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Published: November 14th 2016
I was really excited to be going to Borobodur. Not sure if it was sheer excitement causing me to wake up at 23:30 last night and about hourly until 03:00 or my lifelong habit of fear of sleeping in causing the hourly wake ups. At any rate, I didn't sleep in! Grabbed a cup of tea and a banana and barely had time to down it when the driver arrived on the dot at 03:30. We drove through the very quiet streets to the Manohra Hotel in Borobodur, about 40km northeast, it took an hour or so. Beautiful temperature, so quiet. The Manohra Hotel, by contrast, was pumping! There were hundreds of tourists in buses, on bikes, on foot... Went through a metal detector and cursory bag search which was a pretty speedy process. I read that there had been bombs planted in 1985 by opponents of Suharto- 9 stupas were damaged. I'm not sure if the searches occurred as a result of that or whether they began more recently or whether it is just part of the theatre of safety precautions. Anyways... at this point
The lights from the Manohra Hotel were shining brightly on the 9 levels of this incredible Buddhist Temple
I was issued with a small hand torch in exchange for my ticket (early access ticket was Rp 400 000 (fixed cost) - they call it "real sunrise") and followed the crowd. Some Borobodur Fun Facts
The world's largest Buddhist Temple built between AD 750-850 probably by the ruling Sailendra Dynasty
Borobodur might loosely translate from the sanskrit, Vihara Buddha Uhr,
to "Buddhist Monastery on the Hill", there are many interpretations of the name
Some two million stone blocks (60 000 cubic metres of stone) were used in construction
There are 9 layers- 6 square terraces covered in stone relief panels detailing the story of the cosmos, topped by 3 circular platforms that house 72 Buddhas (of the 504 on site) in semi-open stupa
From above the site appears as a giant mandela
Restoration took place over 10 years in the 1970's
It became a UNESCO Heritage listed site in 1991
Climbing the stairs up through the levels wasn't overly difficult although there are some steps that are quite high (probably no big deal if you are taller than me !). The more elderly and obese seemed to be
I love the colour changes
puffing and panting a bit. My plan was to head straight up to the top to sit for sunrise and then explore the site after that. Even with this plan is was hard to go past some of the detailed stone carvings- just beautiful. I will admit, though, it was the latticed stupa that took my breath away. Even in the midst of the throng with their selfie sticks it was a beautiful experience sitting up there in the mist as the colour of the sky changed and transitioned. I think many people would be disappointed not to have a clear sunrise but I wasn't one of them. Wandering through the courtyards and terraces was actually quite peaceful as people started to leave, I was really glad to have the option to stay as long as I wanted. There seems to be a golden hour between sunrise departures and day trippers - it's a good time. I highly recommend it.
As day dawned the large tour groups arrived, many of which were school groups and domestic tourists. I really enjoyed chatting with a lot of people in both English and my abysmal Bahasa Indonesian (I do try). Lots of
photos and lots of smiles. My other highlight was sitting with a cup of coffee (love my thermos) looking out at Mt Merapi and the surrounding landscapes as the mist lifted. As I left I thought that it'd be great to come back next time and stay in the Borobodur area. I'd like to see it again in the late afternoon and sunset. Walking through the hotel grounds back to the car was really pleasant, lots of garden and some nice shady spots. I didn't really see that many people selling stuff. Had a quick cuppa and (delicious) local pastry snack back near reception (included in the ticket price) before finding my driver. He found me actually, I think he might have been getting worried that I had been there so long. He also reminded me I should hand my torch back in in order to get my "free gift"- a memento batik scarf with "I've been to Borobodur" emblazoned on it. I liked the torch better!
We then stopped at Mendut temple about 3km away and I paid Rp 3500 for an entry ticket. Mendut is part of the Borobodur Buddhist Temple Complex and is the oldest of
Borobodur Misty Sillhouetes
Mist descending over the stupa's
the 3 temples (AD 824). It houses a 3m Buddha in the highest central chamber and as with Borobodur, has excellent relief carvings- many animals and birds. In the grounds are also some old display boards and stones set out - not sure of their significance. A large group of pilgrims dressed in white arrived as I was leaving, they assembled under the huge banyan tree in the grassed courtyard for group photos- pretty impressive sight. Usually in May there is a large festival that celebrates Buddhas birth, enlightenment and reaching nirvana, it is called Waisak and attracts thousands- what a sight that would be as they walk the route taking in the 3 temples of theBorobodur complex. Having seen the temple I headed out the back way and into the adjoining village compound- lots of great colours and angles. Interesting doors and windows. Reappeared at the front of the carpark to find my driver who, once again, thought I had gotten lost.
Onto Prambanan- a drive through rural Yogya full of rice paddies, cows, tobacco plants, peanut, salak and corn fields. Beautiful scenery. Now starving I ask the driver if we can stop for lunch at a small
Borobodur Misty Sillhouetes
Mist descending over the stupa's
place with good local food- we pull up at the deserted Kali Opak Resto- mind you, it is only 10:30 am. The restaurant is large- tourist style with an extensive Western and Indo menu. I guess it is a safe choice to take customers to. It is nice though- cool and green and a small river runs around the base. It's located 10 minutes away from Prambanan.
Post lunch is a hot, sweaty, really hot, really sweaty visit to the Prambanan temples complex (8th- 10th century). They are a mix of Buddhist and predominately Hindu temples (500 +) and shrines and are an incredible sight. A lot of damage was done in earthquakes in the 16th century and 2006 so restoration is ongoing, it is all still magnificent. It is much less crowded here thanBorobodur, probably because of the intense heat most people visit in the early morning or late afternoon for the Ramayana Ballet performances held here most nights of the week (non monsoon). Entrance fee is Rp 240 000 (includes a cup of tea/coffee). Wave good bye to the driver- he is a really nice guy- tells me to take my time! I walk very slowly around
each of the temple complexes, I succumb to using my umbrella- it is blindingly hot. Never the less, it is very impressive and I take some time out sitting on a bench under a tree in the main temple- Candi Shiva Mahadeva to just take it in. Finish up at Candi Sewu- my favourite one, Buddhist temple, lots of rubble, lots of headless Buddhas and completely deserted. Head back to the carpark- past a reindeer enclosure! Ok...
So, to review the day trip - it was excellent, I really liked the freedom of having a driver and no schedule. If time permitted I'd do it as 2 different trips and if I had tons of time I'd stay several nights at both locations. I think having a bike to ride around the entire Prambanan Complex circuit would be great. I'd also really like to catch the ballet... next time.
Back at Good Karma I hit the shower and take a breath before going for a long walk around the surrounding streets. It ends up being a 5km graffiti and coffee walk- the area I'm staying is fantastic for both as it turns out. Back at Good
Karma I have an early night, fall asleep to the sounds of the call to prayer from at least 2 different nearby mosques.
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