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Borobudur

sunny

After comatosing myself in desperation, I woke to find my head still thumping but could at least discern this time that it was down to the effects of one Bintang too many the night before. My protracted new default brekkie of choice in veggie omelette, fruit salad and excellent slimy Javanese coffee allowed me contemplation that I was surely finally on the mend, even if my pill popping and newly sprouted tongue ulcers revealed that my gut flora and immune system had been taking a hammering of late. Visa pressure ensured that today was to be my last day in Yogya whether I liked it or not, and happily I found renewed energy to finally redeem my protracted sojourn with a crowning glory. I found a local bus out to the terminal, then sidestepped the touts in finding the sole bus filling up for a day trip out. With a local having previously advised a price of 6,000 and the guidebook suggesting 10, I prudently enquired to a fellow attendee to be told 7. Thats what I proferred to the crew boy then, not in the slightest bit surprised when 10 was demanded. I feigned incredulity, and careful of divulging the still limited scope of my Bahasa, managed to jiggle a few scant words together into the delightfully succinct rebuke "Tidak dari saya, teman" (Not fae me pal). I daringly underlined the old hand illusion with a desultory "Setiap hari" (Every day......). My ruse seemed to convince, since the guy next to me subsequently asked if I spoke Javanese and not Bahasa, "Belum" (Not yet) was the dignified response.

The 2 hour trip through mainly conurbated central Java soon presented a proud impressive stupa by the roadside, and I knew it to be only a few Ks from here to my destination. I was aiming for the top tourist attraction in all Indonesia, and so it was predictable in its perpetration of all manner of touts who converged on the bus before it had even halted. Blanking mode got me as far as a habitual restaurant shirk off, from whence in turn I resisted the unsavoury offerings to break free. Becak and Anjong (horse drawn carriage) drivers gave token chase, but curt minimalised Bahasa nipped them in the bud too. Besides the odd "Hello mister" I was then left remarkably unmolested to hoof the 5 minutes to the telltale cavalcade of of eateries and souvenir stalls, where the presence of tourist menus and all manner of tack on a massive scale was at least redeemed by competition keeping the prices sensible. Fuelled up and freshly hydrated, it was a mixture of emotions to be directed from the ticket booths to a dedicated foreigners air-con reception suite where I was the sole partaker, and forewarned by the book it was no surprise to be slapped for a 1000% mark up over the locals. Still only a fiver though, and I was well accustomed of late to the blue 50,000 Rupiah notes depleting as quickly as the local street rats could scurry off. Borobudur would doubtless be a finer investment than Bintang anyway. Surprised at my civilised reception, with only a single respectable professional guide to resist, the lead up to the temple proved to be a commensurately relaxing botanical parkland, and first sight of the thrusting main stupa atop a tall staircase in black stone was only complicated by a handful of souvenir peddlers still discernibly regulated.

It's always difficult to express suitable justice to the realisation of long held dreams, one approaches with an air of expectancy and yet a certain reserve in fear that you might retrieve an overall impression of disappointment. Though the Taj Mahal is superb for example, it had not completely blown me away as hoped, it is the drawback of having seen so much, of being spoiled I guess, that one inevitably enters a downward spiral of ever increasing expectation doomed to dissatisfaction. I was not immediately floored by Borobudur, but its realisation left me with a quiet contentment provoked by its beautiful setting and undeniable majesty in equal measure. Though apparently the only considerant, I resolved to circuit it clockwise in the prescribed Buddhist manner, resisting the initial temptation of diving in amongst its wonders to make a circle around its base instead. Its tremendous symmetry was a redemption in still affording the opportunity of suitably golden illuminated photography despite the suns less than ideal position, and I systematically proceeded with a progressive tour of mounting to a higher tier only when all four sides of the perfect square had been witnessed. The temple was essentialy split into 2 distinct persuasions, with the first few levels being an unmitigated procession of tremendously painstaking individualised relief carvings, depicting variously court scenes of bejewelled maidens, bearded dignitaries, battle scenes and regal indulgences. There were sailing ships and prominent elephant, indeed all manner of beasts such as monkies, deer, horses and squirrels. Above all though the primary consideration of course had been one of devotion. Some depictions were more difficult to interpret and many were sadly chipped or eroded, yet images of all that had been considered important to people who had lived here 1200 years ago were still beautifully presented, and as much as my supremely exercised neck would allow I can honestly say that I paid suitable homage to each and every one of the 1400 or so scenes to either side.

