Borobudur is a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist temple near Yogyakarta, Indonesia, and the world’s largest Buddhist temple. Like everything in Indonesia, there were stairs, lots of stairs.
Of course, with Tim’s bad eyesight, walking up all those levels was a slow process. Oh, and did we mention that the stairs are very tall and entirely uneven. I don’t think any two stairs in a row are the same height. As usual with Indonesians and crowds, they patiently flowed around us.
If you get to Borobudur very early, like for sunrise, I understand that the place is nearly empty. We did not succeed at that time goal. Instead, there were people everywhere (a constant theme in Indonesia). It wasn’t so crowded that we didn’t get a good look at the temple, though.
Many of the sculptures on the walls were high relief and very detailed. You can sense the scale of the story being told, even if you only know a fraction of the mythology. Then there are the fully 3D statues. Unfortunately, many of the Buddhas have been decapitated, the result of Dutch colonials thinking it was okay to steal the heads to sell back in Europe.
But the overall effect of Borobudur is impressive. The dozens of bell-shaped stupas at the top make the effort to climb up there worthwhile, even as you’re surrounded by a sea of humanity. There is detailed carving everywhere and sometimes you can sneak off to a quiet corner and get a good picture of it.
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If you can manage to get to Borobudur for sunrise, then I highly recommend it. I’ve seen some pictures of the peacefulness and it would be great to have the place that empty. But even if you can’t get there early, don’t miss this wonderful temple. It’s absolutely worth your time and money and should be on your must-see list if you’ll be visiting Java, Indonesia.
And if you’re in, or near, Yogyakarta, visiting Borobudur, you’ll probably want to check out the Prambanan Temple Complex as well. Equally cool, but very different from Borobudur.