Two Backpacks

stupas borobudur

Chapter 5 - Magnificent Borobudur one of the seven wonders of the world!

            Pat, Ratni and her boys wave farewell as our train pulls from the station. Ron and I settle into our seats for the three-hour journey from Madiun to Yogyakarta in the west. Our packed carriage is a mix of young, old and those in between, all keen to glimpse the two foreigners sharing their carriage.

            With China beckoning, we spend two days in Yogya, a chance to visit the palace and an early morning trip to Borobudur. Although I’d been before, I was excited to show Ron Borobudur’s impressive stupas.

            We’re up at the crack of dawn. Our tour guide arrives on the dot of five. The drive brings back so many memories, but I keep them to myself; after all, I’m with Ron, and past events are just that.

            We pay our entrance fees and follow our guide as he leads us through the grounds, and then we begin to climb. Our stone path twists and turns until we reach the temple’s upper level. In the distance, mist clings to the hillsides and valleys, a cloak of mystery, waiting as we are for the warmth of the sun’s rays.

            Other like-minded tourists vie for various vantage points. Shards of light shoot across the sky as the sun’s rim appears over the hills. We take photos and marvel at the vista that surrounds us.

            I slip my arm around Ron’s waist. ‘To think it was hidden all those years!’

            Ron, busy reading the pamphlet he’d bought when we’d arrived, looks up.

            ‘Did you know it was built around 800AD?’ he asks before continuing. ‘It’s been hidden beneath volcanic ash since about 1000AD; it was rediscovered by a Brit, Thomas Stanford Raffles, in 1814.’

            As an afterthought, Ron adds, ‘That’s who the hotel’s named after in Singapore, isn’t it?’

            ‘I think so,’ I confirm, silently hoping we might have the time and money to treat ourselves to a couple of the hotel’s famous Singapore Sling cocktails.

            As the mist dissipates, we find ourselves surrounded by circular terraces and large circular bell-shaped stupas.

            Ron continues to read aloud from his pamphlet, ‘The top three circular terraces are open and unwalled, and each of those bell-shaped stupas has a large stone Buddha figure inside.’

            We sit for a while, marvelling at the beauty surrounding us.

            ‘How did they manage it?’ Ron asks.

            ‘Manage what?’

            ‘The temple. It’s mind-blowing wondering how people carved all these sculptures and cut the stone so precisely. I’m glad we came. It’s something special,’ Ron adds as we walk hand in hand along the temple’s terraces, eventually making our way back to the car park and our driver.

            Both hungry after our early morning start, we decide to walk into the town centre for something to eat.

            ‘How about martabuk? It’s like a meat and veggie pancake,’ I suggest as we pass numerous food stalls lining the street.

            We order one each and sit on two white plastic stools that border the stall. The food is delicious and filling.

            With an early morning flight to Kuala Lumpur, we return to our hostel, pack our bags and snuggle down for an early night.