Magelang, Central Java (1) – Celebrating Vesak and the Arts

Submitted by viravira on 31 August 2012   •  Itinerary   •  3 Day 2 Night

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You must have heard of Borobudur temple, haven’t you? Do you know where it is? No, it’s not in Yogyakarta, don’t let people fool you telling that Borobudur is in Yogyakarta. Borobudur temple is in Magelang, NEAR Yogyakarta. Magelang may have been under the shadow of Yogyakarta because it’s smaller and less packed with cultural or touristy stuff, but I was curious what it actually has to offer. And so I stayed there over a weekend, paying a visit to Borobudur on Vesak night as my main itinerary. Turns out, I think Magelang has been underestimated the whole time!

Magelang OHD museum


Mendut Temple – Vesak Day

Mendut Temple was where the main Vesak commemoration took place exactly at 10:34:49AM West Indonesia Time (GMT+7) before the monks marched to Borobudur for the peak celebration. It is said to be the oldest Buddhis temple in Java.

Borobudur Temple – Vesak Night

Located only 30-45 minutes from Magelang city, Borobudur is the biggest Buddhist temple in the whole wide world. Buddhist monks from several countries gathered for a commemoration at this temple, and apparently tourists like me as well.

OHD Museum

The scandalous museum/gallery that displays a lot of Indonesian maestros’ paintings, which is now in being charged of fraudster. Until the day we upload this entry, we’re still waiting for the outcome of the case.

We paid IDR 100,000 / person to enter the gallery.

Address: Jl. Jenggolo 14, Magelang /


Magelang city tour

Oh but it’s a private tour 😛

Our friend Fahmi – whom we knew from the ikat cloth quiz last year – took me around the city on his motorbike with a quest of sending some postcards. Some of the interesting places I saw: Diponegoro museum, a huge military academy (Akmil) area, Tidar mountain in the middle of the city, the water tower and a Chinese temple.



Museum of Diponegoro

It’s an old building where the brave Diponegoro Prince was deceitfully caught by the Dutch in the 19th century. The view wasn’t bad either.

Museum Diponegoro
Jl. Diponegoro 1, Magelang.
Entrance for free, you just need to report to the security.


Magelang city

It was a municipality in the British colony era, it was a trade centre in the Dutch colony era. And it is up until now the biggest military city in Indonesia.



Hotel Catur

Located in the Magelang regency but outside of Magelang city, it’s a good choice to stay because it’s a bit nearer to Mendut, Pawon (which I hadn’t visited), and Borobudur temples, compared to the hotels in the city.

Rates: IDR 350.000 – 500.000

Address & contact:
Jl. MayjenBambangSugeng (Jl. Raya Mertoyudan) No.308
Jawa Tengah – Indonesia,
Phone: +62 293 326 980


Check out our tweets on this Vesak (also known as Waisak) trip on chirpstory under the hashtag #Waisaktrip.


Mendut Temple and Borobudur Temple for the Vesak Ceremonies

I had written about this until I realized it was probably the longest thing I’ve ever written about a part of my trip activities. It’s so long that I can’t cram it all in here, so I’ve also made a special blog post about it.

The street approaching to Mendut temple was packed with parking cars. Cars couldn’t get through about 10 meters from the temple.

We spent about 1,5 hours at the ceremony that was packed with Buddhists, tourists, journalists and photographers. At 10.30 a.m we decided to take off, cos there wasn’t much we could do nor comprehend. Plus, we didn’t want to be in the way of praying Buddhists for too long.


We decided not to join the march from Mendut to Borobudur and visited the OHD museum in Magelang city instead. Then after a good nap in the rainy afternoon, we went to Borobudur at 4 p.m by the same taxi, the same driver, Pak Robbi. It took us about 40 minutes to get there. We were rushing cos the gate was going to close at 4.30 pm or so, and there were traffic jam reports on the way to Borobudur. Luckily, Pak Robbi grew up in the Borobudur village, so he knew the shortcuts! Woohoo! Buddha blessed us!

A little unfortunate was that it rained on and off since afternoon. The first thing we did was signing up for a lantern and we were wearing our raincoats even then! The lantern turned out to be huge, perhaps 1 meter tall, and it cost IDR 100,000 each. The four of us pitched in for one lantern – me, Muty, Lisa and Arya.

Lanterns on Vesak night

Waiting for the lantern release, we were standing and sitting in the front row of visitors, watching the monks and Buddhist participants did their chants, sermons, and other parts of ceremony. I was finally annoyed by a girl who kept taking pictures from behind me nonstop, but  I was supposed to get into the feeling of Buddhism. Ooooohhhhmmmm…..! So I managed to keep my cool and move on with the event.

