Borobudur, Central Java

This place was recently placed on my bucket list after reading articles of “the best temple sunrise in Asia” and crowned “one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world”.  After this short weekend visit – I completely understand why.  We arrived around noon on Saturday and grabbed a cab to take us from JOG airport to Borobudur.  Prepare to negotiate hard after exiting the airport – we managed to haggle the taxi driver down to 2,000,000 IDR for the 1.5 hour drive through heavy traffic.

Our choice of hotel was both for the convenience of staying on the temple grounds and unlimited access to the temple during operating hours.  We were very pleasantly surprised at how well maintained the Manohara Hotel and temple site was and how convenient (5 minute walk straight to the temple ruins).  The temple grounds itself is very well maintained — the large stretch of grass walkway flagged by surrounding trees leading to the temple itself reminded me in many ways of a park in Rio, Brazil.

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Most of the tourists to this temple were local Indonesians — many in fact were school children on a field trip dressed in matching t-shirts and dropped off by the busload.  I’m not a big fan of the crowds so it’s a good thing Borobudur is HUGE – a walk along the back middle area of the temple where less people are crowded around to take pictures and you really get to appreciate the stillness and tranquility of this ancient site.

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From the middle west side of the temple, the voices of tourists and camera clicks fade away and I’m left with the stirring patter of my own footsteps, light droplets of rain trickling off the sides of the temple, and chanting of prayers of monks in the distance.  Surrounding this amazing architecture are majestic mountains halfway covered by misty fog and lush green forrest spoiled by heavy tropical rains.  It’s truly a mysterious and ancient experience of peace and universal understanding.

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What we were really anticipating was the Borobudur sunrise.  We chose not to pay the extra 2,300,000 IDR/person and wait at the foot of the temple til our 6:00 AM tickets got us in.  Being a little friendly to the guards goes a long way – strike up a good conversation and see if you  can get in 10-15 minutes earlier.  Our plan worked and at around 5:50 AM  the sun just started to peak over Mt. Merapi.  Racing to the top to get some pictures while the light is at it’s best angle.  The surrounding scenery is breathtaking and pictures seriously do not do it justice.  The sunrise looks as if layers of construction paper have been carefully placed on a picture perfect postcard.  The sun-kissed rays reflect off the misty terrain and the temple serves as a foreground to perfectly frame the scene.  I was torn between trying to catch the best picture or stopping to enjoying the beauty of it all.  Needless to say, I’d highly recommend a stop to Borobudur if Indonesia is on your list of travel destinations.

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