Kyoto temples : Fushimi Inari-taisha

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Fushimi Inari is probably Kyoto’s most famous temple, at least judging by the crowds on an off day and the number of pictures of the shrine’s tunnel of torii gates there are online. The major portion of the shrine, the large temples and the densest torii gate tunnels are nestled in the base of a mountain named Inari – the god of rice and business. Outside of that cluster, the shrine has over four kilometers of trails leading up into the mountains and towards hundreds of smaller shrines. It takes about two hours to walk all the way up, but there are plenty small caretaker/teashop shops which will sell you water, snacks, and religious supplies.

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One of the symbols of this temple is the fox. They’re everywhere around the grounds and up into the mountain, as statues, paintings, and carvings. The shrine sells fox-luck charms, and if you want to make a wish, you get to draw one one of these :

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Alongside the more traditional house-shaped board you can buy and decorate a fox head. One side gets an often funny face, and on the other side is your prayer.

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This temple gets so many visitors each day, it’s hard to believe. We went specifically on an off day, kind of early. Nope. It’s popular with tourists, locals, school groups, selfie-takers, well wishers, people getting married, people praying for good luck and health, pretty much everyone makes their way here sooner or later.

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If you were hoping for an easy clean picture of the gates, you have to come in maybe absurdly early? Or when there’s a sports match going on that day? I don’t know. We got our best shots farther away from central area of the temple and far, far away from the famous there-and-back loop of gates. It’s very, very crowded in there, almost to the point of not being able to move.

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Once you get away from the crowds though, the park-within-the-temple is really a gorgeous place to be. There are shaded trails that run across and around the main torii-gate trail, and lots of little temple offshoots to either side. The trail within the shrine is well shaded and built to blend in with the surrounding nature very well, often we didn’t feel like we were in a maintained area at all. The temple’s trail actually connects with a larger trail, the Kyoto Isshu trail, which encircles the northern half of the city. It’s very important to pay attention to which way your trail is going, and to look for the signs to various waypoints, because in certain areas the trails criss-cross haphazardly and it’s easy to go somewhere you weren’t intending.

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Here are two examples of the small altars – the first has two fox guardians, and the second has a pile of miniature torii gates, a sign of devotion.

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Generally these smaller altars are housed within little shrine subdivisions – I’m not sure if each of the several altars within a smaller shrine are devoted to a separate deity or family, or if the whole shrine is towards one cause.

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Some of the larger, more ornate shrines have their own large red gate at the entrance. The larger the gate, the more devotion, and the redder, the newer. Some of the shrines are family shrines that receive a lot of attention as their family flourishes, others are still well maintained but significantly older and not as recently renewed.

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If you’re wondering what it takes to build a torii gate in your name on the trail, here’s the price list. As with most things related to religion and money, this isn’t a bribe but a sign of devotion – the money goes to maintaining the temple and is considered an offering to the gods.

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For those of us less fortunate or devoted, some of the shrines sell tiny torii gate charms for luck and protection.

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If you climb all the way to the top you get a lovely, somewhat challenging hike, and a great view of the city down below. The torii gates are beautiful and vibrant, their long stretches forming mesmerizing tunnels of red timber, beckoning both creativity and meditation.

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Kyoto temples : Kiyomizu-dera

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Kiyomizu is a Buddhist temple in the east of Kyoto, nestled in the mountain range that juts into the city. Since it’s in the mountain slopes there’s a bit of a climb to get into the temple proper. That street is full of slightly overpriced souvenir shops and fairly steep but it has a nice view of the city.

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Though we were there on a Thursday the temple was packed. It’s a very popular tourist attraction and a highly visited holy site. It would be better to get there early – less heat and less crowds. Visiting the temple seems to be a common school trip and we saw several student groups led by slightly exasperated teachers.

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The temple buildings are amazing. The bright sun and close viewing distance really makes the iconic multi-tiered temples in all of their gloriously vivid red stand pop out from the rest of the scenery. It’s almost impossible to not stare up at their impressive height and finely crafted ornamentation.

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This temple is known for its large open terrace supported by extremely tall wooden poles, but unfortunately this part of the temple was under reconstruction and covered with a cloth so it didn’t make for great pictures when we visited. The view of the city is quite nice though and is another one of the must-sees while you’re here.

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I particularly loved the bright, ornate details in the roof and corners of the buildings. I don’t imagine they’re paid too much attention by most of the visitors who are here for the view of the city and the activities of the temple, but I found the colors and carvings especially eye-catching.

