3.30am is never a good time to get up whether work or play. I have never been a morning person and today was no exception. Feeling groggy I was picked up outside my guesthouse and was assured by our driver that once you saw Borobodur at sunrise all tiredness would disappear!. Borobodur is ranked amongst the great religious sites in SE Asia, on par with Angkor Wat. It is the largest Hindu Temple in all of SE Asia and is a temple of six square platforms (around 75m2) stacked on top of each other each slightly smaller than the last with exquisite relief’s encircling each of the square platforms.
On top of the highest platform are 72 latticed stupas each containing a Buddha inside. Arriving at the site at 4.30am we were ushered into the foreigners section where we had to pay £7, not much I guess but when the locals only have to pay £1 you have to ask yourself, could we get away with charging the Japanese extra for visiting Westminster Abbey?! Luckily upon entry there was free coffee so after a quick 4 cups I was feeling more awake and started my journey up to the site.
A short 100m walk and Borobodur greeted us in all its splendor and majesty. Built over a 1,100yrs ago it is astonishing to think how it was built with basic tools and more astonishing to think that it was only rediscovered 200yrs ago after an earthquake reduced it to rubble and was reclaimed the jungle many moons before that. There is very little in the way of information around the site and so I tried to latch onto a tour group but was spotted and asked to leave. Unfortunately there was no sunrise, just a dull haze that slowly brightened the sky around the site but it was still beautiful to look out for the top of the temple and survey the landscape around.
From the top I made my way down and around the relief’s each of them depicting different stories ranging from weddings and funerals to everyday life such as farming and disputes over land. We were told to meet back at the minibus for 8am for 2 reasons – the hoards of school children that flocked to the temple. I looked at my watch and noted it was 7.30am and cometh the hour, cometh the school kids!! They seemed to pour into the site like worker ants, scurrying around, climbing all over the temple. Again much fascination was bestowed on me and many photos with many school kids as I was heading out of the site. First I had to make it past all the hawkers outside the site that were selling small miniatures Borobodurs’, T-shirts and batik replicas. I’m now used to such attention so ignored them all completely and started of toward the meeting point and breakfast.
I did notice and unfortunate French couple that made the mistake of being remotely interested and were then chased and mobbed by groups of hawkers until their only resort was to lock themselves in their car. That still didn’t stop many hawkers though trying to get a late sale through the glass!! Borobodur is an amazing site and no wonder a top tourist attraction in Java and with the heat building we were back in the mini bus and off to Mount Bromo which was a short 9hrs away. First there was a quick stop into one of the surrounding temples near Borobodur and Menut Temple a Buddhist Monastery which had some of the most beautiful and pristine gardens ever seen in SE Asia. Back on the road and it was good to catch up on some lost sleep and luckily for us the driver was far more sedate and actually stuck to a sensible speed. Come to think of it I have never seen a speed limit sign in Indonesia!