Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Day 3, Singapore to Central Java: And then we saw the president of Indonesia

Today was mostly a day of travel from Singapore to Yogyakarta—without too much drama.

Our Air Asia flight was delayed about an hour, but we didn’t know that until we got to Changi.

Someone on the plane spent half the two-hour flight in the lavatory, which caused some concern.

The customs form was all in Bahasa Indonesian. But customs forms tend to be kind of similar, and we did a pretty good job in guessing how to respond.

The visa-on-arrival process was pretty easy. It didn’t hurt that we were sitting in the front of the plane. US bills don't have to be pristine, but they should be in decent condition. Our first offering (a $100) was rejected because of a small tear. Otherwise, we quickly moved on to the line for the immigration stamp and then to "baggage claim." I include that in quotes because it was more like "baggage melee," with an Airbus 320-load of passengers trying to squeeze into an area the size of our bedroom at home in order to pull their bags off a small conveyor belt.

Our driver from Villa Borobudur was waiting right outside with a sign.

The first thing we saw after exiting the airport into the small parking lot was an SUV with a large “Hooters [logo] makes me happy” bumper sticker (were we really in Yogyakarta?).

The drive from Yogyakarta airport to Villa Borobudur took about 90 minutes, as the traffic was particularly heavy for Waisak (more on that below). Eventually, we reached the more rural areas closer to the temple and could kind of, sort of see the procession of monks in orange robes from across the rice fields.

We arrived and were shown to our room, a traditional joglo with an outdoor shower.

View from our original room

It was quite nice, and we were just about to start unpacking when the staff informed us that we could have a complimentary upgrade to one of the bigger suites with a private pool, if we found it acceptable. We didn’t get to see it for a few hours while they cleaned up after the previous guests. But when we did…wow! We may just decide to do nothing for the next few days. We have an unobstructed view of Borobudur a few kilometers away, as well as several volcanoes in the distance.

Our private pool, from our private dining terrace @ Villa Borobudur
Shortly after moving rooms, we enjoyed dinner on our private terrace—accompanied by the call to prayer from multiple sites across the area.

After dinner, the driver took us to Borobudur, using the hotel passes to get us on the grounds for the Waisak ceremony, which included some musical performances and various speeches from the president of Indonesia and others. Waisak is the holiest day of the Buddhist calendar, and the celebration at Borobudur is the most important one in the world. Pilgrims come from all over to participate in in the celebration here. 
While there was certainly security, including more uniformed police that we may have ever seen in one location, we were at the same time surprised how accessible the president was to all the people in attendance.

We could not access the temple, but the view of it lit for the ceremony was quite stunning.

Presidential vehicle, "Indonesia 1"
Indonesian President Joko Widodo
Musical entertainment
More musical entertainment
Borobudur, lit for the celebration
It was a pretty spectacular ending to a rather ordinary day.

We tried to stay up for the release of the lanterns but eventually gave into to fatigue. Turns out, they weren't released until sometime after 1 am.

PS: There are some weird animal noises around the villa at night.

Link to all of today's photos

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