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Friday, October 18, 2013

The Magnificent Candi Borobudur

Indonesia Day 3

I hadn't been doing the touristy things in my first two days in Yogyakarta and I only have four days in this comely city. On my third day, I finally decided to visit the most popular temples in Central Java, Borobudur and Prambanan. I know if I wouldn't do it soon, I might end up not seeing it at all, defeating my purpose of being actually there.

So Day 3 was my "me" time. On that day, I was a tourist. No hanging out with local friends hehe. I actually tried to think of ways to cut the cost on seeing these temples. The Entrance Fees were the killer. A whopping USD 20 and USD 18 respectively. However, I found out that it is much more expensive if I will do-it-myself so I ended up just availing a tour from my hotel. The only consolation I got was the discount on the tickets. I paid a total of Rp 415,000 (a bloody PHP 1600) for the package (which only includes transportation and tickets). The tour lasted for 8 hours.

Borobudur from a far

The tour van picked me up before 5:00 AM. I was with 7 other tourists from different hotels. We traveled for about an hour to get to the temple. Borobudur is located in Magelang, which is 42 kms northwest of Jogja. When we arrived, we registered first at the office, wore a special sarong and drank some free coffee and tea. You may also get your free bottled water here before you start touring the temple.

the massive Candi Borobudur

Before 7:00 AM, there were already a lot of people flocking to the temple. I thought it'll be less crowded in the morning but it was not. Many locals were also visiting at this time of the day.

three tiers

Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and considerably one of the world's greatest ancient religious monuments.

six square terraces

This temple was built back in the 8th century, 300 hundred years before the Angkor Wat in Cambodia. They say it took seven decades to completely finish this colossal wonder. It was built during the flourishing of Sailendra Dynasty in Central Java but there was no sufficient records as to why it was built. The Sailendras were the advocates of Mahayana Buddhism in Java.

the less crowded side of the temple

Between the 11th and 14th century, people has started to neglect the temples. Assumptions were, there had been political and religious turmoil in Java when the Buddhist and the Hindu kingdoms had a downfall. That was when the Javanese started to convert to Islam. Another theory was, there had been a huge volcanic eruption which forced them to totally abandon the place and move to East Java.

the lion gate guardian

Forgotten for centuries, the temple became hidden and covered with volcanic ashes and jungles. It was only in the 19th century that it was rediscovered and underwent a 5-year restoration program. It was then brought back as a temple complex being used for worship and pilgrimage by the Indonesian Buddhists.

the gallery walls

The lower square platforms house the enormous range of wall reliefs. The terraces were densely decorated with bas reliefs depicting the life of Buddha, the karmic laws and some were depictions of the ancient Javanese's daily life.

the corridor

It roughly has over 2600 individual reliefs covering 2,500 square meters of the temple walls. It would be nice to understand what all these carvings meant but hiring a guide when you travel solo is quite expensive.

more bas reliefs

This temple has numerous Buddha statues all over the place. I'm not sure how many there are but there could be a thousand of them.

Buddha watching over Java

The upper three platforms of Borobudur are circular. These platforms has 72 small bell-shaped stupas surrounding the biggest stupa at the center. I never thought they're that many. When you are there, you would think there were just 30 or 40.

the distinct bell-shaped stupas of Borobudur

All of these stupas has a Buddha statue inside. A few of them were open like the one on the photo below. Even if there were so many visitors that day, I was still lucky to capture a few photos without the crowd.

I think I explored the temple for a couple of hours. I went to every terraces and all corners of it. I checked out the museum too but there's nothing really interesting in there.

museum grounds

Borobudur is astonishing. It is massive, beautiful and full of spiritual meaning. Its location couldn't be anymore dramatic. It's at a hill. So I imagine, if I am there on a less crowded day and I'm just sitting on the uppermost platform just looking out or meditating, it'll surely be a blissful experience.

This completed my top three list of must-see temples in Southeast Asia. The others being Angkor Wat (Cambodia) and the ancient temples of Bagan (Myanmar). I already mentioned in my previous posts, how I am into old historic places and temples. Borobudur however, did not evoke the same feeling I got the moment I set foot in Angkor Wat nor when my eyes first seen Bagan temples looming from the fog as the sun rises. The spiritual connection was just not there. I am one weird traveler. ;)

“To travel is to take a journey into yourself.” ~Danny Kaye

This is Part 3-1 of my Yogyakarta travel series.


  1. Hi Liz, san ka nag stay dito sa Borobudur? How much? :)

    1. Hello Kirk! Not sure if you already figured it out but here's the full review of my guesthouse and all the details:

      Thanks for stopping by! :)