Borobudur, Yogyakarta

I’d always wanted to go to Borobudur. It could be true, I said so myself.

The real truth is, I hadn’t thought of visiting Borobudur at all. Then one fine day as I was flipping through magazines, I came across a travel piece on Yogyakarta. It mentioned that Borobudur was in real danger of being wrecked by volcano ash, and one should make the trip sooner than later.

Something clicked in my mind and we booked the trip. Or something like that; it’s been two years, one’s memories may be muddled.

Borobudur, Yogyakarta -0520 view at the temple
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We dropped some money to stay at the Manohara Hotel, the only lodging right next to the Borobudur temple. As hotel guests, we get discounted rates (now it’s Rp250K, less than RM80 each) to join the sunrise tour. Well, more like a ‘come along’ rather than tour. Once you’re gathered at 4.30am and received a sarong to wear, you’re silently led to the temple where you walk up the stairs and are left to your own devices.

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - 0533 view before sunrise
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It seems like a hefty price to pay, especially if you’re not sure if the sunrise would be clear or not. There are some who found out how to enjoy the same view without paying the sunrise package price. Feel free to google for those resources.

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - 0537 stupa in the morning
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Borobudur, Yogyakarta - 0545 before sunrise
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Personally I felt the extra price was worth it, for sanity of not having to rush around like a mad person. The sun generally rises around 5.30am, and the temple is open to public at 6am. I’d say you get the temple to yourself for about 40 minutes. When you see the morning crowd come rushing in, you’d appreciate the brief moments of solitude to enjoy the temple.

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - 0602 quiet temple
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You could see by now that it was a cloudy morning when we were there. No visible view of the sun rising. Some people were visibly disappointed, but whaddya know, nature.

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - 0604 cloudy morning
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I thought it was AMAZING, the cool air accompanied by small gusts of wind, and us standing on this ancient hand-me-down overlooking the morning fog cottoning the feet of mountains.

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - 0617 still before crowd
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My uncle who visited in 1973 probably thought so too, hah!

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - December 1973 stupas
December 1973

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - overlooks Mount Merapi range

I was on a mega project to scan old family photos when I came across these. My uncle worked in Indonesia for a few years, that was probably when he went exploring the country. Cool, eh?

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - December 1973 near main stupa

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - Suanie and Joyce near main stupa

You would have figured out by now that this post is not an authority on Borobudur, the 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist temple. There are other great on-line resources for that.

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - temple grounds

I knew that each wall relief told a tale, some I could recognise such as Gautama Buddha’s life story. Others, not so much.

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - wall carvings

I saw this image in the photo below… uhm, well I *did* take the photo. But I didn’t know it was famous until I got back, and learned it was the image of a Borobudur ship.

There are books that tell you stories of each wall relief. The mega price they cost and my interest in the subject do not match.

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - carving Borobudur ship

Stairs are bad for the knees, thankfully they installed steel railings. It took away the feel of authenticity, but safety first!

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - stairs

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - Suanie and Joyce at base

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - December 1973 base

The morning crowd, then it starts to get busy. I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much if I were surrounded by so many other people #introvertproblems

Borobudur, Yogyakarta - public entrance

It was a lovely visit, though I did not get the ‘feeling’ as I did at Candi Sewu. But it was not my intention to go to Yogyakarta for a spiritual awakening, so that was okay.

Follow the entire Yogyakarta trip here: Yogyakarta 2014

the great penang getaway: august ’08: day two: being tourists

I don’t remember why but we ended up at Khoo Kongsi in Cannon Square. The RM 5 entrance fee includes a couple of postcards of the famous clanhouse. I suppose you can read up its Wikipedia entry or go to the official website for more information.

