Before 5 am, in the dark, we set off for our sunrise tour of Borobudur Temple. They handed us flashlights when we got there, as it was still very dark with only a hint of light in the sky. I felt a bit like a modern Indiana Jones!

It was eerie and, yes, mystical. Especially as the sun began to rise and the thick mist around us became noticeable.

What's in the stupa?
What’s in the stupa?

Sunrise over a stupa at Borobudur, with Mount Merapi in the backgroundWhile it is not obvious to see, Borobudur is a stepped pyramid. Be aware that there are quite a few steps to climb, although you don’t have to be super fit. The bell shaped structures all over the monument are called stupas and once each one had a buddha statue inside – 72 of them. Many statues were beheaded when the temple was discovered and the heads taken as souvenirs. People were assholes even back then.

The sun rose and Mount Merapi, an active volcano, could be seen smoking in the background – we took some amazing photos, but they still don’t do it justice.

A small warning: as a foreigner you may find yourself being more of an attraction than the temple itself.

Local school children and visitors alike swarmed us and wanted to take photos and selfies with us. Most of them could not speak English. In the end we could not oblige them all and had to leave, by shaking our heads and saying “tidak” – the Indonesian word for no. Whilst they were not rude, I was super glad for getting up so early to at least have had some time there before the crowds arrived.

As we were wondering around between ancient stone structures and carvings, I felt very small. I have always been intrigued and awed by ancient civilisations and the miracles that they left behind for us with their structures.

Stupas in the mist - Borobudur Temple, Indonesia
Stupas in the mist – Borobudur Temple, Indonesia

Here are some facts about Borobudur that you may not know:

  • It is the world’s largest Buddhist temple.
  • It was built in the 9th century, which makes it over 1 100 years old.
  • Borobudur is Indonesia’s single most visited tourist attraction.
  • The monument is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Located in Central Java, an island in Indonesia, Borobudur Temple is roughly about halfway between Jakarta and Bali.

We stayed at a spectacular luxury resort hotel called Plataran Borobudur, only 3 km from the Borobudur Temple. The hotel organised the driver and guide for us – they use locals from the area and it is a great community incentive. They guide took us not only to the temple, but also to taste some local Kopi Luwak, or civet coffee. Kopi Luwak is one of the most expensive coffees in the world, over US$700 per kilogram. Here’s the thing though: it is made from coffee beans collected from the excrement of civets! As I am not a huge coffee drinker to begin with, don’t ask what I thought of it… OK, I didn’t like it!

Our guide Hassan showing me how Kopi Luwak - civet coffee is processed.
Our local guide, Hasan, is showing me how Kopi Luwak, or civet coffee, is processed.

Plateran is a true Indonesian hospitality group. At the Borobudur resort, we had our own villa with a private pool. The resort has beautiful gardens with little lookout points here and there and a lot of detail everywhere. There are also two restaurants, The Patio Colonial Restaurant and The Kastil. I enjoyed a relaxing foot massage at the lovely Padma Spa, meaning ‘sacred lotus’ in Sanskrit. Our time there was too short and I won’t forget it for a moment, it was amazing.

Plateran Borobudur Resort and Spa

Plateran Borobudur Resort and Spa lookout point

This whole trip was truly an unforgettable, put-it-on-your-bucket-list experience! I cannot recommend it enough.

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