Before heading to lunch, we stopped by a shop (Hadi Sakurno) selling puppets and music instruments as I had asked Hanya where to buy a gamelan. Indeed there was a saron there but knowing that it would cost millions of rupiah, I turned my attention to the instruments that I could afford. For Rp 700 I got a siter (a box-like zither with strings on both sides) a pair of suling, a kendhang ketipung (small drum) and a wayang kletik kecil (small flat wooden puppet). They also had some good quality wayang kulit as well as cheap ones that were not very nice and some wayang golek.
Next was at Tirto Tono for some batik. Looking at some batik cap (where designs are stamped) I asked to see some batik tulis (where designs are hand-drawn) telling Rhoda, Jeannette, and Julie that it was the better kind of batik. The saleslady brought us to a cabinet, pulled out a beautifully dyed cloth. “Berapa harganya?“ “Dua jutah,” she answered. 2 million. We oohed and aahed then gingerly handed the cloth back to her with a smile then skeddadled back to the room with shelves of batik cap. I chose a brown sarong (Rp 40,000) and also bought one of those head covers (Rp 25,000) that I see a lot of gamelan players wearing.
We had lunch at Pecel Solo which came recommended from Lonely Planet. Hany knew it so it was an easy drive to the restaurant from Taman Sari.
We invited Hanya to join us but he said he would just lunch at Borobodur. The restaurant is a lovely spacious wooden structure decorated with Javanese crafts. On one corner is a small shop selling some puppets, wood carvings, batik, and other crafts, all of high quality.
After all the cold food we had been eating in the warung it was pure luxury to dine in a proper restaurant serving hot and newly cooked food. Though the speed in which our orders arrived, particularly the additional order of the delicious beef stew, made us wonder if the food was really freshly-made or simply heated. The food came in woven plates topped with banana leaves. It was all enak and tidak pedas just as we had requested.
The sun shone hot as we made our way to Borobodur. There weren’t many people around as it was just mid-day and searingly hot. We also got a guide to show us around the temple. At the information center, we loaded up on free coffee and mineral water. Being a holy site, we were all required to wear a sarong.
Borobodur together with Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and Myanmar’s Bagan is one of the three great temple complexes in Asia. It is the spiritual heart of the Javanese.
Unlike Prambanan, Borobodur was all terrace and there was no chamber that you go into. A large sign said that to properly visit Borobodur, you had to enter through the East Gate and go in a clockwise direction 3 times in each of the 3 levels until you reach the top—a task that our guide said pilgrims annually make and which would take about 2-3 hours.
We entered the East Gate and our guide led us to the terraces explaining what each level meant and that the higher we go up the higher we reach the state of nirvana. Bas reliefs on the terrace walls served as pictographs of moral lessons and teachings. Fortunately, the steps from one level to another weren’t very steep. The top where all the stupa are and which is so iconic of Borobodur was still closed due to Merapi’s 2010 eruption. Cleaning and restoration work was still being done. Nevertheless, it was still a sigh to behold from the final level. One stupa had its top opened up to reveal a seated Buddha inside.
The guide explained that the stupa resembled that of an upturned lotus flower, a symbol of purity. The lotus plant touches the ground but the flower emerges from the plant to rear up towards the sky thereby representing the human’s spirit’s quest to lift itself out of earthly desires and reach for purity. Hearing the guides both in Prambanan and Borobodur, I wished I had hired a guide when I explored Angkor Wat. It was so much better than reading a book as you went along.
Borobodur wasn’t as massive as I imagined it to be but it’s pyramidal shape, representing Mt. Meru, was beautifully set amidst rolling hills. It’s no wonder that there is a spiritual energy in the place that attracts worshipers. Walking along the stone paths of its narrow corridors, our guide pointed out what an engineering marvel it was. A part of the floor had been opened-up to reveal a water way beneath it so that when it rains, the water simply seeps in between the cracks and flows down. The giant gargoyle-like heads also collect the water from the upper floors and spouts it down to the lower levels like a natural irrigation system.
The spiritual energy vanishes as you walk along the earthly path back to the parking area. A line of vendors shoving all sorts of miniature Borobodur and other tourist junk on your face. It was enough to make me say, “Saya tidak tertarik,” (I’m not interested) to which someone answered, “Kamu tertarik ini,” (You are interested in this) showing me a fan.
From the mystical site of Borobodur we headed to something more hellish—the devastation of Mt. Merapi at Kaliurang.