Diwali long weekend = another opportunity to explore the region around us. Our aim this year – and the next – is to visit as many South East Asian cities and historical sites as possible while we live here.
So that’s how we (Jeff and my old primary school mate Kate) found ourselves in Yogyakarta last Saturday. The main focus of our trip was Borobudur, a 9th century Buddhist temple in Central Java. Given that we’d landed in the morning and couldn’t make the 11 hour day tour to the other highlight in the area, Jomblang Caves, we decided to wander around locally.
Where we visited Saturday:
The Kraton Royal Palace – Very underwhelming. Most of the palace is private and can’t be toured, and the only open areas we could wander around were really rundown and basic. We were left honestly very confused if we had gone to the right place. Our hotel and malls were in much better condition
Taman Sari Water Castle – We had a local volunteer to bring us around and give us the history of this compact grounds, and so could appreciate the history of the 18th century bath house a little better. As bath houses go, we enjoyed our visit to the better preserved ancient Roman Baths in Bath more, but this visit was a huge step up from the palace.
Ratu Boko – This archaeological site is a 45 min taxi ride out of Yogyakarta, but given that we’d completed both the palace and water castle visits in 2 hours and had the entire afternoon wide open, we jumped into the cab after a gelato lunch. Our recommendations? Skip this one too, especially because of the US$25 foreign tourist price we were forced to cough up (the local price was less than half that!). The 8th century site has not quite been properly restored; just yawning stretches of land broken up with old piles of rocks. The few signs scattered around the park did nothing to help inform the history, but just listed the dimensions of the site. The tourism board needs to be overhauled.
So our expectations were very low Sunday morning when we roused out of bed at the ungodly hour of 3am, so we could make the hour drive to catch the sun rise over Borobudur.
But our fears were unfounded. Borobudur itself is worth the trip to Yogyakarta (along with Prambanan temple, which we visited after). The air was crisp and cool when we walked up the steps of the temple in the dark. There were other tourists milling around, but everyone was quiet, just silently soaking in the meditative atmosphere.
We’d signed up to visit Borobudur under a day tour, with the second leg The next part of our tour, we visited Mt Merapi. Or tried to get close to it at any rate, on these old school open top jeeps. Honestly, the jeep ride up the rocky trail was much more fun than walking a couple hundred meters up a dusty track to stare at the live volcano in the distance. Its top was obscured by clouds.
For the last leg of the tour, we visited Prambanan, a 9th century Hindu temple. It’s in the similar style as the temples we visited of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. The main compound was crowded, but as soon as we ventured to the other temples, the crowds dwindled to nothing, and we had a very enjoyable couple of hours wandering around and soaking in the sights.
We took our e-scooters down to Gardens by the Bay early morning for a bit of exploration. There was a half marathon, which unfortunately blocked the main paths we wanted to take. Still, we had a pleasant time weaving our way through the lush walkways, enjoying the cool morning breeze on our skin, and the serenity and beauty of the gardens.
There were others about – early morning joggers and cyclists. I felt just a tinge of guilt that we were whizzing by on scooters rather than exercising, but it was a lovely way to take in the sights.
After what has seemed like an interminable but welcome summer, fall has arrived in Sydney. This week, the air has taken on a noticeable chill in the mornings when I head down to Lavender Bay to push off for our daily sunrise paddles.
I take it as a compliment when people ask me what camera I use for my photos. After all, if they didn’t like them, they wouldn’t have bothered right? Still, there’s more to picture taking than a state of the art camera. And this past week, I’ve had the opportunity to practice what I preach.
I’d dropped my DSLR on the Coastal Walk the weekend before – boo – and while my camera’s at the shop, both Laura and Lisa kindly lent me their mirrorless cameras to use. They’re great nifty cameras, don’t get me wrong, and the photos thankfully have turned out such that I can’t tell at a glance which were taken with what cameras. Nonetheless, I miss my trusty camera, which I’m so used to, snapping pictures seem like a breeze.
Anyway, it was a lovely long Easter break spent on the water. Sunrise paddles every morning, and I managed 3 longer paddles during the day as well. A 31 km paddle on Friday, a 10 km paddle Sunday, and a 24 km paddle Monday. 😀
So, a bunch of girl friends and I have decided to tackle the Murray River, beginning with a 404 km paddle over 5 days this November. We met through kayaking, and are all in love with kayaking, but to be sure, none of us have paddled remotely close to this length before.
No time like the present to kick of training! This weekend, we drove up to Myall Lakes to get in our miles.
Awesome times. In all, we got in 50 km of paddling, in all sorts of water conditions. The paddling was best in the pre-dawn hours, when the air was calm and the water still as glass. We pushed off under the full moon light, and glided along, the only sounds were the slaps of our paddles on the water. In the late afternoon, the winds picked up, and we had to battle strong headwinds and waves.
And on Saturday night, Dani surprised us all with Chinese hot pot that she lugged all the way from Sydney! Complete with thin cuts of lamb, pork, pork and mushroom balls, lotus roots, cabbage and enoki mushrooms. Oh my word. We were thoroughly spoilt.
Our sunrise paddle customers always ask, do you get used to this view, seeing it every morning?
Not at all. It’s my happy place. Not gonna lie – it is difficult to get out of bed sometimes, to put on a cheery face and face the world. But without fail, as soon as I hit the water, I find my inner peace. And when we get excited and happy customers, I draw energy from them. By the time I pack up the kayaks and head off to work, I’m ready to take on the day.
Also, the harbor is different every morning. Sometimes the water is flat and glassy, sometimes choppy with white caps. Some days, we are lucky and the high clouds are painted vibrant hues of magenta and orange; other days the gloomy skies help our colorful kayaks pop out more in photos.
So everyday on the water, I’m reminded of how lucky I am to be out there. Happily and thankfully, no, I won’t ever get used to this view.
We’ve not been able to go out on the water the past few days, no thanks to gusty winds of up to 45 km/h. While it was luxurious to be able to sleep in, it felt really sweet to be back out on the water this morning.
And what a sunrise to be greeted with too. We had high wispy clouds, so long before the sun even peeped out from the horizon, the sky was awash in splashes of indigo and pink. The waters were flat, and the air crisp.
My favorite time of day; my favorite kind of weather, of summer. Another morning to be grateful to be here.
We couldn’t have asked for a lovelier sunrise on Christmas Eve. Great clouds led to a long and sustained orange sky. Such a peaceful way to greet the morning.
After, Lisa, Jeff and I headed up to Manly for a Manly to Shelly swim. This time last year, we had just set as our 2017 goal to complete our first ocean swim, so this was a great way to wrap up the year.
No shark sightings this time, to our slight disappointment, though we did spot a stingray and a half dozen baby squid, which is always a treat.
We got back to Sydney late Sunday night from a fun wedding weekend in Melbourne. A bit too much indulging, which is tiring business! So a potential sleep-in thanks to the lousy weather forecast didn’t seem like a bad idea. But the weather has been playing up on us recently, so we decided to take a chance.
So glad we did. The color – while really brief, was spectacular.
As you can see, by the time the sun rose, all color had seeped out of the sky. Thank goodness for our lovely rainbow collection of kayaks though!