The heat of the morning rays was beating against my brows, but all it took was a cursory glance at my surroundings to know I was witness to one of the most stunning views Mother Nature can offer.
I was looking down at the clearest of waters tinged with a turquoise hue. In front of me was the cave I've just exited from, Goa Pindul, with a rubber tube as my mode of transportation.
Here, in the city of Yogyakarta (affectionately called Jogja for short), I quickly discover that its beauty is down-to-earth and real, emanating from every pore of its ash-covered land.
Why ash-covered, you may ask? Well, the Javanese city is also home to one of the most violent volcanic eruptions on planet Earth. Looming in the north of Yogyakarta lies one of the most active stratovolcanoes in the whole of Indonesia, Mount Merapi.
Its people then are no strangers to adversities. Instead, they embrace it as a reminder that their lives are in the hands of a supreme ruler more powerful than that appointed by mankind.
Their religious reverence stands firmly today in the form of its world-renowned temples like the 9th century Candi Borobudur, known also as one of the ancient wonders of the world.
From the cultural to the more exciting, Yogyakarta presents a balanced mix of activities that is bound to appeal to your adrenaline junkie side, as well the art aficionado in you.
So, if you're still undecided on your next travel destination, have only a couple of days to spare for a holiday and on top of that, relish a location that is not only rich in history and heritage, but adventure and picture-perfect landscapes, Yogyakarta would fit the bill to a tee.
Here are the top 7 things to do when in Yogyakarta:
1. Exploring the Prambanan plain on a bicycle
With the wind in your hair and the sun on your back, explore the untouched beauty of the vast plantations and paddy fields spread out across the Prambanan plain, with the hills and slopes of the volcano as backdrop.
The Prambanan plain is essentially one of the most fertile volcanic regions in Java, having been nourished by the detritus of Mount Merapi for centuries. It was also once an important hub for religion and politics in the 8th and 9th centuries and proof of this in the present day lies in the many archaeological remnants left behind.
Chiefly, Candi Prambanan, the largest temple compound in Indonesia dedicated to the Hindu deity Shiva stands immaculately preserved in the centre of the plain. Built in the 9th century, it is one of the many ancient temples found in the area.
Others, located a close distance away, include the ruins of Bubrah temple, Lumbung temple, Plaosan temple and Sewu temple.
The allure of the Prambanan plain is precisely in these sophisticated-looking relics, painstakingly carved out of volcanic rock by artisans many centuries ago, as well as its natural beauty, glimmering across the land like a never-ending carpet of green.
If you're lucky, you might just catch a glimpse of the magnificent sunset in Prambanan as its rays cast a pinkish-orange hue on the fields at about six in the evening.
As you traverse through the off-beaten tracks on your bicycle and see farmers harvesting their crops, don't be shy to greet them and they, in exchange, will tell you stories behind mystical Yogyakarta and life in the village as it is today.