. The path gradually took us higher and higher and then suddenly, through the early morning mist and coconut trees, the temple emerged like a stone giant. More expansive than I ever imagined, more overwhelming that I was expecting, more beautiful than I can express, I still cannot comprehend my first sight of Borobudur. Based on a huge stone square the size of four football pitches, the temple rose up out of the mountain like something out of a dream. Before we took a single step closer we knew that it had been worth us coming all this way. It was simply miraculous.
We spent the next two hours exploring the temple, and although we tried our hardest to adhere to the Buddhist tradition of pradaksina (walking around the temple in a certain direction) we didn’t have time to do it justice. The stone sculptures and carved panels in the inner walkways were incredible and we just kept on looking at each other unable to believe that we had made it all the way here. The very top level of the monument has dozens of huge stone bells (called stupas) and all but two of them have statues of Buddha in them. However when we got to there we found that this level had been closed because of restoration work. So we got a few photos and were getting ready to go back down to the lower levels, when we were pounced on. Not by touts… but by students who wanted to practice their English language skills on us
. There were dozens of giggly students wandering around. First they would ask to have their photo taken with you and then they would start chatting away with you about all kinds of things. We found it very strange because they were so excited to meet us and when they found out that we were genuine, authentic English people (I’ve started telling people I’m English because it’s too complicated to explain what Wales is) they were practically hysterical. There were some other American, French and Spanish tourists there, but we were the only English people so we became the star attraction! These students were literally falling over themselves to have a photo with us; one girl invited herself to our wedding (didn’t have the heart to tell her we’re not getting married), another girl wanted us to pose for some 'action’ photos with her where we pretended that we were running and laughing, one guy told us he wanted us to pretend we were his parents for the photo… it was so weird!! After we had finished chatting with some students they would tell their friends that we were ‘real’ English people and before we knew it we had a queue of people waiting to photograph us; it was very strange to be standing upon Borobudur temple and yet feel like we were the main tourist attraction!
After a few hours we it was time to leave Borobudur and head on to our next destination
. We were really sad to leave and wished we could have stayed longer; we both agreed that embarking on two 18 hour bus rides within the space of three days was well worth it, to get to visit Borobudur. Back in the car we had to drive back through the city to get to Prambanan. Along the way we drove through the site of a recent volcano eruption and could not believe the devastation we saw. We were told that the eruption had only happened a month ago and we saw that a whole section of the village had been swept away by debris flowing downriver. The road was barely passable, there were mountains of rubbish and debris everywhere, people were trying to scoop out ash and rubble by hand with little buckets, the whole area was black with soot. It looked like a warzone. We saw houses and buildings whose walls had been blown out, all that remained were the supporting struts and from floor to ceiling the whole house would be full of rubble. It was incredibly sad to think that these mud-filled buildings used to be people’s homes. People were using their bare hands to dig and work the land and we just stared out of the window, feeling helpless and insignificant, our mouths hanging open in shock, as we slowly drove past. We really have no words to describe how it felt to see something like this with our own eyes.
Next we arrived at the Prambanan temple complex. We knew nothing about Prambanan other than the fact that it is a very large Hindu complex, so we had no expectations of what it would look like
. We pulled up, went inside and were immediately meet by the glory of Prambanan. Having no prior knowledge of it certainly did not detract from our awe of the temple. It was wonderful and we could not believe that we were lucky enough to see two such beautiful monuments in one day. We spent hours wandering around the grounds and were even lucky enough to enter some of the inner chambers of the smaller temples to see the statues inside. Being able to enter the chambers was a really awe-inspiring experience; they smelt really musky, were dark and mysterious, you had no idea of how high the ceiling went and, in the center, would be a tall shadowy statue of the temple’s god. It felt really special for us to be visiting a Hindu temple because, from our time in Bali, we have learnt a little about the Hindu religion and we felt able to understand and interpret the Prambanan temples a lot better because of our knowledge.
After we had finished at Prambanan we headed back to the hotel and caught up on some sleep. Today had been a day of different emotions; we had felt such elation at visiting Borobudur, then we had been overcome with sadness as we drove through the volcano site and during our time at Prambanan we had felt such awe. If nothing else, then today has definitely given us food for thought and an even greater appreciation for the wonderful lives that we lead and the incredible opportunity that we have to travel.
So today was the big day, the whole reason for us coming all the way to Java. Today we get to visit Borobudur temple. Borobudur is the world's largest single Buddhist monument and we were so excited to finally get there. We ended up going on a tour organised through our hotel which also took us to a huge complex of Hindu temples called Prambanan. Considering that Borobudur is Java’s most popular tourist attraction we knew we would have to get there early, it can get really busy by 7am, so we got collected by our car at 4:45am and arrived at Borobudur at 6am in time for the gates opening. We were also traveling with a really sweet Indonesian couple who, although they hardly said two words to us, took loads of photos of us as though we were life-long friends! After our early morning drive out of the city we arrived at the entry to Borobudur and started our walk up to the temple. Even though we had seen lots of photos of it, we really had no idea of what to expect and as we walked around the corner we were like two excited kids at Disneyland