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INDONESIA – THREE – JAVA TWO: THE PHOENIX & BOROBADUR

At last, after many hours from our early start with the long drive to the short flight, tour of the temple & a shopping excursion for batik shirts, we arrived at our hotel, where we were happily gifted our room early.
The Hotel Phoenix was built in 1918 as the home of a spice trader & is now a registered historic building. It was purchased in 1930s by a Dutch gentleman who urned it into a pensioner’s hotel named The Splendid. After the Japanese occupation [1943-45] it became the Chinese Consulate. It was, by hearsay, supposed to have become the  residence of the first president of the Republic Of Indonesia, Sukarno. 
In 1993 it was remodeled & added onto in handsomely matching manner to become 144 rooms, all with cast-iron railings on their sweet balconies. Ours overlooked the original courtyard where we enjoyed the elaborate breakfast buffet, 
 
We relished the restored antiquity of the Phoenix, with delightful stained-glass clearstory windows & a graceful glass doors etched with ginkgo leaves in Art Nouveau style. 

The first morning we got up to meet our driver at 4:00 in order to be at the Borobudur temple site in time for sunrise at its pinnacle… each with our “breakfast-in-a-box” offered by the hotel. I’d requested mine to be gluten-free, of course. I discovered only later it must have been packed by the janitor! A tiny tough, sour apple with a matching orange, a better banana & three dried-out slices of rice bread… no butter, nor any of the nice cream cheese which Stephen got with his pastry… & no napkin nor even a plastic knife to cut the fruit into pieces my dentures could handle… nothing to punch into the peel-proof safety-seal on the bottle of juice… “Gluten-free” seemed to imply I’m a monkey!
But… for the two following mornings, the breakfast buffet below our balcony more than made-up for that lapse. European offerings of pastries, cheese boards, smoothies & omelettes… or the Asian offerings including a traditional Javanese breakfast, presented by a woman s, seated on a low dais to serve spicy rice dishes & exotic juices… or fine rich chicken soup ladled over rice porridge, made even more savory with choices of garnishes like dry fried onions, toasted soy nuts & sweet soy sauce. Javanese food is generally sweeter than my usual taste, but delightfully spicy as well. Always there were wonderful selections of tropical fruit!

A handsome young waiter kept us well “kopied”… this is a land known for its coffee [kopi], including the familiar Java & Sumatra.

A European fountain, original to the house, spouted water from the mouths of four curly-horned Pan heads, held up by a bevy of naiads, into a sweet small pool where the original swimming pool had been, now making space for small dining tables on the surrounding terrace. All is a well tended throw-back to a colonial century ago. Just fine for us!
Because we have been so busy moving about, much slowed by the extremely heavy holiday traffic, we enjoyed lovely late afternoon naps, waking to take refreshing showers & have a cocktail in the quiet bar &  before our dinner outings. We’ve mostly enjoyed simple local food as our choice. The city has numerous universities & colleges, so is full of student energy.

BOROBUDUR…

We agreed to be picked-up early by our driver for our intention to watch the sunrise from the second site we planned to visit… the Buddhist temple complex called Borobudur.

It has become well advertised as a place to watch sunrise on a special ticket, so we became part of another crowd of tourists, this time more international, Being given a flashlight to facilitate the trek to the top of its broad pyramid in the dark we joined the pilgrimage to the base of the looming low pyramid… a very different silhouette or profile than the steep angles of Prambanan.

I have long nurtured a reputation for being lazy in the morning…
However, I have rather often been caught getting up in the “middle of the night” on this trip,
either because of jet-lag or for these adventures.
I’m happy for them!
This actually was the main attraction to us for this excursion to Java… I had studied it in college art history classes, remembering it’s distinctive bell-shaped stupas, 
but having little notion of it’s enormity. 
Equally ancient as Pramanan, the site we visited yesterday, Borbudur has also been involved with the same vicissitudes of earthquake disruption & volcanic intrusion over centuries. Long forgotten under cover of volcanic ash grown over with jungle until the 17th century Dutch discovered remnants of carved stone under what looked like just another hill.

Several centuries of various excavations revealed much more… numerous Buddha heads being broken-off & sold as souvenirs in Europe. Eventually it too became a World Heritage site & has been much restored by the efforts of UNESCO. It may be the largest Buddhist temple in the world.

