A dramatic 12th century Buddhist temple
standing its ground against a backdrop of volcanic mountains
The Special Region of Yogyakarta, a state in Central Java still partially governed by a hereditary monarch, has become much more of a haven for travelers seeking culture and connection with the Javanese people. Yogyakarta is a much more manageable city than Jakarta but still is a haven for shopping, expensive craft coffee, and chic hipster restaurants. It's a city known for it's sweet-leaning street food, ballet and shadow puppet shows, and (of course) Borobudur temple.
After visiting dozens and dozens of temples during my time in Asia, where every town no matter the size has a night market and a temple they want you to visit, and getting templed-out at Angkor Wat, I didn't know if I wanted to spend another day seeing yet another temple. But it's Borobudur- how do you come to Java and not stop by?
Dain and I took the local bus which is much less expensive than a tour, which isn't really a tour and more of a private shuttle. From the station, it's a short walk through a pretty nondescript town to the ticket office. It's a nice enough place but I was glad to be staying at my cool guesthouse in a trendy Yojya neighborhood. The temple is a huge tourist spot but mainly for other Indonesians, which means you'll stick out like a blonde sore thumb. Java is still relatively untouched by big tourism- outside of Jakarta, which even wasn't that overrun, Westerners are a pretty rare sight. We took so, so many pictures with people grabbing our arms and posing for countless selfies as the sun and humidity beat down on us. At one point, a group of about 12 people each wanted individual shots with us and someone yelled out, "one at a time! Make a queue!" Dain and I shared a look and a laugh after realizing that it would take us a lot longer to see the temple than we'd planned.
The complex surrounding the temple is really lovely. The officials have done a great job turning the site into a big garden with trimmed foliage and large green patches for picnics and rest stops. I don't know what I was expecting, perhaps some grand complex like Angkor Wat, but I was surprised to see that it was just one temple. It's beautiful and massive, but it's a fairly quick journey around for about the same price as AW. Borobudur is a pyramid-shaped temple with four sides, each facing N-S-E-W, with five or six tiers culminating in a stunning penultimate tier with lots of stupas each containing a Buddha and one giant stupa on top.
Borobudur is a beautiful temple and a can't-miss when you're in the region. After all, relics from dynasties past are especially interesting in a place where a dynasty still rules.