If you have never been to Borobudur, here let me help you understand more about the magnificent temple. I traveled a lot to that place when I worked as tour guide a while ago.
I went there mostly from Yogyakarta and by car it takes no more than 1.5 hour, past Muntilan and the remnant of volcanic Merapi Mountain eruption in 2010. You will turn left from the mainroad and a big gate welcomes visitors to the Borobudur area. The temple itself is actually still around 8 km down the road. After vast land of rice field, fish market, Mendut Temple, and crossing the Progo river you’ll see the top of the temple from the distance.
Best parking lot is the closest to the entrance gate, under some big trees, because the closer you are to the ticketing gate the closer you will be to walk back.
Parking here will cost IDR 5,000.
Temple officials will ask you to wear a batik sarong during the visit, both for domestic or international visitors. It’s available for free use and should be returned on the way down. Yes, it’s up to go there and down back to the parking lot. Guided tour usually last about two full hours, all walking. So please be ready with the stamina. For this reason too, the best timing to visit Borobudur is in the morning sometimes before 8 to avoid you getting too much sun for the day (moreover if you are going somewhere shiny after Borobudur).
Straight from the entrance gate there is this Information Center building. You’ll find the map of whole Borobudur complex (it’s a very wide complex for sure), some historic pictures (from the discovery of the temple, renovation, early shapes, etc.), and some long benches to get few minutes break. This is my favorite place when the group I travel with has hired a local guide. They can walk wherever they want and I can get two hours rest. Lol. It’s a good idea too to use Information Center as a meeting point if you travel in big group.
First place to take a good picture with Borobudur background is in the open field just close to the stairs leading to the temple’s main yard.
Now that you have climbed the stairs you are wondering where to go. Is going straight up is the best way? Is it the shortest route? Is that the way people do?
You should go clockwise, as people should do in all Buddhist monument. By the corner of the first turn from the yard there is a stairs of stone to go to the upper level.
There are almost 1,500 reliefs and manuscripts in the walls of the temple. It’s 1,460 to be exact, depicting the activity of God (Swearer, 1995). If you go all the way through each panel, you will walk for about 2,500 meters. It is no longer possible to go through these all though now because the base level is added with 3.6 m height and 6.5 meter width pile of stones. Only parts of southeast temple of this base is opened for visitors showing the panels number 19-21 of the total 160. This level tells the story of karma (the doctrine of cause and effect), the pains of hell and the pleasure of heaven. There are also praiseworthy activities that include charity and pilgrimage to sanctuaries, and their subsequent rewards on this relief.
Up and more, as Borobudur symbolizes the ten levels of a Bodhisattva’s life which they must develop to become a perfect and full enlightenment of a Buddha, the relief will tell more about Buddha Gautama’s birth, life, previous life of Buddha, Mahayana pilgrim progess and ended with the achievement of Supreme Knowledge and Ultimate Truth.
Well, even the tour guide won’t tell you the whole story but so you know that Borobudur temple has always been a sacred place for Buddhist, far above just a recreational place. Even if the park owner does not forbid there will be a lot of offerings present around the top level of it.
Apart from the fact that it’s awesome to get some pictures of the temple visitors are required not to touch a single stone relief because among the things that (slowly) destroy the carving is human touch. You can imagine if thousands of visitors every month touch the stone it will gradually erased to nothing.
Next you can follow the marker to where the exit is. Please be careful as some steps are higher than the others. There are handles on the side of the stairs should you need something to hold on to. Again, you are not advised to get a grip on the stones.
Back down at the ground level, the next place to take best picture of the temple is open ground close to the big tree on the right side of your temple exit.
From the last step of the temple you can just walk to the right and the tree should just be there. Most picture from this point comprises of the big tree on the left (as a left margin), you, and the whole temple as the background. Try to pay local photographer and they’ll take you here 🙂
So now you know more about Borobudur, please enjoy your next visit in this sacred awesome place. Furthermore it’s a temple that as you can imply from the word is a structure usually built for the purpose of, and always dedicated to, religious or spiritual activities including prayer, meditation, sacrifice and worship.
You should not only be entertained after visiting Borobudur Temple but also being enlightened.
Inspired by article http://indonesia.travel/en/destination/879/understanding-the-thousands-of-relief-panels-of-borobudur | Reference includes Hary GUNARTO’s RCAPS Occasional Paper No. 07-5 year 2007 | Image is courtesy of Indonesia.Travel