Saturday, December 10, 2011

Rising with the Sun on Top of Borobudur

Borobudur at 4 am
The moonlit silhouette
I was rummaging through my blog archives and found this unfinished and unpublished.  It has been a year since I have been to Yogyakarta but I will post my experience in going up one of my life-long dreams, to climb the ruins of Borobudur at sunrise. After all I have already finished writing it and was one of the most memorable moments for me. But this was written a year ago so the time frame of my blog is quite off.  But you will get the drift.

At around 5 am with the purple hues
The lonely Buddha
The individual stupa domes
When I was barely studying architecture, I came across an article in National Geographic chronicling an author's ascent into the Indonesian Buddhist ruins of Borobudur.  He described it as long and spiritual, but in my mind he painted it as enlightening.   He narrated that he went up the mountainous behemoth at 3 am armed with a light torch and slowly ascended level by level to the top of the ruins. When he reached the stupa cap, it was just in time to experience the beautiful golden sunrise.  His accounts have embedded in me a very long dream of embarking myself on this adventure.  It was not realized until a few days ago, when I was presented a chance to go to Bali and make this side trip by bus to Eastern Java and eventually Yogyakarta.

At 5:30, Borobudur turns golden yellow and bright orange
The silhouette clearing up
The stupas in the light
My companions and I had a drawback. The bus ride was supposed to take 16 hours from Bali to Yogya, but was prolonged another 18 hours because the ferry our bus mounted crossing Bali to Java literally hit rock-bottom.  We were stranded for more than 12 hours before we were rescued one by one by rubber boat and tranferred to another ferry.  Indeed this trip was already proving to be an adventure.

Well lit domeless Buddha
Crisp and clear forms
I felt like a refugee, especially when the rescuing ferry opened its doors at the nearest port.  All of us hungry 'survivors' were showered with camera flashes as we walked towards the terminal building.  We were herded into one corner of the building and handed out water and packed lunches...relief goods! It was another 3 hours before our ferry and our bus was eventually towed onto shore, and we resumed the last 14 hours of our bus-trip. It was already 2 am when we arrived at Yogyakarta. We barely had sleep but decided to find a taxi and make a very short stop in a hotel to deposit our luggage.  An hour or so more later we were already on our way to make my dream come true.
The avenue of small and big stupas
The detail of the walls
A step down the stupa level
Niches and sculpture panels
The rich detail of the lower levels
At 5 am it was still very dark but we found ourselves frisking our way, holding a flashlight at one hand.  The light it made was limited and we almost blindly walked through dew-wet grass and eventually rock paved ground.  Under the faint moonlight I could already discern the silhouette of Borobudur's stupas.  I was excited, even more when we were led into the first of flight of stairs to climb up the Buddhist monument. They were quite large steps to tackle. But these steps, which stood through centuries old tests of time, stand as the only hinder to my goal.  I had enough time to hurdle them, as slowly and steadily I ascended every inch of each riser. A few more moments I would be on top, I thought. The last steps  were sweet as the image of the individual Buddha stupas became more evident. A few strides more I was already immersed in the midst of the bell-like stupas and we were not alone.  There were other fanatics with us coming from other parts of the world, also eagerly awaiting the golden hour. We found our niche in which to wait for the impending sunrise.

More Buddhas

The rich carved rocks are adorned with many figures
We watched the horizon as the sun slowly rose with first a very faint light.  It turned the dark sky into first the blues and the purples, gradually turning red orange and golden yellow.  We were patiently awaiting the color transformation as all of us spectators were immersed among the encased buddhas. One by one the bell-like structures were sprayed with diffused but pure hues until all of them were completely revealed in daylight. The air was filled with the oohs and ahs of all the people there. It was indeed a dream come true!   

The main steps to the upper levels
The only regret I had was finding that Borobudur was in the middle of a park cum golf course.  From what I remember reading, it was then in the midst of a wild wooded area. Probably was true but I am 20 years late in following through with the dream. Like in Manila, the once wooded area is now eaten by developments, exposing the majestic ruins to urbanscapes. The forest got tired concealing their hidden treasure.

Borobudur completely revealed 

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