Borobudur in Indonesia–a memory maker and other people’s photographs

This essay by Lisa Reed in the New York Times about her return to Borobudur with her nine-year old son reminded me of a couple of points. Mainly, I am reminded about how utterly spectacular this Buddhist temple complex is, and how fortunate I was to have lived in Singapore for three years so that places like this in Indonesia could be seen on a long weekend trip. I’m also reminded of picture-taking.

When I went to Borabudur, Yogyakarta, the city closest to it, was also part of the attraction. Friends recommended this city on the island of Java in Indonesia as a worthy jaunt for the history, the scenery, the food and the shopping. On all counts, my husband and I were pleased with our good fortune. I have great memories of buying an elaborate leather shadow puppet from the man who made it after visiting with him in his shop.

Borabudur was the centerpiece of a wonderful time and we were lucky enough to climb up its stairs early in the morning before the crowds came. We did not, however, get up before dawn to see the sun rise like Reed did.

However, like Reed, we did have the experience of people in Indonesia wanting us to be in their photographs. In Reed’s case, her son attracted attention. In our case, it was my husband.

In Asia he often looked like a toned down Gulliver in the land of Lilliputians, thus, he was the topic of many a conversation and a prized catch for a photo op. Maybe people thought he would bring them good luck, but whatever the reason, there he was on most vacation days in the middle of a group of Asians, smiling broadly, while they captured their image with him for their photo albums back home.

Borabudur, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, was built in the 8th and 9th centuries and is one of those places that is perfect for picture-taking with or without people. With its 72 rounded stone stupas and Buddha statues that mediate like calm sentries overlooking the valley that is edged by mountains, there is no end of an interesting angle.

Unfortunately, when I went to Borabudur, I was taking slides which are now stored in a box in one of our closets. One day I will go through them, but by reading Reed’s essay, I can see their angles. I seem to remember one with my husband in the middle of a group of Asians.

I’m wondering if the same people are looking at their albums from time to time asking themselves, “Who is this guy?”