Seeing as we are travelling through the world’s most populous Muslim state, it would seem wrong of us not to swing by its two most important architectural sites – neither of which have jack to do with the dominant Islamic culture of the island we are now visiting.
First up, a public bus to Prambanan, some 20 clicks out of Yogyakarta (which as you may have picked up from my inconsistency, is also sometime written Jogjakarta), and a wander around the local market where, it seemed, we were the first white family to have visited in quite some as most tourists arrive directly at the park entrance gates as part of an organised trip.
The market stalls were populated by ageing women most of whom were displaying dentistry of an appalling standard, some of whom were even chewing tobacco as they interacted with us and jostled to hold “The Boy”.
Kindly enough, “the Boy” became the proud owner of a pair of new toys; firstly a lime, then as a counter-bid for our attention from another stall, a tomato.
He was well chuffed with his acquisitions until whilst offering them to other stalls with calls of the thoroughly predictable “Car! Car!”, he dropped them in the mud. Daddy abruptly stepped in at this point and brought a halt to the game as he wanted to get to the main attraction of the day, The Prambanan Temples.
Of an age such that the first foundation stones were being laid when Danish Vikings were on a roll with regards to rape and pillage in Eastern England, construction stretched through to the period when Normans Dukes were kicking about Northern France with a mindful eye on stealing their cousins turf just a short sail to the north.
The Prambanan Temples represent the largest Hindu temples on Java and offer outstanding examples of both the Hindu art and architecture of the period.
At the time of their construction over 1,000 years ago, the island of Java was ruled by the Buddhist Sailendras in the southern region and the Hindu Sanjayas who dominated the lands to the north.
This schism explains the existence of a contemporary (and arguably more impressive) architectural site located on the other side of Yogyakarta (in the form of the colossal Buddhist Stupa at Borobudur) and theories are that the belief systems, rooted as they are in the same origins coexisted in the Yogya region.
Upon approaching the grounds of the main temples, my eye is attracted to what look like a series of giant termite mounds visible through a copse of trees.
My thought, as an old Welshman might say, was “Those am not termite mounds, those am Hindu temples made to look and smell like they am termite mounds”.
After paying a “foreigners” entrance fee which equated to a mark-up approximately six times that paid by a domestic punter (fair play, you do get a gratis cup of coffee, an air-conditioned lobby in which to drink it, and use of some exceptionally slow WIFI), unexpectedly we need to traverse a rubble strewn outer courtyard some of whose masonry clearly have decapitated carvings of human characters or mythical beasts upon their weathered stone.
In 2006, an earthquake centred upon Yogyakarta caused Prambanan to suffer extensive damage. This is the result.
Though the main temples survived, hundreds upon hundreds of stone blocks collapsed to the ground and now lie scattered like a bombsite around the temple perimeters where they are being catalogued and restored as best as possible.
Typically, in Hindu methods of religious construction, there are three main temples, one of each dedicated to the top-dog triumvirate of Gods.
The temples are those of Brahma “The Creator”, Vishnu “The Preserver” and most ironically, Shiva “The Destroyer” whom Hindu legend would suggest was the might and force behind the tectonic uproar of 2006, yet who was also unable to topple his own temple in the process, the lazy half-wit.
You know what? If you fancy yourself as a God, and you are going to do mighty things unto men, then at least do them properly hey Shiva?
No wonder the locals turned their backs and switched allegiance to Allah at the first available opportunity. Now, he truly is a ferocious God AND he offers celestial virgins to those who do his earthly work.
It’s a no-brainer.
The spire of the main Shiva temple at Prambanam reaches up to almost 50 metres in height and even to the untrained eye can be seen to be a fine piece of work.
Not high enough perhaps for a spot of Javanese base-jumping, but “The Boy” is keen to exercise his new found climbing skills and disregarding the numerous bilingual signs requesting him not to use the world heritage as a playground, he seems intent on scaling at least one of the three main temples.
He also, as tradition now dictates, upstages a world-class attraction and becomes the focus of numerous cameras and excited visitors.
I’m starting to worry about this, I really am. How the hell is he meant to cope when he realises he is just an everyday boy and not some global celebrity, recognisable across every continent? I can just picture him in 40 years time, slightly portly and propping up a bar telling anyone who will listen that “I used to be someone. I used to be a player”.
It’s going to be an emotional car crash reminiscent of when Clark Kent gave up the superhero pants to get jiggy wit Lois Lane.
I fear the day…