If names have anything to do with destiny, then Royalty is Yogyakarta’s birthright.
Derived from Javanese words Yogya and Karta, it befits prosperity. The latter, splendidly worn in the fabric of Jogja’s history: from architecture to heritage to cookery.
My welcome to the city came late in the evening, in the form of a jasmine lei and a cup of tea extracted from a native red bark. Shaken from a massive turbulence from the flight out of Bandung and bursting from binging platefuls of Ayam Goreng at dinner, such gesture of hospitality from Royal Ambarrukmo was impeccable.
Even without counting my top-floor room with pool view, the platter of dessert at bedside was more than enough indulgence. Imagine the romance.
My first restful sleep at Royal Ambarrukmo however, was promptly interrupted by a 2AM wake up call. But Borobudur, as I later saw for myself, was one of the few things worth rising up early for. How can it not be when from there, it meant having the pleasure of seeing the morning sun rage against the distant Mt. Merapi?
I remember racing through the gates of the compound, only to be arrested by the magnificence before me: over 2,500 square-metre huge, multi-level superstructure— perhaps the greatest in all the world’s Buddhist temples.
After the sun has risen, a stroll around left me astonished. Circling the stupas, a sea of clouds blanketed farming fields and villages sprawled low at the foot of outlying mountain ranges. It got me thinking: Borobudur, living up to its legacy, has indeed, proudly withstood tests of time and forces of nature.
By mid-morning, just before an impromptu crash course on batik-making and pottery, I explored the village surrounding Borobudur a little deeper. In a vintage bike, I cycled through rice paddies: partly alongside my friends, but mostly by myself. Introspection was necessary because as a village girl myself, I saw glimpses of home on that morning bicycle ride.
It made sense then. The simplicity of rural Central Java, and the generosity of its people to live and let live, was what enabled the Buddhist Borobudur to last through the millennium amidst a Muslim dominion.
After lunch, a trip down the lanes of Jogja’s opulent yesteryears was held by way of a guided walking tour around Royal Ambarrukmo. I made my way around with the crowd, palming stories stuck beneath age-old murals and symmetrical pillars; all pregnant with rhyme and reason.
As the day came to a close, I perched before a lavish display of local canapés for afternoon tea, peeping through how royals fared through their days. My mortal self could not barely contain the experience’s overwhelming sense of marvel. At that point, my heart knew no other language, but that of Gratitude.
Whilst sunrise was incredible, sunset was stellar.
As the crowd swarmed through the gateway of the main terrace, I sprinted to the grounds, away from the gates. When I looked back, the yoke of the sun was just sinking into the horizon, a rich orange against the shadow of Ratu Boko, or remnants of.
“How did you know?” A chap from another tour group asked, indicating the angle I was shooting from, farthest from the crowd.
“Well, I knew that Ratu Boko was once a palace.” I was awkwardly rolling off the grass, trying to shoot from a low angle.
“And?” He pressed.
“And kings don’t usually stand by the doors. They marvel at their riches from afar.” I answered, smug, like a true royal.
Right after, like true commoners, we shared a hysterical laugh.
On the second morning, I bade goodbye to Yogyakarta with a promise to return. As I made my out of the hallowed halls of Royal Ambarrukmo, I ran my palm along its walls one last time, relearning the stories it cradled: those of religion and royalty; of glory and grandeur.
Yogyakarta was the second stop in September 2016’s Trip of Wonders, an invitational trip for ASEAN travel influencers. It was hosted by the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia. Opinions expressed in this post are my own and do not reflect the view of the Ministry.