A Journey to The Past: Gedong Songo - Ambarawa

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Another magnificent temple to capture.
On the last day of our three-day-trip, my friends and I had planned to visit Candi Gedong Songo, a group of temples located in the slope of Mount Ungaran, Central Java. There were totally nine small temples, and I had only seen three of them five years ago. So this year, I was determined to see them all. Here's the story ...



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Waking up very late at 5.30 AM, I rushed to the bathroom for quick shower and then grabbed all my stuffs to check out from the hotel we had stayed for the last three days. Our driver, who had been waiting outside since 5 AM, sped the car through the highway to Ungaran, which was still empty that morning. It took us nearly an hour to reach the temples.

After having breakfast at a food stall nearby, we started to climb the verdant slope. I was glad that we were not welcomed by some annoying guys offering us to ride horses that I met five years before. We wanted to reach all the temples on foot. The first temple was easy to reach. I guessed getting inside the narrow dark space inside a temple would give me a clear perspective of what it was like to be in the past.

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To reach the second temple which was sited in a higher place, we had to walk few hundred meters, hike through the woods. I really thanked God for the clear blue sky in that morning.

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The third temple was also higher than the second one. The exhaustion of climbing up was finally paid off with the magnificent view seen from above. Nearly all the major mountains in Central Java could be seen from the third temple. I was amazed by how people in centuries ago could find this place.

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A familiar deity figure adorned the third temple. Its role as a god of knowledge could indicate that this temple used to be somekind of school.

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Entering the room inside the temple, I found burned joss sticks revealing scents that, to me, smelled better than those I found at Chinese temples on the other day.

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As the third temple consisted of two buildings, it would be possible for a teenage boy to jump over the gap between them. I didn't pay this lad to do it. I just asked for his email address, promissed to send this picture later.

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Before hiking to the next temple, I took a picture of the third temple with Mount Ungaran as the background.

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We stopped for a moment at a point where we could see a natural high pressured gas coming out from a tiny hole.

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The rest of the temples were dominated by ruins. I guessed there were supposed to be more than nine temples there. At certain angles, we could see that the temples might have been built in the middle of the woods.

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With the sudden coming of a horse, I tried to picture how the temple looked like in the past.

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We finally reached the last temple. The sky then was not as clear as it had used to in the morning. Before leaving the last temple for Ambarawa, I took a picture with my canon G-12. Thanks to its flexibly flipped LCD of live view, I could take pictures as low as possible. It was interesting to make the grass as the foreground.

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On the way down to Ambarawa, Tia, who was very talkative during our three-day-trip, told us about her meeting with an old man, named Mbah Sarmudji, who had been involved in a so called heroic action of "Palagan Ambarawa" few years before. He was the only witness still alive.

I was not in favor of the fight for independence, but somehow was interested to meet this old man. I wanted to hear his story about the action, hoping to compare it with the one I had heard from Elizabeth van Kampen, an old Dutch woman who was also a witness of the action.

First, we headed to the monument of Palagan Ambarawa where Tia met Mbah Sarmudji few years before. Unfortunately, it was closed as it was being renovated. From the guard, we obtained information that Mbah Sarmudji had lately spent most of his time at home.

We decided to go to the Train Museum of Ambarawa first. Sadly, it was also closed for the same reason with the monument. But since we found many cars parked in front of it, we assumed that we could still get in there. Not much had changed since my first visit five years earlier.

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Tia, a kindergarden teacher, bought two toys of flying bird for her students. It was cute how grown up people could turn like kids and have a childlike attitude when it came about toys. Tia and our driver tested the toys by flying them.

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Back to town, we found difficulty finding the house of Mbah Sarmudji. As if sent by God to help us, a woman whom we asked for a direction to the house, happened to be his daughter in law . She was standing on the sidewalk, right where we were dropped off from car. She led us wander in a narrow street and brought us to a house where Mbah Sarmudji was sitting in the living room that was lit by a white fluoroscent lamp.

The old man came out to welcome us. He was very excited with our coming. Soon, we had an interesting conversation, mostly about his being involved in "Palagan Ambarawa." For an 87 year-old-man, Mbah Sarmudji still had a sharp memory. He could still recalled every details of the action happened 67 years ago: the day, the date and the hour. He was 20 years old back then.

We could hardly conceived what he was talking about as his words were not very clearly pronounced, considering his age.

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Since he was trained as a 'Heiho' - a military force established by Japanese during its occupation in world war two - Mbah Sarmudji had developed a skill in speaking Japanese. He could still speak it fluently today. To my surprise, he still memorized the anthem of Kimigayo. Back to the days of war, he was a guard at the internment camp, built by Japanese to detain Dutch women and children as the prisoners of war in Ambarawa.

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During the years of post war, Mbah Tarmudji was hired as a local police. He didn't earn much from the job, yet he had to raise nine children who today have become school teachers.

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He collected many books and clippings of articles concerning "Palagan Ambarawa" in an old wooden shelves. I was impressed by how he carefully preserved all letters and notes written by people who once visited him. They came from many places like Korea, Japan and China. Mostly were historians.

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According to his version, the fighter back then never attacked the Dutch people who were about to be evacuated by Allied Forces from the internment camps. Mmm ...That was different with what I had read from Elizabeth van Kampen who was being interned in Ambarawa and shared her story in her website. She said that during the evacuation, the convoy of Dutch prisoners that were heading to Semarang, was several times attacked by Indonesian fighters.

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Well, it was always interesting to hear both sides of a story. Since I was not to judge whose version was right, I decided to keep those stories in my head.

At around two o'clock, we left the house for Semarang before finally boarding on the train that brought us back to Jakarta at four. The three-day-trip might be too short in time, but I would always regard it as a fun and enjoyable journey to the past.

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11 comments

  1. A very interesting photo album. Keep on taking pictures and posting

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  2. Tiga lokasi dibingkai dalam satu cerita itu sesuatu banget :D
    Pengen banget suatu hari bisa menginjakan kaki di Candi Kedung Songo, tapi kapan ya?! Semoga saja bisa terkabulkan, amin.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Harus ke sana Bli... Pemandangannya di waktu pagi luar biasa. Sebaiknya sampe sana sekitar jam 6-an.
      Saya aminkan do'a nya...

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  3. love the way you captured moments. nice :)

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    Replies
    1. the saddest thing that could happen was when I missed a moment ...

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  4. these photographs were nice! Nominated for NG! :)

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  5. Hmmm....I wonder how mbah Sarmudji is doing now. Mas Wibisono, is there any way you could help me find the way to where he lives? I mean...the address.
    I once heard that he made friends with Koreans who worked as Japanese soldiers back then. I wondered if he ever mentioned anything about it?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hmmm....I wonder how mbah Sarmudji is doing now. Mas Wibisono, is there any way you could help me find the way to where he lives? I mean...the address.
    I once heard that he made friends with Koreans who worked as Japanese soldiers back then. I wondered if he ever mentioned anything about it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mas Suray,
      Sorry for responding late. I am no longer active in this blog since I moved to my new blog at wibowowibisono.com .... It was not difficult to find Mbah Sarmudji's house. I didn't know exactly the address like the name of the street or the number of the house.

      What I can recall is the house was located behind the traditional market in Ambarawa, not so far from Palagan Ambarawa monument. As for the street where we have to go through, it is the one where there is the tomb of Doctor Tjipto Mangoenkusumo.....

      I advise that you kindly ask the local people living behind the market for the direction to his house. I really hope he is doing fine today.

      Yes, he told me about the korean and japanesd felllows. He didn't speak really clear, considering his age and health condition.

      What I can recall is the house

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