Thursday, December 25, 2008

Alternative Merry Christmas

Day 289
Apparently going to sleep at 7 is a great way to wake up at 4 am. This wasn't a big deal though, the tour bus was picking me up at 5 and I had to get my act together.

I don't know if I slept or not but the 1.5 hour bus ride to Boroburdur seemed really short. Luckily I had my faux student id and was able to get in for less money, this was a shockingly expensive site compared to the costs of the rest of the country. While I was getting my ticket I met Americans Frank and Austin. They were also traveling alone and we decided to split a tour guide.

Boroburdur was built in the 9th century and is considered to be one of the great South East Asian monuments. It is a Buddhist temple that was covered by volcanic ash much like Pompeii in 1006. It was rediscovered by the British in 1814. In 1911 the first restoration was completed. In 1985 the structure was attached by terrorists. No one knows why. This is a Unesco world heritage site and most of the money to rebuild after the attacks came from American corporations. The 72 statues and 1500 narrative relief panels are mostly original. The reconstruction made it impossible to go inside and the structure is actually filled by a hill, there is no inside.

The structure has 10 levels. A long time ago Buddhist students would learn the stories one level at a time. When they had them memorized they could move up. The 10th level is nirvana and is inacessable as no one is perfect. The last three levels are covered in stupas that hold Buddha statues. In Indonesia Buddha is pictured as thin because they believe that life is hard, in China Buddha is fat because they believe that life is enjoyment.

Despite the pouring down rain I really enjoyed Borobudur. This was my first Buddhist temple. While at the top Austin, Frank and I were practically attached by a large group of kids who wanted pictures with us. I've gotten used to it but it sorta freaked Austin out. He did that the idea to get one with my camera though. Austin escaped and Frank and I looked for him for a bit before giving up. We ran into him just a few minutes later as we were on our way down to our free breakfast.

After a very boring stop at a silver factory we headed to Prambanan, I know that I slept this time. Prambanan was built around the same time as Borobudur and hidden by the same eruption. It had stopped raining at this point as well. Frank had been shuffled to a different tour so it was just Austin and me. We decided to not do a tour. Most of this Hindu temple was destroyed in a 2006 earthquake and many of the temples were closed. There wasn't anything in them anyway so it didn't really matter. The impressive bits were on the outside. Prambanan was beautiful but we had seen it all before we knew it. We had even been stopped for a few photos again. We decided to grab some water and lunch before meeting the bus. Austin had coconut juice, it was so fresh that it was still in the coconut, all that was added was a straw!

Austin slept during the ride back and I chatted with an Argentinian guy who had spent some time in Myanmar. It's on my maybe list and I wanted to pick his brain.

Once we were back we decided to check out the ruins of the Water Castle. Not much is left and we ended up following a slightly pushy batik salesman to the refurbish pools. He tried hard to play the guilt card by telling us that there aren't any tourists and that he could give us a good price but we declined to buy anything. After walking back Austin left his ipod with me as he had forgot his charger (he's currently living in Thailand) and I charged it while I took a shower and took a bit of a break. We met again later on for dinner. Unfortunately Austin was headed to Jakarta and had to get the night train, I was on my own again. It was really nice having him around for the day because I got bothered a lot less with him there. We were actually able to get places at a normal speed!

I spent a few hours online while I was waiting to call my parents. I then had to try about 4 internet cafes before I could find one that skype actually worked in. It was great to talk to my parents and wish them a Merry Christmas. Home with my parents is the best way to spend the holiday, but today was a nice alternative when my first choice wasn't possible.

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