Saturday, May 12, 2012

Yogyakarta Trip Day 2 - Borobudur

Day 2 in Yogyakarta, 7:15 am, we set out from our hotel, going to Candi Borobudur by car. We rent the car with driver with RP 350,000 for 5 hours from Nusantara Tour and Travel (email: Borobudur is located in the middle of Jawa Province, 42 km north west of Jogya. The whole journey to Borobudur took around one hour. The English speaking driver, Febri was very informative. We gained many valuable information from him (contact him by email at Through Febri, we enter the park with RP 125,000, instead of normal RP135,000, the discount given by the park to travel agencies.

We hired a park tour guide, Jamel, with RP 75,000 for one hour and a half. He is a very experienced tour guide with fantastic English. He brought us through strategic photographing locations, told us the legends of the park, the history of the Borobudur, even the restoration process of the temple, which includes the weakness and the improvement of the restoration process. According to Jamel, his father and elder brother were involved in the restoration of the temple many years ago.

The sign of Taman Wisata Candi Borobudur or "Borobudur Temple Tourism Park" marks the destination of our one hour travel by car (upper left). The tickets for the park were bought from the park office (upper right). In the international visitors' office, free coffee, tea, and mineral water were served (lower left). Our English speaking tour guide, Jamal, is very informative. His excellent communication delighted our trip as well.

Borobudur is huge. We were astonished by its size even with extensive mental expectation. The colossal Borobudur is a square building, with the base of 120 square meter. It has 9 levels (6 lower square levels and 3 top circular levels), with the uppermost stone raises 35 m above the ground (approx. height of 11-storey building). UNESCO estimated a sum of 60,000 cube meter of stones had been used to build this temple, and no doubt, it is the biggest built-in-one-piece religious monument in the world. Completed around 750-850 AD by the kings of Sailendra Dynasty, Borobudur was built 300 years earlier than Angkor Wat. 

Candi Borobudur shows its prominency to us, even we were still hundreds of meters away from it (lower). When we turned back, the active Mount Merapi which lays distance away can clearly be seen (these two photos were taken from a same location).

Our group photo at the small stone signage stating that this is a UNESCO Heritage Site.

After helping us with our group photo at the UNESCO's sign, Jamal brought us to the far left off the main route. The reason he said, "This is a good location to take photo...". We agreed.

Stairs... the journey to the world heritage always start with climbing something...

We reached at the foot of Candi Borobudur at around 9:15 am. There were not many visitors there yet.

What amazed us the most, the whole temple in fact tells the story of Buddha. The whole built-in-one-piece temple alludes a gigantic stupa and represents the Buddism cosmology and nature of mind. The 9 levels of the temple are catagorized into three different divisions- the first base level represents Kamadhatu (the world of desire), followed by 5 levels of Rupadhatu (the world of forms), and on the top of Rupadhatu, 3 levels of Arupadhatu (the formless world). The stories of these three worlds are depicted on the bas-relief on each of the levels. To read these stories in right direction, we need to enter the temple through the east gate (the main gate), and start from left to right (clockwise direction).

First level of the temple with Kamadhatu, depicting the consequences of having few children and having many children (upper left). The family with few children lives in peace, while the family with many children suffers. The gossips and talking bad things about the good people is another feature in Kamadhatu (lower left). The photo on the upper right shows the traditional treatment of massage. All the bas-relief of the lowest level are covered by the additional basement of bricks, which is believed to be the way to stabilize the temple. 

Second level of the temple is decorated with the bas-relief of Rupadhatu- the journey of Siddhartha Gautama to become a Buddha is extensively told (upper row). Besides, the Buddha in the form of animals can be found at the second level of the temple.

Buddha statues with different poses have their distinct symbollic meanings. The one at the upper left shows Dhyana mudra, a symbolic of concentration and meditation. The galleries along the walkway of the temple tell us many stories about Buddha (upper right). The cannon-like structure at lower left used to be the drainage system of the temple. The whole Candi Borobudur was built without using any nails. The interlocking bricks hold the integrity of the temple.

Finally, we reached the level of Arupadhatu- the world of formless (haha). The spade stupas represent the unstability, the square stupas represent the stability, while the big stupa at the centre of the temple represents the wholeness or the perfectness in Arupadhatu.

