Monday, October 25, 2010

Temple Time


8AM comes early. This was the first night I slept soundly and am groggy and disoriented thanks to it. I pack, grab breakfast and stop by the travel agent to double check my arrangements for Borobudur. I check out of the hotel, leave my bag at the desk and head out with the driver.

Yogyakarta is big and I have pretty much only set foot in the tourist friendly central parts stretching from the train station to the Sultan's palace. Driving into the greater Yogyakarta metropolitan area is an endless repetition of moped shops, small sidewalk restaurants, and (for a strangely long stretch of the road) statuaries. Just in case you need a giant stone Buddha to set apart your petty cab service from the competition.

More than anything though, I'm struck by the sheer number of people. Milling about, sitting around, doing whatever- there are just a crap ton of people everywhere. I ride in silence and stare at people I know nothing about going about their days. Maybe they glance up and see me passing by, maybe they don't. I will most likely never see any of them ever again and they will never know or care about anything I ever do.

I'm happy when the city begins to fall off and we turn on a road lined with rice paddies. The green is a nice antidote to the depressing thoughts of my own insignificance.

The driver pulls into the Borobudur parking lot, points me in the direction of the ticket gate and tells me he'll wait in the car. I am greeted by throngs of vendors peddling assorted crap and pine for the blissful anonymity of passing the car window had provided. I grab a ticket and head into the fenced off temple grounds where vendors are thankfully forbidden to tread.

The temple grounds are nice and green and open with mountains ringing them in the distance. I wander up the main path and catch my first glimpse of Borobudur:
First View of Borobudur

My pictures don't really do the temple justice. It's massive and contrasts wonderfully with the tropical green of the park around it. Built in the 9th century when the Buddhists were apparently doing alright for themselves, it was abandoned around 1400. Then it just sat for 400 years until some locals happened to mention the giant awesome temple to the British ruler of Java in 1814. While I'm sure it's more impressive in it's current restored state, there's something pretty sweet about finding an ancient overgrown temple. In an Indiana Jones sorta way.

The whole thing is carved like this

The other reasons the pictures don't do the temple justice is that you can't really see all the layers that make up the temple from ground level. As you walk up the steps of the temple there are a total of nine levels, each of which has an open walkway lined with relief carvings. So not only did they haul a crap ton of stone from somewhere to build a giant temple out of, they also carved almost every stone to tell various Buddhist stories.

There are also a bunch of Buddha's scattered throughout (apparently statuaries have a long tradition in this area). A lot of them are headless and most of the ones on the top levels have been imprisoned in stupas.

Buddha checks out the view

This Buddha broke free of his Stupa

Borobudur is Big

After wandering all the levels, I stopped by an art gallery located in the park area. There's not too much to it, but it's free. A few paintings and large word carvings are pretty much all there is on the first floor. I head upstairs and am greeted by a midget. On the 2nd floor is an exhibit that's kind of like Ripley's Believe it or Not. Except worse. It's just pictures of people with physical deformities and stuff. The world's tallest and fattest men, a guy who looks like a cat (with whiskers and sharpened teeth).

The exhibit appears to have just been made by printing crap off the internet. And the midget apparently just hangs out as part of the exhibit. B/c when you have a chance to put a poorly made freakshow exhibit that close to an amazing and beautiful landmark, you don't really have a choice, you know?

Heading back to town, the driver stops at Mendut, a smaller temple we'd passed on the way to Borobudur. It looked much cooler when I glimpsed it unexpectedly on the way there, but it pretty much pales in comparison to Borobudur.


Truth be told, Mendut also pales in comparison to the awesome, gigantic tree next to it.

I suspect this tree is like the internet, or whatever Avatar's nonsense was about

I went over to the tree to investigate it's alien tentacles and am startled by two loud thumps maybe 5 feet behind me. I turn and see two good sized (~1 foot) lizards lying dazed on the ground. After a little bit they come to and start to fight (?) with one attempting to eat the other's face. Unfortunately some old European people got to close and the lizards fled back into the tree.

Falling out of the tree did not diminish the bloodlust

1 comment:

  1. I am totally freaked out by the freak show of photos printed off the internet? How is that a museum display? Also, are you sure it was technically a midget and not a dwarf?