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Published: July 11th 2013
I have been wanting to attend Vesak celebration at Borobudur temple for the longest time, so when a friend of mine Ella asked me to join her with a group of photographers to go to Yogya, without hesitation, I agreed. I had looked forward to the trip and had prepared my gear better this time. I have been to Yogyakarta ("Yogya") many times but this was the first time that I was there with a bunch of photographers. Just like many trips of mine, I hardly knew anyone other than my friend Ella and Taufan. Every single one of the participant is a professional photographer by my standard, except my friend Ella, Taufan and I who are the new comers in this world.
I had left Singapore on Thursday evening on May 20th and stayed at the Transit Hotel at Terminal 2 at Cengkareng International airport as my flight to Yogya the next day was early in the morning. I found this Transit Hotel quite convenient as it saved me from the headache for rushing to the airport in the morning. To my horror, the hotel didn't give me the wake up call that I had asked for, and I
was awake half an hour before my flight! (lesson no 1: do not rely on the hotel wake up call). I took my luggage and rushed to the check in counter to find that Garuda's check in system was out of order! There were a long queue in every single check in counter of Garuda, and as expected, there were no announcement whatsoever that my flight would be delayed. I finally managed to check in an hour after supposed to be my departure time!
Once arrived, I immediately joined the group at Kota Gede, a famous place for silver works. It is one of the famous producers of silver works in Indonesia and used to be the capital city of Mataram Kingdom. At this location, we had a chance to take photographs of the silversmiths, most of whom have been working here for more than 40 years. Sadly, the traditional making of silver works may soon fade away as the younger generation does not seem to have the passion or interests to learn the skills. After Friday prayers, we then had lunch at Gudeg Ibu Tjitro, which is one of the famous local restaurant in Yogya serving local dishes
Rice field near Borobudur
After lunch, our bus headed towards Wedi Ombo beach, Wonosari, which is approximately 2 hours drive from Yogyakarta. It does not seem to be a popular destination but we spotted a few of students having their graduation celebration there. I was ready to take my long exposure shots during sunset, but managed to get a few blurry one; before I had a chance to try it out again, I ran out of battery (I left my spare battery at the bus; lesson no 2, carry your spare battery wherever you go). We had beef, chicken and lamb satay Lesehan (sat on a matt on the floor) for dinner.
On the second day, we had to leave early for our breakfast and headed towards Magelang area as we had to beat the crowds before the road got jammed. The first destination was a village near Borobudur, which was about one and half hour ride. We went to visit a local family which made brown sugar traditionally from coconut. Apparently, this is a well known place for photographer as the family seemed to get ready for the next group arranged by Nikon. We moved towards Plataran Hotel, while we
managed to take a few good shot of Borobudur temple from a nearby rice field. We were told that we're supposed to be at Plataran Hotel (it's such a nice and elegant hotel, near Borobudur) until about 5 or 6pm. It was such a long wait at the hotel; thankfully, the hotel had accommodated us and didn't mind having a group of photographers roaming around for a few hours (we finished our tea, had lunch and had coffee; some of us had a nice spa while waiting).
At around 6pm, we left the hotel to go to our final destination, Borobudur. To our surprise, the moment we arrived at the gate, there were thousands of people waiting as the entrance was closed! The road was small, so we had to leave the bus and walked towards the entrance. Despite "photographers pass", we were not able to enter the compound. By 7 pm, the gate was finally opened, and I had to say that the entire admission process was so badly managed; there was only one security screening entry, so you can imagine how chaotic it was!
I and my friend Naniek managed to get through the gate and
entered the compound at around 8:30 pm and were relieved to see our friend Imam. He led the two of us to a perfect spot right in front of the temple. There were no one in front of us as security guards stood in front of us preventing passerby to go beyond our area.
As there were 12 of us, there were no way we could find each other in this sea of people. When it started drizzling at 8:30 pm, we remained calm and continued waiting at our spot; I gladly put on the rain jacket my friend Ella had asked me to keep earlier. The three of us were joined by Taufan and his son who happened to be waiting nearby. All of us agreed that we should patiently wait for the drizzle to subside. By 9:30 pm, the drizzle turned to down pour! Thinking the ceremony would start soon, we had decided to stay on. If we're not able to take a good shot of the lantern release, the least we could do was to witness the ceremony when the monks walked around the temple. I was never been happier standing in the rain with my borrowed rain jacket, and -- by 10 pm when the ceremony started -- to our disappointment, we barely saw any monks! (there were a handful of them). Only then we all decided to call a quit and walked towards the Exit Gate in the rain.
The drama did not end here as we followed the path and ended up at the other side of the gate, which was far from the location of our bus. There was no way the bus could come to our gate because of the crowds and traffic jam. The five of us had no choice but to take the motorcycle taxi ("Ojek") in the rain! by the time we reached our bus, it was close to 11 pm, and we were freezing. The moment of truth came out: I had not put on a rain jacket but it was a wind breaker: I was soaking wet inside! (Lesson no 3 - always carry an umbrella and rain jacket with you). The drive back to Yogya was the longest drive ever as we had our wet clothes on.
If you asked me, whether you should go for the Vesak Trip, I'd say perhaps but at your own risk, but don't forget to bring our umbrella and rain jacket.
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