Prambanan Temple Compounds

World Heritage Site #28: Prambanan Temple Compounds
Prambanan Temple Compounds: My 28th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for the Prambanan Temple Compounds:

Prambanan Temple Compounds consist of Prambanan Temple (also called Loro Jonggrang), Sewu Temple, Bubrah Temple and Lumbung Temple. Prambanan Temple itself is a complex consisting of 240 temples. All the mentioned temples from the Prambanan Archaeological Park and were built during the heyday of Sailendra’s powerful dynasty in Java in the 8th century AD. These compounds are located on the border between the two provinces of Yogyakarta and Central Java on Java Island.

While Loro Jonggrang, dating from the 9th century, is a brilliant example of Hindu religious bas-reliefs, Sewu, with its four pairs of Dwarapala giant statues, is Indonesia’s largest Buddhist complex including the temples of Lumbung, Bubrah and Asu (Gana temple). The Hindu temples are decorated with reliefs illustrating the Indonesian version of the Ramayana epic which are masterpieces of stone carvings. These are surrounded by hundreds of shrines that have been arranged in three parts showing high levels of stone building technology and architecture from the 8th century AD in Java. With over 500 temples, Prambanan Temple Compounds represents not only an architectural and cultural treasure but also a standing proof of past religious peaceful cohabitation.

Prambanan Temple CompoundsThe Prambanan Temple Compounds are very similar in architectural style to the early Hindu temples you can see in Angkor, Cambodia or My Son, Vietnam. While it is often overshadowed by nearby Borobudur, it is in many respects much more impressive. Unfortunately, an earthquake in 2006 did significant damage to the entire complex. Restoration efforts are underway, but it was pretty obvious that major damage was done to the site.

Prambanan is even closer to the center of Yogyakarta than Borobudur and should be included in any visit to the city. There is also an opera which takes place at in the evening at Prambanan which uses the ruins as a backdrop. I didn’t get to attend, but it looked pretty cool. It is possible (but probably not advisable) to fly to Yogyakarta and visit both Prambanan and Borobudur from Bali and return in one day. Taking a day or two is a good idea and well worth the effort.


The Prambanan Temple Compounds was built in the 10th century. This temple compound is considered as the most beautiful Hindu temple in the world. The Prambanan Temple is located close to another famous temple in Indonesia (a Buddhist one), Borobodur Temple Compounds. This temple complex in Java consists of three main temples. Each of these temples is dedicated to the three great Hindu divinities: Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. The biggest of the three temples is dedicated to Shiva, which measures at 47 meters in height.

Prambanan Temple Compounds

The temple compound was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991 for its cultural value. It is also the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia, and one of Asia’s biggest. The architecture of the temples are classified by the use of tall and pointed details, which is common in Hindu type architecture. The templ attracts several visitors all year round.

How to Get Here

The closest cities to travel to Prambanan are Semarang and Yogyakarta. Hence, you can choose any of these two as jump-off points to get to Prambanan Temple Compounds. There are a number of airlines that fly to Yogyakarta from Jakarta or other cities in Indonesia. You can rent a car to drive to Klaten. From Klaten, you can simply walk to the temple. Another option is to hire a Becak driver who will take you to the entrance gate of the temple.

Getting Around

If you are visiting the Prambanan Temple Compounds, the best way to explore it will be on foot. This will allow you to witness the detailed architecture and the landscape surrounding the temples. However, the temple covers over 39 hectares in land area. You should be prepared with comfortable clothes and shoes if you plan on exploring the temples on foot.

The main yard is where you will find the three main temples. There are also 13 other smaller temples within this part of the compound. The second yard, meanwhile, consists of 200 more temples. You should be prepared to get busy sight-seeing and taking photographs of the temples.

Unlike the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the temples in Prambanan are located closer to each other and are therefore easier to explore. Plus, the area surrounding the park are landscaped and developed.

