Borobudar, the largest Buddhist Temple in the world, is located near Semarang, Java in Indonesia. The monument is the single most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia.We were part of a caravan of four bus loads that elected to participate in an excursion to this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Our Viking Orion cruise from Bali to Singapore in March of 2023 incorporated numerous included tours and many optional ones as well. The cruise is titled “Secrets of Southeast Asia”, but this is in no way a secret. We knew the journey would not be the easiest, but had heard that it was worth the three hour drive and intense 80 plus degree heat of the day combined with high humidity. It was.
The buses are designed for the slighter physical build of the people who live in the region, not for the mostly American, Canadian, and Australian residents who made up the majority of the cruisers.
But the three hour trip was broken up with a stop at an upscale rest area where we were served coffee, tea, and Indonesian pastries and fruits and nuts. As we traveled, we saw the country-side and the numerous villages along the road. And the many rice fields. Our knowledgeable Indonesian guide Gunarto talked about the ongoing progress being made in agriculture in the area. He also educated us about the history of the monument.
The Pyramidal temple was built in the 9th century during the Sailendra Dynasty. It consists of nine stacked platforms, six square and three circular, topped by a central dome. It has 2672 relief panels and originally had 504 Buddha statues. The central dome is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues, each seated inside a perforated stupa. It’s all good and well to share this statistical information with you, but it is something you must see for yourself.
Our guide Gunarto led us around the immense structure clockwise as the multitudes of pilgrims visit in that manner. Many of our group rented small umbrellas for $1 each to help us deal with the intense sun beating down on us.
We took it slow. Gunarto knew just where to pause for photo ops from various locations and found shade for us along the way. Currently, visitors have been banned from climbing the steps to the top. This is being done to preserve the authenticity of the monument as the steps have been worn down by visitors.
As we viewed the Temple from all sides, Gunarto pointed out figures that had monkey-like attributes. He told us this was because many people are like monkeys, with no self discipline.
Presently, the structure is used as a place of worship and pilgrimage, particularly during a once a year event during the full moon in May or June.
Borobudar has a long history, much of it undocumented. Since its creation, it has been abandoned, rediscovered, buried under volcanic ashes and jungle growth, restored, then honored by the UNESCO designation in 1991.
Following our circle around the incredible edifice, we enjoyed an Indonesian Buffet just a two minute walk down the hill. We drove a short distance to view an Indonesian puppet show and of course there was a souvenir and clothing shop as well.
On the drive back we agreed that the experience was a very positive one. In summary, it was worth it. We saw the Java countryside and a monumental Temple, a historical giant. And then, many of the travelers napped.
Article by Dianne Davis and Burt Davis Photos by Burt Davis and Dianne Davis