Sunday, 3 May 2015

Dawn at Borobudur Temple

Dawn at Borobudur Temple
It was 4 am. I got up from the creaky bed and dragged up Alison and Charlotte. We were ready to head to Borobudur and experienced it's famous sunrise view.

The hotel we resided at was Manohara Resort, the nearest hotel to the World's famous UNESCO World Heritage site and offered free access into the temple (Foreigner fees-Adult: USD $20, Child: USD $10). But the hotel charged a separate fee for it's sunrise and sunset view (Foreigner fees-Adult: IDR 380 000, In-house Guest (Adult): IDR 230 000, In-house Guest (Child above 5 years old): IDR 175 000).

"Borobudur Sunrise" Signboard
At 430 am, we arrived at the reception area to purchase our tickets. Surprisingly, there was no queue. We were provided with torch lights and directed to follow illuminated signboards to the temple. It was still pitch dark and finding the temple would not be an easy task.

Fortunately, I had done my homework the day before and surveyed the route to the site. Borobudur had always been in my bucket lists for the longest time. I was glad to have ticked it off but witnessing the sunrise at this holy site would be yet another totally different experience.

As we walked to the temple, we could hear chanting being broadcast in the compound. It sounded a bit eerie but yet strangely comforting to hear this in the darkness. It also reminded me of the similar chant we heard during our sunset visit to Pura Tanah Lot at Bali.

Stairs to the top of Borobudur
At the temple gate, the security guards would perform a check through our belongings before letting us in. We could see a number of people already making their way into the temple ground. We were puffing and panting as we clambered up the steep stairs to the top tier of Borobudor. It must be the morning dense air(and of course our lack of exercise :-p).

Buddha's View#1
Buddha's View#2
There was already a crowd when we reached the top. The recce on the day before had came helpful again as we took up a strategic position to witness the sunrise. The sun was supposedly to raise from the east at the direction of Mount Merapi. After settling Alison and Charlotte on a good place beside a stupa, I decided to take a short walk round to savor the morning scene.

As most of the people were focusing to see the impending sunrise at the eastern end, the rest of the temple premise was almost empty. The seemingly endless stupas overlooked the surrounding environment. Some might not know that a mediating Buddha statue resided in each and every of the stupas.

Few of the stupas have actually been "un-covered" to reveal the Buddhas within. There was a shroud of mist settling above the forest surrounding the temple, adding to the already serene atmosphere of the temple.

Stupas View#1
Stupas View#2
Stupas View#3
There was a commotion when the golden rays started to appear behind the still smoking Mount Merapi. I could finally comprehend why the sunrise view at Borobudur was considered one of the twenty-seven places to see before you die.

The yellow rays filtered through the still active volcano and cast upon those on the top of Borobudur. If "Enlightenment" has another meaning, it might actually refer to this moment of time. The scene was stunningly beholding. Although the sun was covered by the cloudy sky, it did not mar the beautiful moment.

Golden Ray of the Sunrise
Sun Ray on the Buddhas#1
Sun Ray on the Buddhas#2

Family Photo with the Stupas
Myself with the Bas-Reliefs
The crowd began to dissipate after the sunrise. We did not leave but stay to explore the temple further. It was a good move as there were only few people around. Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the World and the single most visited monument in Indonesia.

Basically, the temple was built like a stepped pyramid with bas-reliefs, stupas and statues to honor the life and teaching of Buddha. It has nine platforms-the bottom six are square and the top three are circular (we watched the sunset at the top circular platform). Seventy-two perforated stupas surrounded one big central stupa at the circular platforms.

Please refer here if you want to read up more info on this 9th century ancient construction.

The Main Stupa
Gallery with Bas-Reliefs
The day crowd began to arrive in number at around 8 am. It was also getting hot and we felt it's time to leave the temple. I have been wanting to visit the temple on numerous occasion but did not do so due to various reasons.

There was a sense of achievement when I could finally stand upon the temple and witnessed the famous sunrise.  Borodudur did not fail my expectation. It shall also meet yours if you wish to visit it someday :-).

Borobudur's Facade#1
Borobudur's Facade#2
Borobudur's Facade#3
Fun Family Photo

  Tips when visiting Borobudur Temple

1. Stay at Manohara Resort for convenience. It is the nearest hotel to Borobudur temple (around 5-10 mins ) and inexpensive. The stay includes unlimited accesses to the temple and a discounted rate for the sunrise and sunset tour. But remember to book early (few months before) as rooms are limited and always taken up fast!

2.  The sunrise tour is a must. After that, grab the time to take great photos before the day crowd arrives.

3. If you have the chance, visit the temple once before the sunrise tour. It will help you locate strategic spot for your sunset view especially if you are preparing to capture the golden moment. The "site survey" will also help you save time to locate other good spots for photo taking.

4. Note that the entrance and exit of the temple are two different gates. Ensure you oriented yourself and do not get lost after coming out of the temple.(I nearly did ;-) !)

5.  Read up before visiting. Otherwise, the temples are just like big rocks and stones to you and can get very boring. A guide will be helpful. Manohara Resort provides a free video presentation about Borobudur which helps me to understand more on the temple background.

6. It gets very hot in the noon. Come in the early morning or late noon if possible.

7.  Bring lots of water. Wear comfortably and bring a hat.

8.  A sarong is needed to wear around your waist but not strictly enforce. You can get it free near the ticket booth after paying the entrance fee.

9. Take note of the vendors near the entrance and exit of the temple. They can be very aggressive to sell their stuff to you. Just say a firm "no" and walk away if you are not interested. If you want to buy some souvenirs from them, press down the price to a quarter of their quoted price. Settle no more than 50% percent of what they ask for. You shall get what you want as competition is stiff among them.

10. I use yogyadriver for my trip around Yogyakarta. Write a comment and drop your email address (I will reply you) at the comment column below to enjoy up to 10% discount off the normal rate if you decide to use their service.

Have you been to Borobudur yet? Share your great experience here!

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Related Posts: Travel to Borobudur Temple, The Prambanan Temple, Mount Merapi Jeep Lava Tour
The Borobudur Temple


  1. These temples are just breath-taking!!! Absolutely amazing!

  2. hye..
    thank you for your experience sharing..
    i'm planning to go to yogyakarta this coming september..
    appreciate if you could suggest a good and trusted personal driver/tour guide..
    thanks and best regard..

    1. Hi, I used yoyadriver ( when I was in Yogyakarta. Send me a mail via my email ( you are using them and wish for a special discount ;-)