Borobudur Day 1 (11 May 12) – Arrival at Borobudur

My friend and I has been talking about planning a trip to Borobudur since last October. We had the research done up and was about to go back then, however due to work, our trip did not materialise. Sometime earlier this year we begin talking about our trip to Borobudur, it finally materialised for us this time round. After months of waiting, today marks the day we finally embarked on this overdued postponed trip. We got to the airport rather early, did some shopping and soon found ourselves heading towards Yogjakarta, one of the two gateways to Borobudur. As we did not check in our luggage, we cleared immigration and met up with the driver assigned by the hotel to pick us up at the airport very quickly. The moment we cleared custom, the driver was already there waiting for us to pick us up to the hotel. Along the way he pointed out several interesting sights. One of those that caught my eyes were the ashes from Mt Merapi, which erupted 2 years ago. When this volcano displayed it’s rage, its ashes covered the whole of Borobudur, as a result the top few floors of the monument was closed to the public due to restoration works. We were informed by our driver that the top few floors were opened after the Indonesian government has done some restoration works to it.

Arrival at Yogkakarta Airport
Around Yogjakarta Airport
On our way to Borobudur
On our way to Borobudur
One of the small towns we pass by while making our way to Borobudur
On our way to Borobudur
On our way to Borobudur with Mt Merapi in the background
More padi fields

We booked a room at Manohara Hotel, which gave us the advantage of being closer to Borobudur. When I said close I mean literally close. As the hotel is situated in the compounds of Borobudur, the monument is just a stone throw away from the hotel. We headed for the restaurant in the hotel to combat our hunger pains after almost 4 hours of traveling. The restaurant overlooks Borobudur itself, it is a nice feeling munching our long overdued lunch while watching the temple absorbing numerous visitors coming to admire its grandure. We took our time having our lunch as we felt we have all the time in the world to visit the temple. Staying in this hotel gave us this advantage. After lunch we took a slow stroll around on the gardens in the hotel ground just infront of the temple, the call of the temple is just too great for us to resist (partially there was really nothing much around the hotel, they don’t even have a swimming pool!!) we decided it is time to pay a visit to the monument we have came to visit. True to what has been advertised on the hotel website and the comments left by patrons of the hotel, Borobudur is a mere 5 minutes stroll from the hotel compounds. Prior to hitting the entrance of Borobudur, which is just a guard house beyond the gates that protects the monument from visitors during its slumber at night, we walked through a garden leading to the temple. Walking through this stretch towards the temple reminds me alot of the Persian gardens that we have visited slightly more then a year ago.

Statue of Ganesha in the hotel grounds
Replica of a stupa in the hotel grounds
Statue around the hotel grounds
Face of Garuda
Model of Borobudur in the hotel grounds
The actual Borobudur afar
Selfie with Borobudur
The path that leads to Borobudur
Orientation of the temple
Borobudur

After we had our tickets checked, we breezed towards the base of the temple. Standing at the base, looking up at the temple is indeed a sight of awe. The magnificence of the temple, its grander, can only be felt when one is standing at the base. We thought there was plenty of time for us to explore the temple at our pace, we did not scale it once we were there. We took our time trying to get a good shot of the temple at the entrance side of the temple. I even have time to take pictures of the lions guarding the temple in the ancient times. After a few shoots, we decided to scale the temple. We reminded ourselves (consciously or sub-consciously) we will have alot of time to explore the temple as this is the only thing on our itinerary for this trip. After taking some photos at the base of the temple, we decided to explore the temple’s 9 storeys level by level. As we were moving towards one of the stairways leading up to the pinacle of the temple, we came across what seemed to be some form of guardian statues that seem to ward off evils. I thought this 2 statues are rather interesting and started to take some pictures on it. After that we attempted to climb to the first level of the temple. Well climbing seem not as easy as it looks, not due to the structure of the temple, neither is it due to the difficulty of the climb, it is due to the hordes of visitors coming to visit the temple. What would otherwise seem like a 1 – 2 minute climb eneded up to e around 6 mins due to the crowd. Climbing the relatively steep stairways, while battling a step on the stairways with visitors either going up the same direction with us or coming down from the temple proved to be challenging. Nonetheless, we made it, to the first level after 6 mins. We decided to walk clockwise (As the temple is square-shaped at the lower 6 levels and circular at the top 3 levels) around this level. Divorcing from the stairways, we turned to our right. At this moment, the intricacy of the carvings on the walls on the temple just overwhelms me. We are talking about 2 full panels of carvings on each side of the wall. As one walks through the corridor of each level, one would be surrounded  by these painstalking carvings on the wall. At one glance, the carvings seemed to be telling some stories, but to my uninformed eyes, they just seem to be telling the story of buddha. Most of the carvings do not seemed to make any sense to me, and seemed rather random. Given that, the carvings are very interesting and seemed very detail. Forces of nature do not seemed to take too much of a toll on the carvings, although errosion can be seen more on some carvings then the others. I would say most of the carvings are rather intact.