Buddha miniature being poured by holy water

Vesak at Borobudur

I got out of the crowded audience (yeah we were really audience instead of participants) and joined Arya in the back of the stage, which was nearer to the temple. There were people lighting candles on the floor, forming some Sanskrit words but I forgot what they meant. (I really should start writing about my trips right after I’m back from the trips!)

And then the Pradaksina procession, that is circling around the temple 3 times clockwise, started at about 10pm. We were welcomed to be a part of it, circling the temple 3 times. Some were carrying candles that they also had to pay for IDR 100,000 each in the same tent we signed up for the lanterns. We walked carefully not to get in the way of the Buddhists and the monks and took pictures standing on the side, without flash. After that the lantern release took place.

Borobudur at Vesak night

Pradaksina procession on Vesak night at Borobudur

Now, I used to find the prohibition of non-moslem entering Mecca unnecessary. I thought of it as a discriminating issue and being overprotective. But after seeing all the hoo-ha in this Vesak ceremony, I thought maybe there’s a good point in that prohibition. Prohibiting or at least limiting the number of non-Buddhist visitors might make the rituals as sacred as they should be. But hey, what do I know? The Buddhists have their own way of doing their religious service 🙂

Then it was time go back to the hotel. The lack of phone signal made us panic a little bit cos we couldn’t reach Pak Robbi’s phone. But after a while Lisa’s phone came through and we were picked up by Pak Robbi. We dropped Arya and his bike by a diner nearby, and then Kandi at the Lotus hostel, which was a walking distance to Borobudur, and finally got back to our hotel dozed off!

* Entrance fee to Borobudur park: IDR 30,000 / Indonesian, about IDR 135,000 ($15) / foreigner.


OHD Museum

Lisa told us about this new art museum in Magelang that her friend had visited. It’s called OHD Museum, stands for Oei Hong Djien, the name of the owner. We went there in between our visits to Mendut and Borobudur.

Magelang trip at OHD museum

As soon as we arrived, we were amazed with the intricate artwork on the front wall of the building, which was titled “Dreaming Machine” if I’m not mistaken. And as we entered the building, we were pretty much amazed with everything we saw, even with what we were stepping on. There were artworks on paved pathways, on the gallery door, even the plants and café chairs and walls were artistic. If I stayed longer in Magelang, I would spend more time in that wi-fi connected café, just sitting and sipping cups of tea and working with my laptop enjoying the whimsical ambiance with paintings by EkoNugroho all around.

Cafe at OHD museum Magelang

 Magelang OHD Museum pathway

OHD Museum pretty much astounded the world – at least the world of art lovers – with the artworks displayed in the gallery. At the time of our visit, paintings by about 6 Indonesian great painters were displayed, namely Affandi, Soedibio, HendraGunawan, Sudjojono, and… more. Anyway, I’m rarely updated with the art world (I hope my art lecturers aren’t reading this), so I just found out that Oei Hong Djien is one of the prominent art collectors in Indonesia, if not international. He owns more than 2000 artworks, for god’s sake! Oei Hong Djien himself is a medical doctor (by degree) and used to (or does he still?) own and run a tobacco business. One of the tobacco warehouses is now turned into the OHD Museum. I know this from the very-long-haired museum guide that kindly explained a lot of things to us.

Affandi paintings

Originality in question

Shockingly, later on OHD Museum made it into the news everywhere. But in a bad way. Some sources have stated that many of his painting collection are fake! *Gasp!* Curators, art dealers and wives of the late artists asserted some facts and analyze the chronological events concerning the making of those paintings. Oei Hong Djien denies the accusation, and until now (August 2012) I think they’re still investigation process.

To me personally, I hope the accusations aren’t true, because it would be just sad. But above that, the truth must be revealed 🙂


OHD Museum
Jl. Jenggolo 14, Magelang, Central Java.
Open 10am-5pm, close on Tuesday.
Entrance fee IDR 100,000 / person. 


Magelang city tour

Our friend Fahmi – whom we knew from the ikat cloth quiz last year – took me around the city twice on his cozy motorbike. First was when I just arrived in the city. I liked Magelang city cos it felt laid back and close to zero pollution. I don’t know if that’s because it was Saturday, which probably means less vehicles on the road, or because that’s just the way Magelang is.

The ambience reminded me of Bogor, only with less parks and less crowd. Magelang is the first city I’ve been where the establishment is developed around a mountain! There’s Tidar mountain sitting in the middle of the city. Quite interestingly it’s known as the “Paku Jawa” or the Javanese Nail, meaning that if it was to be removed, the Java island would disperse all around.’s interesting that one would even think of removing a mountain. And it’s too bad that I didn’t have enough time to climb the mountain on this trip. Hopefully next time!

