023 Borobudur: A World Heritage Site Not To Be Missed

Would you visit an UNESCO World Heritage site that promises an exotic view of an ancient Buddhist enclave in an Islamic territory?Welcome to Borobudur, an ancient Buddhist site in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Having attended an education conference near Borobudur last Saturday, it was a chance not to be missed!But would you wake up as early as 3 am in the morning to catch a glimpse of the stunning view of Borobudur at sunrise? My friend Mr Chen did that. Look at the beautiful pictures he took.

I wanted to see the sunrise too, but there was a risk of missing the early morning return flight if I did. The alternative was to visit at sunset. The place was filled with visitors by the time I reached at 4.30 pm.The temple is built on several layers of rock platforms, stack on top of one another. It looks tall from the bottom but less so in reality. No one seems to have trouble climbing up to the top quickly.

Built in the 9th century, the Borobudur temple withstood the test of time for 500 years. It fell into oblivion following the decline of Hindu kingdoms and the Javanese conversion to Islam in the 14th century. This explains the intriguing presence of a Buddhist heritage site in a land of Islam worshippers.

If you are a history buff, you may be interested in speculating the stories behind each artefact on the walls. For example, there are many decapitated Buddha heads. It set you thinking if it was the result of religious persecution or theft by profiteers over the long passage of time.

The stories on the walls go beyond religion. They depict the menial work of ordinary people inside households, as well as the grandeur of procession outside on the streets in one thousand two hundred years ago.

And you might be just as surprised as I was to find out that Borobudur was a well-kept secret of the natives until it was rediscovered by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1814, five years before he set his sights on the island of Singapore, my home country.

This historical coincidence is an interesting reminder of how closely connected people of different countries really are.

William W K Tan

17 Dec 2017


Personal Notes

In its magical ways, Borobudur also helped friends to connect closer. I was amazed by how much fun my friends had in taking pictures there.

Look at them! Soo prayed with a blissful smile behind the protection of Buddha.

Wong looked deep in his spiritual thoughts.

Loo seemed totally at home with sitting on the ground.

Julie looked every bit like a teenage model having a school excursion.

And Foong Hsing, together with Melanie looked like two like-minded friends taking a stroll on a quiet lane.

As for me, I am clueless about posing in front of a camera. But I bet you can tell that I was really happy in the company of these wonderful friends.

When was it the last time you had an outing with your friends?

Life is short. Find a place of interest and just do it.

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