Buddha and the Chicken Church
Borobudur is a thousand year old Buddhist temple about an hour and a half outside of Yogyakarta. Rising up out of the morning mist* it’s huge, imposing, and easy to see why it’s such a draw for foreign and local tourists alike. Many of the locals visiting come from outlying rural areas or one of the seventeen thousand (give or take a few) islands that make up Indonesia and may not have ever met a foreigner, so expect to have them ask to take your picture. It’s part of the charm than makes this such a unique destination.
We stayed at the Manohara, the only hotel directly attached to the temple grounds, which makes the sunrise and sunset visits an easy five-minute walk. The later I can sleep in, the better. The temple issues foreigners a sarong to wear around your waist, and as others have noted, its only purpose seems to help identify you as a tourist. As if my ghostly pale alabaster skin and blue eyes didn’t do that already. Staying at the Manohara gives you the added benefit of leaving through the lesser-known east exit, skipping the main one that’s lined with for a quarter mile with aggressive touts and shady peddlers.
I wouldn’t allow more than a day and a half here. The temple complex, while interesting, isn’t very large and the surrounding small town has limited offerings in the way of other sites to see. This could easily be a day trip from Bali, as many people do. One attraction, however, warrants special mention.
Say hello to the Chicken Church, a non-denominational prayer building started several years ago and left unfinished. It’s about a ten-minute drive into the countryside, or an hour walk if you prefer to arrive covered in sweat, dirt, and mosquito carcasses. The site has changed since this blog posted about, and as of now there seams to be a little more activity at the site. There is parking at the base of the church for a nominal fee. From there it’s a steep walk up a semi-paved track to the top. The church, which really isn’t a church, it is supposed to look like a dove, though it’s the most chicken-looking dove I’ve ever seen. It’s bizarre, and its construction is questionable at best, but it’s totally worth a short visit. Also, it may or may not be a place that young couples go to … spend quality time together away from prying eyes.
The Chicken Church wraps up our trip and we start the string of long flights back home tonight. I’ve read a lot about people visiting Indonesia and having no desire to go back, and at first, I thought I would feel the same way. After a few days though, this country grows on you. From it’s black and white checkered curbs, to it’s friendly people, there’s a lot to like once you get away from shady taxi drivers and touts. The actually locals were as friendly as anyplace I’ve ever been, and more so than others. I could see a trip back in the future, preferable after the smoke clears. Tomorrow morning we start the long trek back home, with a layover that hopefully will allow us to stock up on Japanese treats at Narita.
*By mist, I mean the think layer of smoke that currently blankets much of Indonesia. An unfortunate alignment of corporate greed and government incompetence had allowed illegal fires to rage, clearing wetlands forests and protected land and readying it for future planting of profitable palm oil trees. It’s more than just a blight, it’s one of the worst environmental disasters since the BP oil spill. On top of that, it also ruined any chance of getting decent sunrise or sunset photos on top of the temple. Damn it.
Where we stayed: The Manohara, closest hotel to the temple grounds. Nothing special, but location can’t be beat.