11/09/2017

Visiting Borobudur at sunrise: tips and is it really worth it?

The Borobudur temple, located in Yogyakarta, is the biggest Buddhist temple in the world. This title means it's rather popular with both visitors and locals. I've been lucky enough to visit twice, once in 2015 and once this year whilst travelling around Asia. I can't remember many of the details from my first trip so this post will mainly be focused on my second.

I've now experienced both a proper sunrise and one that really couldn't be described as a sunrise as there was no actual sun! Seeing as I've done both I thought I'd write up a post about my visit and whether it's worth visiting for sunrise. Whether the 3 am wake up call is worth it if you don't actually get a sunrise. 

Buddha, Borobudur Temple








 GETTING THERE


Both times I've visited Borobudur I've booked transport through my accommodation. The first time we shared a car, the second we had our own private car. This was mostly due to the fact that there was four of us so hiring a private car didn't work out too pricy. I'm not sure about tours or mini vans because I've not done that myself. It seems most people who were there for sunrise were in a car. 

We set our alarms for 3 am and awoke rather bleary eyed. Early mornings aren't something I'm good at but sometimes you just have to suck it up, I find getting straight out of bed the best way rather than lying there wishing you could go back to sleep! We skipped breakfast but took some snacks just in case. The temple is around an hour away from the main city, this means if you want a quick nap before sunrise you can! We got to the temple quite early, I think we were there around 4.30 am and sunrise wasn't until around 5.30 am. This was a bit annoying because all I could think of was that extra time I could of had in bed. But you've got to think of the positives. Being early meant we had plenty of time to go to the toilet and walk up to the temple and get a good spot

This is one thing that was better on my second visit - where I was sitting. My first trip we arrived later and while we still got a pretty good seat we were standing behind people rather than sitting at the front. The second time we managed to get a front row seat (sort of!). 

Borobudur Temple at dawn








HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

Entrance into the temple is 450,000 rupiah (around £26) for sunrise. Quite pricy compared to a lot of other attractions but sometimes you have to spend more to see the sights. It's just one of those things (like Angkor Wat in Cambodia!). Whether it's your driver or you that's purchasing the tickets there is only one official way to do so. This is through the Manohora Hotel which is located in the temple grounds. 

We paid our driver the ticket fee rather than the actual place. He simply hopped, out the car went to the counter and got our tickets. But I think getting them yourself is just as easy, you pay at the counter and off you go.

If you choose to skip sunrise and visit in the day instead then it costs 325,000 Rupiah, making sunrise 125,000 rupiah more. Something else to think about when considering if it's worth going for sunrise.



WHAT'S INCLUDED? 

There is a 'breakfast' included in the sunrise visit which you can enjoy afterwards. I put breakfast in quotation marks because it's more of a snack than a breakfast. You can help yourself to tea or coffee and get two small snacks. At the time of my visit we were given fried banana with some grated cheese on (yep, as strange as it sounds I wasn't convinced by this snack so gave the cheese to some cats!) and a coconut sticky rice cake. The breakfast is a nice touch but I'm glad I bought my own snacks as we were heading off to Prambanan temple afterwards.

You're also given a torch; something that you'll definitely be needing. The walk to the temple is mostly lit up but once you begin your ascent up the 118 steps to the top of the temple there won't be any lights and your torch will be your only light. 

local child at Borobudur Temple
GETTING THE BEST VIEW 

 The crowd soon starts to build so getting there as early as possible is recommended.  We chose to sit on the highest level of the temple. This gives the most panoramic view but you will have people on other levels below you so might not get an empty shot but your view won't be interrupted.

It does get busy but it didn't feel too overcrowded (unlike our visit to Mount Bromo). We were able to sit and enjoy the views. Yes, there were people walking around getting pictures but because of were we were sitting none of them particularly interrupted our view of sunrise.

Or should I say the lack of sunrise. Unfortunately, the day we went was very foggy and cloudy and while the sun did appear it was very hidden so rather appeared than rise. This did leave us slightly disappointed, especially as I knew how stunning the sunrise was from my last visit. But some things aren't meant to be.

Borobudur Temple Yogyakarta








IS SUNRISE REALLY WORTH IT?

This left me thinking, is it really worth the 3am wake up to see cloud? The friends I was with joked that we could of just come later and looked around. However, I think the sunrise is still worth it. Here's why:

Firstly, it's a lot less crowded if you visit for sunrise. Yes, there's still a crowd; unfortunately you can't escape the crowd by going early but it is a smaller crowd. I think this is mainly because a lot of locals come after sunrise. I'm not sure if this is because of the cheaper price or whether this is when the tour buses start rolling in but by the time we left the temple there were so many people.

Secondly, there's always a chance that you'll get a proper sunrise. I think it's worth taking the risk for the sunrise because if you get one it's spectacular. And even if you don't you get to see the temple in the dark and in the light, both of which are a great experience.


Mother and child at Borobudur Temple
OTHER CONSIDERATIONS


The weather:

The weather should be a factor you consider when planning your trip to Borobudur. Depending on the season it may be rainy or cloudy. If it's chucking it down with rain then you're not really going to get a good sunrise. 

The season you're visiting:

As mentioned above the season you're visiting will impact the likelihood of you getting a proper sunrise. My first visit was in June and my second July. So pretty similar. Both are in the dry season and both of my visits were dry, however, being dry season doesn't guarantee not rain so it's still worth checking the weather. 


The dry seasons runs from May to September while the wet season is October to April. Dry season is more popular for obvious reasons but probably busier. Both time I didn't plan my trip to be in dry season that was just the time of year that my trip was planned. 

Views from Borobudur Temple, Yogyakarta


IN CONCLUSION

Personally, I think the sunrise ticket at Borobudur is worth the risk. Even if you don't get a good sunrise you'll get something.  

While the temple is fast becoming a tourist hot spot the sunrise ticket is still much quieter than the standard ticket entry. There's a small period of time where the sunrise ticket holders begin to leave and the standard ticket holders haven't quite arrived giving the perfect opportunity to get some good pictures. 

While you do have to pay a slightly higher price the main thing you'll lose is some sleep. But you can easily just hop back into bed afterwards! 

_______________________

Have you visited Borobudur at sunrise? Let me know what you thought!

Sophie


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