The Temples of Borobudur and Prambanan are favorite day trip destinations when in Yogyakarta. And for good reason. Both are very impressive sites. In particular, I found Borobudur fantastic in subtle ways and would strongly recommend at least to visit it if not both. Beyond the monuments, we also had a lot of fun speaking with the local school children and helping them to practice a bit of english.
The monument is truly epic in scale. Given the condition that the site was in near the early 19th century – buried under volcanic ash and forest growth – its amazing to see how much could be restored. Also fascinating is the history and how little is really known of such a fantastic site. Walking the temple, you also note the odd architectural effects of the lower levels. Despite being an open monument, the lower levels are in fact enclosed on either side by walls with reliefs. This, combined with the design of the sharp and constant turning limits your view to lower or upper levels as well even most all of the level you are currently on. If this was a conscious design principle – to focus philosophical attention on the here and now instead of looking upwards or downwards – it is a stroke of genius.
Unfortunately, the main temple remains off limits due to the damage caused in the 2006 earth quake in Yogyakarta. The other temples are open but often do not have their original statues contained within. Prambanan was clearly a massive monument in its day but now requires a lot of imagination to see it in all its glory. Again, equally fascinating is to read about its history and marvel at how little is fully known about its origins or why it would have been so badly abandoned.
To get to the sites from Yogyakarta, we took a guided tour by Sosro tour company. I would recommend them to anyone looking to take a day tour as they were a lot cheaper than our hotels advertised rates and are competitive with all the other posted rate around town.