Waking up at 3 in the morning has never been so worth it. With an excited mind and heavy eyes, I crawled out of bed even beating the nearby Mosque’s loud-speaker morning prayer to the punch. In the dead of the morning not one car or person filled the streets of Yogya. The driver we hired for the day completely disregarded the red lights and sped on quickly through the night, in a hurry to get us to the sunrise spectacle. I felt like a giddy little girl – antsy – waiting to witness the famous 9th century Buddhist sanctuary, Borobudur, emerge from the pitch dark night into a sun-drenched sunrise. For me, the island of Java brought this image to my mind and had for some time; it was something I couldn’t miss. I had only seen photographs of the spectacular moment where the immense stupas light up with the morning glow and Mount Merapi stands proudly off in the distance letting the sun emerge from what looks like the crater of its volcano. I had seen the moment where the slow and gradual emmergence to daylight fills up the surrounding mountainous land, mystifying and spiritual just like the original architects planned. The sun beamed strongly onto us, chasing away the morning dew on the grounds below, and the yellow radiance over the temple was a marvelous sight to see. To take my own pictures that morning fulfilled a photographer’s fantasy of mine.
With a bright orange sarong around our waists and flashlight in hand, we explored the grounds and discovered the temple in the deep black darkness. Moving from terrace to terrace, I was stunned by the size and amount of stones in the temple. Each terrace and each level was built to correspond to a higher plane of consciousness and was supposed to serve as a spiritual and physical journey, physical it was, bringing its visitors closer to enlightenment. With 500 buddha statues in the temple and 72 bell-shaped stupas, it’s quite a breathtaking view from up there. You can blame souvenir hunters of past years for the decapitated Buddha statues. The hunters cut them off to ship them around the world to greedy millionaires and museums. What is left today of Borobudur is an utterly impressive, astounding architectural feat and a grand spiritual experience regardless of religious creed. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is best viewed from the grounds of The Manohara Hotel.