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INDONESIA | Monday, 26 January 2009 | Views [2449]

Stupa and schoolgirls, Borobudur Temple

Stupa and schoolgirls, Borobudur Temple

Most visitors to Borobudur come from Yogyakarta for the day but we stayed for three nights.  Our room in the Lotus 2 Guesthouse is huge and the balcony overlooks the rice paddies in the rear.  We are the only guests, there is plenty of hot water,the breakfast is great and the price is right.  The only glitch is the nearby mosque.  We could tolerate the volume if it was only the call to prayer but this one reads complete suryas from the Qur’an and played an hour of Islamic music – at 5:30 AM.  We have spent time in many Muslim countries and have never heard anything go on as long as this, even during Ramadan in Cairo.

Borobudur, “Buddhist Temple on the Hill,” is Java’s biggest tourist attraction and it was packed on this long weekend.  The temple was constructed between 750 and 850 AD and unlike Angkor Wat to which it is compared, it is monolithic.  The square base is more than 100 meters on each side and the six terraces represent ascending incarnations leading to enlightenment.  If you walk around each of the terraces you will cover about 5 km before attaining reaching the top.  Along the way you will pass 3 km of sculpted murals depicting the stages to enlightenment and traditional Javanese life.  There are 432 images of Buddha before you reach the latticed stupas which contain 72 more.  The paint is long gone and many of the images of Buddha are headless but Borobudur is generally well preserved.  It was abandoned soon after its completion, possibly because of nearby volcanic activity that covered it in ash until 1815 when Gov. Raffles ordered the first restoration of the site.  It even survived a 1985 terrorist bombing by opponents of Suharto.

Our room is great.  We can pick passion fruit and papayas from our window – it’s easy since there is no glass, only shutters – and get coconuts across the road.  And don’t forget, we have the mosque.  The muezzin went on for a full hour Sunday evening and gave us another blast at 4:20 this morning but, thank Allah the merciful, he has stuck to the calls to prayer since.  It was sunny this morning so we were able to see from our balcony the smoking peaks of Gunung Merapi and Gunung Merabubu, two of Java’s active volcanoes.  We have also noticed a change in “our” rice paddy during our short stay.  The rice stalks have grown taller and more yellow as harvest time draws near.  The rich volcanic soil and wet climate allow for two or three crops a year so adjacent paddies are often in different stages and have different shades of green.  Huge dragonflies swarm above the paddies while cisticolas and munias perch daintily on the stalks for a bit of rice.  Twice we saw an otter cross the dikes to compete with the locals for tiny fish and snails.

We have become common figures about town; the tall Americans, one with golden hair, the other silver.  We visit the local store several times a day for Diet Cokes and the cashier always shouts, “Cold Coke” and “No bag!” as we refuse the plastic bag.  Young kids and parents always have a smile and a "Hello, Mister" when we pass.  We both got much needed haircuts this morning and were surprised both by the price (less than a dollar) and the quality (quite good.)  Now we are presentable for The Nature Conservancy.  We finished the morning with a 3 km walk to Mendut Temple with its three meter tall statue of Buddha.  Not only is this Java’s best preserved statue in its original setting, its pose is unique; Buddha is sitting western style with his feet on the ground.  On the way back we stopped at the last remaining site, the tiny Pawon Temple.


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