We embarked on a 4-day field trip to several sites in the northern part of Central Java. Our first day included many hours in a bus that took us first to the Dieng Plateau and then around to the north side of Dieng for our first night. We enjoyed the cooler temperatures of Dieng which is situated at over 6,000 feet above sea level.
At Dieng Plateau we first visited several ancient Hindu temple ruins that are among the oldest in Indonesia. Then we went to see an area of hot bubbling sulfur pits. Some of the thermal energy from this area is harvested to generate power for the surrounding area. Finally we stopped by a lake that constantly changes color depending on the amount of sulfur and other substances that are in it on a given day.
Our second day began surrounded by the beauty of Pagilaren Tea Plantation. This plantation was originally started by Dutch colonists in the 1800’s and then was later taken over by English owners. Today it is operated by the Indonesian government in cooperation with Gadja Mada University. We were given a very informative tour of the plantation as well as the tea factory. Finally we were introduced to the process of tea tasting for research and quality control purposes.
From Pagilaren we headed to Semarang, a large city on the north coast and the capital of the province of Central Java. Semarang is home to a large population of ethnic Chinese Indonesians, and as it was just a few days before the Chinese New Year, we were invited to join in the festivities at a special street market that night. We also wanted to visit an old Dutch church in Semarang but were unable to go inside as preparations were underway for a Presidential visit there the next day.
Our hosts in Semarang were from the GKMI synod of the Mennonite Church. So the next morning we were given information and a tour of the “Holy Stadium” where Mennonite World Conference will be held in 2021.
From there we went to visit the Grand Mosque for Central Java and met with a group of leaders who talked with us about their approach to Islam and their openness to tolerance and interfaith dialog.
We concluded our visit to Semarang with a brief stop at a complex of Chinese temples.
We headed to Salatiga for the night and enjoyed an evening meal as the sun set behind Mt Merbabu.
The next morning we did a challenging hike up Mt Andong, a smaller mountain near Merbabu. The rain held off for us and the views were stunning. From there we headed back to Yogyakarta.