Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Nothing Beats Cold Fried Fish For Breakfast

We left Australia a couple of weeks ago, but I still refer quite often to that book, "We of the Never Never". It doesn't help that Ileana is now reading it and she often finds something interesting to share. So it comes easy for me to say this morning "nothing beats cold fried fish for breakfast!" Actually is not bad at all, we get interrupted a moment later, a waiter delivers five plates of dessert, banana fritters with grated cheese and some cookie with nuts and chocolate. We are confused but later learn that we have two breakfasts this morning. The first is an "all you can eat buffet" with eggs, cereals, bread and croissants, plus fried fish, sausages and a couple of sorts of rice and the second "light breakfast" with the above mentioned cookies. I enjoy every moment of it, hoping that they wouldn't kick me out at 10 am. I have no idea what time it is and I don't want to find out. It is 8.10 am (thank you, Maria) and our day is almost over! I would linger in the garden for another hour and then go back to bed.

The Temple of Borobudur, May 2012

We left Bali yesterday, we were in the car to the airport at 6.12 am. We arrived here 12 hours later, after a few hours in traffic, a couple of flights and a few more hours spent in the airport. This is by far the most luxurious hotel that we've had during our trip. I tried to book the rooms exactly one year ago when I purchased our flights. They were able to confirm my reservation on August 29, 2011!
We are at Manohara, the only hotel inside the complex of Borobudur. This is primarily a research station, but it also has a few rooms to rent, a restaurant for dinner and a café for breakfast. It has an audio visual center and beautiful gardens. It treats you like a five star resort (at least what I've seen in movies), but the rooms are basic, the internet is free and the prices are surprisingly affordable. It is a magic experience. We've seen quite a few places that would be considered the 8th wonder of the world and we did our best to make it memorable somehow. It started five years ago when we spent a couple of full days exploring Machu Picchu. We did something out of the ordinary at the Great Wall of China and something different at the Taj Mahal. Here at Manohara they took care of arranging the special experience. You can get a glimpse of the temple from the restaurant, you can walk in the garden and you can have a special exit from the temple just for yourself. The really magical part is the expensive program "Sunrise at Borobudur" when they open the temple just for a few people, before the touristic groups arrive. We voted the night before, five to zero (!) to wake up at 4 am and go the temple at 4.30. It wasn't pitch dark and the daylight started to break pretty soon. We lost each other on our way up. I walked with Ioan in the back, there was just one light far away and we could hear the roosters singing somewhere in the villages around. When the light came, long before the sun, we could see the two volcanos taking shape, the mist layer over the palm tree forests and then the sun emerged just between the mountains! It was fantastic.

It's just a short process, it's called sunrise, but sometimes it can be magical

We then circled all ten levels from up-down getting to see more and more people, Ileana and Maria got their pictures with tons of girls and we retreated through the private exit. We did see one seller of trinkets, but, come to think of it, we didn't see any of the mobs of touts, no busy parking lot and buses overflowing of tourists. I can see that anywhere I want, but I like more to have one of the greatest temples in the world just to myself. And since I never had it before and I'll never have it again - I'll always remember when I said that "nothing beats fish for breakfast!"

Behind two cameras are two proud husbands and fathers

If all the above is too cryptic for a blog, here are the details. Borobudur, built in the 9th century, is one of the most famous and important Buddhist temples in the world. Pellerins travelled from China, India and The Khmer kingdom a thousand of years ago. Reaching Borobudur had a special significance for them and the temple was revered as not much else. Then, for unknown reasons the temple was abandoned to the jungle. It might be because Java became mostly Muslim, or it might be another reason. The temple was "rediscovered" during the only years of British control over the island (1811-1816), the governor had a special interest in ancient cultures. When the Dutch took over again they helped a bit with cleaning the jungle, they took only 69 years for that, and, like a masterpiece of human stupidity, they proposed to dismantle it and share it between several museums. Thankfully they didn't, and the temple is now the symbol of Indonesia. On the postcards, they say it is the biggest Buddhist temple in the world. I doubt that, but it doesn't matter. It is the most important monument in this part of the world. It is just one building, easy to visit in a couple of hours, but difficult to reach. The architecture is somewhat special, with stone stupas in concentric circles, each stupa hiding a Buddha statue. The central stupa has no Buddha inside, maybe because "it is supposed to represent perfection", or because they had a huge statue to put on top of it, but they couldn't lift it. You always get these sort of speculations when you visit these sort of places, but I find it better to use my own imagination.

The chair, still with us, has been to some very special places

A model in the Bali museum helps us understand the size of Borobudur

We flew from Bali to Jakarta and then to Yogyakarta. They sent a car for us at the airport and we were taken directly to the hotel, we had dinner and watched a documentary.

They have a beautiful restaurant here and we had a great meal sponsored by our friends, Dorothy and Dan, who, I hope I remember correctly, wanted us enjoy a traditional Indonesian dinner. Thank you!
Typical Nasi Goreng, Indonesian fried rice with a salad, shrimp chips, salad and something else

Next morning, we got sarongs and flashlights at 4.30 am and walked the few minutes to the temple. We were done before 8 am, we had breakfast and a couple hours of rest before checking out at noon. Another car took us back to the airport and we settled across the street in a regular hotel for a couple of nights. We didn't have much time and energy to make it to the city of Yogyakarta, the first capital of Indonesia in 1949 and a touristic city in itself. We chose to go to a Ramayana ballet in the evening, behind the Prambanan temples. To my surprise, I discovered that my children have limits, they can get tired and even get bored at a Hindu ballet! In their defense, they woke up that morning 4 am and watching hundreds of dancers in Ramayana for a couple of hours has it's limits. They were good, professional dancers, but I couldn't stop thinking that we are in a Muslim country, we have young people grown in the newest religion trying to make us live and feel the magic of the oldest religion. And they couldn't, to me it was something missing, even in the way they held their pinkies. Ioan, who can easily follow the story line in some thousand year old broken bas reliefs, found this "boring." Oh well...
We timed our trip to be able to see this ballet at Prambanan

Next day, at high noon, we visited the Prambanan temples. They are Hindu temples, a little newer than Borobudur. Very close, but not related in any way. It was mostly empty, maybe because it was Friday. Interesting constructions, a World Heritage site in itself. Unfortunately seriously affected by an earthquake in 2006, there is still much to be reconstructed, and you cannot get an idea of the original whole structure. Not awe inspiring, we all agreed that we wouldn't have missed them, but it really didn't bring us anything special. We checked this box. Walking around in the scorching sun, it was good to have flashbacks of our trip in India, of Hampi, and especially for me of the Kesava temple, next to Mysore. Wow, what an amazing experience that was! I miss India. Maria bought a sarong and Ileana got herself some shades.

Good refresh course in Hinduism

Prambanan temples
Model of Prambanan at Bali Museum, only the central structures survive

This short three day blast was our encounter with Java, the mythical or not so mythical place that makes the dreams of any child in the world. When we were waiting for the second plane to take us back to Bali, Ioan was shocked to realize that "we've already been to Java???" We had a touristic experience, very little interaction with local people and culture, very nice historical monuments and cultural show, good meals. Rip off taxi drivers, but we don't care, we're better than that. Just check the dashboard on this guy:
This guy overcharged us by only 60%, instead of an official 'metered' taxi who would overcharge by 300%

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