I suppose the reason for traveling to foreign places is to see the sights and try to understand the culture. That usually entails going to all the tourist attractions. Thankfully in Yogya there are relatively few and so we have been able to spend our time here doing very little. An excursion in the morning. Followed by reading poolside with a couple of G&Ts. And we go to bed very early. That’s partly because there’s little to do here and partly because we wake so early. The muezzin call is at 4 in the morning – not 5, which somehow seemed a bit better. Sunrise is sometime after 5 so we’re up around 6 (though obviously awake much earlier). By 8 o’clock we’re ready to go.
The other day we organized a car to take us to Borobudur – the ancient Buddhist stupa – about an hour’s drive from here. We were asked if we wanted to go to see the sunrise (what most people do) but on hearing that it required starting off on our journey at 3.30am we opted for the more civilized departure time of 6am. Did we require a wake-up call? With the muezzins competing over their loudspeakers before dawn? Unlikely. Had we known the roosters would start crowing at 2.30 we probably would have gone for the sunrise spectacular.
As it turned out it was a bleak day with intermittent rain. A blessing really because it kept the tourists at bay and those who did venture out seemed intent on climbing to the top, having their picture taken with a foreign tourist (M and I started to feel like tourist attractions: mister can we take your photo?) and then scramble back down.
Borobudur is interesting: every surface of the lower 6 levels is carved in relief. The upper levels are circular and have giant stupas which are like domes (or like hand held bells) with seated Buddhas inside. The idea is that you walk around each level clockwise and contemplate the carved narratives. A spiritual practice.
But it’s not a patch on Angkor Wat where the power emanating from the ancient places of worship was palpable. And just more beautiful. But all praise to Raffles who was responsible for Borobudur’s restoration. Alas no wonderful hotel in which to sip cocktails here. Actually, there are no cocktails here. Or wine. Bintang anyone?