14 of us decided to visit Borobudur and Prambanan in central Java. This entailed a two hour fast ferry from Karamunjawa to Java and then another 5 hour bus journey through Java to Magelang where we were going to spend the night before our 4.30am rise.
First giggle of the trip was when we all plonked ourselves down in the first class section of the fast ferry – when we were promptly all asked to leave and go downstairs to the economy section. When we arrived at Semarang we were met by our transport. An ordinary grey minibus, a bright pink “Hello Kitty” bus and a police escort! We thought the police escort was a bit excessive for 14 tourists on a three day trip – but boy were we glad we had it. Java has 140 million people – making up 65% of Indonesia’s entire population and 90% are Muslim. As a result the traffic is ludicrous – and without our trusty police escort we would have just sat there for hours. With full blues and sirens we set off and watched in awe as the two lane road parted like the red sea and we went straight up the middle – in our pink “Hello Kitty” van. It was hysterical and we wondered what all the locals thought of us. Government officials, film stars, prisoners – nah – just 14 older cruisers enjoying the ride. We even got to ride inside the police car and talk over the loudspeaker. Fun times…
We all have a bucket list and visiting Borobudur at sunrise was on mine. Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world. Built between the 8th and 9th century, it is in central Java and is built from over two million stone blocks. It is huge and the delicate sculptural work is exquisite close up. It consists of six square terraces topped by three circular ones with four stairways leading up through carved gateways to the top. It is from the top that you get the view of the sunrise coming up across the grounds to the temple. The latticed stupas have Buddha images inside them – one of which is said to be the Lucky Buddha. All the walls are beautifully carved, and all different. It took over 100 years to build and it is an amazing structure.
We also visited Prambanan – a 9th century Hindu temple – the largest Hindu temple site in Indonesia. It consists of a huge 47 metre high central building surrounded by many individual temples. Originally there were 240 temples standing but today just 8 main temples and 8 small shrines in the inner zone have been reconstructed. Huge piles of stones lie around the perimeter all in the process of being re-built. An earthquake in 2006 destroyed much of what had already been reconstructed, but you can see their progress. It would have been an incredible site before all the destruction and hopefully one day it will be fully restored.
We met a group of monks travelling at the invitation of the Indonesia government from India, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and Myanmar – they were only in Java for the week visiting temples and acting as ambassadors for their countries so that they could return home and encourage more international visitors to come to Java. Seeing monks with i-Phones was interesting. They all held jobs back home, teachers, lawyers etc but all were monks in their own right. The Indonesian official showing them round spoke good English though and said they were happy to let us have our photo taken with them
We were exhausted by the end of the day, but had time to visit a batik making shop. Wax is poured onto a pattern on both sides of the material with a pipe dipped in the wax. I had a go and realised how hard it is – they literally spend hours making one picture. They are very talented – I am not!
We also visited a silver factory and watched them making tiny little coils of silver thread into butterflies, dragon flies, roses etc. Fascinating to see the jewelry take shape. The next day we went to the local markets to stock up on some provisioning. I don’t think this market had seen many white guys before – not many cruisers come through Java – and we seemed to be the latest news. Every time we went to buy something, they all giggled! We have fallen in love with the Indonesians – they are so lovely. Heavily laden, we headed back to the port to go back to Karamunjawa – exhausted but having had a fabulous three days on Java. On our return boat trip we sat in first class again. This time legally….