July 3, 2012


All self respecting camera carrying visitors to Central Java usually make an attempt to visit Borobudur, and I'm sure basically every local resident here has also been there at least some point in their life. Although, just maybe it is a little like the train museum in my home town. Many people pass through and stop to visit, but I personally have never took the time to drop by and learn some of my rich hometown train history.

Revelstoke Train Museum & Borobudur...I bet they both come up if you google "world locations you definitely must visit" or something along those lines.

Anyways, as part of our little "darmawisata" (excursion) away from Salatiga during our summer break, we thought we'd check Borobudur out. But first, how about another short lesson in Indonesian history. I'll tell you all I know, so it shouldn't take long.

Borobudur is a giant Buddhist temple complex located not too far northwest of the city of Yogyakarta, and about 1.5hrs drive from here. It dates back to like the 9th century and today is one of the most well known ancient Buddhist Temples in the world, and is also still a yearly destination for Buddhist pilgrimage. In the early 1800's it was discovered (anew) by Europeans under layers of volcanic ash and trees. After some years of folks scavenging buddha heads and such for their personal collections, and following years of painstaking restoration, it is what it is today. The picture below gives a little perspective on how big it is.

 One of the reasons I am lacking a little on exciting temple pictures is my little Charlotte was making the camera a bit awkward. But hey, she was sleeping like an angel, I'd take that any day. At least I'll have proof for her when she's older that she actually visited Borobudur.

The fact that our kiddos are posing for pictures (with smiles) is a great segue into part of our Borobudur experience we just have to touch on. Although these pic's seem to indicate a sparse # of visitors, Borobudur was teeming with people due to it being an Indonesian holiday. 

Here, it is not uncommon for an Indonesian to request to have his or her photo taken with a foreigner, in fact it has happened on many occasions since we arrived in Indonesia. I'm still not completely sure why someone would want their photo with a complete stranger - no matter where they're from - but I guess that's what comes with cultural differences sometimes...you just don't quite get it. I do know it is more of a show of admiration, friendliness, and intrigue as apposed to anything negative. But comparatively speaking, can you imagine in North America if you were out in a public place and you made a spectacle out of the one person who had a different skin colour than you, and you whipped out your cell and got your picture taken with them to document the occasion? Not too cool, I imagine it would come across poorly. But here, it is super common and actually kind of seems normal.

But being that it was extremely busy at Borobudur, and also that we have 4 cute kids, we were literally a magnet for picture taking. I think each member in our family must have had their picture taken close to 100 times while on the temple, no joke. I was afraid one of my kids were going to loose it (I think bribing them with promises of ice-cream & treats helped a lot), but Luke actually thought it was funny to take of his hat, show his blond hair, and just wait for all the Indonesians (usually women) come running to rub his hair & line up for pictures.

Amy and I were also separately interviewed by a class of 13-ish year old kids who wanted to try out their English. Although unexpected, it was neat to answer their questions. I can totally empathize with them because I sound the same way everyday as I try to speak to folks in their language, and thankfully they kindly do not break down in uncontrolled laughter at how messed up my last sentence just sounded. And, despite feeling tired from all the questions and pictures, you still really want to give the impression of friendliness to everyone you encounter. One snotty remark or cold shoulder goes a long way in building an impression in someone of who your are & what you are about - even if it was not intended!

 Apparently all of these reliefs surrounding the lower levels of the temple tell information & stories about the kingdom that ruled at the time. One level reads in one direction, and the next reads in the opposite direction. All part of Buddhist symbolism.

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