I was so excited to finally see Borobudur. A dream of mine for many years.
I had visions of pristine jungle, endless views and immense Buddha’s.
Deciding to forego the early morning sunrise ‘tour’ with a 4.30am start time (I mean, I just get it: I’m far more of a ‘sunset’ kind of girl), we meandered across the road from our hotel around 8.30am.
There were buses everywhere. I mean BIG touring coaches EVERYWHERE. Not just a few, but what seemed like hundreds, possibly thousands of them.
Besides sunrises, I’m also not a crowd kinda girl either.
I had to quickly reframe my mind, my expectations, so I could enjoy the experience whatever that was going to be. It’s somewhat like hitting the restart button on the computer.
As we jostled with the thousands of people visiting, we devised a strategy. Most seemed to walk up and over, sticking to the main paths, but if we circumnavigated each tier, it seemed we could partly escape from the maddening crowds in brief bursts.
The plan mostly worked although when our paths did intersect with the moving throngs, we were greeted (hmmm…. Stalked might be a better word) with requests for photos. I swear it was like being a movie star or celebrity. Cameras clicked, selfie poses, group shots, with kids, without. It was incessant and relentless.
I got chatting to one family and realized it was not only Chinese New Year but also a long weekend across all of Indonesia. Well that explains the crowds, as they were mostly local tourists. Could we have picked better timing had we tried?!
As much as I was disappointed that I wasn’t having this envisioned moment of Zen like, blissed out spiritual enlightenment, I realized I was however experiencing something pretty cool.
I was in a country and surrounded by a culture and religion that we are sometimes taught to fear (not so much Bali, but the rest of Indonesia), especially these days. Here we were, being welcomed, embraced and celebrated.
These people were so excited to see foreign visitors wanting to explore their rich culture and heritage. That’s why the photos…. Evidence.
I had one particular moment that was a catalyst for this realization.
I was getting used to the endless photo requests until a woman, her husband and young toddler approached me. The woman was dressed in a full Niqab (the black Muslim attire including veil with the thin slits for the eyes).
She was so excited to see me. She hugged me and we posed for photos together. She had amazing warmth about her, even though I couldn’t ‘see’ her. Her husband clicked happily away taking a few different shots. I didn’t feel like an ‘infidel’. I felt welcomed. I felt accepted and I felt sad… yet happy.
Happy I had the opportunity to be reminded of the truth. No matter what scare mongering that is currently taking place, I got to experience first hand the real truth. In my heart, not just in my head.
Let’s be honest, many of us start feeling a sense o fear (no matter how slight or intense) when we see images of women dressed like this in the media.
Sometimes I feel we are almost being trained to feel that way. Some buy into it and some try and fight it with the rhetoric in our heads. The one that says it’s ridiculous; it’s only the minority of people perpetrating the ghastly crimes in the name of religion. Knowing it in our heads is different though to feeling it in our hearts.
I’m forever grateful for my crazy day at Borobudur in Java, Indonesia.
Thank you to all the gorgeous people we met that day. Thank you for your warmth, generosity and open hearts. Your smiles and laughter shared.
Note: this doesn’t reflect my thoughts on, and is not a statement about religion, women’s rights etc. That would take away from an individual moment to be cherished.