We got up at 3:30 AM in order to be picked up at 4 to see the sunrise at Borobudur. The sunrise tour was available exclusively through the Manohara Resort Hotel situated next to the site. The tour included a give-away flashlight for each person and tea or coffee with pastries afterwards.
We could have selected a tour that included staying at the Manohara and sleep an hour longer. The other advantage was that the temple was just a short walk away and hotel guests could then go to the Borobudur at any time at no extra admission charge. For anyone thinking of seeing only Borobudur and not stay in the area for more than 2 nights, Manohara would have been an appealing option.
We were not rewarded with a spectacular sunrise as we took the dawn trek up the terraced temple site but we did enjoy the serenity of the morning calm undisturbed by any throng of noisy tourists—which we were to meet on our way down. From the top of Borobudur, we watched the post-dawn fog rolled into the valley providing a veil over the hillside and the light from the sun behind the clouds gradually giving definition to sculptures of sitting Buddha in various poses of meditation. On our descent, we made partial circles of each terrace to enjoy the artistry of sculptured stone panels. On the very bottom terrace, Mr. Herry told us to go clockwise from the east gate to see the beginning-to-end portrayal of Ramayana, the classic Hindu epic of good vs. evil, abduction and rescue, heroic battles and heart breaking suspicion of marital infidelity.
In line with the Borobudur were two other small Buddhist temples that we stopped briefly to see. Be they Hindu or Buddhist, the temples were uniformly gray due to the use of volcanic rocks. The differences in style were subtle and the casual tourist would be tempted to dismiss them in the mold of “seen one, seen them all.”
From Borobudur we drove back to Yogya and headed for the Sultan’s Palace and then the Water Palace where once the Sultan and his many wives cavorted. The Sultan’s palace was in part a museum and in part the living quarters of the current and 10th Sultan and his family (off limits to visitors). We were told that the Sultan’s father (the 9th) joined the struggle for independence from the Dutch early on and at one time served as the vice president of Indonesia when Suharto reigned as president for life. The tenth is the current governor of the province that has Yogya as the capital.
Our guide also took us to a batik making factory and show room and then to a silver shop called Ansor in the southern part of the city. Both were located in upscale neighborhoods.
We got back to our hotel shortly after noon but it already seemed like a long day for us. We walked to a nearby Chinese restaurant for a late lunch. We ordered mie gorang (chow mein) along with chicken with vegetable and pork with pickled vegetables. We must have been hungry and felt that we didn’t have enough to eat and supplemented with an order of nasi gorang (fried rice). Food was inexpensive in Indonesia while beer was comparatively more pricey though still cheap compared to US prices. For dinner last night and lunch today, we ate for less than the equivalent of ten dollars but a large bottle of beer cost about $3.
We were supposed to see a performance of the Ramayana ballet tonight. We ended up in traffic gridlock and Herry saw that we were not going to make it on time. He quickly cleared with his boss and changed our attendance to the following night. Even then turning around and getting out of the traffic was a challenge. The driver of the car obstructed by our driver’s attempt to make a U turn on a narrow two-lane road quickly got out of his car to halt traffic so that our driver could complete the maneuver smoothly. Nobody honked but waited patiently. We found out later that there was a chemical fire near the theatre that had caused the traffic congestion.