There are so many outstanding places to visit for so many different reasons -- and this World Heritage site is undoubtedly on many a list. About 25 miles (an hour plus) outside of Jogjakarta is Borobudur, the largest Buddhist monument in the world. Many local tours suggest leaving at 3, 4 or 5 am to be there for sunrise. Okay. But if you leave at the more reasonable hour of 6 am – don’t feel like you are missing out. Take the back roads and you’ll see morning in the countryside, some rice paddies and smaller villages -- a perfectly beautiful way to start the day.
When we arrived at Borobudur around 7:15am there were no crowds at all. (Note: it was a weekday). As you pay for your ticket you are asked if you would like a guide. It is great to have a guide to accompany you. And if you’d like an English speaking guide there will be one available. Our guide was knowledgeable and full of information about the monument -- but blended that discussion well with information about life in general in Indonesia. He explained a good selection of the carved reliefs regarding the life of Buddha and the general history and the logic of the construction – based on the seven stages of enlightenment. He also recommended places where the photographs might best.
In a nutshell here is a description of the site using a passages from UNESCO. (A “stupa” is a beautiful form that looks like an upside down bell):
The vertical division of Borobudur Temple into base, body, and superstructure perfectly accords with the conception of the Universe in Buddhist cosmology. It is believed that the universe is divided into three superimposing spheres, kamadhatu, rupadhatu, and arupadhatu, representing respectively the sphere of desires where we are bound to our desires, the sphere of forms where we abandon our desires but are still bound to name and form, and the sphere of formlessness where there is no longer either name or form. At Borobudur Temple, the kamadhatu is represented by the base, the rupadhatu by the five square terraces, and the arupadhatu by the three circular platforms as well as the big stupa. The whole structure shows a unique blending of the very central ideas of ancestor worship, related to the idea of a terraced mountain, combined with the Buddhist concept of attaining Nirvana.
The story of Borobudur is long. It includes periods of disinterest, decay, ruin, rediscovery and rebuilding. In it’s current state, the marriage of function and form is stunning. The experience of ascending to a place designed to be at once more simple and more complete, was a remarkable experience. Highly recommended. Hope you can → GO!