After an overnight cruise we are in Semarang, Java. The main site here is the pyramid of Borobudur. This is one of the “greatest Buddhist relics of South East Asia”. It was built between 750-850AD.
With the decline of Buddhism the monastery was abandoned soon after completion and for centuries lay forgotten, buried under layers of volcanic ash. In 1815 Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles governed Java and had the site cleared and the shear magnitude and beauty of the place was revealed. Early in the 20C the Dutch began to tackle the restoration but the immense stone mass began to subside. A mammoth restoration project ($25million US) took place between 1973 and 1983. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
It is indeed a wonderful site to see. It is compared to Anghor Wat in Cambodia. We think Anghor Wat is better but it is still amazing. It is built in the form of a massive symmetrical stupa literally wrapped around the hill. It was originally painted but the paint is long gone. There are many wonderful carved panels depicting Buddhist doctrine and aspects of Java life from 1000 years ago. There are 432 serene-faced Buddha images with 72 more only partly visible in latticed stupas on the top three terraces.
I should mention the tortuous 3 hour drive (to cover 80 km) to get there was with a police escort. Because of the traffic we would never have made it in the time we had. On the narrow roads it becomes a game of chicken that reminded us of India. And, of course we stopped at a silver factory and batik shop on the way!!.