According to our park tour guide, Jamal, the uniquess of the statues of Buddha in Borobudur is, all of them are in sitting of medidating position. None of them are in standing, or reclining position, like what we can see in other places in Asia. Besides, Borobudur contains no relics of Buddha. So, the builders put the statues of Buddha in the stupas with see-through holes. The central stupa contains no hole, and it is empty. The whole Candi Borobudur has no roof on top of it, showing the possibility that the temple is not built as a house of worship, but as an open-book for the Buddhists. The pilgrims and the monks will walk through the galleries of bas-reliefs to learn how to enter the world of Arupadhatu.

One of sitting Buddha statues in the uncovered stupa. The stupa was designed in such a way so that the believers can put in the candles or flowers. However, the candles and flowers are banned nowadays to preserve the temple.

This is one of the scene that we saw from the top level of Borobudur.

2010 Mount Merapi eruptions left a thick layer of highly corrosive volcano ashes on Borobudur, where the clean up work done by UNESCO later gulped USD 3 millions and the temple partially closed down for more than one year. We heard that the upper part of the temple was re-opened in November 2011, so, quickly, a tour to the temple arranged. Our advice, visit this World Heritage as soon as you can, while you have the chance to see it standing in one piece, before the next eruption occurs.

The active Merapi can be seen clearly from Borobudur (the right peak). On the left, is its sleeping brother, Mount Merbabu. In fact, there's another sleeping volcano on the western side of Borobudur- Mount Sumbing. We wonder why the rulers of Sailendra had chosen such a place to built their wonder. 

We went up to the temple from the east, and came down from the west. This is our photo with our tour guide, Jamal at the western side of Borobudur.

We made brief stops at Candi Pawon, Candi Mendut, and a silver factory on our way back from Borobudur to Yogya.

Candi Pawon and Candi Mendut are both small candi. These two temples form a straight line with Candi Borobudur to the East. Both of the temples are located just beside the main road between Borobudur and Yogyakarta. 

Borobudur is definitely a must visit site for all archaeology lovers. It is a sacred site for Buddhists as well. So, we need to wear sarung, or a batik cloth that wraps around the waist. The batik cloth is provided free of charge at the ticket counter. However, we need to return the sarung once we had completed our trip. There are many promoters selling poscards, handicrafts, and other souvenirs all around the site before the entrance to the international visitors office, on our way up to Borobudur, and on our way back to the office. The promoters were so call highly motivated (we hope you know what that means). However, they still knew when to leave us- when we rejected them politely, but firm.

The locals selling all sorts of products. We didn't buy any, as one of our drivers advised that we could in fact buy anything that we wish to get from Malioboro with fair price.

Lucky for us to reach the temple early around 8:30 am. There was less crowd at that time and we still managed to get some nice photos. After 10 am, the crowd make us almost impossible to take a good picture without any homo sapien in it. However, if you are patient enough to wait for the right moment under the hot sun, you will still get some nice photos. The photo with the sitting Buddha inside the stupa was taken with more than 5 minutes of waiting and trying.

The crowd on the temple. We need to line up in order to move from a level to another (right).

Be noted that Candi Borobudur is dark in colour, which absorb heat quickly. Our advice is, be early. Sufficient drinking water is important to keep us hydrated. We can get the mineral water from the international visitors office, free of charge. A hat or a small umbrella is helpful. Sport shoes or comfortable footwear is essential. A experienced tour guide is highly recommended (such as Jamal). The tour guide is proven to be helpful to us to learn much information about the temple- location, history, legends, facts, restoration, and destruction, and many more.

We stayed at Borobudur for nearly 3 hours. We returned to Yogya and our driver dropped us at Kraton Palace. Follow us to Kraton Palace and Taman Sari Water Castle now.

[Yogyakarta Trip Day 1-Prambanan] [Yogyakarta Trip Day 2-Borobudur] 


  1. Borobudur is certainly a must visit!

  2. Can i have the tour guide's contact details?

    1. Dear friend, we don't have the contact. As the guide can be hired only at the visitor's office, you can try to request for Mr. Jamal to be your guide.

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