The Sun is Up On Candi Borobodur

“Desperate for changing, starving for truth.  I’m closer to where I’ve started, I’m chasing after you.  I’m falling even more in love with you, letting go of all I’ve held on to.  I’m standing here until you make me move, I’m hanging by a moment here with you…”

It was 4:00 in the morning of January 22, 2010 – the third day of our ‘Amazing Race Southeast Asia honeymoon series’.  Lifehouse’s ‘Hanging by a Moment’ (my husband’s mobile phone alarm sound then) brought an end to our very lavish sleep at the Manohara Hotel Borobodur.  I quickly got up to check from our room’s window if last night’s torrential downpour of rain has stopped.  Check.  Yey!  

At around 4:30am, the hotel receptionist gave us flashlights and endorsed us to our escort.  The escort guided us during an approximately 10-minute midnight stroll through a garden to the foot of the Buddhist temple of Borobodur (also known as Candi Borobodur), where we saw no one else but ourselves.  Though it was still dark, the escort told us that we could start ascending to the temple’s peak; it was good that I had a buddy – my husband – as the place was mysterious.   While climbing the (slightly steep) steps, we met a girl (she was alone) who seemed happy to have found some companions on the way to the top.  “Rise and shine… rise and shine…” was my mantra as we moved up to the top of Borobodur.  I was hoping that the weather would allow us a good view of Central Java, Indonesia. 

We did.  Yogyakharta’s sunny side was up on Candi Borobodur! 🙂

There were only four of us at the peak of the temple during the sunrise – the girl, a Chinese guy, my husband and I.  We watched in awe as the sun slowly emerged and the colours of the sky changed, thereby revealing the beautiful landscape around the temple.  The hues were so vivid – brilliant yellows, reds, oranges, blues, pinks and greens – producing stupa silhouttes with magnificent backdrop.  The mist in the air complemented the  spectacular sight.  Everything was so surreal and heavenly.  

It was a humbling experience to be there, watching a glorious sunrise unfold at the peak of the centuries-old Borobodur Temple, which has survived total destruction from the eruptions of nearby volcanoes (it was in fact fully covered with ash for a long time), jungle growth, the 1985 bombings and the 2006 earthquake.   Regardless of my religion, I felt a deep surge of spiritual connection.  

Playing on as the sky provided us a good backdrop 😀

The steaming Mount Merapi from a distance
Photo by Bong Villamor

Photo by Bong Villamor

Around 6 in the morning, the temple has been fully illuminated and tourists have started to flock the temple.  We lingered a bit to admire the immense details – reliefs and carvings – around Borobodur, which is listed among UNESCO’s world heritage sites.  

Out of the 504 Buddha statues in the temple, 300 are damaged (mostly headless) and 43 are missing.

Photo by Bong Villamor

Photo by Bong Villamor

Using our old, good and reliable tripod, we had some souvenir shots. =P

Below are some of the photographs that I took on the way back to our hotel.  Borobodur, by the way was bulit on a bedrock hill, 869 feet above sea level and 49 feet above the floor of a dried-out paleolake.  It is located between two twin volcanoes, Sundoro-Sumbing and Merbabu-Merapi according to Wikipedia.

Details of our stay:

We stayed at Manohara Hotel Borobodur, which was very near the temple.  We paid IDR 230,000 (sounds like a big money eh – it’s about PHP1,000) per person for one night.  This included the fee for the sunrise tour, a hearty buffet breakfast, free internet at the reception and a basket of fresh fruits.  (The basket of fruits was a honeymoon gift from the hotel – thank you very much!) 

The atmosphere was very laid-back and very Indonesian.  The receptionists were friendly and helpful.  The rooms are okay for the price.

For more details, check out their website:

Post Notes:

(1)   If, at this very moment, someone would ask me which of my wanderlust adventures tops my list, I would answer “our Borobodur sunrise adventure” right away. 🙂

(2)   In October and November of the same year that we’ve visited Borobodur, Mount Merapi erupted, causing damages to the temple.  The temple was closed and was cleared of about 1 inch thick ashes on November 2010.  The temple was completely opened to the public on September 2011, though the number of people allowed to enter has been restricted to 82.

(3)   Once a year, during the full moon in May or June, Buddhists in Indonesia observe Vesak day commemorating the birth, death, and the time when Siddharta Gautama attained the highest wisdom to become the Buddha Shakyamuni.  

(4)  They say that pilgrims would walk clockwise around the temple ten times while viewing the series of reliefs along the temple walls.  Ten represents the number of steps development through which a bodhisattva (anyone who seeks enlightenment) must pass to become a Buddha(from

(5)  According to Jason Wade (lead vocalist, main songwriter and guitarist of Lifehouse), the song ‘Hanging by a Moment’ is all about crying out to God.  I’ve just realized it was a perfect wake up song for that “wanderfull” experience. 🙂

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