Our series of three articles on tailor made holidays in Asia details those destinations where you can combine cultural and historical sightseeing with unwinding in beautiful surroundings. This article covers what to include in your ideal Indonesia holiday itinerary, where exploring fascinating Buddhist and Hindu temple complexes, combines with restoring body and mind on the beautiful island of Bali.
Java offers temple hopping and beach flopping in equal measures. Compared to the manic sprawl of Jakarta, Yogyakarta city represents Java’s artistic soul, and is an ideal base for those heading to the Buddhist terraces of Borobudur and Hindu temple complex of Prambanan. A place where the traditional meets the modern age, with handicraft shops jostling for space with cyber cafes, Yogyakarta has plenty on offer: from batik-dyeing courses to cookery classes. In between, sampling delicious Indonesian nasi goreng, (fried rice) at warungs (street-side café) is great fun. And Yogyakarta has some fantastically vivid markets too, such as the exotic Bird Market and Pasar Beringharjo, famous for its batik and spices.
40 kms away, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Borobodur rises dramatically out of the plain, and with its many tiers peppered with hundreds of Buddha statues, it’s been likened to a wedding cake. To see it in its best light, visit at sunset but better still, at sunrise, when on a clear day you can see the perfect conical volcanoes of Merapi and Mount Merbabu in the background. Ringed by dragon-green rice fields, the monument is a mandala designed to reflect the order of the cosmos; there are five square platforms topped by three circular ones, each adorned with bas-reliefs depicting scenes from the Buddha’s life.
Nearby Bali caters to a range of tastes, be it as a surfer’s paradise, diver’s Mecca, or cultural and spiritual wellspring of Buddhist and Hindu temples (with around 20,000!). Not forgetting too some of the friendliest people in Southeast Asia. Seeing the sun rise at Mount Penanjakan in eastern Java, and climbing to the ridge of Mount Bromo makes many bucket lists, while highland Ubud is celebrated for its green landscapes and traditional culture of dance, sculpture and music. Less than ten miles away from one another the stone-carving village of Batubulan, jewellery village of Mas and wood-carving village of Celuk are all great for seeking out gifts and personal keepsakes. Ubud is also a soulful spot for those wishing to take a yoga or meditation class. Staying at the serene Chedi Club, a discrete palace of taste situated in lush rice terraces, combines comfort with authentic Balinese flair. After meeting a shaman retire to the hotel’s enchanting spa early evening. Eat, Pray, Love and… zzz