For most tourists, the main reason to go to Yogyakarta is to visit Borobudur. I have a thing for ancient archaeological sites. I’ve been to Angkor Wat, the Pyramids of Giza, Tikal, Chicken Itza, and Teotihuacan, among others. Seeing Borobudur was one of the main reason I chose to visit Indonesia.
Borobudur opens at 6:00 AM and closes at 5:00 PM. It’s better to get there as early as you can because the weather is cooler, you avoid the rush of tourists, and the pictures are just better with the early sun light. One way to get there early is to book a Borobudur Sunrise Tour through the Manohara Hotel, located on the temple grounds.
I was staying in Yogyakarta so I had to get to the Terminal Jombor bus station in the northwest part of town. From town you can take the TransJogja minibus to Terminal Jombor using route 2A or 2B. The fare is only Rp 3,000 but the first TransJogja minibus in the morning is at 6:00 AM. From Terminal Jombor it’s pretty easy to find the minibus to Borobudur, just ask around. The ride to Borobudur takes 60-90 minutes and should cost about Rp 10,000 (more on that later). If you’re staying in Yogyakarta, there’s no way to make it to Borobudur in time for the sun rise by public transportation. You’ll need to take a taxi from Yogyakarta to Borobudur, which should cost about Rp 200,000 and take ~45 minutes.
When I got on the minibus at Terminal Jombor to Borobudur, there was three other foreigners and a bunch of locals. One girl was working at a hospital somewhere between Yogyakarta and Borobudur. The two other foreigners were some guys from England. So how it works on the bus is that the bus attendant comes around during the ride to collect the fares. I was sitting in the back of the bus with the girl and the two guys were in front of me. When the bus attendant gets to the two guys and asks them to pay, they balk at the price and refuse to pay. I think the bus attendant asked them for an inflated price for the ride. The girl has been working here a while so she tells she doesn’t think the price should be that high. She doesn’t know for sure because she gets off before way before Borobudur. I think the bus attendant asked me for Rp 25,000 or so but that didn’t seem to correct according to the research I did online. I didn’t pay because I was unsure that the price he was asking was correct. The bus attendant eventually left us alone and went back to the front of the bus. Pretty soon it was only use 3 left on the bus headed to Borobudur. The attendant came back and I eventually gave him Rp 15,000, which he seems satisfied with. The other two guys haggled with the attendant and eventually ended up paying him Rp 25,000 for the two of them. I do want to note that this haggling was lighthearted the whole time and I don’t want it to seem like we were all arguing over pennies like stereotypical backpackers.
If you don’t want to deal with all this you can also find travel agents in Yogyakarta that offer a tour package for about Rp 75,000 but there are some reports that these tours stop off at batik and silver factories. I hate that.
Arriving at Borobudur
When you get off the bus at Borobudur you will get besieged by touts offering tours of the area. I got off with the two English guys and stopped for breakfast at a local stall. While waiting at the bus station during breakfast and returning to Yogyakarta, I got to see how the touts all come to attention when a bus pulls in and really get in the face of people getting off the bus. Most tourists are totally overwhelmed by this and pretty much just run away. The tours that they offer are for Borobudur, Candi Pawon, and Candi Mendut. Candi Pawon is a pretty small temple so I wasn’t interested in seeing it. Candi Mendut is bigger but you can see it on the bus ride in and out of Borobudur town. Borobudur temple itself is a 10 minute walk from the bus terminal.
When you get to Borobudur, you will be directed to the tourist entrance. The entrance fee is Rp 190,000 for adult non-Indonesians and Rp 30,000 for Indonesian. Included in the entrance fee is admission to two museums on site. I did not visit the museums because I was excited to see Borobudur and by the time I was finished I was too tired and hot to go to the museum.
At the non-Indonesian entrance there is air conditioning and little bottles of water provided. All visitors have to wear a sarong so there is also someone to help tie a sarong around your waist.
The entrance to the temple is on the east side while the temple exit is on north side. In order to reach nirvana, you should walk clockwise around Borobudur, one terrace at a time, starting at the bottom. I was unable to do this because of there was restoration going on at one level that blocked off a corner. I guess I did not achieve nirvana.
There are 4 levels on the lower square platforms. On these levels you will find carved stone reliefs and Buddha statues. There are a total of 328 Buddhas on these 4 levels.
Above the square platforms are 3 more levels of circular platforms with the main stupa in the middle. There are a total of 72 stupas on these 3 levels. The bottom level stupas have a Buddha statue inside.
I enjoyed my visit to Borobudur. I spent about 2 hours walking around the temple and taking pictures. By late morning, the sun was extremely strong and made walking around uncomfortable. I guess that’s why it’s recommended to visit the site early in the morning.
When you exit the temple area, you have to return your sarong and navigate your way through a maze of souvenir stalls. It’s literally a maze because you have to you can’t go straight through all the stores; you actually have to go zig and zag through to get out.