Travel to Borobudur Temple Indonesia
First morning in Indonesia!
It was still pitch black when I left the guesthouse, and the muezzin’s morning call to prayer floated across town. Some motorbikes flew by and there were a few rogue chickens, but otherwise, the streets were silent.
It was not my intention to hitch a ride, but a man stopped, and we negotiated a ride on his motorbike under the cloak of darkness. In Indonesia, this is called an ojek or ojegs, a motorcycle driver who will take a passenger for a price.
A friend recently asked me how I communicate if I do not speak the local language and since I usually travel as an independent, budget traveler. My philosophy is to know at least the basics, particularly the polite niceties. I tried to explain how much you can communicate with a lot of smiles, polite phrases and non-verbal communication. And the more I can speak, the better the experience.
And as I like to say, local people usually have a guess where I am going. The ojek man knew I was probably walking to the ticket gate for the sunrise at Borobudur Temple and had a hunch I might want a ride. Yup! It was dark and I only had a vague idea where to buy the ticket.
So, how did we negotiate? He held some money to the motorbike headlamp to show me how much, and I countered, holding a smaller bill under my headlamp. We had a deal. I threw my scarf on, and tried to remember how to be a passenger on a motorbike without screaming. The sound of panic is universal. This kind of ride is very common in Cambodia and Laos, but it has been awhile and I am out of practice.
It was still dark when I arrived at the Manohara Hotel, where one buys Borobudur sunrise tickets. Borobudur (or temple on the hill) was built between the eighth and ninth century during the fifth to tenth century reign of Syailendra dynasty. It is built in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, and is one the world’s greatest—and largest—Buddhist monuments. Borobudur is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Friendly guides, particularly eager to practice their English, distributed egalitarian orange scarves (for covering the waist and legs) and flashlights to morning visitors. A friendly guide took me to the top of the temple hill, about a ten minute walk—plenty of time for the 06:30 sunrise.
The temple was seriously affected by the 2010 eruption of Gunung Merapi. Signs showed the before and after from the cleaning process. The monument was dusted with volcanic ash one again, during te February 2014 eruption of Gunung Kelud.
The muezzin`s call continued as the mist from last night’s rain enveloped the verdant hills, and volcanic peaks tucked in and out of the clouds. Morning light slowly opened the day, casting shadows and light over the temple stupas, Buddhas, and south central Javanese plains, known as the Garden of Java. I wandered with the camera and finished with a complimentary banana pastry and java (in Java!) at the Mahoraha Hotel’s outdoor terrace. They also tossed in a complimentary batik scarf made by a local shop, Batik Mandala Borbudur (Jl. Balaputra Dewa 56, Borobudur).
The magnificent monument is a three-dimensional mandala (diagram of the universe) and a visual representation of the Buddhist teachings. It is believed that the universe is divided into kamadhatu, rupadhatu, and arupadhatuthe. Starting at the base, kamadharu represents the place where we are bound to our desires; rupadhatu represents the sphere where we abandon our desires, but are still bound to name and form; and arupadhatuthe represents the sphere of formlessness where there is no longer either name or form. In essence, the monument depicts the cosmos, starting at the base and the everyday world of passion, desire, and attachment, circling up to a place of enlightenment or nirvana. Like all Buddhist sites, circle clockwise, ascending the site through a series of galleys depicting the stages of reincarnation.
I spent part of the morning wandering some roads near the temple and village, an emerald landscape of patchwork rice paddies and cheerful salaam alakum (peace be with you, a traditional greeting in much of the Middle East). Locals flew by on scooters laden with baskets of greens, eggs, lumber—you name it—on their way back from the market.
There are a few warungs (food stalls) at the rotary near the temple entrance. Last night I enjoyed some chicken satay fresh off the grill, caramelized, charcoal goodness married with the sweet nuttiness of mild peanut sauce and wrapped to go in a banana leaf and newspaper (5000 Rp/$0.40 USD).
I highly recommended staying in town instead of taking a tour from Yogyakarta (also called Yoga, pronounced Jo-Ja), where you are shepherded back for the next attraction and cannot revisit the temple during different lights and moods (including the afternoon cuddling of young sweeties amongst the stupas).
There is also a greater economic benefit to the village if you stay in town, where there are also a few adventure touring options (class 2-3 river rafting on the Elo River and bicycling) via the Manohara Hotel, or visiting local cottage industries (pottery, tofu, glass noodles); nearby Mendut temple and monastery; Selogriyo (neighboring rice terraces); or walking to a nearby hillside for a sunrise viewing of Borobudur Temple with Jaker, a local group of community-based guides (Jack Priyana, founder, email@example.com, 62 0293 788845).
