Borobudur , smudged by raindrops ūüôĀ

We bid adieu to our French friends and started for Borobudur in the afternoon. Here, a nice lady from Canada accompanied us.
She was a tour guide in Europe and was volunteering for an NGO in Asia. When she said that after the weekend, she needs to get back to work, which was basically touring Europe, I could only wish to be in her shoes.

It was a hot afternoon and we were getting desperate for some respite from the heat, when all of a sudden it started raining and continued for the next one hour. Luckily for us, we were travelling from Prambanan to Borobudur, during the downpour. We arrived at Borubudor at about 3 PM, which meant we had about 3 hours to see the place.

We got the entrance tickets and were almost immediately, handed over sarongs to wear. Since it was still raining we had to rent umbrellas (5000 IDR apiece is the official rate, though the guy may demand more). The main structure is imposing and is almost as tall as 10 story building and occupies a space larger than a football field. The structure reminds one of pyramids but consists of different levels unlike the pyramids.

The Main Stupas

Though the rains played spoil sport and it got dark earlier than usual, it was sort of blessing in disguise as the crowds evacuated the structure due to the dark and we had the whole monument to ourselves for almost 20 minutes. The view of the stupas with the mountains in the backdrop is quite an experience. It is suggested to be there at sunrise as it is supposed to be one of the most mesmerizing sights. We could not make it to sunrise, but if you plan to visit Jogja, go to Borobudur for sunrise and Prambanan for sunset. Also, it is advised to do a thorough read on Prambanan and Borobudur as it will help in appreciating the bas-reliefs a lot better than a novice.

Bas relief depicting a seafaring ship

I got separated from my group in order to see the narrow corridors on the various levels and spirally reached the top. For some reason, I was more attracted to the bas-reliefs here than of Bantaey-Srei. Probably the sheer proximity and the abundance of stone carvings were appealing to the sub-conscious. Though I could not relate to the stories etched on the corridors, the carvings were a quite alluring. Most of it would relate to Gautama Buddha life and stories revolving around him. Though the rain had stopped, I had difficulty in managing my DSLR as there were a raindrops still falling and the lens was getting smudged. (Note to self: carry a decent point and shoot camera at all times).

At the top level, I met our Canadian friend again; she was besieged by local students asking for photographs to which she obliged and enjoyed her 5 minutes of fame sportingly.

Hollow Stupas

At the top, the view of the Buddha flanked by the stupas with the mountains in the backdrop was stunning. The stupa structures are hollow and contain statues of Buddha in various poses and though one may not be able to get a good picture inside they are worth a peek. One stupa was not built; hence one statue is in the open (see photos).

Buddha

It was getting dark and nearing 6 PM, the time for closure of the monument and we started the descent. The view of the stupa from the gates below is a must see (see photos), but there should be no crowds around for this.

Just after we got down to the bottom level, it started raining and we scampered to the entrance under the rented umbrellas. This, however, was no deterrent to the souvenir sellers who surrounded us .They quote prices in USD but it would be better to pay in IDR and the prices are twice as much as Malioboro Street. After a quick snack in the adjoining food stalls, we were on the taxi back to the guest house in Jogja.

Next on schedule was Mt.Merapi.

Mt .Merapi is a active volcano on the so called ‘Pacific ring of Fire’ and had recently erupted in 2006 and 2010.While the 2006 eruption was not big, the 2010 eruption had quite severe ramifications and ash¬† rained in Jogja around 30 km away and caused flight disruptions as far as Jakarta. Since it was now classified as ‘safe’, we planned to do the hike.

A call to the operator confirmed our schedule, and we were¬†to travel to the foothills of Mt. Merapi at 10 PM that night. With nothing much to do, i went online on the guest house’s¬†computer.¬†A short while later a fellow user on an online forum buzzed me with a news item-The Mt. Merapi volcano has restarted its inflation process and has entered its preparation stage of a forthcoming eruption. This news was dated 4 days ago!!!

Now, the moment of decision was at hand-To go or not go?? Indecision lingered in the air…