Winded a bit by the hasty climb we joined more than 100 others from all over, Indonesians, Japanese, Australian, European & North Americans. We share the same planet circling the star we had come to watch bringing a new day… may it be peaceful! 
The sound-track in this expectant moment was dominated by the clicking of camera shutters over the voices murmuring in many languages… taking photos seems to have become the dominant universal language. Actually, here it was nearly impossible to take a shot without including someone else making their own photo! The ubiquitous selfie sticks would unexpectedly pop up into the composition I had framed for its momentary illusion of a lack of humanity… “ruining” my hope for something more pristine. 
As I studied in the increasing light, it became obvious this was a giant antique form of lego blocks: nearly identically carved stones locked together by tenons fitting into sockets so well that they could be re-assembled. Stones having varying patinas from the numerous places they had fallen-out of the original exposure, Variously oxidized or sun-bleached yet becoming a new version of that original in a patchwork of subtly differing colors. After a bit of initial disappointment, being slightly annoyed that there was no pristine coloration, 
I gradually became impressed by an ancient technical design skill 
I had not expected.

Thus the all-ness forever practices being perfectly unstable. They might once again & yet again become tossed & reconstructed in future seismic events.
A new appreciation for me!
Each stupa sheltered a meditating Buddha facing facing every direction…
Unfortunately many of those sculptures, particularly their heads, 
were long ago carted-off as souvenirs. 
Some stupas now contain headless Buddhas, others, nothing at all! 
Fitting, perhaps, to the formlessness 
which that practice seeks.
Nonetheless quite sad artistically & archaeologically,
Still… here is spirit.
Several have been left open to demonstrate.
This one faces the still regularly destructive volcano.
 Now it is very popular prize for photographers… increased, perhaps, by a group of Japanese folk.
 Devotion of some seemed obviously staged for the camera’s lens…
 
My Coup d’Grace was making a photo
of Stephen, making a photo of a woman, making yet another photo… 
of the Japanese woman we’d been noticing 
posing in various prayerful attitudes for quite some time… 
in deep devotion to ego it might seem.

 I love the story… catching my version of their versions
in a triptych of photography.

I became fascinated by the grotesques at the tops of stair rails… 
never quite knowing whether their tongues were lapping us in welcome. 
Or spitting us out as intruders…
It became a lovely experience enjoying holiness of people in place… 
 We enjoyed, as well, our own moments
 playing poseurs!
At ground level, in daylight, we could better realize 
what supported our experiences above in dawn’s light.
Even at short distance, one can realistically imagine how 
a couple of earthquakes,  
plus a heathy volcano spewing ash 
could create a jungled hill 
hiding history for centuries
 I first heard “No Scratching” in the exercised voice of a woman 
climbing up the those steep steps onto the level where I stood puzzled
scratching my bald head…
until I began to notice the numerous signs admonishing against graffiti!
Of course, it became a gentle joke 
 
 The lower terraces present wide corridors with reliefs telling stories…
interestingly similar to the Hindu site.
 We enjoyed our own moment of playing poseurs as well!
I still puzzle the bell shapes called stupas, accepting them as probably not actually referencing bells so much as airy enclosures in which the Buddha sculptures meditate in some perpetually stony resonance… still, my bell maker can imagine an eternal resonance impossible in any physical other than some sense of holiness. I am happy to ponder all that in the eternal moment which this place brings as a gift from deep past…

I still puzzle the bell shapes called stupas, accepting them as probably not actually referencing bells so much as airy enclosures in which the Buddha sculptures meditate in some perpetually stony resonance… still, my bell maker can imagine an eternal resonance impossible in any physical other than some sense of holiness. I am happy to ponder all that in the eternal moment which this place brings as a gift from deep past…

Looking down we celebrated having seen this before the crowds arrived.
As the gates opened to the throngs without early tickets,
we began to move down, exploring side terraces with friezes telling stories resonating with those at Prambanan. 
It is suggested that these two religions existed in some kind of easy communication during time in this place. 

 In daylight we could see what supported our experience in dawn’s light above.
At short distance one can see how a couple of earthquakes, 
plus a heathy volcano spewing ash, could easily construct a jungled hill
Continuing down the wide walkway to the exit we met arriving groups of school girls, who, emboldened by our returning their smiles of curiosity… would chorus almost in unison “Hello, mister!”… once adding “we love you”!

So was the feeling of admiration & respect for our answering their “where do you come from?” questions with “USA”… “Ahhh… Ooo-S-A… very big country!” then often mentioning the presidential personalities… loving Obama, of course, yet often mentioning the “new president” with several attitudes… sometimes questing our opinion of him. Usually we would all agree to a wait & see attitude. They study about us, yet we know so little about them…

Returning our flashlights got us a coffee & snack before meeting our driver to eat those boxed breakfasts the hotel had packed for us…