What is Borobudur? Until I had played Civilization V I had never heard of it. The meaning of the name is debated, it could be “great honorable Buddha”, or “city of Buddhas” or even “the monastery of Buddha on a high place”. No matter the meaning, upon seeing the massive structure ‘what it is’ becomes evident – a wondrous place for worship and meditation, this is a holy place.
From atop Setumbu hills we watched the sun rise over the foggy valley containing Borobudur. Peaceful and serene, the temple slowly came into view through the fog as the first rays of sunlight peaked over the hills. As beautiful as the scene was we couldn’t linger long. We had booked transport from our hotel and had limited time before having to head back. Sure we could have rented a car or scooter and driven ourselves but based on how people in the area drive we thought we should let a local pro take care of us. We had overheard one driver comment about the road rules of Yogyakarta “the only rule is that a red light means stop and a green light means go.” and we had seen even this basic tenet practiced with a large measure of flexibility.
Arriving at the temple was even more spectacular than watching the sun rise over it. At 15,129 square meters, the size alone is impressive enough, but upon closer inspection the level of detail in the carvings and architecture is truly awe-inspiring. Unlike other temples that have an interior that would have been used for worship, Borobudur is designed more as a meditative journey. Buddhists would prayerfully walk along each level until they reached the top, considering the reliefs carved in the walls along the way. The ‘in game’ Faith bonus and free missionaries make complete sense although the completion art is a little bit of fantasy since the vantage point isn’t possible and there isn’t a hill in the foreground.
While we didn’t come to worship, since we aren’t Buddhists, we were still able to appreciate the temple for its beauty. As we were appreciating the temple, several other visitors took some time to appreciate Patrick. The temple is a popular educational trip for local schools, and he was soon swarmed by girls and boys politely requesting to take their picture with him or film themselves having a conversation with him in English. So now when we are rich and famous we will know what it’s like to be hounded by the paparazzi.