Though it ranks as Indonesia’s most visited attraction, the Central Javanese temple of Borobudur is well worth braving the crowds for on Waisak, when thousands of saffron-robed monks descend on the ninth-century monument to mark the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha. Held on May 11 this year, the spectacle begins with an afternoon procession of 15,000 from the equally ancient temple of Mendut, some three kilometers away. This has a uniquely Javanese feel, thanks to the batik-clad attendants in blangkon headdresses hoisting conical offerings of fresh fruit and vegetables. Once at Borobudur, expect to join throngs of devotees looking on as the monks perform a pradaksina (circumambulation) ritual while reciting mantras and meditating. Night owls, take note—starting at 1 a.m., worshippers will release hundreds of paper lanterns into the sky for an uplifting finale.
Borobudur is an hour-plus drive northwest of Yogyakarta, a culture-rich destination in its own right.
Where to Stay
Located at the foot of the Menoreh Hills within eyeshot of Borobudur, the all-suite Amanjiwo (doubles from US$800) is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year with a calendar of special events. For Waisak, these include a trio of evening lectures on the Buddha’s life by the resort’s resident anthropologist.
Be Sure to Try
Local specialty kupat tahu—rice cakes steamed in palm leaf, served with tofu, bean sprouts, and cabbage in peanut sauce—at roadside warung Kupat Tahu Asli Blabak Nunut on Jl. Pramudyawardhani.
For early birds, a hike up Punthuk Setumbu hill in time for sunrise is a must: you’ll see the stupas of Borobudur rising out of the morning mist, backdropped by the smoldering volcanic cone of Mount Merapi.
This article originally appeared in the April/May 2017 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Borobudur Bound”).