Photos from the Road: The Temple of Borobudur at Dawn

Journeying to Kalimantan to visit the Orangutans [photos]
November 3, 2012
Sunrise over Mt. Bromo Indonesia
November 14, 2012

Our flight landed in the central Java city of Semarang.  Java is the world’s most populated island and is home to nearly 60% of Indonesia’s 238 million people. Consequently, it is one of the most densely populated places on earth. It’s like squeezing 138 million people into an area the size of Greece.

When I hear facts like this, it makes me even more curious to visit a place. What is it like? Is it really that crowded? As we drove an hour and a half to the Temple of Borobudur, I would see for myself. Much of the trip was along a traffic-choked road skirting through suburban areas. Then we crested a hill and the road traced a path through agricultural land.

Despite the rainy season having not fully arrived, the paddy fields were a fierce shade of green. Like the green of the rice paddies I remember from Cambodia.

Our destination was the temple at Borobudur. Set in a valley near the base of volcanoes, it is a striking location. Borobudur is a 9th-century Buddhist monument consisting of six square platforms topped by three circular platforms. It is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. At the top is the main dome, surrounded by another 72 Buddha statues, but these are seated inside stupas.

A traveler could make vague comparisons of Borobudur to the temples at Angkor Wat, but each is unique. While Angkor is an intimidatingly huge complex spread out over several square miles, Borobudur can be enjoyed in a couple of hours. It opens for dawn (you should be there for 5:30 am) but costs ten times the price ($50 US). Visiting in the afternoon, although more crowded, is a better value ($5 US). You still see the temple, but your pictures may be filled with other tourists.

We woke at 4:45 am hoping to catch a cloud-less sunrise. By 5am, as we grabbed a flashlight and tightened a sarong around our waist, the prospects weren’t looking good. The sky was dark. We waited. I wandered around the top couple layers of the tall monument taking photos out in the different directions. Trees lined the silhouette of the nearby mountain ridges. Palm trees covered the hazy, valley below. The whole experience was serene, but we never quite caught the sun.

Visiting Borobudur at sunrise was part of an international blogger trip hosted by the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy to promote tourism to the islands of Indonesia.

View the rest of my shots from Borobudur below:

A Buddha statue uncovered at Borobudur, Java, Indonesia


View from Borobudur

Buddha statues at Borobudur, Java, Indonesia

view from Borobudur at sunrise


detailof carvings at Borobudur

view from Borobudur Indonesia at sunrise

detail at Borobudur


Buddha head glowing in sunlight at Borobudur

the whole of Borobudur

the whole of Borobudur

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Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno has been traveling the world and writing about it for the better part of 20 years. His articles and essays have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, and Transitions Abroad magazine. He blogs at Bohemian Traveler and edits the independent travel magazine He most recently set up a tour company offering authentic, small group tours at Unquote Travel. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


  1. Stephen Bugno says:

    Thanks, Asri, Glad you enjoyed the photos and visiting Borobudur. Hope you enjoy the rest of Indonesia!

  2. Asri says:

    hi, loved to read this and see those beautiful pics.. as I’d just visited Borobudur a week ago.. such a mystical place..:)

  3. Asri says:

    yess I hope I can explore all the beautiful places in my country. It’s great knowing foreigner’s point of view bout places of my country.. and also love to know other destinations outside my country.. keep writing and showing great photos! 🙂

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