Penang Aug 08 - 26 Khoo Kongsi
Pinky and HPC in front of the main Khoo Kongsi structure

It was interesting and quite pretty lah; the detailed carvings and ancient paintings all over. But being Chinese, I suppose I’m unable to appreciate it *that* much, having been exposed to these type of… uhm, cultural-ish stuff since young. The only thing that fascinated me was the structure of the clanhouse; the main temple in the middle surrounded by houses and courtyards. Then my mind began to create mental images of the people who used to live there, their daily lives etc. I suppose they are still restoring the houses closest to the main temple. Maybe they should put up mini museums in the currently-deserted houses… I don’t know, to make the place more lively and worth visiting?

Penang Aug 08 - 28 Khoo Kongsi
Pinky and I say, welcome to our humble abode πŸ˜›

Don’t get me wrong; I suppose it’s fine as it is. But it could be more! Imagine one house showcasing ancient Chinese attire, one house showcasing this and that Chinese handicraft from the past, one house showcasing paintings from past and current painters, one house filled with books and what-not on Chinese history and culture… There are so many houses there! Heh. I’m sure they have their own problems, so moving on…

Penang Aug 08 - 31 Kek Lok Si temple
Random photo of Kek Lok Si temple

Next up: the famous Kek Lok Si temple. Because Pinky and I are so fit and healthy, we decided that we did not require the exercise where we’d have to walk uphill past souvenir shops etc to get to the temple. So HPC drove us to the very top instead πŸ˜›

Before heading to Kek Lok Si, we stopped by Bukit Bendera / Penang Hill to see if we could take the tram up the hill. Turns out, the tram service is not available till next year! Just our luck eh πŸ˜‰

Penang Aug 08 - 33 Kek Lok Si temple
Look ma, I’m about to jump!

It was hot, but the breeze at the top of the temple was really nice. Uhm… what else? It’s a Buddhist temple lah. You’ve seen one or two, you’ve seen them all πŸ˜›

The famous Air Itam assam laksa is just at the foot of the hill, so we had post-lunch pre-dinner there. Again, I found out that I was not the bottomless pit as I thought I was. So when you mencapai kepuasan tahap maksima, there’s no way you can enjoy anything after that.

I’ve heard of Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion many times, but I’d never been there until this trip. KY and Rachel, both Penangites don’t even know what or where it is, heh. When we reached the place (which is along Leith Street), we were told that the afternoon tour (which costs RM 12 per person) would only begin at 3 p.m. Since that was only about 45 minutes away, we decided to hang around and wait.

Penang Aug 08 - 36 Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
Pretending to be old skool

An older lady appeared. She turned out to be the tour guide. She seemed nice, though she was very particular about us (around 15 people including a few kids) sticking together as a group, not touching anything, not wandering anywhere without permission because it’s a private property (it came off as if we should be really grateful to be able to view this place, never mind that we paid RM 12 each), else she’d make a face and tsk with displeasure. Sometimes even muttering not so nice things about the offenders.

She spent a good part of the one hour tour talking about Cheong Fatt Tze’s history, basically his rags to riches to rags story. A small group of tourists, most likely from China flaunted flouted almost all of the tour guide’s rules and after being incessantly clucked by her, left the tour. Don’t think they understand English at all, or could even hear the tour guide from where they were standing.

Then a skinny, middle-age man with a backpack joined the tour. Rather creepy, because he was overly friendly and touchy-feely with the kids in the group. Close to the end of the tour, one of the parents told him off sternly, “Don’t touch other people’s kids.” I didn’t catch that because I was somewhere up front but Pinky and HPC heard it loud and clear.

Penang Aug 08 - 39 Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
HPC, Pinky and Suanie at the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion

We were not allowed to take photos inside the mansion. That privilege is reserved for paying guests — the mansion doubles as a boutique hotel, where you could spend a night with some antiques in your room (comes with air-conditioning and a modern bathroom) for just RM 320 a night. I don’t think I’d ever do that — staying overnight in really old buildings creep me out.

On the day we were there, the mansion was being used as a movie set. There was no shooting that day but we saw plenty of props laying around. Can’t wait to see Patrick in ‘The Funeral Parlour’ πŸ˜‰

*Click here to view the entire Flickr set for ‘Penang, August 2008’, which includes photos not published here.