Karanganyar: Cetho Temple, Kethek Temple and Sukuh Temple


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).


Krisna praying in Kethek Temple, Central Java, Indonesia

IMG_0329The boys on top of Kethek Temple


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.


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


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.

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: kampung dolanan (the village of toys) – pandes

traditional toys from pandes village, sewon, bantul – yogyakarta

do you remember how to make your own toys? i was born in the 1980s, my father still teach me how to make a boat or a little rolling car out of grapefruit skin and bamboo toothpick. i was born in the age where i still play traditional games at the streets and running around the abandoned land in my housing complex. climbing the mango trees at the backyard, throwing each other children mud-like rocks. one of my earliest memory of those “age to play” is putting my first paper boat in the river at the end of my street and try to watch whether it float back the same way. that particular river had a circular stream. my childhood memories are all in that greenness scene despite i grow up in a city, bogor, a 60 kilometer away from the capital of indonesia, jakarta.

things change in my housing complex. development come. they close the way to the river. they separate the kampung (village) and the housing estate. my place suddenly belong to the elite. i was 13 by then, all my childhood friends vanish into thin air. no more running around in the area. i felt the weird gut feeling every time i felt i saw one of them on my way home from school when i take the angkot (public transportation). i missed those days when we are just children and don’t care shit.

i guess those are the reason i choose to live in a kampung in jogja to raised bhumy. i would not say it’s an ideal place. but i do prefer my kid to live in a more natural surroundings. anyways, at the end of last semester, the kids in his school (MILAS playgroup) did an outing to one of the village in the southern part of yogyakarta, pandes village which famously called the kampung dolanan (the village of toys).

P1050095toy making workshop with si mbah

pandes is famous for their traditional toys maker. the whole village used to be a traditional toy maker. but now they are nearly vanishing, only 8 people left and all of them are women. the youngest of them all are the age of 80 and the oldest is 100 years old. amazing women and still actively selling these toys. they even stiil walked to the main market like beringharjo (which are quiet far) to sell their handmade toys for surviving their lives. they can make different 90 characters from the classic wayang tales, just by cutting them straight from a recycle cardboard and draw them. and i can’t believe that it is only IDR 1000 (what 10 cent USD?) per item. i raged for the prices. it’s way too cheap for whatever their skills and knowledge. this compare to all those shitty made in china toys.

P1050108bhumy and his handmade kipas (fan wheel)

pandes now become a center for learning how to make traditional toys. the youth there established a center where young children introduced to the wisdom of traditional games and how to make your own traditional toys. they documented all this traditional toys. they explain all the values of all this games with the consciousness that maybe in less than ten years all of this will disappear.

P1050121walking among the paddy field in pandes village



P1050139milas children all over the pond | bhumy and his friends playing around trying to find catfish | mud splash!



P1050137the bamboo showers | bhumy and his friends playing with the water | bhumy is loving the water

P1050140the view of pandes village

P1050149my favorite paper wayang collections (made from recycle cereal box)

although seeing the amazing things, people and the best time my son and his friends had in the village: playing traditional games, toy-making with the women elder toymaker, catching catfish in the pond near the paddy-field and bamboo showers. i can’t help myself to be saddened. that all of this richness of cultural experience would go away someday. it’s like seeing an old dear friend you can’t touch and that weird gut feeling is back.

borobudur: the off beaten track


borobudur from the side of a paddy field

maybe for many indonesian, a lot of them already experience borobudur. to experience borobudur is always amazing. but this time, we did borobudur in a very off beaten track. a little bit using imagination and well, non-mainstream ways (meaning jumping fences and going through tunnels, enjoying the tiny walk from waterways and paddyfield). but it was fun to just let your inner child play and a little adrenaline rush, in the surrounding beauty of the one greatest buddhist temple in the world. it does become a very different experience.

