My host at the Imam Bonjol Hostel tells me that I should head out to Candi Gedong Songo. She says that it is a long way but that it is worth the trip. After my rest day in bed I decide to head out for the morning. I am still feeling a bit unwell but am not the sort to laze around.
Candi Gedong Songo lies on the southern flank of Gunung Ungaran. It is one of the two oldest Hindu-Buddhist temples on Java, predating the Borobudur. While the name of the temple site is nine temples in Javanese, there are actually not nine temples here. Rather there are five locations you can walk to with about seven temples in them. Apparently there never were nine temples, the name comes from a mistake that was made along time ago by some Dutch explorer (or so the story goes).
The temple complex is large and beautiful, not just for it’s temples but also the mountainside landscape. You can either walk around the temples or ride one a pony led by a guide. I opt to walk because it will do me good to stretch my legs after a few weeks with minimal exercise. The walk takes over an hour and involves a lot of uphill hiking. But if you can walk, I recommend it given the quiet mountainside setting.
Like so many mountains on Java, Gunung Ungaran is a volcano. According to Wikipedia it has had no recorded eruptions but is still considered active. There is little here to show that this mountain might hide the possibility of violence except the seething vent that simmers away amongst the temples. A sulphuric stink fills the air and I think it a shame we don’t yet have smellogram so I cannot share my nose’s disgust. I am just glad that the wind is blowing away from the path – haha. Around the vent the landscape is bare for a few metres in each direction. Further along the path there is another bare patch where ashy rocks prevent trees from growing.
As I walk around the temples I stumble upon a bridal party who are out taking pre-wedding photos. The groom looks dashing in his military uniform. The bride is equally stunning in her matching green dress. The photographer calls me over. At first I am confused but then I realise he wants to include me in a photo. I will probably never get used to this practice of including complete strangers in group photographs. It’s not something we do at home. But it is also something I noticed when I was in China in 2009 and Korea last month.
A group of school girls stop me and ask to take a picture. They giggle like, well, school girls as they pose with me. After the photos I walk on, exploring more of the temple complex as they stop in the garden area. Later I see them again as I walk down from the final temple building. They ask whether they can talk with me to practice English. We walk together through the fields making simple small talk about where we are from. The girls seem surprised that I have decided to walk, rather than letting a pony carry me around. The mobile data is too slow for me to look up a suitable answer so they never do learn that I decided to walk because I enjoy walking and find the temple complex beautiful.