Structural Design

Prambanan Temple CompoundsThe high structures that compose the Prambanan Temple Compounds are reminiscent of a typical Hindu architectural design. It follows the Mandala temple complex plan, just like Borobodur does. The vertical design is in line with the Hindu’s belief of the cosmos

The base of the temple is known as Bhurloka, which consists of a large space marked by a rectangular wall. It represents the unholy area in Hindu belief. The central part is the Bhuvarloka. It represents the central part of the complex or the ‘middle world’ in Hindu belief. This is where the worldly possessions are left behind as the pilgrims continue on their quest to find the light of truth. Finally, the Svarloka is the top part of the temple and represents the realm of the gods. This is the holiest zone in the temple.

The discovery of the Prambanan Temple Compounds took place in 1811. A surveyor stumbled upon the ruins by chance. After that, it was abandoned and nothing was done to restore it until the locals used the foundation stones and many looters took the relief from the temples as construction material or for decorations in their own home.

Hence, a restoration project was initiated in 1930. To this day, there are still restoration projects ongoing at the temple.

View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Indonesia.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Aug 1, 2017 @ 8:19 pm

McEmirate’s: McDonald’s in Dubai

McDonalds in Dubai
McDonald's in Dubai

It has been awhile since I have been able to talk about McDonald’s. There were none in Cambodia, Vietnam or Laos (although there were KFC’s in Vietnam and Cambodia). Dubai, however, has everything manner of fast food you can think of. In addition to McDonald’s I’ve seen KFC, Pizza Hut, Burger King and the oh so rare Taco Bell.

The McDonald’s here has a few things on the menu I haven’t seen elsewhere. They have the McArabia sandwich, which appears to be a normal beef or chicken patty with flat bread instead of a bun. They also sell chicken strips which are something like you’d see at a Long John Silvers. Just fillets of chicken, no bones, no sandwich.

Technically, Burger Emir or Burger Sultan would be more appropriate.
Technically, Burger Emir or Burger Sultan would be more appropriate.

As in Malaysia, hamburgers are not called hamburgers, so there is no confusion about there being pork in the meat. In many countries, the nutritional brochure you can get in the store will point out how the food is locally produced. Beef in Australia, fish in Japan, etc. As there isn’t a lot of ranching or farming in the Arabian peninsula, there isn’t much to showcase for local production. They do hint at some regional production of dairy products, but they don’t say where it is from.

Since I’ve been in Dubai I’ve visited the Mall of Dubai (which still seems to be under construction) and the Mall of the Emirates. Both are megamalls with ridiculous attractions like the indoor ski slope in the Emirates mall and a giant aquarium and skating rink in the Mall of Dubai.

I’ve noticed something in the malls here which I first noticed in Singapore about 10 years ago. The food courts are the mirror image of food courts you will find the US. In your typical US mall you will have some sort of ethnic food, usually Chinese, and a bunch of different western options: baked potato, pizza, sub sandwiches, tacos, etc. The food courts in Asia are the opposite. In Singapore you would find every sort of subdivision of Asian food: South Indian, Japanese noodle, Chinese seafood, Indian hot pot, Thai….and then you will find the generic western food stall. Usually something like a McDonald’s.

Kebobs are popular in New Zealand and Australia, but really popular in the Middle East
Kebobs are popular in New Zealand and Australia, but really popular in the Middle East

In Dubai, you see a lot of different Middle East or Mediterranean food stalls. In the Mall of Dubai I saw Iranian, 2 or 3 Lebanese booths, and Greek in addition to Indian, Thai, Chinese…and then the obligatory western fast food.

Many people flip out with the idea of western restaurants in non-western countries. They lament “globalism”, which is usually defined as elements of western culture in non-western countries. Whereas non-western cultural elements in western countries is considered “diversity”. It isn’t quite that simple.

Just because you have McDonald’s and Starbucks doesn’t mean a country’s culture has been destroyed, any more than Chinese restaurants destroy American culture. (and it should be noted that there are more Chinese restaurants in the US than there are McDonald’s, Wendys, KFC and Burger King COMBINED). You can add elements from another culture and still keep what is essential to your own.

I think the food court phenomenon is evidence of this. You can take something like a mall or a food court and put a local twist on it to make it your own. Dubai is a very modern city, but there is no doubt that you are in the Middle East.