September 22nd, 2017
Upon arriving at the Borobudur Buddhist Temple entrance, we hired a Borobudur guide to enjoy and understand more what we were seeing as we climbed and strolled the ancient temple and the grounds museum. It was a spectacular visit learning about Siddhartha, the incarnate God. His life story is portrayed chronologically in the ancient rock panels of the temple as you walk around and up each level.
After walking back to our simple hotel, we hired a car and driver for the next 48 hours. He first drove us to another smaller temple where Buddhist pilgrims used to change clothing & worshiped before walking to the main Borobudur temple.
We lunched at a local cafe where no tourists go, enjoying goat brochettes & goat curry stew (regional favorites).
He then drove us to our meeting point for our river rafting adventure, a wonderful 2.5 hour playful journey down the river with about 10 other boats from various other raft companies.
The trip included a drinking coconut & local snacks at the halfway point. All along the way we had fun splashing & being splashed by other boats, and posing for pictures with groups from other boats.
At the conclusion of our energetic excursion we were hosted to a simple Javanese dinner, something we had not expected, but was included in the rafting package. The unexpected meal meant we needed to postpone seeing our third Buddhist Temple, the first of the three that were traditionally visited during an ancient Borobudur pilgrimage, until tomorrow. It was from this unplanned dinner that we headed off to photograph the Borobudur sunset & found ourselves in the midsts of our own celebrity/paparazzi experience.
Our last stop on our first full day in Borobudur was to be a higher end restaurant with a great sunset view of the temple & home of the sleeping Buddha statue. Just to take pictures, we arrived & the place was packed w/an event & special security. We snuck in just to catch some sunset photos of the temple when the owner approached us. I guess we were a bit conspicuous. He explained how this was a very important event hosting the nation’s minister of national businesses.
We had just finished white water rafting, so the six of us, including Natalia and Bolo, weren’t dressed our best. I apologized & said we would leave immediately. On the contrary, he was so delighted to have “bule” (European/Caucasian) tourists with which to put on display, that he & his bank officials begged us to join their ministry officials for dinner and their evening events, and would we please pose for press photos with the minister.
Well how could I refuse, so we engaged. I didn’t have time to explain to the others of my party what was going on, I just insisted they play along with me. Once photos & newscasters were done where we posed behind the ministers, we were ushered to a special sunset dining area with various appetizers & beverages. An Indonesian Sarsaparilla soft drink was offered. They thought we wouldn’t like it. When I told the boys it was root beer, we drank all the ones at our table and that of the empty table next to us. Our Polish friends said it tasted like medicine, so more for us! Our hosts were delighted by our enthusiastic desire to try all their dishes, and pleased by our great approval.
When 7 girls & their dance teacher began to demonstrate for the invited guests their traditional dance, our event guide suggested we join them. To their surprise & delight, we did! Leslie followed me, & soon so did Bolo, our Polish friend. We all did our very best to honor their dance, and the affect was as if we had practiced. As the girls gracefully walked off stage, Bolo & I ended with an impromptu dossie-doe finale. The crowd giggled & applauded. We thanked the girls for allowing us to participate, exclaiming how beautiful they were via hand gestures and vocal tone.
While we were dancing, Natalia, Bolo’s girlfriend, played a middle-eastern game with some young people, a game she had learned in Turkey, and won! We were offered cups of their special coffee, the most expensive in the world, as the digested beans are recovered from the scat of a cat-like animal, cleaned, dried, & roasted. Coffee in Indonesia is served with the fine grounds in the cup.
This is the type of serendipitous, surreal events we experience on a regular basis, but have difficulty sharing. These events aren’t well captured in photos & are too complex to describe in a short Facebook posting. We don’t have time to write up and post quickly on our blog such events, especially w/limited Internet access. Well that night was the cherry on a spectacular day of touring Borobudur temple in the temple region of Central Java, Indonesia.
We later read how Indonesia’s economy plummeted 2yrs ago. I’m guessing the gov’t is working to develop tourism to attract foreign revenue. American tourists are rare in Indonesia. I suppose parading a real-live US tourist in front of one’s minister demonstrates how effective a business person or official is at attracting tourist revenue streams. This is my guess. I also learned that Indonesians have a class structure. To have photographs of oneself with a white person elevates one’s status among their family & friends. The affect on us is fun, surreal, sometimes annoying and a bit perplexing as to why anyone would care about us in this way. But we play along because it makes them so happy, and it sometimes makes for an extraordinary experience we’ll never forget. Sorry for the long text string, but I had time on my watch, and thought you might be interested in one of our crazy experiences. Eric