Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Tell-A-Tale (Part 56): Sunrise, Sunset...and Borobudur

November marks the second month of the monsoon season in Borobudur. I knew that before clicking on the "CONTINUE" icon on the budget airline's website in May. What I didn't know was that I'd missed an e-mail notifying us on the change of date of last year's Deepavali celebration. And that the first of a few exams was just weeks away. So, I had to take leave and my examination result, as I was informed recently, was far from desirable. But did I ever regret going to Borobudur? Absolutely not.

The pouring rain greeted us as soon as we stepped out of the Adisucipto International Airport in Yogyakarta. Luckily, the pre-booked car to the Manohara Hotel was already waiting for us. The hotel itself was fantastic. Perfectly located within the compound of the Borobudur Park, it's just 300 metres away from the stunning Borobudur Temple. As we'd discovered later, rain doesn't last long in this part of the world. When we exited the town of Yogya and onto Magelang and Muntilan, the sky was bright again. The journey of approximately 40 km took an hour to reach the entrance to Borobudur. Here, the landscape transformed from dusty towns connected by wide and well-kept roads to lush green paddy fields (the fertile land is a gift from the nearby volcanoes) with endless humps and potholes. Accessorizing the view were historical candis that looked like miniatures of the ancient temple.

When in Borobudur, one must witness the amazing sunrise. That's what I was told. At 4 in the morning, the park was dark and humid. The temple, with just a few spotlights guarding the walls, looked as if it was still asleep from afar. With a group of other enthusiasts, we made our way towards the temple. The guide left us at the gate and basically, it was just us, the temple and our complimentary torchlights from that moment on. The steep stairway leading to the top of the temple (about 120 metres tall) was not a challenge, but to do it in the dark meant that speed was greatly reduced.

According to Buddhist cosmology, the way to go about the temple is by ascending the 9 levels that form a mandala in the clockwise direction. Each level represents a different state, with the highest being the state of attaining nirvana. The figures of Lord Buddha on the top level being isolated by the stupas from the rest of the world speak clearly of this. Most of the statutes have been disfigured by earthquakes, rain and terrorism. The sights of headless, armless Buddhas meditating might not be aesthetically pleasing but I feel that perhaps it's more significant this way - that the perfect peace of the state of mind is one that's free from all forms and desires.

Nearing 5 in the morning, the crowd gathered towards the east. As light began to shine upon the misty land below us, so awoke the figures of the 2 most majestic volcanoes in Central Java; Gunung Merapi and Gunung Merbau. However, the sky still looked gray and I overheard a tour guide telling an old Singaporean couple that it might take a while longer for the sun to rise that day. But he was wrong. The sun did rise at the usual time, but the thick monsoon clouds had hidden its majestic rays from us. What's not told to us was the beautiful sunset. Not as grand but definitely worth the experience, especially with a thinner crowd.

When asked of my trip to the Borobudur temple, I would tell my friends that I felt like I've revisited a chapter in our history textbook. The one with the kingdoms of Srivijaya, Majapahit, Langkasuka and Sailendra. Except that this infamous temple was never part of the syllabus.

It's only at quieter times that one can appreciate what lies beyond the extensive structure and intricate details. The Borobudur temple has an unexplained story to tell. A mysterious one, at that. Was it forsaken due to a change of belief? Or perhaps superstitions had caused the people to abandon the temple? Or was it simply covered by ashes and forests through a series of volcanic activities?

Only they will know.

24 comments:

Jun said...

pretty in black and white. wud prolly look nice in sepia tones too. food wise?

J said...

Wonderful shots! :)

Selba said...

Love your photo shots! :)

During the Vesak (Waisak) day in May, Borobudur temple can be very crowded with thousands of people that come to join the procession from Mendut temple to Borobudur temple. Not only monks and Buddhist people but also tourist from other countries and people with different religions :) Even last year, the Indonesian president joined it.

Camemberu said...

Whoah, beautiful! So artistic!

Happy new year too!

ai wei said...

very very artistic photos!

Precious Pea said...

Wooooaahh...nice shots!! Happy New Year Nic!

Shell (貝殼) said...

Wow! Awesome photography!
i like B&W pictures,gives it a special feel

Xiu Long Bao said...

My pics are still sitting in the SD card, yayness...

CUMI & CIKI said...

only they will know.. and maybe now, you will also know also..
wow! what an experience.. ofkors C&C cannot wait to go there too. Eh, why didnt u add to our java eat list - you have been mah.. share share;D

~Christine~Leng said...

love your shots. Brought out lotsa 'feeling' somehow :)

J2Kfm said...