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One of the must-do rituals, which we didn’t do due to the very long line, is to drink from the naturally running water in the center of the temple complex. Metal cups on long poles are provided to snatch the water as it falls, and washing your face and drinking it is said to be a cleansing experience. I was a bit worried about germs, but it turns out the water is sanitized with UV light before it reaches the edge of the fountain.

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At the very top of the temple complex is a small garden featuring several devotional activities. In some areas you can leave offerings and written wishes, in others you pray to various gods, and in the middle you can try to move between two far-apart rocks with your eyes closed. If you reach the other rock, it is said you will find true love.

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While you’re there you might notice that some of the rocks and trees have large white or brown cords around them. These are yorishiro – sacred objects that can house spirits, or kami, giving them a physical space to occupy. They are demarcated by the cord as holy and are used in festivals and prayers. While this is a Shinto tradition, it seems to be found in Buddhist Temples as well.

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Down the back of the temple and all around it are the lush, tree covered hills. There’s a lovely walking trail that loops around and back, an opportunity for sun-dappled meditation.

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Our day was especially sunny and hot, and on the way down we got an ice cream treat – ramune and cherry blossom!

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Bonus temple! After lunch we decided to try and catch a temple cleansing ceremony going on at Chishaku-in, a Buddhist temple a bit to the south. It’s famous for its beautifully painted sliding walls and meditation garden. Otherwise, it’s not really on the tourist-trail of the more famous temples.

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We arrived too late to see the purification ceremony, which featured a pyre and chanting to cleanse and renew the temple.

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We did get to see this amazing moth though. And on the upside, the temple was not at all crowded.

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And of all things, the temple had a stamp collection activity! Stamps are everywhere in Japan, people just love collecting them. The idea was to visit each of the main buildings in the temple where a monk would carefully and precisely place a stamp on your sheet. The more important the building, the bigger the stamp is what I gleaned from this, understanding no Japanese. At the end, if you collected all the stamps, you got a small pouch to put the paper in, though we didn’t really want to fold ours up. If you bought a temple charm – a way of giving donations in exchange for a good luck token – you also got a raffle ticket to win a prize, featuring such disparate things as : children’s toys, packets of curry paste, candy, and household cleaning supplies. Raffles and small forms of gambling are very popular everywhere in Japanese culture, apparently even at temples.

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Next time : Fushimi Inari-taisha!

My Dad’s Home

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Today’s excursion out into the city is a solo one. Though my dad is still busy teaching and couldn’t meet us in Taipei, I’m curious to know where he grew up so I sent him the question via email. He responded with a snapshot of Google Maps containing a rough-drawn circle over a bit of Yonghe District. “I lived at “#30 Baofu Road Section 2. […] No physical trace of my house or the neighborhood remained. The only tangible thing left is the Baofu temple. I fell into the pond in front of the temple when i tried to pick some lotus flowers. Still remember the underwater image, green water and a lot of straight underwater stems.” So today I’m going out, alone, to try and find Baofu Temple and what remains of #30 Baofu Road.

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As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t know much of my family’s life in China before the Communist Party took power or here in Taiwan after they fled, and what little I do know is gleaned from secondhand sources. I only really know my grandmother’s side, the Hu Family, because they were the most numerous among the survivors and the relatives that lived nearby in Southern California. I know that once my grandmother’s family was once wealthy and lived in Suzhou, a city about two hours outside of Shanghai. I know that the family house still stands there, an immense traditional family compound enclosing an inner garden, used when I last visited as excess storage space for a nearby hotel. And I know that to escape the Chinese Civil War and communist revolution, my grandmother and her husband (of the Ma Family) fled with my uncle and aunt here to Taiwan sometime in the early fifties, where my dad was born. They lived here until my grandfather died, when my grandmother decided to emigrate to the Albequerque, New Mexico, bringing my dad to the United States somewhere during his high school years. But that’s where the facts end, and beyond them lie is a series of nebulous, achronistic anecdotes and stories.

