Published: November 11th 2009November 11th 2009
We cruised into Semarang on the Indonesian island of Java and prepared to go on an all day outing to visit Borobudur, one of the most important Buddhist sites in the world. This was our first time in Java and this tour would give us a good look at the countryside and a chance to learn more about the history and culture of what the Dutch used to call Batavia. The drive from the port to Borobudur was three hours each way and fortunately we had a very informative guide who filled us in on this very diverse country which is made up of 13,000 islands, has the largest Muslim population in the world and is renowned for coffee, teak and tea production along with a booming birth rate. Our guide told us that the government is trying to encourage smaller families. So in every village a bell is rung in the evening to remind the women to take their birth control pills. Local health officials instructed the men on how to use condoms. After several years the village elders noticed that the birth rate had actually increased. Upon investigation they discovered that the men were using the condoms on their
thumbs instead of the more appropriate place because that is how it was demonstrated by the health instructors. Because of large families many farmers have no land on which to farm and with little education they can’t get jobs in the cities. So the government has set up a transmigration program where people are sent to some of the less populated islands to begin new lives.
Riding across the lush Javanese countryside we saw coffee and tea plantations, rubber trees, terraced rice paddies, sugar cane fields and teak and mahogany forests, along with a number of volcanoes. Due to recent bombings in Jakarta and the local traffic congestion, we had a police escort over and back. With sirens blaring and lights flashing, the police cleared our way with some harrowing maneuvers through chaotic traffic. It was fun to listen to squeals of fright from the passengers who had grabbed the front seats on the bus as we careened between oncoming trucks and startled pedestrians. We met up with the police chief in charge of our security at lunch. He had more medals on his uniform than General MacArthur. All of the junior police were fawning over him and taking his
picture. He must be a very powerful chief. He did his job well as we arrived safely back at the ship just in time for the all aboard call.
Borobudur is a World Heritage Site and the most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia—and with good reason. It is comparable to the grandeur of Angkor Wat. This ninth century monument lay hidden for eons under layers of volcanic ash and jungle growth until Sir Thomas Raffles heard rumors about a splendid temple located deep in the tropical rain forest of central Java. It took about 20 years of constant work to unearth the entire complex which is made up of over a million lava stones taken from the surrounding rivers. There are 504 Buddha statues situated on nine levels amid numerous stupas and 2,672 bas relief panels which tell many stories, including the birth of Lord Buddha and the journeys of Prince Siddhartha on the road to total enlightenment.
In the blazing heat we climbed to the top of the monument. Several people suffered heat stroke and others needed help when descending from the top of the temple. I don’t know what the exact temperature was at Borobudur but we were
told back on the ship, the thermometer was showing 108˚. We had a very nice Javanese lunch in open air tents with local entertainment. A cool drink after the arduous climb was about as close to nirvana as we got that day.
The tour team on board headed up by Katja did a magnificent job of getting 500+ passengers to Borobudur, arranging rest stops along the way and providing us a fine lunch at the site. All of this is done in third world conditions, amid security and traffic concerns and it all went off without a hitch. We appreciate Regents’ efforts in providing these excellent tours which add so much to the entire travel experience.
We arrived in Padang Bai, Bali at sunset and enjoyed a wonderful al fresco dinner around the pool. The staff spent all afternoon decorating the deck with palm fronds and Balinese umbrellas. A full moon came up just as we were enjoying the post dinner dance party.
The Balinese crew was given the night off so that everyone of them was able to sleep in their own bed at home. That afternoon before arrival a group of 20 stewardesses, waiters and crew preformed a
time-honored “Kecak Dance” to a very appreciative passenger audience. The crew put this whole show together complete with traditional Balinese costumes and music. It is a lot of work and they do all of the preparation and rehearsals in their limited off time.
We decided to spend our day in Bali not visiting temples or riding on buses but instead we went to a resort at Candidasa beach to admire the natural beauty of the Kingdom of Bali. I saw a woman weaving a basket and decided that was the memento I wanted from this stop. It was a festival day and all the villages were decked out with tall bamboo banners called pangors and the people were clad in their fanciest outfits and carrying their offering on their heads to the temples. Even the little children were dressed for the holiday. It was in sharp contrast to the frenzied scene near the pier where hawkers had set up stands and were trying to sell their wood crafts and batik clothing. One local told us that these merchants are Javanese people who are considered to be much more aggressive that the gentle and spiritual Balinese. We love Bali and hope
Katja--Tour Office Manager
She masterminded the Borobudur Operation
to one day return to vacation on this magical island.
There are more photos below