Updated: Jan 8
My husband loves going to places that aren’t of the norm. So it shouldn’t have surprised me recently when I asked him what he was thinking about and he replied, “Borobudur”. “Oh.” I smiled sympathetically, “Is that the syndrome the guy at your work has?”
In all seriousness though, (which let’s face it, doesn’t happen too often) Borobudur is a Buddhist temple in Central Java, Indonesia. And in case you hadn’t heard of it, you’re not alone. However, statistics show that Borobudur receives as many as 4 million visitors to the temple every year.
We graced the temple with our presence with our two girls before our son was born and we really enjoyed the experience. So grab yourself a snack, get comfy and check out our experience at Borobudur.
We visited Java in June which is a great time of year to visit. Dry season runs from April through to October and the weather (at least for us) was hot and humid. Apparently the November to March rainy season is not an ideal time to visit but should you choose to, make sure you pack lots of mosquito repellent.
Visiting the island by cruise ship, we arrived in the morning and immediately boarded our tour buses to head straight to the temple. With my husband sitting with my eldest daughter and me with the youngest, we settled into our seats for the long drive ahead of us. You might not think a 2+ hour trip is long, but just add 2 small children and I’m sure you’ll change your mind.
The drive was interesting to say the least. I’m not sure if the people there know what road rules are, or even if they understand what the markings on the road are for, but our trip was scary. As in, going to the dentist for the first time in 15 years, scary. I guess the idea was to save time, but our driver was in the wrong lane more time than he was in the right lane. And when I say wrong lane, I mean oncoming traffic lane. I guess being a bus gives you a little more authority on the roads and all those little cars don’t want to get into an argument. Our driver hurtled at breakneck speeds down the wrong lanes, swerving occasionally back into the correct lane when an oncoming car would get in the way.
My small children seemed oblivious to the danger but I couldn’t tear my eyes off the road, silently willing the driver not to crash the whole way.
We arrived at the temple a few hours later after a brief rest stop (translation, deep breathing exercises to bring down our blood pressure) and kissed the ground outside the bus with relief that we all survived. (The locals thought we were just being extremely sensitive the spiritual nature of the place).
Then we headed toward the temple. Although my knowledge about Buddhist religion is limited, I was in awe of the calibre of the temple when we got there. The sheer size and the extreme creativity and effort it would have taken to build this temple was obvious and I was really happy we had come.
As we walked closer to the temple a man off to my left starting calling my youngest daughter, trying to get her to go with him. He kept coming closer, so, not wanting to get into a fight, I picked her up and carried her the rest of the way to the temple. I mentioned it to my husband and told him to keep both kids close at all times.
(I bet right here, you are thinking, gee that’s a bit scary, must make a mental note to keep my kids in grasp at all times if I ever go there. And yes you are right, although I was just thinking that the man was actually given a blessing that day. Because had he managed to even lay a finger on my daughter it would have turned into a scene from Wonder Woman, where I flew through the air and kicked him to the next island. – Yeah, I’m pretty amazing!).
As we reached the foot of the stairs to the top of the temple, I smiled, forgetting all about my incredible ninja moves and started to ascend. The stairs are all carved by hand (at least I’m pretty sure) and they are quite steep. I kept a tight hold of the girl’s hands as we climbed, having to stop a few times to give them a break. In total there are around 150 steps from the bottom to the top of the temple.
The view from the top is amazing and surrounding the central dome are these things called stupas which look like large bells, each containing a Buddha statue. Apparently there are 72 of these stupas. Many of the Buddhas inside the stupas are headless because in the past people used to break them off for souvenirs.
We got some great photos as we walked around, while the girls did what kids do…. Jumped, climbed stairs and collected rocks. When we were done we headed back down again to the garden where we arrived and were treated to an authentic Indonesian lunch. Then we said our prayers and climbed back into the bus for our return trip to the ship.
On the way back we were able to stop at a silver factory which was really interesting. Quite a large shop, it was filled with many hand crafted silver creations ranging from jewellery to ornate keepsakes. To keep with what is expected on a trip to Indonesia we were then harassed outside our bus to buy a bunch of things that we did not need. Fortunately, my resolve was quite strong that day and I was able to resist the temptation.
Traffic in Java is quite extreme and even with the strict timetables of a cruise ship shore tour we arrived back at our ship over an hour late. Fortunately the ship waited for us and within minutes of boarding, the large engines where switched on and the boat organised for departure.
Let me just say this is a big reason why you should stick to shore tours organised through the cruise ship. Private tours may be cheaper but don’t give you the security of guaranteeing you will make it back to the ship before departure. Had we been on a private tour we would have had to make our own way to the ships next destination to reboard.
Happily back in our cabin, we got the kids showered and dressed and settled in for some tummy-filling time at the buffet upstairs. The perfect way to finish any day!
Have you been to Borobudur or do you plan to? Send me an email to tell me about your experiences or ask any questions you might have.