We leave Yogyakarta early because it is Sunday and we don’t want to be stuck in crowds at the Borobudur. Mum has read that it opens at 7am so we jump on the motorbikes early and beat the rush. As always there are two entry fees: 30,000rp for locals and 240,000rp for foreigners (but if you are a student bring your ID for a 120,000rp entry fee). The entry gate is so colonial: locals can just purchase entry from a ticket window while foreigners must go into an airconditioned office that has a desk like a hotel reception. Foreigners receive a small complimentary bottle of cold water or a cup of tea/coffee and have access to clean hotel-style bathrooms in the foreigner’s entry area. I, personally, will never understand this colonialist approach to giving foreigners preferential (if more expensive) treatment to locals. But I guess many tourists probably like it, particularly those who come on bus tours who then have a chance to sit down and enjoy a coffee on the small terrace as a social interlude between being driven around in the bus all day. It’s not the price difference I find odd but the difference in the way entry is purchased.
We are given sarongs to wear but no one tells us that they are compulsory or why we must wear them. We don’t see any locals wearing them so we remove them only to be told in a firm but friendly voice over a loudspeaker that we must wear them. Then we see that the locals are given their sarongs further up the entry path. I have read online that the wearing of sarongs is supposed to increase appreciation for the cultural heritage of the temple and that tourists like to wear sarongs. At least it does prevent tourists from walking around wearing inappropriately short shorts.
The temple is amazing in the morning quiet. The renovation work and cleanup after the 2010 Merapi eruption is a fantastic. I came here in 1997 and thought little of the temple because so much was under restoration but this time I found it a wonderful place. One of the little cones has been left open so visitors can see what is inside. If it hadn’t been, I probably wouldn’t have realised that each of the cones has a small statue inside.
The amazing thing is that we are able to find areas where there are few, if any people. I an hour or two when the buses arrive the temple will be swarming with people. But it’s still before 8am and it feels like a temple.
The detail in the stone work is stunning.
The temple itself is nestled in a lush tropical landscape with mountains rising on one side and vast open plains on the other. The landscaping of the actual complex is stunning. The entrance is manicured while behind the complex vegetation grows more wildly. At various places around the complex these statues stand guard and it’s easy to see that they were needed in the days before modern overcrowding when the temple would have stood in dense forest on the side of the mountain.
We head back into Yogyakarta on the motorbikes. This really is the only way to travel here in Indonesia where the traffic is dense and the best things to see occur away from the main tourist attractions and cities. You can stop whenever you want to take photos or you can squeeze past the trucks and cars to make good progress. The 40km to and from the Borobudur pass quickly as we take in all there is to see.
Our next stop is the Kraton where the sultan of Yogyakarta lived. This dilapidated old tourist site has little to recommend it anymore. It is incredibly run down and there is no information available to tell you what the site is about, though I am sure you could pay someone to give you a guided tour if you were so inclined.
We let ourselves get taken to a nearby batic gallery where we were given a brief demonstration of how batic is made and then allowed to look through the gallery. The vendor was clever and had two price lists: one in US dollars with very high prices and one in Indonesian rupiah with high prices. He showed us the Indonesian price list and made a big point of saying it was discounted just for us. There were some lovely pieces but I certainly don’t want to pay what he was asking and am not much into negotiating because I have better things to do with my time. So I looked but didn’t buy.
We spent the rest of our afternoon enjoying the interesting sights at the bird and pet market. I warn you – if animals in cages offend you then please do not read on. While I do not condone the capture and caging of wild animals, I also recognise that certain ways of thinking are a luxury of the West where we live in relative ease and luxury.
The marketeers were friendly people, many of whom were incredibly proud of the animals they sold. This lady sold beautiful roosters. She and the man she worked with (her husband maybe) wanted us to pose with them and the roosters for the camera. My mother speaks a little bahasa and Gos Rider is a local so we could have conversations with them about where we are from and where we are going.
You can pretty much buy any animal here from birds, cats, dogs and rabbits through to bats, lizards, snakes …
… weasels …
… and monkeys. I did feel rather sad for the monkeys in particular because they looked so sad in their cages. But I guess this is life here. We keep birds, fish, cats, dogs, rabbits, snakes, ferrets, horses, calfs and lambs as pets in the West because we have domesticated them for our purposes. Here, on these tropical islands, the locally known animals are bats, lizards and monkeys so maybe this is why they have become the local style of pets.
And after all that controversy, I will leave you with this cute little rabbit that was clearly familiar with it’s captivity because it just took its food or water straight from this feeder as if it was a normal thing to do.