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Back in the real world, I’ve found my way to Ren’Ai Road and turned right, in the direction of Baofu Road, navigating busy traffic stops and dodging people, equipment, and motorbikes planted on the sidewalks. When my dad described his childhood, it sounded like he grew up more in the countryside or in a sparse suburb. He told me about catching frogs and bugs, and to this day he doesn’t like the smell of cinnamon because it reminds him of the stinkbugs found here in the summertime. But any semblance of nature has long been paved over in this district. As people flocked here to live and commute to Taipei City across the river, the buildings here were flattened and then-new apartment complexes rose more steeply and densely in their place. The population continued to grow. In 1979, before being swallowed up into the New Taipei City municipality, Yonghe City was one of the most densely-populated places in the world.

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I make a final turn onto Baofu Road, Section 2 and take a look around. There are no visible numbers on the apartments here, although again any building around here was built after my father left. But Baofu Temple still stands, a brilliantly-painted building with traditional curved roofing and an open front façade leading to the altars indoors. To my dismay, there’s no sign of the pond my dad mentioned, likely a casualty of the construction process of what is now a parking lot in front of the temple building. There’s also no one else around to ask, although what would I ask them? “Did you know a kid back in the early 60’s who went by the name Ma Tzen and once fell into the pond here that no longer exists?” I could ask something akin to with my rudimentary Chinese and Google Translate, but then what? Would I understand the response? And would anyone here now have even lived here back then?

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I walk around inside the temple, where decades and a few renovations ago my family would have visited for festivals and prayers and offerings to the deceased. I can’t read much on the walls, for things are often not only in traditional characters, but also in “grass writing”, a stylistic form of Chinese characters akin to cursive for us English speakers and unintelligible for those who can barely read to begin with. In one corner, though, I find a stack of incense sticks wrapped with gold foil-inlaid papers and a price written above them on a shelf. I’ve visited temples and gravesites of family members enough to know that these are offerings for the dead, to be burned so they reach the deceased on the other side. I drop Taiwanese dollars into a nearby lockbox, grab a packet, and head outside.

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Knowledge about is less powerful than knowledge of, and I find myself fumbling with what to do next with this packet of goods for my deceased family members. I decide to light the incense first, and though I have no lighter, someone has thankfully just finished burning offerings in the nearby oven. I hold the tips of the incense sticks over the remnants of their offerings to catch the twisting orange tongues, and in a few seconds the sticks catch fire. After shaking them to put the flame out, I carry them over to the altar, bow three times, and push the incense sticks into the altar’s sand.

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The gold-foil papers are a bit more more difficult to burn, and it takes me a few minutes of piling them into the oven and turning over the remnants of the still-smoking previous offerings to get them to light. Then I add the remaining sheets slowly, pausing to step back and out of the stinging smoke. Bit by bit, the sheets disappear into the flames, transmuted from paper into smoke and ash, disappearing into the atmosphere.

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Keelung

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Keelung is a port city in northeastern Taiwan, but it feels like a small town compared to Taipei. We’re here as part of a transit route from Taipei to Jiufen, a tourist town just to the south. But an impending heavy rainstorm has stalled us, and given our limited amount of time here we’ve opted just to stay here in Keelung.

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The strangest part of Keelung is the subtle Japanese influence that pervades and surfaces seemingly at random. At the tourism center, which is staffed by mostly elderly volunteers, I find a man who speaks fluent Japanese. He learned it in school, under the Japanese occupation (which lasted until the end of World War II). The old man helps us find an affordable hotel room, and tells us about how the Japanese occupied the island and treated the native Taiwanese people well. They built the rail system we used to travel here from Taipei. They modernized the economy. And to this day you can take a two-day ferry from here to Okinawa, at the southern tip of Japan. The weirdest thing is to listen to this man remember the fifty years of Japanese occupation with warmth; nearly anywhere else in East Asia, they’re reviled for the wartime atrocities committed during occupation.

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Like Taipei, the city lives more at night than during the day. In the daytime, the city loses thousands of people who commute into Taipei to work. Their motorbikes stand, neatly lined up together, behind the city’s train terminal. Few people walk the streets, and most are visitors that have just arrived on cruise ships for the day. In the evening, the situation reverses. The cruise-ship visitors return to their floating hotels and depart, while the people of the city return to enjoy Keelung’s night market. Stalls offer dumplings, fried scallion pancakes, and fresh seafood. Locals walk between the stalls, carrying food or the now internationally-famous Taiwanese invention, bubble tea.

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After all of the food at the night markets, we set out one morning to try and walk off some calories, heading north along the coastline to see what we find. We walk roads meant primarily for cars and keep a nervous eye out for careless drivers, though there’s little traffic for a weekday. The roadside scenery on the landside alternates between dense hillside forests and dense apartment buildings, both a chaotic mess of angles and lines.

