We set off as arranged at 7.30am, our driver asked if we would like to go the scenic route and I said we would. It wasn’t long before we had left behind the traffic jams and were amongst rice fields and banana trees. Suddenly fields of small leafy plants filled the fields beside us, the driver told us they were tobacco plants. For the millions of lives they have claimed they look quite indistinct. The drive took about an hour or so and took us through mountains and plantations of tobacco, rice, peanuts, chilli and bananas. There were loads of others but that’s all I noticed.
Despite the fact children under 10 do not pay entry to Borobudur I was refused entry unless I paid. I kicked up a major fuss and got away with paying for one child only; An absolute and blatant scam by the official ticket office. Adult tickets were $15USD and Children $8USD – I know how stupid it seems having to pay for entry in Indonesia in USD but it exists for a reason. You see Indonesians pay in IDR, their local currency and pay about 11,000. Foreigners have to pay much more but in USD, the reason is simple; For those who do not have USD, myself included you can pay in IDR, at their rate. Of course the rate you get is poor and so ultimately you pay much more than even the scandalous amount of $15/$8USD.
Once inside Borobudur you walk for about 10 minutes and you are there. Essentially it is a huge square that as it gets higher goes to a pyramid. It is decorated intricately and is quite beautiful. It was in far better condition than I had imagined and I’m not convinced it has remained in its current state since the 9th century. Particularly since there is a Volcano just around the corner and that Java gets chinned by earthquakes every other month. I recon it has been completely rebuilt as opposed to being restored, and if it has then it’s a phoney.
On the grand scale of things it is largely unimpressive. Probably every temple we saw up at Angkor wiped Borobudur off the scale, and so when Lonely Planet mentions the Temples of Angkor and Borobudur as being SE Asia’s best monuments I am convinced whoever wrote it hadn’t been to Angkor or were on the payroll of Borobudur inc. They are worlds apart and the reality is Borobudur is impressive on its own accord, but it isn’t breathtaking and to mention in it in the same sentence as the Temples of Angkor really is an insult.
There isn’t a great to do other than walk up, and back down it. Nothing really jumped out and amazed us, and other than run around and climb on the ledges the kids had nowhere near the same enthusiasm they have shown at other religious monuments/places. That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy it because we did. But it was a letdown and a rip off to boot. Certainly not worth anywhere near the entry charge.
When we got back in the car I had a moan at the driver telling how we were a bit let down, he smiled as though he knew what I meant. I asked if Prambanan was the same and he said it pretty much was and probably even less so. He suggested that rather than pay in (which again is $15USD etc) that he drive around the outside of the complex and I could see from the road. I wasn’t convinced but said we should go and look just how much we could see.
About 90 minutes later and again having travelled through the stunning countryside we arrived at a green fence, right behind were some Temples that sadly were heavily in ruins. The driver told me this was Prambanan. We were about 15m away from the monuments with a clear view. Pretty much the whole of Pramban was seen this way and in many ways it looked more impressive than Borobudur. It obviously took a huge hit from the earthquake but many of the Temples looked well intact. They were again nothing on the Temples of Angkor but looked beautiful and quite sombre as around the temples lay hundreds of bricks all smashed to the ground; A reminder that nature will always prevail, it might have taken a thousand years, but ultimately Prambanan had been all but beaten by nature. Still, it looked amazing.
We headed back to Yogyakarta and the train station and within an hour or so we were heading out toward the central mountains of Java on the final leg of our Indonesian Journey to Jakarta