Borobudur Sunrise

Have you had any of that moment this year? The moment that you realise that your memory tends to play tricks on you? That moment came to me when I visited the Buddhist temple, Borobudur.

Before this year, I have visited the world’s largest Buddhist temple probably 3 times, when I was 8, 17 and 20. The last two times were as part of a school/educational trips. I think Yogyakarta, a city near to Borobudur, when I was growing up is one of those school trip destination. It is like London for kids in France, Spain, Germany etc, simply because of the multi historical places in the area, including the aforementioned temple.

I am not sure why, but in all three previous times I felt that the place were hummungus and very imposing. Ok, when I was 8 I was a lot smaller compared to what I am now, but I am not so different to the size I was when I was 20, so the difference body to temple ratio is not too big. 

Maybe it was the walk we did in the blazing heat from the entrance via the gardens to the top. Maybe it was because I was with a group of friends that kept saying this is so huge constantly.

But this time, I was actually looking around to see whether I had missed anything, because it felt a lot smaller than my memory said it is. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a big site, but just not as big as my memory serves me.

The difference this time is we did the sunrise visit. It was really worth doing to my opinion. If you have visited before, do try this. I did it because I took some people who has never been before, I thought I need a different experience to what I had before. My first plan was to do an AADC 2 style (for those of you who aren’t Indonesian, this is a sequel to Ada Apa Dengan Cinta, a teenage rom-com film that was pivotal to the Indonesian film industry in early 2000s). Which is going up to the hills near Borobudur and watch the sunrise from the top with the temple within the landscape , then go to this massive chicken shape building to have a look around, then go down to loook around the temple when it opens at 6.

But it had rain heavily through the night and morning, the terrain up the hills are bound to be extra slippery. So with a slightly heavy heart we cough-up a bit of money and went to the Manohara Hotel Sunrise trip. 

From the centre of Yogyakarta we started at 3.30am. It took around 1 hour to get there in a car. Because the complex where the hotel is not well lit up, you bound to miss it. Just remember it looks like a garden entrance, with post guards and barriers and the hotel is low rise not a massive building. From where we came from it was on the right hand side of the road.

When we get there we went to the lobby and was asked to wait until 4.30, then we can enter the temple complex. This is the only legal way to get in there at that time

Because it was dark we were given flasghlight to see. You can hardly see anything, if you are really concern about photos, a tripod might be a good idea. 

We climbed up, to the very top of the temple and sat for a bit towards the East, to wait for the sunrise but after awhile it became obvious that due to the extensive fog, it is not going to show up. So I started to wander around. Turns out the other sides of the temple was great. The view, the tranquility accompanied by the dawn chorus of cockerells, birds and insects. The fog and mist giving the area very atmospheric feeling to the view. It was so worth it!

At around 5.30 we started to go down the temple to look at the reliefs, I saw a lot of people were just standing and sitting around staring towards the east, still waiting for the sunrise that will never appear. I felt like saying to them this and encouraging people to go around the other sides….


Anyway, I would recommend this trip to anyone, there are only 2 downsides:

  1. You have got to get up really early on your holiday,
  2. It is pretty expensive

But you should do it anyway, because:

  1. You can go back to your hotel in time for breakfast and go back to bed if you need that
  2. You only need to do it once, it is IDR 400,000 (Β£/€ 23) for foreigner and IDR 270,000 for Indonesian. So not that expensive if you think about how much you have to pay to get in a European Museum, plus this is a Unesco Cultural Heritage site
  3. You don’t have to suffer through the scorching heat during the public opening hours
  4. Less tiring to go up because of less heat
  5. There was a lot less visitors during the time, no masses of school kids covering the temple making it hard to take any decent pictures… hahahaha!

So, how does one go there?

We drove there, however most hotels in Yogyakarta offers a service to either take you there or to contact the tour agency that does it or you can get a taxi take you there. Obviously you would have to pay a bit more, depending on how many people in the tour, because you can share a guide and car if you are between 3 – 6 people. Oh don’t forget if you plan to stay there slightly longer you can ask the hotel to make you a breakfast box because you can’t be there durng breakfast

Here is the address of the hotel:
Jl. Badrawati, Borobudur
Magelang, Central Java
56553 Indonesia

So have you done this sunrise trip? Have you visited several times and did you think that it is not as big as you memory? has your memory deceived you this year?