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On the sea-side, we see nothing but port and shipping equipment. We pass rows of cranes for shipping containers, standing stock-still like iron horses silhouetted against the sky. There are no people in sight, but there is evidence of them everywhere. We see a crane moving in the distance and trying to center itself over a shipping crate, like a giant, million-dollar stakes version of a claw catcher game. We find empty chairs in front of guardhouses, and trucks left with the engine idling. But we encounter no human souls on our side of the port’s wall.

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After a few hours, we find our first destination, a Buddhist temple hidden in a cave. I realize with embarrassment that I’m not wearing anything to cover my shoulders and pull our travel towel over me like a makeshift shawl. But the Buddhist monks here don’t seem to care, or at least they ignore us politely as we enter. We make our way in to the main altar and bow like my father taught me to when in the presence of a temple.

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To the left of the altar is a crevice, and I’ve heard rumors that there’s another altar past it where you can hear the ocean through the cave’s walls. At nearly 2 meters, Stoytcho is hesitant but follows, and we walk, then crouch, then crawl our way through the crevice, scraping the walls with our backpack and shoulders. It’s not something I would recommend for anyone with claustrophobia, but on the other side a small room with an altar stretches before us, the walls decorated with thousands of Chinese characters scratched into the sandstone walls. I make out a character here and there, but can’t put any meaning to them. We also stop to listen for the sound of the ocean, but can hear nothing. IMG_2877

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Back at the temple entrance, we continue north in search of our final destination of the day, Baimiweng Fortress. It’s near sunset when we arrive at the fort’s base, and we find our way through the maze of apartment-lined suburban streets to our destination with the help of locals, who tolerate with patience my attempts at pronouncing Baimiweng. At the top, we find that the local government has converted the fort into a grassy field for sports and recreation, with richly-painted pagodas for picnics and lounging about.

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We rush to explore the fort in the dying light, up to the top of the lookout hill and then back down and across the grassy fields to the concrete bunkers installed during Japanese occupation. While the fort location has been an important military base since the Qing Dynasty, the Japanese government was the one who updated it for modern warfare and installed concrete structures, now overgrown with weeds and showing cracks from disrepair. But this area was once a strategic place protecting Taiwan, then vital to the Japanese Empire as a supply line to their former colonies. It’s strange how alliances and governance have shifted and changed since then, and it all seems like far away history. But just yesterday, we met the old man at the tourism office who lived through it.

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Prambanan: Top of the ruins

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A view of Prambanan from the top of Bubrah Temple’s reconstruction scaffold.

Like ruins around the world, the temples at Prambanan stand today because they have been reassembled following centuries of neglect and decay. The reconstruction process is still ongoing; visit the ruins, including the main Prambanan Temple, and you’ll be greeted by piles of bricks scattered around the temple complexes. You’ll also find teams working together to put these ancient buildings back together, piece by piece.

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A collapsed building in the shadow of Sewu Temple awaits reconstruction.

Most visitors don’t stray far from the main Prambanan Temple, but we made a circuit around the temple grounds to visit Sewu Temple and Bubrah Temple, both of which were in earlier stages of reconstruction. Sewu was empty, with no one working on it and no one visiting. We had the ruin entirely to ourselves. Buhbrah was likewise devoid of visitors, probably because it was covered in a dense wood scaffold for reconstruction.

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Bubrah Temple, circa April 2017.

 

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Photographs of the reconstruction work at Bubrah Temple. They’re literally reassembling it from the foundation up.

We thought Buhbrah was devoid of workers as well until a guy surprised us while we were looking at reconstruction photos and schematics posted next to the ruins. His English was limited, but from what we could gather he 1) worked on reconstruction here at Buhbrah and 2) was really, really excited we had stopped by to visit. He pointed up to the scaffolding and grinned at us. “Want to go up?”

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The front of Bubrah Temple, dense with scaffolding.

 

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The view from the top floor of the scaffolding.

What followed was a definitely-not-on-the-regular-docket tour of Buhbrah ruins. The guy led us up through the wooden scaffolding around the temple, ascending makeshift inclines and scaling handmade ladders. There were on guardrails on the outside edge. There were no safety ropes. The only defense from disaster was to keep our balance.

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Some of the temple’s stupas, encased in scaffolding for reconstruction.

