And now, Borobudur. Really, one of the most incredible places to visit in all of Asia. It may be less famous than Angkor Wat, but that may be because Anglor Wat is a complex consisting of many temples. But this single one is definitely one to remember forever.
So, first, what is Borobudur, besides one of those places I dreamt of visiting when I lived in Beijing yet was too damn far for me to go? To begin with, it's the biggest Buddhist temple in the world. Then, it's from the 9th century, so it's mind-bogglingly ancient. But the coolest part, the very best part of all, is its architecture – the lower part consists of a series of square platforms with numerous and intricate reliefs depicting both life in Java as well as Buddhist teachings and myths, the upper part is another series of platforms, but this time circular ones; at the very top, a big circular stupa. In other words, Borobudur is a mandala turned temple. As simple as that. It's so effing amazing.
Now, it being such an important temple, it gets tons of visitors, both foreign and local. And it being such an imposing place, one of the best moments to see it is at sunrise. So, we paid for a sunrise ticket, got up at 4:15am (the things I do when I'm on "vacation"!), and were taken to the entrance where we were handed a flashlight so we could climb up the temple, and wait for the sunrise.
Now, I think the photos speak for themselves quite well, so let me indulge in a bit more of writing, and then it'll all be pics, I promise (in case you haven't simply scrolled down straight to the photos already, that is). To begin with, since this was a weekday, there were not that many people there with us waiting for the sun to rise – maybe some 40 people or so? And all of us were there, in almost complete darkness, with the outlines of stupas and a few Buddhas against the sky... and then...
Well, then it started getting clearer. But it was also cloudy, and it seemed that there was not going to be a sunrise. More light? Sure. The sun rising majestically in the horizon? Not so much. But still, the temple looked gorgeous in that soft, early morning light, and all of us wandered around, taking pictures from every angle and enjoying the place. Until, suddenly, the sun found a gap in the clouds, and started shining bright and orange and beautiful – a sunrise not in the horizon, but happening in the middle of the sky. It caught us all by surprise, and left us in awe. The temple, the valley around, it all was just so stunning to look at.
And then, a bonus: it seems many people do both Borobudur and other places in the same day. So, they're at Borobudur for sunrise, stay a bit, and then they leave for the next site. Us? Well, we were staying a few minutes from the temple, had no big plans for the rest of the day, and we could spend as long as we could. And we did. With Borobudur practically for ourselves, we explored for around four hours, until we could no more. In theory, you're supposed to walk around every platform, in order from bottom to top, ascending closer to illumination (the stupa on top). We did it the other way around, from the main central stupa at the top, around every single platform, until we reached the ground. Wow. And that's when all the other tourists, the ones with daytime tickets, came en masse. We are so incredibly lucky.
And this is the photo story of that wonderful morning:
In the end, a lot more happened that day. But I wanted a post dedicated just to Candi Borobudur (Candi is Indonesian for "temple"). It deserved it.