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Published: April 7th 2015
The whole purpose of this brief trip to Indonesia was to visit the Buddhist temple at Borobudur. Built in the 9th Century, the temple complex looked stunning, and our mission was to visit at sunrise. I was a bit dubious about my chances given a history of failed attempts to see either sunrises or sunsets at various famous places, Angkor Wat being the most recent. However I am nothing if not an optimist, hence the early start.
The alarm went off at 3.30 and it didn't feel like I had been asleep for long. Soon enough though I was wide awake, as our driver drove like a madman. We were on the edge of our seats, so it was hardly a relaxing drive, wondering if we would make it alive or not!
But luck was on our side, in every respect. The weather was perfect, it was deliciously cool, with not a drop of rain in sight, and the sun came up in a burst of red, pink and purples, The view was simply stunning. Even the crowds, which I had been warned about, weren't too bad, but then again after Angkor Wat my idea of crowds has been
The sunrise was spectacular, and with the mists rolling gently across the farmlands below we easily spent a couple of hours meandering among the temples, and sitting peacefully enjoying the views.
Not far away is Candi Pawon, a tiny but beautiful small temple. We clearly did everything out of order, as it is thought that this temple was to be visited first, to purify the mind prior to climbing Borobudur. In my case my mind was far from purified at Pawon, as nearby is a small coffee shop which we visited, and learned about Kopi Luwak. This is a very special kind of coffee, which retails for about $50 per cup in the USA, because of its unique characteristics.
Arabica coffee beans when ripe will fall on the ground, and "luwaks", which is the local name for a civet cat, eat the coffee berries and in the usual fashion they are expressed. The faeces of the luwak are then studded with coffee beans, which are collected, dried and roasted as usual, with the special fermentation creating a coffee that is prized for its flavour. "Cat-crap coffee" (as I was sorely tempted to call this blog entry)
is supposedly an unparalleled, delicious, caramelly coffee. We tried a tiny thimble full of this nectar and it was quite nice, but I certainly wouldn't pay $50 a cup for it!
From there we went to Candi Mendut, the third and oldest of these three temples, which were constructed in one straight line. It was another beautiful temple, however I particularly loved the huge Banyan tree, which legend has it was planted when construction on the temple began, in the early 9th century.
Our accommodation for the next couple of days was Mesa Stila, a destination in itself. Formerly a coffee plantation, it is now an upmarket hotel and health retreat. It was one of those places that I had booked by accident, looking for something in the countryside not too far from Borobodur, without realising what I was signing up for. However after two fun-filled but action packed days in Yogyakarta, two nights at a retreat in the hills, enjoying a slower pace of life was perfect.
There was as much or as little as you wanted to do. We joined a tour of the coffee plantation on our first day, and enjoyed yoga each morning.
There were other activities, like batik-making which I thought would be fun, although soon realised I didn't have the patience for, or Javanese dancing. One morning Lucy and I met as the sun came up to walk a short 5km loop, through small local villages. The day starts early, with prayers before dawn, and school children dressed and on their way to school before 7 am.
Most of the time though, I sat on the verandah of my room and did not do very much, listening to the call to prayers from the local mosques in the background. I watched the clouds roll past the volcanos, and just thought about how good life is.
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