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Tips for Visiting Borobudur

It was our first visit to Yogyakarta, and we weren’t quite sure if we should visit Borobudur. We knew we definitely wouldn’t be able to wake everyone up early enough to be there in time for the sunrise, and heard that the climb up was rather steep, and therefore tricky with two toddlers. However, we felt that we should visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site since we were already there, so we made our way there on Saturday morning.

It really helped that we were staying at Plataran Borobudur, which is a 15-minute car-ride away from Borobudur. The resort provides a free drop-off service at Borobudur, and we had to pay IDR100,000 (about SGD10) for the return trip.

Before we left the villa, we slapped on plenty of sunblock, and I brought hats for all the kids, because everyone told us that it would be really hot. There were plenty of people selling hats, umbrellas, and cold drinks at Borobudur itself, and they kept repeating, “Panas sekali (very hot)!” so consider yourself warned. C didn’t apply any sunblock, so his neck and arms were sunburnt by the end of our 2-hour visit. The kids didn’t like wearing their hats, but we managed to put the hats onto the twins after they fell asleep.

You’ll need to purchase tickets to enter Borobudur, and the local price is 10 times cheaper (SGD3.60) than the foreigner price (SGD30). We actually qualified for the local price, because we have the KITAS/KITAP (special visa for working foreigners and their spouses/families), but we forgot to bring it along. There is a security check at the entrance, and the dude took one look at me, and started asking me questions in Bahasa. I told him I was from Jakarta, so he asked to see my KITAS, and when I said I didn’t have it, we were ushered to the Foreigners’ entrance, and made to pay the foreigner price. Oh well, I guess we were contributing to the Indonesian economy?

Local Price vs Foreigner Price

After we entered and found our friends (they’re Indonesians, so they entered via the locals’ gate), we made our way slowly to Borobudur, and stopped to watch a group of really young children performing some traditional dances. I was stopped and made to wrap a sarong around my legs, because my knees were sort of visible, while everyone else was fine, because their shorts sort of covered their knees.

Customary touristy group photo

Kids performing a traditional dance

Family photo before going up

Instructions

Sarong fashion

It was really crowded, but everyone was pretty orderly, which was great because the steps were steep and uneven. It was quite challenging at certain points for me, because I was carrying a backpack and Meimei. N was a real champ, and climbed up on all fours when there were no railings for him to hold. We took breaks along the corridors whenever possible, and admired the view from the different levels.

The huge crowd

Steep stairs

Taking a break


When we got to the top, we were awed by the amazing view. N found a quiet spot by himself, and sat there to enjoy the view and breeze. We walked around a little to admire the intricate carvings on the stones, before heading back down. N had a bit of trouble going down the steep stairs, but C and I couldn’t help him, as we were carrying the twins. Thankfully, a kind lady held his hand to guide him all the way down.

The awesome view

N enjoying the breeze and view

Photographer Daddy in action

Going down

We rewarded ourselves with some ice-cream and cold water when we got to the rest area, and the twins conveniently woke up then too. Such a pity that they didn’t get to experience the climb and view at all, but then again, I don’t think they would really have been able to appreciate it.

Resting

There were many shops along the way out, and we bought two wooden toys for N as souvenirs. Each cost IDR25,000 (SGD2.50) only!

One of the shops

N’s toys from the market

C and I were saying that we wished we hired a guide for our visit to Borobudur, as I think that would have really enhanced our experience. There’s so much history and information to be learned, but all we did was just admire the carvings, structure, and view. There’s Google/Wikipedia of course, but it would have been nice if we had a guide to show us around, and explain things to us. We also didn’t manage to visit the museum, so maybe we’ll come again when the twins are older, and better able to appreciate the rich history here.

******* If you’re planning a visit to Borobudur, here’s the TL;DR version of our tips:

1. Bring your KITAS/KITAP if you have it. Or your Indonesian passport or identity card, if you’re local, of course. If you’re a foreigner, don’t forget to get a bottle or two of complimentary water from the fridge, and/or drink the complimentary coffee/tea, before you leave the air-conditioned “Foreigners Area” to enter Borobudur. 2. Apply plenty of sunblock before going. 3. Bring/wear a hat, and bring an umbrella if possible. 4. Bring water, but do note that the security checks are pretty stringent, and no food is allowed past the security checkpoint. 5. Wear comfortable footwear. Be prepared to do a lot of walking and climbing. 6. Ensure that your shorts/skirts/pants are long enough to cover your knees. If you forget, you’ll have to wrap a sarong around your legs, but it’s free-of-charge, and you’ll just have to return it when you leave. 7. Hire a guide, either from your hotel or at Borobudur’s entrance, if possible, as I think it will make your experience more meaningful.

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