Dragons, Chinese lions and ogre faced adornments again lined the chunky alluring staircases until a threshhold was reached where the square plan assumed a circle, and a very contrasting tour of lotus immitating stupas periodically pierced the sky. These were hollow, a fact only now appreciable despite my previous pictorial encounters and only now did I also realise that they were of 2 different styles, whereby one series of stupas was mottled with a chessboard of square eyelets, the others peppered with losenges. Perhaps the singlemost revelation of the whole experience though was that in spite of thinking I knew more or less what to expect, these all bore a typically squat Buddha statue caged lotus style inside. Regretably most of them were minus their head and I could only surmise that this had been rendered deliberately, systematically, by later occupants but I found a complete one in the end. In further compensation there was even one where the stupa had been reduced to its foundation so that the nigh on pristine Buddha could be appreciated as a work of art still untainted by the propensity of them. The lower echelons of the temple had been crowned by periodic arched recesses sheltering similarly captivating creations.

It was also a snobbery to wish to have the experience uncompromised by other laudible pundits, and yet though photographic hotspots were frustratingly encroached upon, I found the resolve to appreciate that the spectacle had surprised me at times, and that went for the crowds too. Though I might have imagined Borobudur to have been mightier than it 118 metres square, I was also pleasantly surprised in that my enforced patronage on a school holiday weekend still only rendered an acceptably sparse occupation which at no times could be considered the anticipated throng. My "mad dogs and Scotsmen" midday frequention dictated by my enduring fragility had still been acceptable as a means of avoiding the purported dawn and dusk cherrypickers, and yet as my interest lingered into the sunset no busloads of spoilers materialised, I felt priviliged.

It was only upon departure in fear of the transport drying up that I realised a bitter contemplation. I had been so wrapped up in the site itself that I had completely forgotten to make contingency for the adjacent archaeological museum. I forgave myself in the knowledge that it would surely only boast a doubtless excellent collection of statuary I had hitherto discovered ad nauseum in my many previous museum forays, and having spied a much smaller but still notable temple mount upon arrival, that momentary peek would have to suffice. Sure enough the bus terminal was dead upon retracing it, but I was directed to a malingering local happywagon on the street and was soon off. It was only going as far as Mundilan, a forgettable staging post, and ignorant as to where that lay I was inadvertantly set up for another predictable rip off. Though the full gamut of tyre slashing and ball booting fantasies passed my mind, the cheekily ostensibly friendly crew guy spared me a jail sentence by pointing out the less than obvious connection, I let him off out of misplaced manners. The ensuing bus proved cheaper than expected though, and I allayed my frustration with the knowledge that in both directions I had still forked out less than the guidebooks's prophecy. That gleaned the insight that the book had only been written by another similarly vulnerable itinerant, symptomatic of the fact that in the daily fight for economic justice, some you would win and some you would lose.

Tired now in the darkness, the final hurdle proved unexpectedly the greatest frustration as time inexorably passed by without the materialisation of the supposedly more dependable city buses. Stubborn payback mode deemed the interminable Becak, Ojek and taxi chancers a non-starter, so hardcore routine was re-adopted in the 4K trek back home. I was lucky in that my chance retention of a city map made the passage obvious, but another hitherto unencountered obstacle impeded the way. A grisly faced admirer who I had reassuringly assumed to be waiting for the same bus was now revealed as a warped hopeful determined to follow me for unspecified reasons. Sex was improbable since I could scarcely bear to look at her, but Psycho Sue stuck to me like a sweaty T-shirt in the Javanese heat. Failing with a liberally applied Scots rebuff and then finely honed blanking, postman mode proved a more uncompromising tactic in hoofing it until incredibly she passed me ceremoniously aboard an Anjong horse buggy in order to position herself for another limpet like attempt. Rising to the challenge in perverse humour, I surprised myself in how fast I could still sprint, and her flip flops sealed the rest. Bizarre.

It was as quick as I could Mandi myself before grabbing a chicken dinner and Bintang at my favoured haunt the Cafeteria (unimaginative name), an unusual restaurant cum internet cafe combination succeeding where most would fail. The urgency had been provoked by the timely realisation that the third place playoff match in the Asia Cup was looming, a not inconsequential game since the winners would gain automatic entry to the tournament next time around, and I thankfully was rewarded with a good game of 10 man South Korea finally overcoming more accomplished Japan 6-5 on penalties. Inexplicably I then promptly drank myself silly until the Losmen reopened at 6.30am, spurred on by a young local guy spouting revelations into Indonesia's new found post-Suharto optimism and historical quirks I would never have guessed, also an American guy too cool to be American and a young French female arms dealer. Well what the hell do you expect?!

Posted by andyhay 00:00 Archived in Indonesia

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