Without an H

Photography from south-east Asia by Jon Sanwell

Posts tagged ‘java’

Grey skies over Prambanan

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The title says it all, really. I made two trips to the Hindu temple of Prambanan while I was in Java. On the first visit, the heavens opened minutes after I arrived (shortly after the picture above was taken, in fact). On the second, the rain held off, despite the threatening clouds overhead. So no spectacular sunsets, but I think the cloudy skies make for quite dramatic pictures in this case.

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Around Borobudur

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A few pictures taken in and around Borobudur town: a farmer sharpening his scythe; rice terraces on the road to Selogriyo temple; a house in the shape of a giant camera; and buddha carvings, large and small.

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A morning in Borobudur

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Along with Bagan and Angkor, central Java’s Borobudur is one of south-east Asia’s best known temples. While those first two are vast complexes that consist of many separate temples scattered over a wide area, Borobudur is a single structure, but one built on a grand scale, the largest Buddhist temple in the world.

My first sight of the temple was at sunrise from the top of nearby Setumbu hill. With hindsight, I should probably have skipped the trip up the hill and instead forked out the extra ruppiah for the sunrise ticket to the temple itself. My pictures from the hill were fairly underwhelming (so I haven’t included them here) and the best light had already gone by the time I made it to the temple at about half past six. But there were some pleasingly fluffy little white clouds in the sky, and the temple itself is beautiful enough to still be impressive in less than perfect light.

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Jakarta | Chinese medicine

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Whenever I visit other big south-east Asian cities, I always seem to end up in Chinatown. Bangkok, Yangon, Kuala Lumpur, and now Jakarta. It’s not just the food. These districts always seem to have lots going on, an energy and character of their own.

In Glodok, Jakarta’s Chinatown, there are a number of traditional herbalist shops, selling specially prepared packages of dried or powdered herbs, designed to cure all manner of ailments, to those who don’t trust or can’t afford conventional medicine.

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Jakarta | Five portraits

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What to say about Jakarta? It’s a vast, sprawling, congested mess of a place. A megacity of more than 30 million people with no obvious centre, it’s more than a little overwhelming for the first time visitor. It’s a difficult city to love, especially at first sight, but in between the multi-lane highways and behind the concrete blocks, there are pockets of humanity, regular neighbourhoods where regular people go about their everyday lives. There were moments when I felt like I was in my element – there’s nothing like wandering around a new place with a camera and a 35mm lens. But in between these moments were long periods spent sitting in traffic, or simply looking for a place to cross those multi-lane highways.

I think you’d need a lot of time and patience to really get to know this city. I just spent a couple of days there at the start of a month long trip through Java and Bali. In that short time, I barely scratched the surface of Jakarta. I can’t offer a comprehensive overview of the city with my photographs, but I can share a few portraits, some small fragments of Jakartan life. It’s my way of trying to show the city’s human face.

More from Jakarta, and elsewhere in Indonesia, coming soon.

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