Uluwatu, located along the cliffsides of southern Bali, Indonesia, is famous for a Hindu temple which is set upon a dramatic backdrop of cliffs.
Whenever I travel, I try to get an idea of the more mundane aspects of life in the place I’m visiting. Getting away from “touristy” areas (though this is hard sometimes), eating local food, and just observing and interacting with people is sometimes more fun for me as a photographer.
These are from Yogyakarta in central Java.
Above: a Catholic school lets out in a district near the Kraton, or Sultan’s palace.
Above: What seems to be a bulk snack food store in Kotagede, an older section of Yogyakarta.
Above: The “Jogja” (Yogyakarta) skyline in a residential area. Locals told me you can see Mt. Merapi on a clearer day.
Above: Residential neighborhood, Yogyakarta.
Above left: Neighborhood mosque, Yogyakarta. Right: Neighborhood, Yogyakarta.
Above: A busy market near Kotagede, Yogyakarta.
Above: A vendor in Yogyakarta.
Above: A pedicab, or becak in Yogyakarta.
Above left: Maliboro, the main shopping district in Yogyakarta fills at night. Right: Tugu Monument, which sits at a main intersection in Yogyakarta.
Above left: A girl leaves a nearby Islamic school in Kotagede. Right: A sign for what I think is an Islamic school in Kotagede.
Above: Kotagede near the river. Notice the mosque and speakers for prayer on the left. This also shows off the Javanese architecture which can also be seen in structures of other religions.
Not far from Borobudur is Prambanan, a similarly dated temple complex. Originally, it consisted of 240 temple structures, of which only a few remain. The largest and most important of these is devoted to the Hindu god Shiva, and roughly translates as the “Realm of Shiva.”
Architecturally, I was struck by how similar it is to Angkor Wat, which makes sense as both are Hindu temples. Like Borobudur, it also includes many bas reliefs of significant lore. Most important is probably the Ramayana, a great Hindu epic telling of a king’s daughter who is captured and rescued.
Borobudur, located in central Java, Indonesia, is the largest Buddhist temple in the world and one of the oldest and most important Buddhist structures. Lost to the jungles and the earth until the mid-19th century, it was first completed around 825 CE, when Java and much of modern-day Indonesia was predominantly Buddhist and Hindu. By the 14th century, the Hindu and Buddhist dynasties declined, giving rise to Islam in the archipelago.
Today, Borobudur and its nearby Hindu companion, Prambanan, are sources of cultural pride for the predominantly Muslim country of Indonesia. Much like Angkor Wat of Cambodia, Borobudur and Prambanan connect to a mighty and mysterious past when traders from India, the Arabic world, and East Asia converged in the region to form great dynasties.
The monument is meant to portray a sort of “diagram” of Enlightenment. From above, Borobudur represents a Buddhist mandala or map of the universe, and this is noticed when climbing the monument. As the pilgrim ascends the monument, one sees bas reliefs of different stages of Gautama Buddha’s life as well as the law of karma. In addition, statues of the Buddha represent certain meanings with mudras, or the positions of Gautama’s hands. These seating positions take place inside and out of stupas, or places for meditation which resemble cages. As a result, the top of this monument leads to the Buddhas being commonly referred to as the “caged Buddhas” of Indonesia.
Above: Tour groups, mostly from Indonesia, descend on Indonesia’s most-visited tourist attraction. Notice the school group at bottom right. Western tourists can expect to be asked to be included in quite a few of the locals’ photos!
Above: Buddhas sit in their stupas along the exterior of the temple. Notice the missing heads of some Buddhas. As with Angkor Wat in Cambodia, many heads are missing due to treasure hunters.
Above: One of the more complete statues which has survived the elements and treasure hunters.
Above: These two shots show the extensive bas reliefs along the sides of the temple. Stories of teaching, enlightenment, and the results of karma are told. Many of these reliefs are being slowly torn apart by the elements, including the harsh monsoon rains.
Above: A Buddha sits in a half-open stupa near the top of the temple. On a clear day, Mt. Merapi, an active volcano, is present. We seemed to have had too much haze to see it clearly.
