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Travels in Indonesia with children part 9 (Borobudur)

A peaceful 82ha park surrounds Borobudor Temple

A peaceful 85ha park surrounds Borobudur Temple

Today we hired a private car and driver through our hotel and we were impressed by his attention to detail, professionalism and English language skills. He was the first driver we’ve had this trip who has retained equanimity throughout and shown empathy towards us. He swept us out of Yogyakarta, through villages with small rice paddies surrounded by coconut palms and banana palms. Our destination was the UNESCO world Heritage listed Borobudur temple


This was probably a fountain


Many of the original stones have been cleaned or replaced in the huge restoration works

Borobudur is the largest Buddhist monument in the world. The temple is a massive step pyramid structure made from giant blocks of andesite, built on a hill, surrounded by valleys and hills. The levels rise up representing the stages of enlightenment.

Friezes depict the life of the Buddha

Friezes depict the life of the Buddha


Visitors are encouraged to wear sarongs and the color of the sarong indicates whether the visitor is Indonesian or foreign. Visitors are also encouraged to enter the complex via the eastern staircase and begin a series of 3 circumabulations which reminded me of the time that I joined thousands of Tibetan Buddhists in the pre dawn to circumabulate around the stupa in Kathmandu. On the lower rectangular levels, stone carved panels tell the story of the Buddhist Sutras, in total there are 1,460 intricate scenes. In many of these scenes the face of the Buddha has been removed, presumably by souvenir hunters.13897911205098 13897911303159 13897911398100

The higher terraces switch to a circular shape on which statues of Buddha sit inside perforated bell shaped stupas. These levels are much less ornate, representing a rise from earthly ‘form’ to a higher state of formlessness.

I'm curious about what the ship signifies

I’m curious about what the ship signifies


504 Buddha statues sit, facing out to nature, demonstrating a range of hand positions. One of the stupas has been removed, revealing the Buddha statue beneath. Signs were everywhere telling everyone not to sit on, climb, or scratch the stupa. About 10 security guards turned a blind eye as many tourists climbed and sat of the top sections of the stupa.13897912229087 13897912377359 13897912506150 13897912613801

The top of the monument is crowned with a massive bell shaped stupa, close to 10 metres in diameter. Currently the centre of this stupa is completely empty, and questions remain as to whether it has always been empty, or in fact held some form of relic.13897911872114 13897912288388

Artistically Borobudur represents a melding of Indian monuments and the traditional terraced sanctuaries of Javanese art. In plan view, the monument represents a Mandala, which is a schematized representation of the cosmos, often drawn repeatedly as a meditative mechanism.13897912027725

Borobudur Temple was built by the Sailendra dynasty between 750 and 842 AD. In terms of world wide religious structures, it was very early, 300 years before Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, 400 years before the great European cathedrals. It was abandoned in 1100 AD and covered by volcanic ash and jungle until Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles re-discovered Borobudur in 1814.

Nestled amongst mountains and forest

Nestled among mountains and forest

Many tourists visit the temple at sunrise but that didn’t appeal to us with small children, also we hiked to Macchu Picchu for sunrise and felt pretty tired and irritable like the other backpackers for the rest of the day. We were fortunate that the rain stopped before we arrived and only restarted as we were leaving. Also the large groups of Indonesians were arriving as we were leaving. As with everywhere else we go we were beset by requests for photos and my children were gracious even when they didn’t want to pose. I had an enjoyable chat with a Swiss German retiree, first in French and then in German when I detected a German accent. On arrival and departure we were set upon by souvenir touts but we all walked along averting our eyes and saying no in Indonesian and we survived unscathed.

Thousands of stones were removed during restoration work

Thousands of stones were removed during restoration work

Next we drove to Mount Merapi which sadly was blanketed by cloud and visited the Ullen Sentalu Museum which houses a beautiful private collection belonging to the royalty of Yogyakarta and Solo. We all found something of interest among the musical instruments, batik fabrics, paintings, photos, letters and statuary.

Photos cannot be taken in Ullen Sentalu Museum except of this copy of a frieze from Borobudur!

Photos cannot be taken in Ullen Sentalu Museum except of this copy of a frieze from Borobudur!

Lunch was at a floating restaurant which specialized in inland fish and prawn dishes. Back in Yogyakarta before releasing my children on the hotel pool, I booked flights for the next leg of our trip, and bought delicious chicken sate skewers cooked fresh over hot coals by the roadside. My children were fascinated to watch the attendant light a kerosene lamp.

Floating restaurant

Floating restaurant

Roadside sate ayam

Roadside sate ayam

Other Posts on Borobudur:


13 comments on “Travels in Indonesia with children part 9 (Borobudur)

  1. twng32
    January 16, 2014

    Great photos. I also visited Borodobur but the day of the visit I got sick and was only able to get a couple pictures before falling ill. Your photos really capture the beauty of the monument.

    • strivetoengage
      January 16, 2014

      Thank you! All of the photos on my travel blog posts are taken on my phone camera because that’s easiest for uploading. It struggles in overcast conditions to capture enough light in the foreground so I carefully selected the least dark photos to put in this post. What a pity that you were ill and so far from Yogyakarta. You must have suffered that day.

  2. backpackerlee
    January 20, 2014

    Nice post. Brings back many good memories. I think we can agree that Borobudur is a highlight of SE Asia! Not quite as impressive as Angkor Wat, or the temples of Bagan, IMO. However, still a legendary sight that I am proud to have experienced for myself!

    • strivetoengage
      January 20, 2014

      Aha! I haven’t been to either of those but Myanmar is close to the top of the list for a trip in the near future. Japan will come before that. Do you have any tips for Japan?

      • backpackerlee
        January 20, 2014

        Ah yes, Japan. Tokyo is for the big lights (and maybe Mount Fuji), but it is Kyoto for the big sights! The Fushimi Inari Shrine and Kinkaku-Ji temple are legendary sights. If you can get to Hiroshima, then check out the Itsukushima Shrine, too.

      • strivetoengage
        January 20, 2014

        Thanks! We are staying in Kyoto for 12 days and in Tokyo for 1 day. Exciting! I’ll have to start planning that properly when we get back from this trip.

      • strivetoengage
        January 20, 2014

        Thanks for the tips! We are staying in Kyoto for 12 days and in Tokyo for 1 day. Exciting! I’ll have to start planning that properly when we get back from this trip.

  3. Pingback: ARTICLE: BOROBUDUR | euzicasa

  4. Gede Prama
    February 2, 2014

    visit your blog, read an interesting article. thank you friends for sharing and greetings compassion 🙂

  5. Pingback: Book review – A Short History of Indonesia | strivetoengage

  6. Kaho
    February 10, 2014

    It looks like you had a great trip with many site visits! I did not get to see Mt. Merapi. Thank you for sharing a link to my post!

    • strivetoengage
      February 10, 2014

      Thanks! I enjoyed looking at the beautiful photos in your posts 🙂

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This entry was posted on January 16, 2014 by in Asia, family and tagged , , , , , , .
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