Grim reminder of the past?
those Srivijaya, Majapahit, etc
reminded me of those dastardly HISTORY lessons.
shucks. ..

mimid3vils said...

These set of photos give me some lonely (落寞) feel ler...

thenomadGourmand said...

Oh dear..great tht I will be able to experience the place frm yr shots. For I will prob never step foot at such plcs. ;p

backStreetGluttons said...

Bali and Borobudur are Indianised places which meant the Indians were here thousands of years ago. A pity they din carry the customs into modern Indonesia , before the Europeans massacred the place. otherwise Bahasa Indon would have been Hindustani or Budakrit or something & Indonesia would have the greatest Hindustani population in the world. Then Allah will be non existent in this part of the world !
LOL !

pang said...

Wow! Awesome pics. Must go :P

Selba said...

Backstreetgluttons: Well, thanks to the famous Chinese mariner Zheng He (Zheng Ho) who brought and presented the Islam religion for the first time during his voyage in Indonesia and then also thanks to those 9 Wali Sanga (they're all Chinese ancestry) who spread Islam very actively and consistently in Java (they even are known as Saints of Islam in Indonesia) if not, I also believe that Indonesia might be the biggest country of Buddhism.

Anonymous said...

Bookmarked this. Sometimes non-standard due to you after sharing. Unequivocally benefit my time.

ToyGirl said...

Wow! YOU made the place sound so magical and captivating. Pictures are gorgeous. Must start planning my trips for this year. :)

jason said...

Mesmerising shots as usual :)

fatboybakes said...

what amazing pics, hairy berry.... i felt moved to tears...almost.... well, not really, but i was stirred la.

Life for Beginners said...

One word hits me and hits me in the best way possible... "Serenity."

And that is exactly what I (maybe what we) need right now, amidst all the waves of intolerance and idiocy crashing upon us.

Amen to that, mate.

Nic (KHKL) said...

jun, thanks for the suggestion. ya know, i've never tried sepia tones. will give it a try! ;D

j, glad u like 'em!

selba, thanks! and thank you for all the tips and info...they were certainly useful!!! ;D next stop, surabaya! i'll "bother" you again when i've confirmed by dates, ya! hehehehe...

camemberu, thank you!!!! see ya on our next attempt to break our makan record...hehehe

ai wei, glad u like them!!! ;D

precious pea, Happy (Belated) New Year to you too!!! wei, hope to catch up when u are in town la!!!

Shell (貝殼), thanks for the compliment! ;D ya know, i've always wanted to do a conceptual thingy with B&W. glad borobudur gave me a chance! ;D

xiu long bao, seriously, i cant remember the last time i saw your 500D. it must have been wayyyy before the 23423657th cup of ice cream. :P

cumi & ciki, op cors i'll share lah, dear! ;D will get my post up soon and inform you, ya! enjoy yogya...you'll lurve it! ;D

christine, thanks, dear! the borobudur temple was really inspirational! do pay a visit with chris! ;D

j2kfm, i lurve my history lessons! ok la, that's cus my history teacher was good. we even conducted plays to make the lessons interesting..hehe

Nic (KHKL) said...

mimi, 落寞? yeah, i got that feeling too when i was there, especially in the early hours of the morning. interesting! :D

thenomadgourmand, it's a really nice place leh! aiyoh, i suddenly feel like an ambassador for borobudur liddat..hehe

backstreetgluttons and selba, interesting observations! well, i guess history is irreversible. but then, there's the informative modern world that we are living in right now. we learn from history and hopefully, evolve into something better...an improved version of what our ancestors were. i hope we are heading towards that direction la.... ;D

pang, check airasia!!! they have good deals sometimes! do pay a visit, ya! ;D

anonymous, thanks so much for dropping by! have fun here! ;D

toygirl, must go! must go! drag toyboy there! ok la, i'm sure he'll be very interested. it's really a good place for photography. the food's interesting too! ;D

jason, woah, thanks so much for the compliment, bro!

fatboybakes, i'm really moved as well cos i got a compliment from my favourite celebrity baker!!! ;D glad you liked the pics, fbb!

kenny, agree! it's easy to understand why they built the temple at such secluded area - serenity. i'm with you on the current state of affairs. we need some peace and lots of understanding, definitely.

sheshel said...

Borobudur Temple is one of the historical legacy must be guarded..^^