Above: Caged stupas near the top.
In addition to Borobudur, there are two other temples in the area. The larger and more impressive of the two is Mendut, which also consists of a Buddhist monastery. Actually older than Borobudur, it is a starting point in a yearly religious pilgrimage for local Buddhists. It is geographically located in a straight line connecting Borobudur on one end, Pawon in the middle, and Mendut on the other side.
Above: Mendut temple.
Above: Main statue in Mendut Temple.
Above: The adjacent Mendut Buddhist Monastery. Notice the Javanese architecture in the main building to the left.
These shots are from Kuala Lumpur, an incredibly diverse city I didn’t give nearly enough time to explore during a brief visit last week. I mainly visited the Petronas Twin Towers, the Batu Caves, and made a brief stop on the subway at Jamek Mosque, as a street of Indian restaurants (including the Betel Leaf) were just around the corner. I was really impressed at the diversity and “human capital” of the city and really need to return to see more of the country.
Above: The famous Petronas Twin Towers from the ground. We didn’t visit the observation deck but could see the scale of these from below.
Above: Masjid Jamek, which sits at its own metro stop in a main part of the city. Closed to non-Muslims on Fridays (the day we were exploring the city), it can still be seen from the nearby subway station.
Above left: the “touristy” part of the Masjid India Bazaar, a covered market mostly full of t-shirts and bags. Right: Hijabs for sale at the market.
Above: Street scene near Masjid India.
Above: Train station for Batu Caves.
Above left: Hindu altar at Batu Caves. Right: Statue at Batu Caves.
Above: a monkey at Batu Caves finishes bits of a coconut. It’s best to stay away from these adorable monsters while walking up the stairs. Don’t bring food with you up the stairs and watch your personal belongings. Very similar to the monkeys at Uluwatu, Bali (I’ll post on them later) and Songboling, Taiwan.
Above: A 42 meter/140 foot tall statue of Hindu deity Murugan stands at the entrance of the stairs leading up to the Batu Caves.
Above left: Another angle of the Murugan statue. Right: A 15 meter / 50 foot tall statue of Hanuman, a deity in the form of a monkey.
As I was digging through my Flickr archives today, I noticed that I don’t post very many photos at all here! My Flickr account, small by some standards, just passed 6,000 photos recently. This is a miniscule amount of what I shoot, as I think I have 25,000+ photos in raw/.NEF format on an external hard drive.
Anyway, it’s good now and then to take a look at older shots, especially with my lack of digging out the camera these days. Here is a mix of places and subjects:
Above: Bangkok, Thailand: monks disembark from the Chao Praya Express boat.
Above: Bangkok, where I got stuck in the middle of after-school rush hour. Somewhere near the Chao Praya river.
Above: Ryukyu drum performance in Okinawa, Japan.
Above: Traditional “hanbok” style Korean dresses in Seoul.
Above: Taipei’s Ximending district, sometime around Chinese New Year 2013.
Above: Somewhere in Naha, Okinawa.
Above: Khmer folk dancers in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Above: Bas relief, Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Brief note: I’ve still been focusing on running and cycling over photography lately. I may be in shape but my camera isn’t being used! I’ll dust it off and get out at some point. I hope! These photos were never posted for some reason. I took them over a year ago in Taichung.
I’ve never understood most emergent art forms, I have to admit. I’m a bit conservative in terms of what I consider “art.” Performance art and the like usually get dismissed by me as being a bit too far out in left field for me, but I’ll try new things if pushed.
When it comes to painting an entire town, I’m all for it, though. Perhaps the bizarre nature of painting an old village just excites me. This is what “Rainbow Grandpa,” or Huang Yung-fu, a Hong Kongese man who lives in Taichung, Taiwan did. In order to encourage the government to preserve a historic district of Taichung, he painted it.
The day I visited, the small property was overrun by lots of couples, tourists, and people wanting to get pictures, which I completely understand. However, I never got a “wide” shot to my liking, so please check out these images by Siobhan Lumsden of Taipei 543 as well.
Here are my shots, all a bit closer in perspective: