The Borobudur and Bromo Debacle, Java

The first stop on the jaunt around Java was it’s most famous temple,  Borobudur.   It’s the largest Buddhist temple in the world, and has been on my “to see” list for ages.  This monument has survived centuries of  abandonment under volcanic ash and jungle growth, and even a series of terrorist attacks.   Whether it can survive it’s new popularity as the biggest tourist destination in Indonesia  remains to be seen.

A break in the rain allows for some time to chill on the stupas.

From Yogjakarta there were several tour operators and touts that offered tours to see the temple.  But since I had heaps of time and a basic understanding of the local lingo, I thought I would give the tour bus a miss and penny-pinch my way to the temple on my own.  Besides,  the lady at the train station information booth assured me it wouldn’t take long.

Here is what the tour operators were offering:

Air con bus direct from your hotel to the Borobudur temple.

(4 hours) 60,000 IDR

Here is what I managed on my own:

No fan OR air con local transport.  Ocassional cigarette smoke and monsoon puddles drenching the passengers through the open door, several arguments with lying motorbike drivers and  NINE bus transits.

(7 Hours) 52,000 IDR

Yes, my total savings after all of my effort about 90 cents.

And it pissed down rain from the moment I arrived.

After volcanic ash, encroaching jungle, and terrorist's bombs... a little rain is like water off a Buddha's back for the timeless temple.

Screw it.  I’ll suck it up and take the tour to my next destination: Mt.  Bromo.  10 hours in a minivan, a rather short sleep, and up at 4 AM to catch a tranquil sunrise from Pananjakan…  me and about a hundred French tourists!  Despite the crowds it was well worth it to climb to the top of a still smoking crater and take in the awesome majesty of an ancient caldera that had 4 new calderas sprouting out of it’s middle!  Paper mache and baking soda brought to life in an awe-inspiring scale.  A Blue Ribbon winner at the science fair, hands down.

Java's most famous sunrise

Back on the bus for another epic 8 hour journey to the volcanic crater of  Mt. Ijen.  By the time we reached the little coffee plantation village, I decided it was time to give my back a bus-free day and let the tour bus drive on without me.  I  hiked into the small jungle villages that most certainly only saw tourists fly by on buses, and was rewarded with the best day of my Java trip by far!  This is the Indonesia that I had wanted to come back to:  kind conversations with simple people eager to invite you to grab a palm leaf, have a seat, and share in a humble  meal of plain rice. By the way, if  you ever want to get a taste of stardom, walk through a remote Indonesian jungle, and watch your adoring fans pour out of the fields, mosques, and schools just to get a glimpse of the fair-haired foreigner and share a happy “hello mister!”

The vocanic ash provides rich soil for planting.

Java coffee!

School's out... to come see the stranger in town!


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