Borobudur Temple on ground zero
Me with Borobudur closed up
Happy to be here
Guardian Statue at the base of the temple
Guardian Statue at the base of the temple
Another shot of me at Borobudur
Borobudur and the surrounding mountains
Borobudur from ground zero
The temple is just magnificent
We started to scale the temple
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
Carving of a guardian on the temple
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
The carvings are detailed
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
Me on Borobudur
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
Buddha statue on Borobudur
Me in Borobudur
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
At this point the carvings make no sense to me
Me with the carvings on Borobudur
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
Buddhist carvings on the temple wall
Inside Borobudur
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
Glad to be able to come to this temple
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
The young prince attaining Buddhahood
There must be hundreds if not thousands of carvings on the temple walls
Selfie in Borobudur
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
A Buddha Statue in Borobudur
Borobudur Temple
Inside Borobudur
Borobudur
Borobudur
The architecture is just amazing

As we were walking around, like tourists, we are looking for some picture perfect spots. Well once in awhile we get tourists standing here and there taking pictures, but other then that we thought the lower level was still relatively “free from tourists”. Perhaps people come here to visit the pinacle of the temple, the view as I read it, is quite stunning. Well more of that later. My friend and I constantly reminded ourselves how much time we have to explore the temple and given that luxury, we “budgeted” our time at each level well. We spent about 45 min on the first level of the temple, back to the same crowded stairways that we ascended the monument with, we proceeded to the second level of the temple. The same aweness just fills me with the amount of detailed carvings on the wall along the corridor of the structure. Each carving seem to tell a different story, some more visible then the others, at this point it became more apparent that the story told was about buddha and buddism. As we were strolling along the corridors, with occasional “Hi’s” and “How are you’s” from foreigners, we came across this lady with what seemed to be a Russian ascent. She requested for us to help her take some pictures, well I must say she certainly has some interesting poses up her sleeves. It seemed this Russian lady is traveling alone. At this point I was thinking, she must be really brave to have traveled alone to this rather remote site (not that I have not done that before). After snapping some pictures for her, we bidded her farewell and continued with our admiration of the temple and photo-snapping affairs. Well level 2 took us another 45 mins or so. Up we go to level 3. Halfway through level 3, our patience started to run low, as without any explanations, the carvings started to look the same to us. Half way through the level 3, we started to feel the carvings are rather repetitive. My friend and I decided to move up the next level halfway through. At this point we realised the stairways at the other side seemed to be less crowded. Boy this is one of the best decisions we have made during this trip. We did likewise for the next few levels, walking around it halfway and then proceeded up to the next level, along the way, I felt as if I was patronising the photo taking, snapping a few pictures here and there. The carvings made not much sense to me anyways, they don’t seemed to be telling a story (well maybe I hadn’t been able to appreciate the carvings at this point).

View of the surroundings
Almost reaching the top
This is the stairs that brought us to the top of the temple
Breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains
The head of the Buddha Statue is believed to be stolen
A complete Buddha Statue watching over the temple
Buddha Statue in the temple grounds
An interesting mix of Balinese and Hindi architecture
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
Around the temple
The amount of carvings and statues are just countless
Close up of the headless Buddha
Another complete Buddha
Top part of the temple from afar
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
View of the surroundings from the temple
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
Buddha statue
Lion standing guard in the temple grounds
Borobudur Temple
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
The walls depict the life of Buddha
In the temple
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
Borobudur Temple
Borobudur Temple
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
View of the temple with the surrounding mountains
A couple of the many Buddha Statues in the temple
The surrounding mountains makes the temple look grander
Top of the temple
Buddhist carvings on the temple walls
Buddha sitting Solemnly on the temple watching over the land
Borobudur and the surroundings