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lasem #2: a reminder of java northern coast civilization

IMG01992-20120403-1353a whole teak fishing boat in the making from lasem

“assume that your daughter does not exist anymore. a boat made from lasem would be your happiest child ever.” ~ gadis pantai (the girl from the coast) – pramoedya ananta toer

sitting down one afternoon in front of this huge teak fishing boat at one of the lasem’s coast, made you feel this grandiose reminiscence. made you think again about a historical narration of indonesia as a maritime power way back. five hundred. one thousand year ago.

but lasem is older. they even found a ship-wreck dated from the 7th century. it was still in restoration so i couldn’t get any picture yet. lasem is also famous for their ship craftsmanship. when cheng ho came to the northern coast of java, lasem is one of their ship factory. the same at the time of japanese occupation. and this art still existed, they still make their wooden boat in front of my eyes.

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sunset series: lasem – amnesia beach

IMG01220-20120402-1732the beach was name by my friend, bessy. it is a quiet and calm beach of the northern sea of java. it was a lovely reunion with old and new friends. no one but us enjoy the calm colorful sunset there. the best thing about this beach was that it gave me a piece of ancient chinese ceramic, being washed away in the many underwater shipwrecks of the lasem’s coast. i carry it as my lucky charm now.

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kaliandra: teaching of dagpo lama rinpoche


it was my first tibetan teaching ever. it was a lot of coincidence. i heard and had the invitation to join the event from jean-pascal. ending up taking the bus with jean-pascal and mbak yani to leduk pasuruan with a lot of buddhist student, sort off in the middle of nowhere. having the weirdest conversation with mbak yani about life and ending up in this trip. i haven’t seen her for years.

arriving at night at a huge resort ground name kaliandra. it’s like suddenly being in the woods sort of feel. up in the mountain area where everything had the freshest feel. the smell of rain was still there.

we slept with the buddhist student in a wooden villa (it remind me of japanese design), we were divided with the girls students. jean-pascal had to walk a little bit up further of the villa area. had the best dinner with all the organic vegetables, i got introduce by jean-pascal with the monks, a couple of them are from tibet and most of them are from their center in bandung, west java.

the next morning, everything was all green. me and mbak yani visit jean-pascal villa which are very nice and we truly feel walking among the green woods. some of the architecture in the area looks to be adapting the majapahit era with all the red bricks and stone statues. and amazing beautiful italian palladeo. for the first time, finding them in indonesia that look wow (not just imitating the design and look cheap). the food was the most freshest.

we went in for the teaching. i can feel i was a little nervous somehow. i didn’t even realize that i was sitting next to rio helmi, an indonesian senior photographer. dagpo lama rinpoche enter the room, everyone bow down. his very first word were “it is not a coincidence that we are all gather here. the accumulation of your good karma has bring you back here. and this is not the first time that all of us could gather like this. this has already happen before and i’m glad to see all of you again.” that first five minutes that i felt that i suddenly wanted to burst to tears. those words just hit me deep.

tibetan chant made me lost to another world with a such familiar feeling. rio was next to me sharing the text of the tibetan mantra and the chant. funny to find that he was before the translator of the lama. the first day we had the teaching of bodhicitta translated from tibetan to english and indonesian. a mandala offering was done and a white tara blessing done the next day. everyone wore a traditional javanese clothing. and i had my first white tara blessing in my white kebaya and my son’s batik cloth that i carry everywhere when i travel.

no matter absurd i felt being in pasuruan. being in an italian paledeo of tropical garden and javanese mountain landscape. wearing javanese attire for a tibetan teaching. i am thankful for this chance. o, dagpo lama rinpoche. dharmakirti. atisha dipankara.

om mane padme hum. may all the blessing felt by every single being.







lama dagpo rinpoche | tibetan monk making an offering | walking for the teaching | the tibetan prayer flag | me and jean pascal | the mandala offering

kaliandra: a hidden sanctuary of pasuruan

P1020862remembering dagpo rinpoche, i forgot to post about this place: kaliandra. beside having my first tibetan teaching here last december, i found an amazing sanctuary in the middle of pasuruan. pasuruan for goodness sake, in east java! it’s a vast 17 hectare of land at mount arjuna, organic farming, an amazing paladeo buildings and beautiful garden (or forest?) that makes you literally time travel to another world. it’s a little absurd experience but it’s completely unforgettable. the next pictures would speak for themselves.

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