Borobudur in Java, Indonesia is the largest Buddhist structure anywhere in the world, covering 85 hectares.
Borobudur in Java, Indonesia is the largest Buddhist structure anywhere in the world, covering 85 hectares.

Indonesian odyssey involves spiritual awakening

I'M in the most populous Muslim country in the world, yet I'm climbing 151 steps to the top of the largest Buddhist structure anywhere on earth.

More than 505 massive stone bell-shaped stupas housing hundreds of Buddha statues surround me and it's a sight to behold.

I'm at Borobudur in central Java in Indonesia, about 45 minutes from Yogyakarta.

Built in the 8th century, this awe-inspiring, UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the world's truly great ancient monuments and covers 85 hectares.

Borobudur consists of six square platforms topped by three circular platforms and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels.

The main dome located at the centre of the top platform, is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues seated inside perforated stupas.

Built at the peak of the Sailendra dynasty, construction is thought to have taken about 75 years and completed in 825AD.

Intricate carvings cover the walls of Borobudur.
Intricate carvings cover the walls of Borobudur.

Like the famous Angkor Wat site in Cambodia, Borobudur also lay abandoned and hidden for centuries under layers of volcanic ash and thick jungle growth.

It was rediscovered by the British Governor Thomas Stamford Raffles (the founder of Singapore) when on a tour to Semarang in 1814 he was informed about a huge 'lost' monument deep in the jungles near Yogyakarta.

He sent a Dutch engineer to investigate and it took two months and 200 people to clear the jungle and to partially reveal this amazing monument.

But it was not until 1885 that the complex was unearthed in its magnificent entirety.

In 1956 UNESCO began an assessment process for a full-scale restoration of Borobudur and in 1991, the monument was formally listed as a World Heritage Site.

The restoration works cost US$25 million.

Dani my Indonesian guide tells me that Borobudur is the single most popular tourist attraction in Indonesia.

More than three million visitors make the trip annually.

As we make our way to the top in 36-degree heat and what feels like 100 per cent humidity, I am in awe of this incredible monument.

The iconic bell-shaped stupas of Borobudur.
The iconic bell-shaped stupas of Borobudur.

It's so calm and peaceful and the view of the distant mountains shrouded in clouds and the thick jungle below is simply breathtaking.

The carvings on the walls are so intricate and every panel tells a story.

Dani points out a holy tree which overlooks the temple and tells me that the Buddha statues feature six different hand positions.

Despite the touts selling cheap souvenirs, Borobudur is truly a world-class destination in a magnificent setting with lovely, friendly locals.

 

IF YOU GO

  • Borobudur is in Java, Indonesia, about 45 minutes from Yogyakarta.
  • The entrance fee is 188,000 rupiah or about $18AUD. Guides cost from 75,000 rupiah or $7.50AUD.
  • Air Asia fly to Yogyakarta daily from Bali. Check their website for prices.

 

WHERE TO STAY

  • Rumah Mertua Boutique Hotel is located in Yogyakarta.
  • A standard room with breakfast costs 350,000 rupiah or $35 per night, but packages including a day tour to Borobudur, airport transfers, massage and dinner are also available.
  • For more phone +62274866680 or email info@rumahmertua.com.

 

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