Soon we found ourselves at the circular levels of the temple. Reaching this level sure takes the repetitive carvings after carvings mood away from me. At this level, we can see the picturesque greeneries surrounding the temple. At one side we see a mountain range, with its low clouds, certainly is a welcoming and refreshing sight for city dwellers like us. As we turned around, we saw this volcano, which seemed to be a stone’s throw away from the temple. We read about how Mt Merapi has errupted a few years ago, and as a result, the temple was covered with volcanic ashes. Immediately, we deduced that the very volcano we saw is Merapi. Sparing no lost time we send our cameras snapping the volcano away. As I was walking around the top few levels (which are relatively open), I managed to take some rather nice shoots. At this point, my patience as totally ran out of juice, I skipped a few levels and headed for the top most level. Afterall the top few levels looked the same to me with stupas springing up around like wild mushrooms after a heavy rain pour, except that the stupas are more organised. As I was walking around the top level, I found myself facing the west, looking at the sunsetting between mountains and beyond the farm fields. Wow, this sight may be common to the residents in the area, to a city dweller this sight is indeed rare and therapautic to a certain extend. As I watch the sun slowly fades away from the sky, as though it is retiring for the day, my fingers are busy working with my camera to capture the picture perfect moment.

Stupas at the top of the temple
Stupas at the top of the temple
View of the surroundings from the top of the temple
Stupas at the top of the temple
Me with the Stupas
Stupas at the top of the temple
Buddha watching over the land
View of the top of the temple
Borobudur Temple
Panoramic shot of the temple and the surroundings
Sunsetting from the land
Stupas at the top of the temple
View from the top of the temple
A Buddha inside the Stupa
Stupas at the top of the temple
Stupas at the top of the temple
Me with my friend in the background
View from the Stupa level of the temple
On the top of Borobudur
There are some carvings on the base of the Stupas
Stupas at the top of the temple
Me at the top floor of the temple
The centrepiece of the temple and it is the highest point of the temple
Shot of a Buddha inside one of the Stupas
Close up of the Buddha inside one of the Stupas
Sunsetting with the Stupas in view
Sunsetting
Awaiting Sunset from the Stupa level of the temple
Me with the sunsetting
Stupa and the sunset
On the top of the temple
Sunsetting over the mountains
Panoramic shot of the surroundings
Me watching sunset
Detailed carvings on the walls of Borobudur
Sunsetting
Sunset
Grandure of Borobudur Temple

We soon found ourselves being “Chased” out of the temple. Looking at our watches, geezzz…. it is about time for them to close. Reluctantly, we had to peel ourselves away from the temple and started to descend the temple. Well we still have the next morning to take more pictures of the temple. As we were walking out, the relantless vendors selling souvenirs at the compounds of the temple sprang to work. Seeing tourists coming down from the temple, the were quick to paddle their wares in the hope to clinch some last minute sales. I was rather interested in a minuature model of the temple. A vendor approached me and I checked out the price with him:

“100,000 rupiah” said the vendor.

I was like… what??!!

“50,000 for 2” I counter offered.

“Too low” came the reply.

“Nevermind then” I said to the vendor, and was about to walk away.

“okay 50,000 rupiah for 2 then”

I quickly choose 2 of the models and walked off after paying the vendor. Happy I was to have managed to strike a bargain. We walked around what seemed to be a bazzar in the day. Well too bad most of the shops are closing or have closed. My friend and I decided to head back to the hotel. Once returning to our room, our stomach strikes, as though demanding food. As there don’t seem to be any restaurants or eateries around the hotel, we settled our dinner in the hotel restaurant. There was a staff member playing the traditional Indonesian muscial instrument, and singing along to the music. The dinner was decent and did what it supposed to do –  to fill our stomachs. As the night is still young we decided to walk around and explore the hotel abit. We stumbled into an auditorium of some sort, the staff was kind enough to allow us to pop in and take a look what was showing inside. Once inside, the empty auditortium was show a video clip about Borobudur! The informative video explains the carvings in the temple, the stories behind the carvings and the proper way to visit the temple. At this moment, my friend and I were like “geezzz we should have seen this before hitting the temple”. It became apparent to us what the carvings meant, and our suspicion of the story of buddha was confirmed. I was thinking to myself, well at least when we visit the temple again tomorrow, we can appreciate the carvings more.

Nightfall
Around the hotel grounds at night
Dinner time
Traditional Indonesian Music Performance at dinner time
Buddhist artwork around the temple

The short clip lasted about 30 mins, soon we found ourselves roaming around the hotel. As there was nothing much (not even a swimming pool) in the hotel, we decided to retire back to our room. While in the room, we were still trying to decide if we should wake up early (we are talking about 4am!) to see sunrise at Borobudur. My contention is that there is no guide who bring us round the temple and explain to us. We paid additional money just for the chance to go into the temple before every else does to see sunrise.  My friend pointed out that since we are already here, and this was one of the things we said we wanted to do when we were planning for the trip last October. I agreed that it is a waste to have came all the way to Borobudur and not going for the sunrise tour. We set our alarm clocks and went on the retire, hoping that we can wake up in time for the sunrise tour.

 

 

 

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