Saturday, May 15, 2010


Detail of Borobodor temple

I had another early start this morning, rising at 4.30am to get Borobodor, a Buddhist temple built in the ninth and tenth centuries (though rebuilt in he 1970s). It was well worth it to beat the crowds - as we left at about 9am it was already swarming with tourists and groups of school children. The temple itself is amazing. You walk around the outside - clockwise is apparently the correct way - going up floor by floor, of which there are half a dozen. Along the way are hundreds of carved panels with pictures of Buddha and others, some of which are really detailed and beautiful. The ascent of the temple symbolises the stages needed to reach nirvana, which is represented by the high point in the centre of the temple. Most tourists simply charge right up the steps to the top without walking around the floors. There's something symbolic about that, I thought, showing modern impatience and the desire for instant happiness.

I wandered around Yogya (pronounced 'jogja') yesterday, trying to throw off the con men. The common con here is to get you to come to an 'official government' art gallery and sell you a batik painting. They come up to you in the street and act really friendly as though they are just giving you some advice, not trying to sell you anything. I took a look at one place and the painting were actually pretty good. I was even prepared to buy one at the price but got sick of all the lies the guy said that I walked away. The (probable) lies included: buying a painting helps fund a scholarship for local painters (some of whom are disabled), that the one I picked just happened to be painted by the guy showing me the paintings, that today is the last day of the exhibition before they set off to another city, and so on.

Tonight I'm off to another temple, this time a Hindu one called Prambanan, to see a Ramayana ballet.

Shadow puppet show in Yogya

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