Most people go on combined tours of Prambanan in the afternoon + Ratu Boko sunset, and Punthuk Setumbu sunrise + Borobudur in the morning. But if you are overnighting in the the villages outside of these temples, it’s absolutely possible to go on your own.

In Prambanan, I found a crusty hotel 500m past the entrance. The moldy wall and bucket bath didn’t appeal to me, but it was the cheapest of the bunch, and the owner was nice enough to let me use their bike for free. Direction was straightforward: 3 kms south of the temple. You only have to turn once and then just keep following the road, and you could actually see the hill right from the beginning of the road. I didn’t know that was it because built onto the hill is a multi-level structure with lots of staircases and pavilions that from afar sort of looks like one of those monasteries you’d see in a Chinese kungfu film, where shaolin monks’d be practicing on the platforms or hauling up buckets of water up the mountain; except that in this case, it was empty. Even after I had seen the sign and asked a couple of little girls that it was indeed Ratu Boko, I still felt unsure as I stepped timidly forward. I never figured out the purpose of the edifice, but on the very top is a restaurant with a sign saying “romantic sunset dinner,” and a ticket booth where they want to charge a whooping $11 to enter the actual Ratu Boko ground and the sunset viewpoint. That’s 11 Indonesian dinners. I didn’t care about this hill temple, and I thought sunset should be free. I promptly turned back and walked down to roam around the puzzling space beneath the restaurant. You could actually get a great view of the plain below with Prambanan in the distance, and possibly of the famed sunset. There was no sunset. It turned out to be a cloudy day and the sun quickly dipped into the thick fluffy blanket and disappeared.

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Chicken Kingdom restaurant, Prambanan, central Java, Indonesia, chicken knight

the awesomest restaurant name and logo in central Java

The information on Punthuk Setumbu was a lot more vague. Luckily, I saw a primitive map which shows that I’d need to go around the temple to the south and then turn west. A staff member where I was staying, Pondok Tingal, offered to take me on his motorbike for $8 but I declined, opting for a bicycle rented from next door. The next morning, setting out at 4:30, I was a bit worried that there would be no street lights and signs. Luckily, a few people were already up at that point for the prayer, and the yellow house lamps together with my headlights gave me enough to go by. There were only a couple of signs along the windy road, but a simple Punthuk Setumbu? to any villager cleared up any doubts. The last few minutes up the hill had me out of breath, but I felt a proud sense of achievement: I was the only there by bicycle. A few sweats, but it wasn’t really that hard. Dawn already set in as I made my way up a decently maintained stairway. Every few steps there sat a local guy with an enormous flashlight; I wonder if they were guides or just there to shine the way for tourists who forgot their lamps. Either way, none of them was interested in this #1 on tripadvisor sunrise, and neither were the drivers who all contented with waiting around at the parking lot. Any beautiful spot in the world might very well be someone’s mundane backyard. Folks already filled the line along the ridge. I sat on a bench in the back waiting and couldn’t help smiling as I looked at Merbabu and Merapi whose summit I had just climbed a couple of days before.

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