wiped our hands and said 'not yet' or 'no thanks'. I'm not sure that was the reaction he had been looking for!

For dinner that night we headed up to a bar called Easy Goin', and it was indeed. The food was great, the atmosphere even better. Another band was working their way along the bars and played an excellent 20-minute set. They were made up of a double bass, guitar, drums and a great singer playing recogniseable songs with a reggae feel to them. They easily earned their tips from us.

 

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Zobeedoo's Big World Adventure, Part I

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