Thursday, June 4, 2015

Day 5, Central Java: Borobudur--need we say more?

We awakened at 4:30 am to the gecko repeatedly screeching what more or less sounded like “f*** you” (subsequent Google searching on "tokay gecko" revealed that the US troops in Vietnam "renamed" this species the "f-you lizard" due to its distinctive mating call). Moments later, the first call to prayer began. That actually lulled me back to sleep, until the gecko started up again about an hour later.

We’d weighed going to Borobudur for sunrise. That would have required getting up and leaving the hotel at about 4:30 am. Knowing it might be cloudy (this is the transition period from rainy to dry season), we opted to stay in bed. Turns out that was a good call (and our guide later confirmed that, saying he’d taken three people on a "sunrise" tour that didn't involve a sunrise).

After breakfast, we left for our official visit to Borobudur. Because we were staying for two nights or more, our hotel reservation included entrance and a guided tour.

I should note that despite the anticipation of seeing one of the world’s premier historical sites, it was a little hard to tear ourselves away from the villa’s wi-fi. The first game of the Stanley Cup finals was starting just as we wrapped up breakfast (with audio call via the Blackhawks app). When we left for Borobudur, the Blackhawks were down by one goal at the end of the first period.

We met Heru, our guide, at the Manohara Hotel (the hotel on the Borobudur grounds) and started our two-hour or so walk through the site. Heru provided a nice overview before we began scaling the temple, and then he stopped to point out various stories carved in the stone on different levels. We took a LOT of photos. While we don’t often use guides for such sites, it was nice to have the perspective—particularly about a site that was constructed to teach lessons in the first place.

A few photos from our visit to Borobudur

Very early into our tour, a group of young women from Eastern Java approached Allie and asked for a photo with her and if they could have a conversation with her to practice their English. This scene repeated over and over throughout our visit. In fact, most of the visitors we saw today were Indonesian, and school-age kids at that. Not a lot of foreign tourists.

Allie is a rock star (one of many requests for photos)
More new friends

After concluding our tour, our hotel driver took us for a brief visit to Candi Pawon a kilometer away. It was the funerary site where cremations were once performed. Confession: on the way there, my curiosity got the better of me; I turned on the data roaming to check the final score of the Blackhawks game. We won!

Candi Pawon

Our final stop was to try some Kopi Luwak, made with coffee beans eaten and excreted by civets. It is billed as the world’s most expensive coffee, and it was certainly good enough—but not worth $35 for a tiny little bag of beans. We passed.

Civet poop, to be harvested for Kopi Luwak
After some more pool time and a delicious lunch at our villa, we decided on one last excursion and something a little different: whitewater rafting on the Elo River. This was an interesting 90-minute trip down the river and across some minor rapids (they were major enough for me). On the first set of rapids, two things happened. We got soaking wet. And I learned the importance of keeping my mouth shut while going over the rapids, particularly on a waterway that isn’t, shall we say, the cleanest. Otherwise, it was an interesting look at life along the river. The vegetation and narrow bridges are scenic, and along the way, we saw people taking part in various activities of daily life: fishing, bathing, brushing teeth, swimming, washing clothes, etc. Obviously, there are no photos from the rafting trip, but part way in, we were lamenting that we hadn't thought to bring a GoPro on vacation with us (come to think of it, a GoPro also would have been useful for chronicling the baggage claim process in Yogyakarta a few days earlier).

Back at the villa, we took a second dip in the pool and watched the sun set on 8,000-foot Mt. Sumbing, an active (albeit not since the 1700s) volcano. And then we enjoyed our last dinner at Villa Borobudur. 

Mt. Sumbing in the distance, seen from our villa

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