Ever since studying Indonesian history at university, I’ve been fascinated by the influence of India on the Archipelago – hence, our collection of fabrics and miniature paintings from the region. Getting up a 3.30 a.m. is not my thing, but it’s necessary if you want to witness sunrise over the majestic Gunung Agung from the terraces of the Borobodur, the unbelievable 9th Century Mahayana Buddhist temple.

Borobodur sunrise



Then to the very different, but equally awesome Prambanan temples, a 9th century Hindu complex. Both sites blend Indian and Indonesian aesthetics in the most astonishing architecture you will ever see.

To visit the temples, Yogyakarta has to be home base. Said to be the arts and crafts capital of Indonesia, at first sight its not prepossessing. But familiarity brings a growing fascination. Ross and Irene Langlands from Sydney’s Nomadic Rug Traders made the difference with their tip to stay at the Duta Garden Hotel, a collection of cosy villas wrapped around a garden with waterfall, ponds and pool. It’s quiet and tucked away from the chaos of Yogya’s main streets, but close to everything else – bars, restaurants, specialty shops and the antique shops where we found the fabrics and paintings we were looking for.

Punati Cutural Centre, Ubud, Bali

From Yogya we headed for Bali – for me the first visit since 1986 and for Charmaine the first ever. After three days (including Christmas) in Sanur where we discovered a fantastic fish restaurant on the beach, we headed for Ubud. Here we stayed at a residential cultural centre, the Yayasan Bali Purnati, not far from Ubud itself, but a long way from its congestion. The Purnati is a slice of paradise with its extensive gardens, comfortable villas, 25 metre pool and spacious breakfast pavilion.

We were part of a party of 17 celebrating an important birthday for Angela Hijjas, wife of Hijjas Kasturi, the eminent Malaysian architect on whom I wrote a monograph in 2008. They have since become good friends and we visited their East Coast Malaysia resort, The Kasturi, when it opened a couple of years ago.


The Sultan Palace, Yogyakarta

An important part of my agenda was to re-visit the vernacular architecture of Bali and see some dance. We missed out on the classical dance, but saw no less than three different versions of the Kecak fire and trance dance! The architecture is a marvel for its restrained scale, its subtle layering of materials and the way in which entries frame secondary entries in order to create an arrival sequence.


Stand by for profiles on Hijjas and Malaysian artist, Chong Siew Ying – who I met for the first time at the Purnati – in upcoming issues of Habitus magazine.