UNESCO World Heritage Site: Prambanan Temple, Indonesia

Prambanan Temple, Indonesia

Prambanan Temple

We were fortunate enough to get to Prambanan Temple in Java, Indonesia and unfortunate enough to be there during Eid al-Fitr. If you are not Muslim or do not live in a Muslim country you’re probably wondering the heck Eid-al-Fitr is. Our simplistic explanation is that it’s a 3 day holiday that begins when Ramadan ends. During it all Muslims have to simultaneously drive, with as many people as can fit on whatever means of transportation is being employed, to somewhere they would not normally be.

Because Brunette is brunette she was aware of this holiday and its reputation for transportation chaos so we intended to plan our trip to ensure that we would not be on the roads during Eid al-Fitr. Where were we? On the roads on the absolute worst day of Eid al-Fitr. We stupidly relied on someone in Italy, who heard from someone in Bali, that it wouldn’t be an issue.

We had arranged for a driver to take us from the airport in Java to Prambanan then Borobodor and then our hotel in an estimated time period of about 3 hours. It took 11 hours; most of that at a standstill.  When we got to Prambanan, which was built in the 10th century, that sounded to us like about how long it’d been since we’d started the drive to get there.

Horse and buggy in Indonesia

One form of transportation we saw a lot of in the traffic jams. Amish Muslims?

When we finally reached Prambanan we had to power-walk to the temple as the sky was very menacing and in an even worse mood than we were.  The over 500 temples at Prambanan and Loro Jonggrang, which is on the same land, are a combo-platter of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. They were able to do something then that seems to be impossible now; peacefully coexist with multiple religions.

Prambanan Temple and small temples that surround it

Prambanan Temple and small temples that surround it

The Prambanan  Hindu temples are the largest temple complex in Indonesia and were built in the 9th century A.D. They’ve been knocked apart by earthquakes, volcanoes and politics over the years but, to the immense credit of Indonesia, the original remains have been carefully retained and restored to ensure their authenticity.

Prambanan is decorated with reliefs that tell the story of the Ramayana. The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit tale considered to be one of the major texts of the Hindu religion. It was supposedly written between 500 and 100 B.C. Like all good ancient allegories it has a noble prince, a loyal wife and a ten-headed bad guy who kidnaps the wife. We suspect the story and its message are a little more complex than our portrayal and if you think so too we advise you to do your own research! Anywho, the temples are dedicated to the animals who served the Hindu deities. (Sign up now for our history and religion course!!)

Mt. Merapi, Indonesia

Mt. Merapi which blew her stack shortly after our departure

Prambanan was declared a UNESCO National Cultural Property in 1998 and there have been several subsequent laws to ensure its protection and conservation. But nothing has been done to protect it from nature.

In the not-at-all remote distance you can see Mt. Merapi.

We visited Prambanan in September of 2010. It may have been something Blonde said but in October of 2010 Mt Merapi erupted.

There were clear, advance scientific indicators that an eruption was imminent but the Indonesian government didn’t tell people they had to evacuate until October 25th, the same day the volcano erupted. Over 300 people died, more than twice that number had serious injuries and several hundred thousand were evacuated to emergency shelters.

The eruptions and subsequent volcanic ash plumes caused extensive disruption to aviation in parts of Asia. The volcano had a much milder temper tantrum again in 2013 and, if you go to the area, you’d be very wise to pay attention to any news of rumbling from the Mt. Merapi area.

In summary, Prambanan is a historically and culturally impressive architectural and religious UNESCO site. However, when you go avoid religion (in the form of Eid al-Fitr) and pay attention to history (the volcanic history of Mt. Merapi). If despite our advice you get caught in traffic and have had all you can take, do what Brunette did – get out and take a hike!

Giving up and walking in Eid al-Fitr traffic in Indonesia

Brunette getting out and walking in the midst of Eid al-Fitr traffic just so she could make more progress!

And, BTW, in 2015 Eid al-Fitr will begin on Monday July 17 (18 in North America)  and last for 3 days so if you’re going to be in any Muslim country plan not to travel via planes, boats or trains on any of those days!



  1. says

    Nothing adds to a trip more than a bit of tension LOL
    Talking of festivals – We unknowingly arrived in Burma (as it was then) at the start of the water festival, which we were introduced to when a water bomb flew through the window of a train we were travelling on and splattered on my face! From that moment on we had 3 days of being permanently saturated! A little inconvenient for the camera equipment, but in the spirit of things, all good fun 🙂

    • says

      That’s a restless volcano! I keep being told by Icelanders that they have 2 that are past due to blow to epic proportions so I always make sure my travel insurance will cover and unexpected extended stays due to “acts of God”.

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