Buddha, The Hipster, and Superman

Overnight, the hostel had been overrun with Indonesian school children. We considered slipping aboard one of their many buses, thinking that we would probably end up at Borobudur, our desired destination for the day. We knew, however, that there was about as much chance of that happening as having Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, J. Lo, and Katy Perry ride around New York together on a MTA bus without being recognized. We had already posed for a large number of pictures and even caught the little rugrats nonchalantly snapping our picture in the elevator on their cell phones, hoping we wouldn’t notice. In spite of our initial inclination, we opted for catching a Trans Jogja public bus where we really would be anonymous.

We walked south along the hostel’s street until we reached a depot where we caught a bus that took us to Jombor Terminal, a large bus yard northwest of town. As we bought some drinks, a man asked us if we were going to Borobudur. I told him that we were not. We were walking back into the bus yard when he asked again and I again told him “no.” Finally, as I realized that I really couldn’t tell which bus was going our way, I reluctantly agreed to taking his bus, but bargained hard on the price so we could go for 15,000 rupiah each instead of 20,000. The bus was a similar size and quality as the one we had taken in Malaysia to Kuala Tahan. Like Kaliurang, the ride to Borobudur took around 40 minutes.

Borobudur was built in the 9th century around the same time as Prambanan. The 9-leveled stupa forms a giant mandala, 400 feet on each side, containing almost 3000 stone reliefs depicting Buddha’s life in addition to over 300 separate statues of Buddha. As we entered the grounds, we were all given long skirts to wear in order to cover our bare legs while visiting the temple. Before making our way there, we tried to bargain with the men who were giving $15 elephant rides but they weren’t about to budge on their price. The one thing we did notice is that there were no hoards of school children there- they must have headed to a different attraction altogether. Unlike a majority of the visitors there, we were determined to take in each of the levels, 6 square and 3 circular, trying to see as many of the reliefs and statues as possible. We circled each level in a clockwise manner, as all Buddhist temples should be circumambulated; I was somewhat horrified to find that many visitors had not bothered to follow this convention, which was clearly indicated on all the welcoming signs.

It was a very hot day, probably the hottest we had experienced yet in Indonesia, and we welcomed the shade that could be had on the lower levels of the stupa. The first level represented Kamadhatu, the world of desires, the next five represented Rupadhatu, the world of forms. Those who seek after nirvana see forms in the world but are not drawn to them by evil desires. The circular levels represented Arupadhatu, the formless world, the world of a true Buddha. The Arupadhatu levels, while free of reliefs, contained 72 Buddha statues seated inside of perforated stupa of their own so that they were barely visible. I couldn’t help but think of this set of statues as peek-a-Buddhas! In the end, we managed to rise above the world of desires, up to the level of enlightenment, only to descend back down to the base desires yet again. Oh well!

As we had found at Prambanan, the exit to Borobudur was set up so that one had to “run the gauntlet” of souvenir vendors in order to leave. Having survived this, we found a restaurant serving bakso just outside of the gates of the parking lot. Here, outside the gates, prices had returned to normal once again, as opposed to the tourist trap kiosks where Zach had paid a whole buck for a coke! Back at the bus station, we offered the going rate for a ride back to Jogja right off the bat with no haggling required. It started to rain as we rode to Jombor Terminal, putting a damper on our hopes to venture to the beach that afternoon. We decided instead to do a little shopping on Malioboro Street, something we knew we could achieve in the rain by ducking under the awnings that lined the street.

As we pulled up to Malioboro on the Trans Jogja bus we had transferred to at Jombor, we ran into The Hipster. This American 20-something had stayed up until the wee hours of the morning at the hostel’s rec-room talking to Zach about video games. He wore black horn-rimmed glasses with his obscure tees and skinny jeans- we had all taken to calling him our new name for him. The Hipster wanted to hang out and do some shopping with us, so we tried our best to stay out of the rain as we looked for souvenirs. We slowly worked our way northward in the direction of the train station, having started near the south end of Malioboro. When dinnertime came, we decided to eat at a restaurant which was featured in my guidebook- New Superman’s. This restaurant was known for its wide array of Western dishes, breakfast items, as well as Chinese food. Since it was a little trendier than our usual haunts, we had to part with a few dollars each for a meal there! After dinner, we walked back to the hostel on a route that just happened to take us past our favorite brownie bakery. We eventually found ourselves in a common room in the hostel sharing a large chocolate-banana brownie with The Hipster. We couldn’t have picked a better way to close out our day!

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One Response to Buddha, The Hipster, and Superman

  1. odoritour says:

    Very interesting article
    Especially about Borobudur and Prambanan
    Two of the biggest tourist icon in Indonesia
    I live in Jogjakarta
    From yourarticl, I can take the conclusion that it is not easy to reach Borobudur and Prambanan using public facilities,
    We’re trying to fix that ,hope can be easily reached by all people including foreign tourists for the next year.
    When to Indonesia again?

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