*Today’s guest blog on Borodudur is by Maider from www.packandclick.com.
As the country with the biggest Muslim population in the world, it is no surprise that Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple, remained forgotten for centuries.
But, one of Indonesia’s best kept secrets is now out in the open and quickly becoming the country’s most visited religious site.
Borobudur lies at the footsteps of the Kedu Valley, which is located right in the heart of the island of Java.
The temple, built around the 8th and 9th centuries AD, has three tiers built around a hill and includes a total of 72 bell-shaped stupas with a statue of Buddha inside of them.
With the arrival of the Islamic faith to Indonesia, the Buddhist temple was abandoned sometime in the 15th century and it wasn’t re-discovered until the 19th century when the British arrived in the Asian archipelago. Since then, the archaeological site has gone through numerous restoration processes and is now open to the public.
An Unexpected Early-Morning Surprise
Visiting Borobudur temple was definitely one of the highlights of my trip around the islands of Indonesia.
With no set plans in Yogyakarta, I arrived in my hotel hoping to find some useful information to fill my time in this chaotic, yet culturally rich city. The receptionist soon advised visiting both Borobudur and Prambanan temples. The latter one, is a Hindu site currently going through some major restoration.
She recommended going at sunrise, which meant I would have to get up at 3:30am to reach the site by 5:00am, right in time to catch the first light of day.
While I am an early bird, I had spent the day before traveling from Singapore to Jakarta and then to Yogyakarta. Getting up so early was hard but I was excited to see what all the hype was about.
Travelling to Borobudur
My driver picked me up at 4:00am on the dot and we immediately headed to the site. It was pitch dark in Yogyakarta and I kept wondering how I would manage not only to walk up to the site but to take a decent picture at sunrise.
After an hour driving through the bumpy roads of Yogyakarta, we arrived at Manohara hotel at 4:45am.
This is the only way to enter Borobudur temple. The hotel manages this and other cultural properties in the area to ensure its conservation and maintenance.
The receptionist provided me with a flashlight and a map to use as a guide to the temple. She also advised going to the restroom before heading to the stupa.
I followed her advice as I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to get there and how long I’d stay at the site.
The path is clearly marked and there are other people heading to the same place, so it is practically impossible to get lost on your way to Borobudur temple.
A Hazy Sunrise at Borobudur
It was still dark when I entered the site and walked up the stairs to the main stupa. I could see beams of light coming from every direction. There were other travellers who, just like me, wanted to catch the sunrise at Borobudur.
I wasn’t able to guess how many there were due to the lack of light. Twenty? Fifty? I could see silhouettes but that was very much it. After walking around the bell-shaped stupas, I found an empty spot and set my photo gear there. I didn’t move an inch for the next hour.
It was a hazy sunrise, yet one of the most specular things I haver ever seen in my life.
The sky quickly turned a bright pink colour that, combined with the low clouds, gave quite a mystique atmosphere to the site.
While the area was not nearly as crowded as when gates officially open at 6:00AM, it was quite surprising -and yes, I must admit that a bit disappointing as well- to find at least 250 people waiting to catch the perfect light and snap a photo like me.
But, someway, somehow, we all found our moment of isolation in the crowd. For an instant, while walking in circles to find a quiet spot, I felt there was no one else but me at Borobudur. That solitude might have only lasted for a minute, but it was certainly worth getting up at 3:30am that morning to feel that way.
I stayed at the temple until 6:30am and left the property soon after all the local tourists started arriving and quickly filling all three tiers of the Buddhist temple. But, before leaving, I was treated to a traditional Javanese breakfast at the hotel.
What a wonderful way to start my first day exploring the city of Yogyakarta! Getting up early certainly pays off when traveling.
You can also book a private day tour of Borobudur and Prambanam Temples from Yogyakarta online with Viator.
About the Author
Born and raised in the Basque region of Spain, Maider relocated to the United States in 2010 to pursue her dream of establishing a career in the communications field. An avid traveler, she has visited over 30 countries in the past decade alone and has recently started sharing her experiences through her Spanish-written blog www.packandclick.com. She can also be found on Instagram (@packandclick) where she posts daily pictures of her trips around the world.
If you enjoyed Maider’s article, you might like to read her article on A Pilgrimage to the birth place of Krishna.