Since I slept like a stone last night, this morning it only seemed fitting to have a look at some more stones, preferably arranged into piles of ancient architecture. Yes, that means more Candi, because, as everyone knows, once you get a taste for Candi, it’s hard to stop.
Suggested song: Young at Heart by Frank Sinatra
A light breakfast of omelette, toast and coffee provided sustenance for the roughly 40 kilometers on the scooter that were to come. Destination: Borobudur.
Now, while that might sound like the name of some place or character from ‘The Lord of the Rings’, it is actually a 9th century Buddhist temple. As a matter of fact, it’s the world’s largest Buddhist temple — according to my super-reliable source. So, there you go, superlatives galore!
The Road to Borobudur
Starting too late in the day, at just past 9 in the morning, meant having to weave through rush hour traffic on the way out of town. It also promised sightseeing in the burning midday sun and, a fate considerably worse than heat stroke, tourist hordes already present upon arrival. But sun and tourists would have to be handled later, first it was necessary to deal with cars and scooters.
If you have heard of driving in Indonesia, you might expect me to be a huddled, fearful mass at the back of the poor, slightly underpowered scooter, hanging on for dear life. Surprisingly, that would be completely untrue.
The scooter, though no horsepower giant, was surprisingly nimble, shooting through gaps and weaving in and out of traffic. Not in my hands, though, but in those of my companion. The liberal use of the horn and the ambitious but non-malevolent driving style of the locals made for a bit of a messy clutter in the streets, but kept cars and scooters constantly flowing.
Outside of Yogyakarta, the going eased, the scooter ate up the miles, and the entrance to Candi Borobudur greeted us a short while later. Parking the scooter, for a hefty 10,000 Rp, at the front gate, the first signs were apparent that Borobudur was a bit more, let’s say, touristy than the Hindu Candi of yesterday’s trip.
In the parking lot, street hawkers were presenting the usual bauble: Idiot sticks for taking selfies, miniature stupa replicas, rattles, parasols. To be fair, their attempts at selling were relatively unobtrusive, by hawking standards. Nonetheless, their mere presence heralded a considerable presence of other tourists.
Turns Out: You Can Simply Walk In (with a Ticket)
After yesterday’s entrance into Prambanan, via the ticket box and gate for locals (still at the tourist price, I couldn’t pass for an Indonesian even I wanted to and tried really, really, reeeeeeally hard), today it was time to check out the fabled, posh and decadent international tourist entrance building. Tourist admission is 260,000 Rp, a hefty sum if a decent lunch costs you 20,000 Rp. Fair enough, though: my income level is also considerably higher than the Indonesian mean; so, bill it under ‘my contribution to architectural conservation’. Plus, the tourist entrance building was fully climatized and you got a cup of (mediocre) coffee included with your admission.
While sitting under the big parasol at the back of the reception area, the sun was showing its noontime happy face, to which I replied by profuse and happy sweating. A tropical vacation this is, after all. And a jet lagged, lazy traveler, I am, who got up bleary eyed two hours too late. But there is no room for complaints, it was time to implacably trudge on and behold the supreme sights of Borobudur, and cast into its fiery heart the one ring. That last part might have been a sun-induced delusion, though.
And There It Lay Before Me
After a brief walk, there it lay, Candi Borobudur, decked out in reliefs and stupas, at the top of a hill… which meant stairs, and stairs and, of course, stairs (which I carefully omitted from the picture above, so as not to deter the honored reader — pictures of stairs are boring)!
There, in the picture, at middle distance, are the stairs. See, I told you, boring. Up them clambered tourists, constantly at the edge of collapse from dehydration, exhaustion or a leg cramp, and they did clamber slooowly, wielding selfie sticks, stopping here and there on the steps to snap away at themselves with their phones.
Being a silly tourist myself, I followed suit, sans selfie stick. Water bottle in hand, I weaved through traffic again, this time under my own, sweaty, steam, with the obstacles not being cars but rather other visitors to Borobudur.
Getting to the top, the other limber stair masters were joined by stupas, 72 to be exact, arranged in concentric circles around the central dome. Each stupa houses a Buddha figurine and most were beset, or rather besat, by the weary sightseers.
The panorama was enjoyable, verdant and hilly. Descending the stepped structure of the Candi, its walls and overhangs provided some shade, which combined with a warm but not unwelcome breeze.
Feeding Time and the Way Back
Hunger started. The belly, in its grumbling best form, took over as my ruling faculty. Following its call, I headed back down the stairs, past the temple’s stone guardian lions, local tourists and their desire to have a snapshot of me with their entire family in their albums.
Heading for the exit, past a throng of street vendors and hawkers, we saw the mass of tourists diffuse into nothingness, they headed back to their busses, we to pick up the trusty scooter.
But before hitting the road back to Yogya, a street food stall beckoned. An unresistable offer of Mie Ayam, Chicken Noodles, that is, drew us in. How tasty was it, you ask? Judge for yourself.
The way back was smooth, the traffic’s flow landing us at the train station, there to check on the Jakarta connection for Friday. After another coffee at Starbucks, where the coffee is consistent, as is the Internet for picture uploads, it was time to return to the Hotel for a dip in the pool, supper and writing.