Oh my Buddha!

Trip Start Sep 17, 2007
Trip End Oct 08, 2008

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Flag of Indonesia  , Java,
Monday, June 2, 2008

Borobudur.  It's one of those iconic places, like Angkor Wat.  But for Borobudur you may never have seen a photo, just heard the name.  It's a catchy name - Borobudur. 

After we'd arrived in Indonesia I got a letter from my mom asking if we were going to Borobudur.  We must go to Borobudur, she said.  I didn't even know she'd been to Indonesia.  Well, we went.  It's a big, Buddhist beastie. 

We arrived in Borobudur town the evening before we went to see the monument because then we could be there for sunrise.  So we crawled out of bed while it was still dark and started walking the kilometer to Borobudur.  The ticket counter opened at six, so we arrived with plenty of time to spare.  No one was around.  We thought maybe we would have five minutes to ourselves before the tourist hordes arrived.  Then, just as the gates were opening, a bus offloaded and came right after us. 

So we walked to the stupa.  I'll take this opportunity to remind you of stupas, in case you forgot since Nepal.  Everything represents something, but the notable thing about this monument is that it is constructed of nine levels in the shape of a mandala.  Going upwards you venture from the secular to the heavenly, with the top of the stupa representing the ultimate.  The carvings usually follow this form of representation as well. 

Well, there was no sunrise.  Borobudur was shrouded in a gray cloud, and it refused to leave for hours.  We snapped a photo at the entry of the monument (not the greatest photo) and then followed the rest of the tourists straight to the top, hoping that we might get a sunrise after all.  We didn't, and there were too many other people.  Initial goals completed we made pilgrimage in the proper fashion.  That is to say, we walked clockwise around every level, beginning with the ground.  It took three hours. 

The lowest bas-reliefs were elaborate and interesting stories, and we spent most of our time examining them.  I noted that the only way to have any idea what was going on you'd have to be a Buddhist Art Historian, at which point Travis scoffed.  Then he pointed to the turtles and interpreted: The turtle is swimming along.  The boat is introuble, attacked by a sea monster and sinking.  The turtle rescues the men from the ship.  The men thank the turtle.  It was the only set of reliefs we had any luck interpreting at all.  They're posted, if you'd like a lookey-loo. 

Going round and round the squares took a long time.  We looked at thousands of reliefs and felt sorry for the decapitated Buddhas.  Borobudur's outer walls are covered with Buddhas, and while you pass them all as you walk around the monument, the best way to really see the scope is to stand under the monument on the ground.  Every meter or so there's a Buddha sitting in his little hut (if it's survived the time).  It's a lot of Buddhas. 

By the last square level we were getting bored, so it's lucky that the reliefs get less interesting.  They seem to be mostly floating Boddhisatvas, sitting serenely on their lotus seats.  Then we were at the circles!  The circles are covered with laticed stupas, each of which contains a Buddha.  Since the site is a pilgrimage site, people put offerings in the hands of the Buddhas.  Then the security guards and other random people fish the money back out, which is so horribly wrong.  Our walk around the stupas was leisurely.  After the first half hour all the buses had left and we figured we had until 10 before the next load arrived.  So for most of our adventures we were all alone on Borobudur. 

Having completed our pilgrimage we made our way back down to admire the outside of it in better light.  A hulking behemoth it may be, but it's a very lovely one.  And impressive. 

So we enjoyed Borobudur and the Indonesian tourists enjoyed us.  We had three or four photo requests while we made our first and second loops.  They're always shy to ask for a photo at first, and we only allow the people with the guts to ask to take photos with us.  They usually get up the courage, because I can't help shooting them a friendly smile if I notice them.  We discussed the feasibility of charging for our photos.  Maybe we could dress up in traditional American attire and stand around places until we earned enough for the entry fee.  But we'll never do that, even if others do.  Cause it doesn't hurt anybody to take a little happy snap.

Before we knew it we were back on a bus and then making our way to Jakarta.  Borobudur is a lovely little place, though.  A little hideaway in the shadow of the great Yogya. 

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yaya24682006 on

Hi, my name is yaya. I am study about heritage sites for Borobudur and Prambanan right now.
I was wondering before you went to Indonesia Borobudr and Pambanan, where your information comes from was. And where were your information in your blog came from? Were you used the wikitravel or other web site to search your information about Borobudur and Prambanan?

And what were you looking for or experience in those two heritage? What's the most attract you in Borobudur and Prambanan?

I really need your information! Thank you for your apply!!!


Marga on

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