The temple site changes dramatically as the predominantly foreign tourist crowd that arrives for sunset gives way to a predominantly Indonesian audience, with plenty of carriage rides, trolleys, and souvenir hawkers. A lively warung (food stall) scene also appears northwest of the temple, outside the parking (parkir) area, and up the street from the ATM machine. Street vendors also sell cut fruit and small bags of fried tofu (tahu). I returned later in the day to visit the museum and take sunset photographs and did not recognize the site! The Lonely Planet guidebook warns that it can be a chaotic scene, but I found it quite festive.
The small, but informative, Samudraraksa Museum documents Indonesia’s role in the spice trade and the 2003 voyage of the Borobudur ship replica, Samudraraksa (guardian of the ocean) from Jakarta to the Seychelles to Madagascar. The expedition was inspired by the ocean-going ships depicted on the wall of Borobudur temple. The Samudraksa route from Indonesia to the western coast of Africa retraced the spice trading route taken by Indonesian sea traders ten centuries ago.
Indonesia water transportation evolved from a simple bamboo raft used from prehistoric times for mainly for river transportation to ocean-going, single keel ships with double outriggers. A recent shipwreck off the coast of Cirebon (west Java) provides evidence of this type of boat, as well as the maritime history depicted in the Borobudur reliefs. The wooden ship was a design and technology typical in the Indonesian archipelago, which carried a wide variety of cargo: Chinese ceramics, Chinese coins, ingots, beads, Indian bronze statues, glass vessels, semiprecious stones from west Asia, and even Mediterranean amphora from the Mediterranean.
Indonesian maritime trade began as early as 500 BCE, when Indonesians sailed to southern China, where they exchanged spices, camphor, and bird feathers with bronze artifacts such as kettle drums and axes. The maritime spice route later expanded to the western coast of Indian (including Kochi, Kerala, India), Arabian Peninsula, and eastern coast of Africa.
The spice trade included cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Nutmeg was an important ingredient for medicine and religious offering in ancient Europe, and nutmeg seeds were used as a condiment. The Chinese chewed cloves as mouth perfume and Europeans used cloves for cooking (spice and preservative), aromatherapy, and as a preservative and for medicine. Cinnamon was used as a spice and condiment, as well as for medicinal purposes.
Indonesian trade routes ran along the western coast of India, southern Arabian peninsula, and east coast of Africa.
BOROBUDUR TEMPLE TICKETS
Buy sunrise tickets at the Manohara Hotel
Opens at 06:00
380,000 Rp ($32 USD) sunrise admission
230,000 Rp ($19 USD) if you are staying at the Manohara Hotel
270,000 Rp ($23 USD) for regular (non-sunrise) admission
Visitors staying at Borobudur hotels receive a voucher for fifteen percent off all temple admission rates.
Note: if you are traveling with another person and staying at mid-level hotels—and do mind such a place—ticket savings may make the Manohara Hotel worth a stay.
WHERE TO STAY
Manohara Hotel Borobudur
Komplek Taman Wisata Candi Borobudur
Jl. Badrawati Borobudur
+62 293 788131
The Manohara Hotel is the only hotel inside the Great Sanctuary.
Advertised room rates are around 1,200,000 ($100 USD). Apartment rooms can be found on Agoda for 4,000,000 Rp ($64 USD; regular rate 1,968,000 Rp/$160 USD). Book far in advance, as rooms sell out, even during the low season.
There are numerous small hotels and homestays in town. I stayed at the Lotus II, the Lonely Planet pick (200,000-250,000 Rp/$17-21 USD). It is the base for a community-tourism organization, Jaker (founder Jack Priyana, firstname.lastname@example.org, 62 0293 788845; same contact information for Lotus II). The staff are all friendly, speak excellent English, and are generally quite lovely. Second floor rooms overlook the rice paddies, although first floor guests are also encouraged to enjoy the terrace and the views. The room and cleaniness were fine; it was not my best budget room and not the worse one either.
HOW TO GET THERE
A visa on arrival (VOA) is issued $25 USD (about 300,000 Rp; the price is quoted in USD). VOAs are issued for thirty days, and can be renewed for another thirty days ($25 USD) at local immigration offices. Change is given in Indonesian rupiah.
In 2014, visa on arrival (VOAs) were available at Adi Sucipto International Airport (JOG), the principal airport for the Yogyakarta area, and Adi Sumarmo International Airport (SOC) in Solo. SOC used to be the principal airport until JOG. Do check with your local Indonesia embassy to determine the current situation with VOAs.
The JOG airport taxi transfer desk has taxis to Borobudur for 230,000 Rp ($19 USD). Airport transfer by your hotel will probably be a bit more (300,000 Rp/$25 USD). Public transit involves numerous connections and is not recommended. The taxi trip to Borobudur can take one and half hours, and sometimes more on weekends and holidays, when there are a lot of tourists from Singapore.
Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com