Thursday, October 9, 2014

Borobudur Candirejo Yogyakarta

It was a very early start for us Tuesday morning – ready by 4.15am to drive the 10 minutes from the hotel to the park entry surrounding Borobudur temple.  We were met by Fateh our gentle and knowledgeable guide for the sunrise tour and made our way to the 10 levels of this most imposing and ancient (around 1200 years old) stone Buddhist temple (the largest in the world).

We climbed to a good vantage point in near darkness to await the rising of the sun.  There were other people there too to see the sunrise but everyone seemed prepared to wait and watch in quiet peacefulness.

A group of Buddhist monks were walking slowly clockwise around the nine levels of the temple emulating Buddha’s journey to Nirvana, as we quietly waited.

The temple’s famous stupas caught the shadows and rapidly changing light in magical ways, while remaining quietly contemplative.  I learnt that the stupas represent Buddha’s final resting place (the stupa’s shape echoes the lotus leaf, rice bowl and walking stick – all a man needs according to Buddha).

We were lucky to see a clear sunrise on Tuesday and in the gentle early light of day our Professor Fateh led us around the nine levels of the temple explaining the stories of Buddha’s life (in his over 500 incarnations) and the path to enlightenment. We also learnt about some of the challenges of restoring the building itself - its progressive reconstruction after 1000 years of being buried under volcanic ash and encroaching vegetation and then a massive earthquake in 2006 (and further ash damage in the 2010 Mt Merapi earthquake). The site has had world heritage listing since 1983 which has ensured the Indonesian government has had international help to restore, rebuild and conserve.

We all enjoyed this experience very much – very conscious of how lucky we’ve been to see such a site and be able to learn so much by the experience.  I also now understand that Buddhism is not really a religion but a philosophy and Indonesian Muslims are very proud of their Buddhist (and Hindhu) heritage.

We were back at the beautiful Plataran for a late breakfast and a swim after  short visits to the little Mendut and Pawan temples constructed at the same time as Borobudur – all built in a straight line to Mt Merapi in Central Java (the placement is significant obviously).

From Borobudur the plan was to drive to Yogyakarta with a stop off at the tiny village of Candirego to learn about the life of locals in the rural districts of Central Java. This tour has been developed as a means of involving village young people in tourism (learning skills and earning money) while showcasing traditional ways of life and involving foreigners in positive cultural experiences outside the usual tourist traps.  

This little village mushroom production "factory" was an eye opener.

We all learnt a lot from the experience but our timing was wrong, in that we were out and about in the hottest part of the day in such dry and dusty conditions (poor little ponies!) – most of the locals were resting in the hottest part of the day (sensible) and we wished we were too.

The tour ended with “refreshments” prepared and presented beautifully by one of the women of the village. It was such a relief to get out of the heat and the dust.

Although it was not too many kilometres from the village to Yogya it seemed to take us AGES to drive back. The roads are very narrow, filled with traffic, with little shops and businesses and small houses and dusty yards lining the road for miles and miles around the sprawling city of Yogyakarta.

We checked in to Inna Garuda on Malioboro Road after 4.00pm giving us enough time to check out the well ordered but noisy crowds on Malioboro Road and the excellent bargains at Morita Batik before finding a not too scary place (Batik Resto) to have a meal together and share our first impressions of Yogya (always very succinctly expressed by Maddie!).

The streets outside were increasingly raucous as the night wore on. Apparently we had timed our visit perfectly to coincide with Yogya’s birthday celebrations and the streets were filled with colourfully dressed and joyous groups joining in an endless noisy procession down Malioboro Road.  With all the glitter and make up it was a bit like Mardi Gras in Sydney (but without the GLBT factor of course).

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