 

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The top floor of the scaffolding, where the workers are reassembling the temple’s ceiling and main stupa.

We finished our climb at the scaffolding’s top floor, five stories up, where our guide delighted in showing us the reconstruction materials and methods and cheerfully posed us for photos. He pointed down a shaft with a pulley and bucket that extends down to the ground; this was how they brought materials up.

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Looking down the shaft used to bring tools and materials up.

He then led us to one side of the temple’s central stupa and gave us a fascinatingly tactile tour of temple reconstruction, passing us bricks and tools. The bricks are surprisingly light and formless, and as I squinted at one I realize that’s because it’s just aerated concrete. So this is how they deal with missing pieces in the temple reconstruction: just replicate replacements on site with skilled craftsmen and low-cost material. It won’t last forever, but it gets the job done.

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Our host around the ruins posed me for this photo, pretending to work on the ruins, butall the scattered chips are from his work. Note the difference between the lightweight concrete bricks and darker original stone.

But in the humid tropics of Indonesia, nothing lasts forever. The original stones from the temple all sport heavy weathering in whites and grays. Many of the ornate carvings wear a veil of moss that in time will efface their details. Even the new wood scaffolding around the ruin is already showing signs of decay: a mushroom peeks from between the cracks, fed by the tropical warmth and rain. The manicured lawns around the temples may not be jungle, but nature still sends forth tendrils to reclaim the works of man.

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A mushroom pokes out from between slats in Bubrah Temple’s scaffolding.
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Moss grows on an ornately carved temple stone. Its growth will slowly eat away at the stone’s detailed shapes.

Visiting Prambanan

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A visit to Jogjakarta is incomplete without seeing the massive temple complex that sits just on the edge of town, forty minutes or so by bus from the center. Prambanan is a towering and expansive series of Hindu temples, thought to have been erected during the 9th century when the ruling dynasty of Indonesia shifted from Buddhism to Hinduism and answered the Buddhist temple of Borobodur with Prambanan.

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Photos do little justice to the feeling of the place. Unlike Borobodur where you can scale the temple itself so that it seems smaller the closer you get, Prambanan offers no such relief. The nine central towers do exactly that – they tower over you and climb to incredible heights. In my opinion the eye is fooled even further by the shape of the towers themselves, dwindling to needle-like peaks which seem all the further away.

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Each spire has a set of stairs leading up about halfway, leading to a path encircling the temple and a door into the tiny inner chamber. The path takes you through a relief carved religious story or legend. This is a photo of the tree of heaven, a common theme in many Indonesian works.

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Inside each spire is supposed to be a deity or their representation though most of the statues are missing.

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The surviving ones are treated with care, though many are replicas and the originals are housed in museums. The outsides of the temples are covered in carved statues and faces, often better preserved than the shallow reliefs inside.

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The temple area includes four separate temple complexes – Prambanan, Lumbung and Bubrah temples, and the Sewu temple. All four are in various states of repair, having been historically plundered for stones and statues and in recent times suffering damage from earthquakes. Prambanan once housed many temples of various sizes in concentric squares. Now only the central temples stand, and a few of the smaller outer temples. The rest are waiting in piles to be rebuilt.

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We saw reconstruction teams working on putting some of the smaller temples back together. Fitting the pieces together in the correct order and making the structure stable again is hard work. Not only is the location not marked, but each piece weighs a ton. Maybe not literally, but heavy enough that one person can’t lift it.

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For all the wonder that is Prambanan, the other temples deserve a visit. They are smaller in both area and height, but offer more diverse temple styles, statues, and reliefs without the crowds of tourists. When we went over to Sewu temple, there was literally no one else there.

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Here you can see not only more of the art and architecture, but also of the destruction wreaked on the temple site by the earthquake. These temples were once fully repaired, now awaiting time and funds.

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The Sewu complex is full of statues, usually damaged in various ways.

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It houses reliefs waiting to be put in their proper place.

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And is a storage grounds for spare spire tops and temple stones, intended either for their original location or to fill in a partially complete temple.

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For tourists who stand out : be prepared for the local crowds. As with all other attractions we visited in Indonesia, groups and individuals stopped and asked us to take a photo with them. Sometimes this meant a selfie, other times it meant we were going to be in some classes’ travel photos. It’s exciting and fun, but eventually I get tired of it. Natalie does a bit better with photo stamina.

