Ascension at Borobodur
Trip Start Jun 25, 2012
12Trip End Jul 24, 2012
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Saturday morning time to pack the bags and make sure we didn't forget anything. As arranged by email, we were picked up by the driver of the Princess Manohara Hotel at 2 PM. After a drive of about an hour on scooter clogged main roads and more scenic shortcuts, we arrived at Borobodur.
The Manohara hotel is located within the Borobodur site and provides free entrance to the temple for its guests. Considering that "Erik the photographer" would need to go up frequently to the temple for the penultimate shot, this was the better choice. We went up the temple one hour before sunset. It was crowded with other tourists, mostly Indonesians and loads of students. Around every corner (or stupa if you like), we were asked to be on the "foto yes?" with the family or friends. Quite odd, being photographed as much as Borobodur Temple. Borobodur is magnificent and huge. Under every stupa of the last 2 levels before reaching enlightenment, a Buddha is sitting, most of them decapitated by souvenir hunters. On the first 6 levels beautiful carvings can be found, and Buddhas are just above facing outwards. More on its history tomorrow.
Sitting on the temple for 10 minutes, facing sunset - it is such an incredible thing to do - it's so relaxing, an inner rest that surfaces. Until these Chinese woman start taking pictures of you, loudly.
We enjoyed sunset on this first day, and the clouds played along to make this the best light show ever (and photo shots too).
Sunday 1 July
Second day at Borobodur was more relaxed and we went in and out the temple site a few times. Young students approached us a couple of times to rehearse their English.
We explored the temple in more detail. Borobodur is actually not a temple, but an immense stone mandala describing the way to enlightenment. It was built by the ruling Javanese Sailendra dynasty, in the 8-9th century, and it took about 75 years to build. Remarkably, the mandala was abandoned shortly after its completion in the 9th century, and left over to natural decay.
Starting from the bottom, there are 6 platforms in square form on top of each other, with detailed carvings depicting "the world of desires". On top of those are 3 round platforms representing the "world of forms", and the upper round platforms represents the formless world" or Nirwana. At the top is a large hollow stupa representing Mt.Meru in the Himalaya. Borobodur symbolises the 10 changes the Buddhist has to go through, if he wants to ascend from human desires to Nirwana (spiritual awakening). Each platform represents one stage of enlightenment. Unfortunately, not all of the 6 lower platforms were open for public, preventing the visitors to complete the ascension. Actually, most of the visitors went straight up to the upper levels, just for the stunning views. This evening again we watched the sun set over the Mandala, and stayed untill dark (that's about 18h). For the next morning, we reserved 2 access passes for Diewertje and me.
Breakfast, or lunch/dinner is always fun at the Manohara with the Mandala as background decor. The food is good and they have a range of western dishes. This evening, young pupils - they must have been 9-11yrs - from a traditional dance and music ensemble came to rehearse after dinner. They played pretty well the gamelan and other instruments and their chanting was charming.
Monday 2 July - Borobodur sunrise
Wake-up at 4.30AM, pickup of the passes and sarong at the hotel reception, and off we went into the night with 2 strong lamps, accompanied by the call for prayer of the imams. Climbing the black stone steps was a challenge in the dark, even with the lights. Each step is about 40cm high. We patiently waited for sunrise at 5.30 AM. We weren't the only ones there, but nobody was talking, we all enjoyed the silence and the serenity of the moment. About 30 minutes before sunrise there were the most beautiful lights and colors. The morning fog between the trees and the temple was mystical. Have a look at the pictures, they say more than
a thousand words.
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