Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Indonesia, day 2: Borobudur

The roosters woke me up after 2 AM or so, and so did the Muslim call for prayer around 4 AM, so it wasn't a problem after all to get up at 5 AM to go to "the river", as my friend mentioned. I was quite excited about the idea and thought I could get a morning swim, maybe even see a beautiful waterfall. The morning was gorgeous, but the river... a tiny little stream, and even that not at natural state, see the left-most picture. The breakfast was to be had from the ladies selling vegetables from baskets, soyabeans, peanuts, corncobs. Very nice, simple and cheap. Do say "monggo" to everyone you pass on the island of Java, that's the local custom. :-)

Before heading off to Borobudur, one of the Seven Wonders, there was a celebration at the temple that we took a look at. Nice chanting and singing, of the speeches I understood nothing. Just signed to get up every once in a while. Fortunately it only lasted for an hour or so as the driver was waiting to take us onwards. We filled in the car and off we went! Fortunately the driver spoke Chinese, so there was another person to talk to in a bit easier way.

Arriving at Borobudur had me facing up the usual thing of tons and tons of people trying to sell all kinds of crap, so many of them that it was pretty difficult to find the way to the ticket office. Indonesia has the same system India and several other countries do, foreigners pay about ten times the price for everything. So my ticket cost more than that of all my travel group put together, and it has to be bought from a different office, using a different entrance.

Here's what none of my group, despite them being local and having Buddhist education, knew: Borobudur was built around 800 AD. It consists of six square platforms topped by three square platforms, and on hot days those are quite sweaty to climb. There are 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. On the top platform there's a dome surrounded by 72 Buddha statues seated inside stupas. Touching the fingers of one of them is supposed to bring you blessing, I reached it and scratched my hand in the process... I wonder what sort of blessings are coming my way then.

Borobudur is a shrine for Buddha and a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. Fair enough, there was a bunch of monks at the top chanting. Borobudur was abandoned in the 14th century with the Islamic conversion of Java, and rediscovered in 1814 by Sir Thomas Raffles... believe it or not, I think the locals must have known about it before him. It was restored between 1975 and 1982 after becoming a UNESCO World Heritage site. Currently it's the most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia.

There's a couple of other things to see in the site also, at least some sort of Indonesian version of Guinness world records thing, and a bird park or something of the sort. We skipped them, but got into the strangest one, a shipping museum! What's strange about that is that it's nowhere near the coast. This maritime museum boasted a boat that had sailed from Indonesia to Africa, and this trip had been redone recently in a similar wooden boat which was in display at the museum. Later in Semarang I accidentally ran into someone who had been a member of the crew on this new voyage! Her picture can be found in the description of day 6 later. On the way back we stopped over in Salatiga for a dinner in a tiny little restaurant, nothing fancy, but plenty of tempeh and tofu.

Afterwards we simply headed back to the fantastic housing.


riesa said...

Oh, that "river" is really impressive! Maybe you can learn how to dive there as well. ;-)

Travegan said...

Ah, yes, should've done a head dive into that river! Well, next time I'm there. :-P

dreamy said...

cool! I didn't knew borobudur was one of the seven wonders. Certainly a must to visit.