Visiting the historic Buddhist temple of Borobudur was our first stop in Indonesia, which turned out to be a good thing for all kinds of reasons. Indonesia is, of course, quite different to Singapore, and it was very nice to be met at the airport by a driver booked through our hotel. Navigating the Yogyakarta traffic was a fairly eye-opening experience (although it’s actually quite tame compared with some other places), and retreating to a fancy resort hotel softened the culture shock still further.
Not that we’re so precious as all that – the Manohara Resort is situated right next to Borobudur, about an hour’s drive out of central Yogyakarta, and we’d decided to stay there mainly because we wanted to visit the temple at sunrise – however it was very nice indeed to wander around the beautiful grounds and admire the glimpses of temple through the trees. They also offered an introductory video about Borobudur, which of course we watched.
Getting up before dawn is not at all my thing, but it turned out to be an excellent decision. Despite a fairly cloudy start to the day, sitting on the upper level of the temple as the sky got lighter truly was an unforgettable experience, and by the time we left (before 8am), large groups were arriving and the sun was already getting hot.
Of course we weren’t alone for our sunrise experience, but by and large our fellow tourists were reasonably well behaved, and most were content to sit quietly and enjoy the experience. Once the sun was up, we spent some time wandering around the various levels of the temple, looking at the carved reliefs and sculptures and enjoying the views, and were (pleasantly) surprised by how few of the others seemed to be doing likewise.
Borobudur is believed to have been built around the 9th century, although there appears to be no record of who built it, or why they did so. Several tiers of friezes allow visitors to work their way up through meditative circuits, whilst three rounds of stupas containing sculptures continue the pattern on the top. At some point (likely the 14th century) the monument fell into disuse, and was covered up by volcanic ash and encroaching foliage. It was rediscovered by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1814, and has subsequently undergone several major restoration and conservation projects. Nowadays it’s a UNESCO world heritage site and one of Indonesia’s biggest tourist attractions, and I was pleasantly surprised to see a number of school groups among the visitors as we were leaving.
As ever there are FAR too many photos from the whole Singapore/Indonesia trip in my Flickr album – it’s possible I’ll get around to editing them one day, but meanwhile click here for the Borobudur set.