After the ride, we went to the Gethuk Eco shop, had some famous wedang kacang, and stopped by at a mosque for Maghrib (dusk) prayer. I was wearing shorts and I got disapproving stares from some of the locals there. Oops! Didn’t know we were going to stop by at a mosque 😛

Magelang water tower and temple

The second round of city tour was a brief one on Monday morning before Fahmi went to work. He picked me up at the hotel all neat AND he was wearing the ikat scarf he won from our first ever giveaway!! Yaaay! This time, the city tour was with a quest: sending some postcards at the post office.

The post office is located on Jl. Alun-AlunTimur. Guess what. They give out free postcards!! Hooray! That was the first time I got free postcards from a post office. And the pictures weren’t bad at all! It’s easy to find the post office, you just need to get to the Alun-Alun. Alun-alun is like a city square. I’m certain that every local knows where that is cos that’s like a huge field in the city central. The post office is just around one of the corners, very near to an obvious Chinese temple.

Magelang - Diponegoro statue

Magelang post office across the Alun alun

At the Alun-alun you can see a patriotic statue of a man riding a horse, that’s Pangeran Diponegoro (Diponegoro Prince), a hero originated from Central Java. Huge letters “M A G E L A N G” are standing proudly at one side of the field, and a water tower is at the far end, hard to be missed.

Because the post office opens at 8 a.m, Fahmi took me to the Museum of Diponegore beforehand. It’s located on JalanDiponegoro, and check out the brief story under History –>


Museum of Diponegoro

Diponegoro was the first born of Hamengkubuwana III, the king of Mataram kingdom. He was very vocal and was very brave in leading his people in the battle against the Dutch colony. The Dutch was said to be overwhelmed by Diponegoro’s acts, and then initiated a negotiation. And at that meeting Diponegoro was deceitfully caught by the Dutch, moved to Makassar and died there in 1830 at age about 45.

Magelang museum of Diponegoro

It would be a great tour de museum IF ONLY the museum was already open. We got there too early in the morning, so I could only see the original furniture and Diponegoro’s robe from the glass window.

The place isn’t only good for some history learning, but look at the view! That’s Sumbing and Sindoromountain seen from the museum backyard.

Magelang view to Sumbing and Sindoro mountains

Museum Diponegoro
Jl. Diponegoro 1, Magelang.
Entrance for free, you just need to report to the security.


Magelang city

Magelang’s birthday is on April 11th, and was founded in the year of 907. It used to be named Mantyasih, a village that much later developed into Magelang, and the area of Mantyasih itself then became a small part of the whole city called Menteseh. In the 18th century, when Magelang was colonized by Britain, it’s turned into a municipality. From then on, the Bupati (sort of like a mayor) in charge had some developments in the city, like building an Alun-Alun, a mosque and a church. It looks like the British didn’t choose Magelang to be a municipality for nothing. Magelang is located between two bigger cities, Yogyakarta and Semarang, so it’s a pretty strategic location.

Magelang gained more ‘power’ when the Dutch took over the territory and ditched the Brits. (“The Dutch ditched the Brits.” Heehee it’s funny saying that, try it! *no offense to the Brits, we love you for Prince Harry and for not saying the ‘t’ in the middle of ‘bottle’!) Anyway, the Dutch made it into the trade centre of southern part of Central Java, thanks to the location. Electricity was installed, roads were asphalted, and a drinking water tower was erected in the middle of the city. What’s more,the Dutch also made it into a military city. Hence until now the biggest military academy lies in Magelang.

Where To Sleep in Magelang

Hotel Catur

With a recommendation from Fahmi plus some browsing on the net, Muty and I decided to sleep at Hotel Catur. There were quite a few options but some were fully booked, perhaps because it was a Vesak weekend, and some were out of my budget.

Located in the Magelang regency but outside of Magelang city, Hotel Catur is a good choice to stay because it’s a bit nearer to Mendut, Pawon (which I hadn’t visited), and Borobudur temples, compared to the hotels in the city.

Magelang stay at Catur Hotel

Getting in Magelang from Yogyakarta by bus, I hopped off right in front of the hotel, just before the bus got in the Magelang city. I just needed to tell the bus driver that I was stopping at Hotel Catur and he pulled over right there.

I liked the hotel. Our room was clean, tidy, fully equipped, and staff was friendly and helpful, and they can call a cab for you. Breakfast was so so Indonesian food, and there wasn’t many options to find food around the hotel. But with IDR 350,000 a night I think we got a good deal.

Magelang Catur Hotel


Rates: IDR 350.000 – 500.000


Hotel Catur
Jl. Mayjen Bambang Sugeng (Jl. Raya Mertoyudan) No.308
Jawa Tengah – Indonesia,
Phone: +62 293 326980, Fax: +62 293 326919


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