The first of two great day trips from Jogjakarta was to Prambanan, a remarkable collection of 9th century Hindu temples about 18km East. Although the compound originally consisted of 240 temples only 6 of the main temples remain in tact. The surviving temples are stunningly beautiful; tall and intricately carved stone buildings that curve up to a point and are reminiscent of parts of Angkor Wat. They are surrounded by the ruins of the numerous minor temples that are fun to explore (as ever in Asia there is very little restriction as to where you can go and how close you can get to ancient ruins!). Photos really don't do Prambanan justice because they don't capture how it feels to be amongst so many beautiful temples right next to one another, but they do it justice more than word:
We elected to visit in the afternoon so that we could see the sun setting behind the temples, and it proved to be a good decision as the sunset was beautiful.
After sunset we took a short journey to see a ballet at the Prambanan Open-Air Theatre. The ballet was performed on an open air stage with the temples, now beautifully illuminated, in the background. It was a stunning setting.
The performance itself was not ballet as we know it, but a traditional Javanese dance that told the story of the Ramayana; a popular (and epic) Hindu story with which we would be quite familiar by the end of our time in Indonesia. I won't bore you with the details of the story but it revolves around the kidnapping of a princess and her fiance's subsequent attempts to rescue her which involves a deer that turns into a giant, magical spells, an army of monkeys, lots of fighting and arrow shooting, and a fair bit of fire. It was really enjoyable – the costumes and music were great and the dancing was really interesting (it shared some features with the Kathakali performance we had seen in Kochi). Maybe I would make more trips to the ballet if it typically involved fighting and fire!