About 45km north (1 1/2 hours’ drive) of Yogjarkarta is the temple complex of Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple in the world. Another 57km (1hr 45 min drive) from Borobudur is the Prambanan temple complex, which is dedicated to Hindu divinities Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. Both are UNESCO World Heritage sites. We visited these two temples on the same day.
The temples of Borobudur
Borobudur was built in the 8th and 9th centuries AD, so it’s about 1200 years old. Tourism and proximity to volcano Mt Merapi — only 28km away and whose volcanic ash hit the temple complex in 2018 — are threats to Borobudur’s longevity.
When Paul and I visited here in 1999, we were only two of about 30 mostly Western tourists visiting the complex. Fast forward to 2019 and we were three in a throng of more than a thousand, mostly Indonesian, visitors. We didn’t expect this at all.
What Paul and I thought would be a serene, contemplative, even spiritual experience walking up the nine levels of the complex now turned into a hot, humid, claustrophobic experience.
On top of that the entrance fee was exorbitant. As foreigners, we had to pay US$40 (AUD$55) per adult and US$25 (AUD$35) per child for tickets to both Borobudur and Prambanan. (Entrance fee for just Borobudur is US $25.) The domestic visitors, on the other hand, only had to pay 8000Rp (AUD$0.80) each. I tried to buy domestic tickets in Bahasa but the ticket lady asked to see my local ID and of course I didn’t have any.
Despite that, we really wanted to see the temple again.
The temples of Prambanan
The Prambanan templex complex consists of the main temple and smaller outer temples. The Hindu temples were built around the 9th and 10th Century, so not quite as old as Borobudur but still old!
Animals at Prambanan
Interestingly, there were other attractions at this site than just the temples…