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Finally, a few last shots of the entire complex. We found the entire day to be completely satisfying. A quick breakfast, temples and tourists, and a bit of haggling at the end. Be prepared with water and a bit of people stamina, and come as early in the day as humanly possible – the grounds get sweat-and-sunburn hot quickly, and there’s a lot of walking to be done.

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Borobudur Jumping Spiders

I haven’t captivated/delighted/enchanted/thrilled/terrified you with jumping spider photos recently! We haven’t seen many since New Zealand, but Borobudur turned out to have several. They were going about their business, but I managed to enlist a few for photoshoots.

 

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This little spider on one of the bas-reliefs stopped for only a moment before hopping away.

 

 

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Likewise, this jumping spider on an educational sign showed little interest in me or the camera.

 

 

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This little spider stuck around for a while and loved the camera.

 

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Here s/he is again…

 

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And off, saying goodbye. Judging from the abdomen shape, I’d guess this was a female.

 

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Again, I got little interest here. “Scram! I’m eating lunch.” I managed to get only one good shot before s/he backed away into a corner.

 

And remember, spiders are friends, not foot-stomping material. They’ll thank you by eating all of those flies and mosquitos that *bug* you so much. (HAHAHA…I regret nothing.)

Borobudur through one more lens

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A Buddha statue overlooks crowds of visitors to Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist temple.

There’s not much I can say about Borobudur that hasn’t already been said or written, so I’ll keep it short: Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world. Constructed in the 9th century, the temple’s nine stories represent the three realms of Buddhist cosmology (world of desires, world of forms, and formless world) and tell the tales off Buddhism through more than a thousand reliefs carved into its stones. In walking its corridors, the temple becomes storyteller to all pilgrims and visitors, narrating the teachings of Buddha and his enlightenment.

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The carved bas-reliefs in Borobudur’s corridors illustrate Buddhist stories and principles. A walk through all of the reliefs is a formidable 3 km (1.86 mi).

 

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One of the thousand bas-reliefs on Borobudur’s walls.

There’s not much I can show you through our photographs that hasn’t already been seen. Borobudur is one of those picture-perfect places, with each snapshot of the place becoming art in itself and tons of visitors have that awe-inspiring, Instagram-exploding photos of Borobudur at sunrise. We don’t have sunrise photos. But how about this: ever seen an ancient Buddha get a bath?

P.S.: If you visit, here’s a money-saving tip! You can buy a ticket for both Borobudur and Prambanan at the ticketing office that saves you several dollars. The only catch is you’ll have to visit Prambanan the next day, but it’s only a taxi/bus ride away.

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Groups of schoolchildren climb to Borobudur Temple in the morning, as a man walks around on the dome of its main stupa.

 

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A rented bike left by a tree. People sometimes rent bikes in Borobudur to get around the compound.

 

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A bas-relief, depicting a man seeking wisdom (possibly from Buddha).

 

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A troupe of four musicians in a bas-relief.

 

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Fitting it together: markings in the stones likely helped builders figure out how to put them together. I don’t know whether these markings came from the initial construction or the reconstruction when the temple was rediscovered.

 

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An archer in the bas-reliefs takes aim as onlookers watch in curiosity and fear.

 

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Dew-spun spider webs on the stones at Borobudur.

 

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A headless Buddha statue sits in its foyer. Several buddha statues are missing heads and limbs because of both legal and illegal looting of the temple prior to restoration. Buddha heads in museums around the world originally came from Borobudur.

 

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The steep ascent up to the highest level of Borobudur.

 

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Three visitors rest and admire the scenery on the highest, stupa-studded level of Borobudur.

 

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A partially-disassembled stupa reveals the Buddha statue within, posing his hands to represent ‘dharmachakra’ (spinning the wheel of dharma or karmic law).

 

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A buddha stupa gets a bath with a pressure washer as part of temple maintenance.

 

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The enigmatic smile of a hidden Buddha statue.

 

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A Buddhist monk descends the steep stairs to the lower levels, where workers are assessing the stability of Borobudur’s foundation.

 

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After visiting the temple, Stoytcho and I climb to the top of the hill in the temple grounds to get a better view.

 

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Perfect arrangement: the needles of a pine tree assorted into crevices between the cobblestones.

 

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A view of one of Java’s volcanic cones from Borobudur, possibly Mt. Merapi.

 

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A view of Borobudur Temple from afar, rising from the jungle.