Borobudur (Central Java, Indonesia)

It’s 3am and we are questioning our sanity as we get out of bed before the call for prayer has even started. But it’s our only real option. We don’t have transport so have booked a sunrise Borobudur tour instead of the 1:30pm. It gets hot at Borobudur and I know from last year that the temple is much nicer in the relative cool and calm of the morning.

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We board a tourist bus and settle in for the 1.5 hour drive to the mountain from which we are supposed to watch the sunrise over the Borobudur. There’s a steep sharp road and forest walk to the lookout. It’s still dark but electric lights mark our way. And besides, half the world seems to be here so there’s not chance of getting lost. The sunrise itself isn’t visible today due to heavy cloud hanging all around. But it’s still am interesting hour watching people from all over the world here for the same reason. No one is pushing or shoving. Most people are in good spirits (of course a few heavily camera’d people have sour faces at missing their photo opportunity). I ponder world peace and how tourism plays such an important role. It brings people together for happy reasons.

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And as we walk down the path in daylight the improved housing in the village shows that it also can bring economic improvement to locals.

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Obligatory sunrise over we get driven to the main event: the Borobudur. It’s changes since I was here just 10 months ago. There are sellers inside the gates and no one tells us to wear sarongs. Some ladies even still have short shorts owns singlets on. Last year this would not have been possible.

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We take our time exploring the temple, walking around one level at a time. The detail in the reliefs on the walls is amazing. We make up some stories for them as we go. The lower levels are not as detailed as the upper so maybe the craftsmen improved their skill as they went. Or maybe better craftsmen could be afforded later in the project. Whatever the reason, I enjoy the experience of being here with Paul and our mutual appreciation for art.

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The beauty and calm of the temple is a stark contrast to the hawker stalls that await us as we exit. We are not even out of the gate and already they are pestering us. We are offered 10 postcards for 70,000IDR ($AU7) and I decline. Immediately the price comes down to 60,000IDR ($AU6) but still we keep walking. I want some post cards but only 5 and certainly not for that price. So we discuss and decide to try to get them as cheap as possible. He asks for 35,000IDR ($AU3.50) for 5 postcards but I’m sorry family and friends, I don’t love you that much. Besides, it’s really just passing time before the bus. I try to get 5 cards for 10,000IDR ($AU1) but he wants 20,000IDR. That was what I was willing to pay but I try again for 10,000IDR. He makes a sad face but I keep walking towards the other postcard sellers. I usually hate bargaining but I do want postcards and I know that here they will not sell for less than a fair price. As I near the other sellers he comes down to 15,000IDR ($AU1.50) for 5 postcards. I push my luck and keep walking to see what happens. He gives in and walks away. Obviously he’s not willing to go below 15,000IDR (which he says “is good for me and good for you”). So we walk back to buy the cards at that price. It’s all part of the game. 

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The bus ride home is long and uncomfortable. Both our heads bob onto our chests as we snooze awkwardly perched on seats designed for small skinny people, not fully grown Aussies.

It’s lunch time and we’re both hungry after giving our hagelslag (chocolate sprinkle) sandwiches to a Dutch family traveling with four kids who were not too keen on the breakfast their hotel had packed for them. So we’ve been up now for 9 hours without food. We return to the same touristy restaurants near our hotel because we know it is relaxing there.

Then it’s time for a foot and hand massage. At just 100,000IDR ($AU10) an hour it’s a treat worth having. We both snore away somewhere in that place between wake and sleep for most of the hour. It’s that place where you are fully aware of the massage but of nothing else. It’s bliss.

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A chocolate shop across the street calls to us on our way back to the hostel. Of course we heed it’s call. Let me tell you that this place is good! Haha.

It’s about 3pm when we return to our hostel and we are both knackered. Paul shower, sleeps and surfs Facebok. I shower and settle in for 3-4 hours of work. It’s actually quite nice to be mentally away from the hustle and bustle of Java for a little while.

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Refreshed we head out for our nightly walk to find dinner. Paul discovers he likes pisang goreng (fried bananas) and pisang caramel (caramelised bananas). After contemplating lots of options we sit at a table in the Alun Alun Kidul and eat rice with chicken watching the funny lit up cars and families enjoying themselves.

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