Joy in the Stillness at Borobudur

It seemed that around every corner in Indonesia was something new to discover. We had long bus rides and frequent plane rides between islands that allowed me to ponder the newness of every experience. Every time I really did, I felt I might need to pinch myself. There are all kinds of love in this world and in the absence of the kind of romantic love that fuels so many lives, my great affair is learning and collecting new experiences.

Borobudur was a moment in which I was able to be still and not just learn but actually apply, in the moment, the lesson of peace and stillness; which brought about joy. It must be no coincidence that the t-shirt I put on to wear the morning we rose before the sun, was from the #FindYours campaign I did with Expedia. It says, “Find Your Joy.” And in the moment that this photo was taken, that — and more — is what I had found.I’m a person who rarely pauses to have still moments, to relax, to slow down enough that I can discover inner peace. It seems the great affair with wanderlust drives me at a pace that leaves no room for stillness.Yet, at Borobudur, sitting in wait for the sunrise to blind me and thrill me, having nothing else to do but wait, amongst a place of physical beauty (a characteristic that always excites me) — peace, stillness and joy are exactly what filled all the rooms I had for rent. Borobudur Temple, located near Magelang in Central Java, is purported to be the largest Buddhist temple in the world. It is both a shrine and a place of pilgrimage. It didn’t feel that large to me. However, it is impressive and because of its location within a very verdant valley it draws both those seeking the beautiful in nature and the beautiful in man’s creation. The primary source of its physical draw is the intricacy and sheer magnitude of its 2,672 relief panels. A pilgrim could easily believe that the temple’s layers are a sort of stairway towards heaven. There is a constant feeling of reaching ever higher. At the top one finds a main dome and 72 Buddha statues seated inside perforated stupas which are in addition to the 504 Buddhas that already dot the lower layers of the temple.

Borobudur was built in the 9th century during the reign of the Sailendra Dynasty and the temple’s design which is crafted in the Gupta style reflects India’s influence on Java while still managing to be distinctly Indonesian. Though the temple was constructed in the 9th century, it may have been abandoned in the 14th after a decline in Buddhist and Hindu tradition once Islam began to take hold in Java. British ruler of Java in 1814, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, was alerted to its existence which then led to it being officially preserved, and provided for restorations to begin. It was in the early 1980’s that Borobudur was then listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a status it still retains today. It is Indonesia’s most visited tourist attraction. To visit for yourself, check out Indonesia’s resources page here.

I was a guest of the Indonesian Tourism Bureau for this experience. However, the views and opinions here are mine alone. Photo of me taken by Ravindra Boelle. Thank you, my friend. 

  • November 08, 2012

    Beautiful pictures! We’ve extensively learned about it in our history classes (I was born in Indonesia and went through the school system until grade 7), but it took me so long before I actually went and visited Borobudur. I’m glad you enjoyed it! Did you have a chance to visit Jogjakarta? I loveeee that city!

  • November 08, 2012
    Cam Wears

    Looks like an incredible place for reflection. There’s something about Asia’s temples that stirs my emotions, in a very positive way. It looks like you had the place all to yourself… very cool!

  • November 08, 2012
    Leyla Giray

    Extraordinary photos of an extraordinary place. I visited here in the 1980s and spent far more time than I was supposed to at Borobodur – and Jogjakarta. After the mayhem of Jakarta this was the perfect place for a bit of serenity. Thanks for bringing back all those buried memories!

  • November 08, 2012

    With these pictures, you have raised your already high bar even higher. Just amazing. That second one is beyond.

  • November 10, 2012

    The photography looks stunning. All the pictures looks wonderful. It seems that the pictures are taken by the professional photographer. One can get the clear idea about the place by just seeing the pictures.

  • November 14, 2012

    I came here from the HostelBookers Award page, and they’re not wrong- these are sensational! I can see how you might have convinced the Indonesian Tourist Board to sponsor you. And I’m jealous!

  • November 15, 2012


  • November 17, 2012

    Wow, beautiful!

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