Having been to the more famous temples of Borobudur and Prambanan, on our last trip to Yogyakarta we were looking for smaller archaeological sites to visit, and we decided on Ratu Boko site, which was not too far from Yogyakarta’s Adisucipto Airport.
Even with its recent upsurge in popularity thanks to its photogenic gates in the sunset, there were hardly anyone there when we arrived just before noon on a Thursday. It was also very hot and parched as the area has been in a drought for a while, as you can witness from the colour of the grass in our picture.
As a foreigner, you do have to pay quite a steep admission of $20 per adult compared to $2 for locals, but seeing that the site is an ongoing excavation and rebuilding, I hope most of that money goes toward the effort, as the site looked massive with a huge portion of the ruins lying around in organised stone blocks and bollards waiting to be sorted and placed back into the puzzle.
Unlike the other temple sites in the area, Ratu Boko is unique because it’s not a temple or a religious site. It’s been suggested that it used to be a living compound, a monastery or a fortress, but a lot of its origin is not really known.
Once you pass the turnstile and walk some stairs up the hill, the first thing you see from the site is the gate, at the top of more staircase and a dry moat. Most visitors went up the gate, took some selfies, and left, as the remainder of the site looked so barren.
The main plateau itself does look barren and uninteresting aside from the gate, and a pyramid like structure labeled as the cremation pit. Further on, you can see several foundation structures of other buildings.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that there is all to the site. Keep walking outside the perimeter of the main plateau and you would find another gate to the pendopo (palance audience hall). Behind the gate there was a huge terrace, built in another pyramid-like structure with hallways and doorways. The most amazing thing about the whole site is, you got it all to yourself, if you can take the heat and scorching sun.
A bit further up from the second terrace was a structure labeled as the women’s quarter and bath house. The area is more neglected and decayed, as I think they just haven’t got round to it yet, but you can see several well built into the floor and the only roofed room on the site.
The whole site is rather rough and unready, as you would expect from an excavation in progress. If you want to see temples and archaeological sites that has their stories intact, this place may not be for you. On the other hand, if you just like to wander off around ancient ruins imagining yourself as an explorer, without hoardes of other selfie-taking tourists, this is the perfect site (while it’s still the way it is). After feeling rather disappointed on how Borobudur and Prambanan, despite their religious significance, turned into touristy circuses, it was a relief to find this relatively uncommercialised (yet) piece of history.