Backpacking in Indonesia: Touring Borobudur, The Biggest Buddha Temple In The World
Borobudur sits on the island of Java in Indonesia. It is quite simply the largest Buddha Temple in the world. So it just had to be seen…and it was of course included in my top 7 sights in and around Yogyakarta.
We were on a full day tour of the area around central Java and after seeing an active volcano, Gunung Merapi from afar we arrived in the heat of a car park in the touristy spot at Borobudur. Our driver for the day was Mr. Kiran and our guide was Purnomo. They were both locals. I was travelling with Rodrigo my Brazilian friend from Sao Paolo who I met in Antarctica.
The walk up to the entrance to Borobudur is full of market stalls and sellers. They shout “hello mister” at you which gets more and more boring and annoying the longer you stay in Java.
Our entire tour included the entrances tickets, sarong and welcome drink.
A free water. I kept the label as it had a picture of Borobudur on the actual water bottle label. We had our own water too, but in this sort of heat an extra one is always good.
The entrance ticket for Borobudur. Once inside we were introduced to Darius, he would be our tour guide for the visit.
You have to wear a brown and yellow sarong when you go there. Rodrigo and I with ours.
Northern Ireland flag flown on the walk up to Borobudur.
It’s very touristy but mostly they are Asian. This was the view on the walk up to Borobudur.
It’s a World Heritage Site.
Darius our tour guide was very in depth and it was hard to take everything in. In this report, I’ll try to remember most of what he told us!
More signs on the walk up to the entrance.
The view looking back from the steps up to Borobudur. Borobudur itself is situated 42 kilometres north west of the city of Yogyakarta.
The view out to the volcano.
Relaxing at the top of the steps before heading into Borobudur.
It is impressive. It’s a brick, rock and concrete structure which is layered and it has 432 Buddha statues on it.
Odd looking statue on the walk up to the entrance. I couldn’t decide if it was a dragon or an elephant or some sort of odd creature.
On arrival next to the stone work itself, we can see the striking detail of the images on the structure.
The English translations are often crap, and these engraved images have been translated as “reliefs”!
So then these are the “reliefs”. There are 1,500 odd of these around the walls and on every layer. They tell a story.
The reliefs are animal shapes, often elephants, dragons and monkeys.
These reliefs are all about Buddhist beliefs and teachings.
By the reliefs and in total awe of the detailed sculpture work, but in all honesty not sure of the actual story line going on, despite Darius being a good guide.
Now I wish I could remember all the stories behind these, but some heads were missing. Apparently England has a lot of stolen items from famous places round the world and this head is in the British Museum in London. I’ve been to that museum and don’t remember hearing about it but hey it’s sad to see the head’s missing. As it’s a protected World Heritage Site that’s probably why they have left it, not wanting to replace these heads.
While on the tour round Borobudur, we visit every part of the structure, working our way up to the top. There are terraces on the bases, and six layered bases with a few different staircases of steps up to the next layer.
Some close ups of the reliefs. Considering the fact that this temple dates back to the 9th Century, they have maintained very well. Not much erosion at all!
An arch over one of the stairways up.
The terrace on each layer – I think they get narrower the higher you go.
Borobudur is set in a quiet countryside setting. I guess people are unsure as to the reason for its location, but presumably because the land here is flat and away from volcanic activity. The views all around were stunning so those who don’t even like temples would love it too.
A few shots of Rodrigo and I with central Java countryside in the background from the top of Borobudur.
On the steps on the way up.
Arty hillside shot incorporating some of the walls of Borobudur.
A small village is visible nearby.
Yes, life as a traveller was good at Borobudur.
One of the 432 Buddhas admires the view!
Mountains and forests in the central Java countryside.
Some parts have collapsed and been reinforced with long nails and pins, and new bricks.
These bell shapes are called Stupas and are a feature of Buddhist temples. They often house an actual Buddha statue inside.
Rodrigo and I by the Stupas.
These Stupas are all latticed so you can see into them. There are 72 of them in total. It’s easy to see why this is the world’s largest Buddhist temple. Though oddly, for me at least, this Buddhist temple lacked colour. Most of the others I had been in were shrouded with many colours, yet black, brown and grey bricks seem to be the only colours on display here. In fact, take the countryside and tourists out of these photos and the entire photos could almost be black and white.
This camera seems to have a large blob in the middle, made worse by the sun. Doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of the trip!
It would have been crazy not to fly the Northern Ireland flag from the upper deck of the world’s biggest Buddha temple. It’s not as if you go back there.
Enclosed shaped Stupas near the top.
Very top of the structure.
One of the Buddhas inside one of the Stupas.
You have to admire the work of art that Borobudur is.
Another one of Rodrigo and I.
View from the top. It was impressive.
View from the top looking back to the entrance we walked up to get there.
Top of Borobudur.
At the top.
With Darius the tour guide.
A lot of Asian girls wanted their photo with us. Indeed Rodrigo and I were two of very few Caucasians about. I hate using the word Caucasians but it’s the only way I can describe it properly here.
Heading back down.
Goodbye Borobudur. It was a short and sweet visit. These places are amazing, but they are always just a quick tour and over in a flash.
Hand your sarong back in.
The sarongs. As you can see they have the Stupas of Borobudur on them. On the way out of the complex, there was a small museum with information in it (included in the price) and some market stalls. I bought a few gifts and it was goodbye to Borobudur!
What – Borobudur: The Biggest Buddha Temple In The World
Where – 42 kilometres north west of Yogyakarta, Central Java, INDONESIA
Price To Get In – $ 20 US Dollars (but we went on the same day we did Prambanan and so it was $30 US Dollars for both – plus we were part of a tour so got other things including airport pick up, full transport everywhere and lunch all included for $75 US Dollars)
Some Information On Borobudur –
Borobudur Temple was built by Sailendra dynasty between 750 and 842 AD. In terms of world wide religious structures, it was very early, it would be 300 years before Cambodia’s Angkor Wat was constructed, 400 years before work began on the great European cathedrals.At this time the Saliendra dynasty built a great number of monuments, both Hindu and Buddhist, in the region there are even temples where the two religions combine, alternating symbolism.
Abandoned at around 1100AD when the power shifted from central to western Java, ash from the local volcanoes covered Borobudur and the vivacious jungle then grew up around and over it.
Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles is credited with the re-discovery of Borobudur in 1814. Raffles, who is known as a great admirer of history and culture, alerted the rest of the world to its existence and commissioned a clear up of the site, removing the trees, undergrowth and earth that had built up.
Key Song –
OASIS – I HOPE I THINK I KNOW (“as we beg and steal and BOROBUDUR”):
My Videos from touring the Biggest Buddha Temple In The World-
ABOUT TO START THE TOUR WITH A “SAROONG” (LOCAL WAY TO SAY SARONG):