OMG!! What a bus ride from Borobudur to Semarang!
We had a police escort for our convoy of 8 buses, to and from the port and Borobudur. According to Ade, our Indonesian cabin attendant, it’s the only way to cover the 60 miles distance in any reasonable amount of time. We had police cars, lights and sirens, in front and behind, clearing traffic. Also, at major right hand turns (think left turn in US) there was a flagman holding traffic for us. We were bus #8, the last one. At one point we got separated from the pack (not sure how) and our bus driver was trying to catch up on his own. Many harrowing near misses speeding down a busy two lane road in the pouring rain. Anytime time there was a small break in the traffic on the other side of the road, he would pull into oncoming traffic. One time we were passing a propane tanker with a slow dump truck in front of it with another big truck coming straight at us. Some how we went back in our lane just as the oncoming truck got to us. Finally the police car came in front of the bus and we just went down the wrong side of the road with people pulling over onto the shoulder. I don’t think the roads were particularly rough but Mel’s and mine activity trackers both recorded the bus ride as a high exercise activity. Maybe it was just tracking our elevated heartrate.
The buildings are much plainer than Bali. No walled complexes and no family temples, but there are a lot of green colored mosques as a majority is Muslim. The countryside is filled with rice paddies, rubber tree plantations and fruit trees. In Java, it rains daily from 6 months and dry for 6 months. During the rainy season, they grow 2 crops of rice. In the dry season the same fields grow corn, tobacco, peanuts and green beans. Coffee was a major crop as the elevation increased.
About an hour into the 3 hour drive, we stopped at a place for a coffee break and of course shopping. Local coffee and tea along with a snack of rice crackers and a peanut fudge square. Several people said they liked the coffee. My coffee seemed very weak, but may be what I had was the tea?? Mel and I did purchase a couple of nice fabric pieces. Fortunately, there were lots of toilets, western style, bring your own paper and flush with the bucket of water next to the commode. Refill the bucket with the water facet provided.
Borobudur is a Buddhist, four sided, monument, built in the 9th century by encasing a small hill with stone. It is more properly called a monument than a temple, because there is no central place of worship or altar. The Buddhist tradition is to walk clockwise around the structure, ascending levels as you go, as a form of meditation. There are nine levels altogether. The first six levels have wall carvings with the first 3 having scenes of daily 9th century Java life. The next three level of wall carvings are scenes from Buddha’s life. The top three levels contain circular, bell shaped stone structures that each contain a Buddha statue sitting inside. There are ~500 statues of Buddha on the temple in various seated poses. Several are missing heads or other pieces which you may have encountered in your local museum. No one really knows who or why it was built. It appears that shortly after building, it was covered in volcanic ash and debris, staying that way until the Dutch uncovered a part in the late 1880s. Local legends are sketchy with any details of the place.
It was amazing at how intricate the stone work and carvings were. Mel and I made it to the top as our guide would go up a level or two, and stop to explain the carvings and story of Buddha’s life. Sometimes the steps were almost 18 inches high. Glad we brought our walking sticks to lean on for the way down. When we reached the top levels, a big thunderstorm was threatening just off to the east which added to the experience. Fortunately, the rain went over in another direction and we only had sprinkles.
A very nice buffet lunch under a tent was provided which included a musician. Very similar to the buffet we had on Bali with soup, fried fish, satay, rice, fried noodles fruit and various sweetened rice desserts. For the soup they had shredded cabbage and small chilies similar to Mexican Pozole. I added the cabbage and one small piece of chili. We had been warned of the small, but very hot bird chili pepper. Yep, one small piece of chili was all my soup needed.
The trip back from Borobudur included a stop for silver jewelry shopping and a Wayang, shadow puppet performance. I will try to put a bit of movie up on Facebook. Then started the harrowing bus trip back with the rain and the police cars.
Next day, talking to Ade about the police and the rain, he confirmed that the only way to make it there and back to the ship on time was with a police escort and it happened all the time. As for the rain, he was not surprised it moved away from us. Ade told us that there are Indonesian people that have the ability to direct the rain away to fall on another place. He was sure someone with that ability had been hired for us, just like the police. Ade himself had hired one when working in a hotel on Java. It had been raining for several days. One of the guests had requested a short period of no rain for an important outdoor event. Ade hired a rain mover (Mary’s name for the guy) for the hotel guest. The rain mover only wanted to be paid for the ingredients (which included onions) for the spell. He ground up the stuff, said some prayers and the rain stayed away from the area of the event, although raining all around it.
It was a busy and wild nine hours in Java. Glad we got to experience it! Also glad none of the smoking volcanoes around us decided to have a busy day.